It started with an average swim for Gustav Iden at The Championship in Samorin on Sunday, and it almost finished with a flat tyre in T1.
Despite all of that, the Norwegian superstar duly bounced back from his St George disappointment with a sublime run performance to top the podium in Slovakia.
Very, very impressive…
Swim – Varga leads, Iden flat
Displaying his renowned bullet-from-a-gun style take-out speed which was notably absent from the front pack at the IRONMAN World Championship in St George, Josh Amberger (AUS) was clear at the front of the men’s race within 90 seconds of the start. With Slovakia’s own ‘fish’, Richard Varga, in the race, he was not going to be allowed to simply swim away solo however.
Two of the absolute best swimmers in the sport, they were soon clear of the chasing pack. By the time the swim exit came around, Varga had pushed on to the front to head towards T1 with a 20-second advantage over the Australian.
Around a minute back, the chase group comprised Tom Davis (GBR), Kyle Smith (NZL), David Breinlinger (GER), Miki Taagholt (DEN) and Pieter Heemeryck (BEL). Heemeryck had a brilliant race here in 2019, finishing a close second to Sebastian Kienle after leading for most of the day. After an indifferent couple of years, could a return to the x-bionic sphere reignite his race results record?
There was then a clear 25+ seconds to the next group – Sam Wade (GBR), Frederic Funk (GER), Youri Keulen (NED), Thomas Steger (AUT), James Teagle (GBR), Jorik Van Egdom (NED), Stenn Goetstouwers (BEL) and at the back of that pack, race favourite Iden.
No massive shocks there – but then potential disaster impacted Gustav – who collected his bike and found the front tyre was flat. Quickly finding a track pump (we assume running tubeless, and relying on sealant), he was quickly able to inflate the tyre. Having missed racing in St George, this was not the kind of luck – or heart rate spike – he needed.
Would it even work?
Bike – Heemeryck moves to the front
The early shakeout on the bike saw both Miki Taagholt and Pieter Heemeryck emerge from the chasing group and move to the front, where they joined Varga in a leading trio.
At 40km they were almost a minute clear of Davis and Amberger, with Frederic Funk (no surprise), also using his bike power and seemingly not far short of joining them. It wouldn’t be the German’s day though.
In good news, Iden was still in the race, his tyre had held and he was 2:23 back and in the company of the main chase group, among which was Kyle Smith and Thomas Steger. Iden had seemingly moved on from those early troubles and he was still very much in the race. Indeed, probably still the favourite with his incredible running strength still to come.
Over the closing kilometres, Heemeryck made a move and was able to reach T2 alone, 30 seconds up on Taagholt and Varga. There was significant danger around a minute and a half back, with Iden and Steger, two of the premier runners in the sport well within contention. That group also included Smith, Thor Benndix Madsen (GER) and Davis. After some up and down races, the Brit was ‘in’ the race all day. Great to see.
After a great swim and bike, Varga’s day would have at least a small bump to contend with – a 30-second penalty to be served for a bike dismount line issue.
Run – Gustav in a class of his own
When you have a lead of barely 90 seconds over Gustav Iden, you are always going to be running scared – whoever you are. When Gustav came running past me at the 2km mark, he looked sublime and barely out of second gear.
A lap later, Steger and Varga were putting up a good show having bridged back to form a chasing trio – but that was short-lived. The Norwegian soon said his goodbyes though, and set off in search of the lead and soon took up position number one. Pure class. Simply a different class.
With his lucky (still unbeaten) hat, Iden cruised home on the last lap to another high-profile middle-distance win. And again – despite that flat tyre issue – another result which hasn’t seem him even threatened in the very late stages. He really is the middle-distance king.
Varga was rightly thrilled with second place. Often referred to as the ‘swimmer’, he said in an emotional post-race comment, “I f*&^ing proved my doubters wrong!”. Nice one Richard!
Steger won the battle of Team Pewag for third, while Taagholt had Smith at full sprint from about 150m out, almost catching him on the line.
Challenge Family The Championship 2022 results
Sunday May 22, 2022 – 1.9km / 90km / 21.1km
- 1. Gustav Iden (NOR) – 3:43:44
- 2. Richard Varga (SVK) – 3:45:05
- 3. Thomas Steger (AUT) – 3:46:33
- 4. Miki Taagholt (DEN) – 3:46:56
- 5. Kyle Smith (NZL) – 3:46:56
- 6. Youri Keulen (NED) – 3:47:53
- 7. Thor Bendix Madsen (DEN) – 3:48:26
- 8. Thomas Davis (GBR) – 3:48:43
- 9. Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) – 3:49:41
- 10. Ondrej Kubo (SVK) – 3:52:55