Gustav Iden produced another peerless performance in 2021 to win a second IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship title in St George, Utah on Saturday.
The Norwegian, who had already held the title for two years courtesy of a COVID postponement in 2020, followed up his 2019 Nice romp with a similarly brilliant display to crush a high-class field.
American Sam Long claimed second, with another Scandinavian Daniel Baekkegard of Denmark taking the final podium spot.
Olympic and WTCS champion Kristian Blummenfelt, expected to test his compatriot Iden, saw his hopes ruined when he had a flat tyre on the bike leg.
Swim – Kanute leads the way
American Ben Kanute set the pace in the water as the field headed out shortly after 0700 local time. By the time he led field back onto dry land (in a time of 23:48) he was still at the front of a lead group of six. A group which included Aussie Sam Appleton, Danish star Daniel Baekkegard, Olympic champ Blummenfelt, another Dane Miki Taagholt and American Eric Lagerstrom.
That group had around 50 seconds over the next athletes, while defending champ Gustav Iden was out of the water just over a minute behind leader Kanute in 24:54. Magnus Ditlev was a further 10 seconds back.
American ‘Big Unit’ Sam Long, who had spoken in race week about the need to improve his swim, was just over two minutes off the pace after the swim. He also experienced problems in T1 courtesy of a wardrobe malfunction when the zipper on his trisuit appeared to break.
Bike – Iden power, ‘Big Blu’ falls flat
German Frederic Funk was the first man to make a big move on two wheels as he blasted to the front of the field early. There were less than 20 seconds separating the top 10 as they went through 40km. Ditlev, Appleton, Kanute and Baekkegard completed the top five. Iden was in sixth having already made up that swim deficit, while compatriot Blummenfelt was ninth, just 16 seconds off the pace and part of that leading pack.
2019 champion Iden continued his move forward to head the field through 55km, with Funk and Ditlev second and third. Blummenfelt was still ninth, and still around 16 seconds off the pace.
Approaching 70km it was still Iden just ahead of Funk at the front with Ditlev a close third. The front three though had now separated themselves from the rest of that lead group – Blummenfelt was next in fourth, some 47 seconds off the lead. Shortly after, the news came in that Big Blu had suffered a mechanical on the bike, requiring a new front wheel. His hopes of victory were over.
Up front Iden had set about trying to break those nearest to him, and he upped the power to open a lead of 30 seconds to Ditlev as they approached 75km, with Funk falling back to around a minute off the pace.
Iden continued to raise the pace approaching T2, and his bike split of 1:58:59 meant he headed out onto the run with a lead of just over a minute from Ditlev. Funk was next – more than two minutes behind Iden. It was very much the Norwegian’s race to lose from here.
Run – Gustav brings it home
Iden set about extending his advantage on the run, and almost immediately he was two minutes clear of Ditlev, who just could not live with the Norwegian’s relentless pace. Another Scandinavian in the shape of Baekkegard had now moved into the final podium position but he had Kanute, Long and Jackson Laundry close behind.
Through 8km Iden’s lead was now over three minutes to Ditlev with the race and the championship seemingly in the bag. Baekkegard meanwhile now had Long right alongside him for company in the battle for third. Seconds later the pair would swallow up Ditlev to make it a battle for second spot.
Long is pretty adept at pouring on the power running downhill, and he quickly blasted a few seconds clear of Baekkegard as he set off in (forlorn) pursuit of Iden.
Approaching 15km and Iden led by almost four minutes from Long with Baekkegard still third. Laundry was fourth, but some 48 seconds behind the Dane.
If the result was in any doubt, it wasn’t now as Iden extended more than four minutes clear of Long through 18km, and it was merely a question of the winning margin now.
Iden crossed the line in a time of 3:37:13, rounded by a run split of 1:11:32. He was 3:55 clear of Long, with Baekkegard claiming the final podium spot. The Norwegian had produced the day’s best bike and run splits – utterly dominant.
IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2021 Results
Saturday September 18, 2021 – St George, Utah
- Gustav Iden (NOR) 3:37:13
- Sam Long (USA) 3:41:09
- Daniel Baekkegard (DEN) 3:42:24
- Miki Taagholt (DEN) 3:43:08
- Jackson Laundry (CAN) 3:43:25
- Ben Kanute (USA) 3:43:48
- Eric Lagerstrom (USA) 3:44:42
- Magnus Ditlev (DEN) 3:45:10
- Sam Appleton (AUS) 3:45:18
- Felipe Azevedo (POR) 3:47:03
- 27. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 3:59:51
- 31. George Goodwin (GBR) 4:17:21