As if he wasn’t good enough already, third place at the IRONMAN World Championship three weeks ago provided fuel to the fire for the Olympic .Champion, Kristian Blummenfelt to get back to winning ways at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship on Saturday.
When he started the run in the lead, we thought it might be a run procession – but the USA’s Ben Kanute bounced back to form to make it compulsive viewing.
Swim king Royle leads the way
As with the Pro Women’s race 24 hours earlier, the 1.9km swim at Sand Hollow Reservoir kicked-off in what appeared to be the middle of the night, but we were soon seeing some wonderful sunrise images against the backdrop of the red rocks of Utah.
Challenge Wales winner, Aaron Royle, was quickly leading the way in line with pre-race expectations, alongside American duo, Ben Kanute and Mark Dubrick.
That trio were around 20 seconds clear at the swim exit (22:20), as a long line of athletes headed to T1, lead by Eric Lagerstrom. A few of the pre-race favourites were in prime position, including Frederic Funk (GER) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) with Gustav Iden exiting alongside Magnus Ditlev, 45 seconds down on the leading trio. Ditlev didn’t help his prospect however by leaving T1 without his cycle helmet, and having to make a rapid detour to put things right…
40th out of the water was Sam Long, but 2:45 in time terms was far more positive relative to expectations. The silver medallist from 2021 was still very much in contention with his strongest disciplines to come.
Bike – Blummenfelt takes control
Olympic champion, Kristian Blummenfelt hasn’t hidden the fact that he was ‘less than happy’ with third place at the IRONMAN World Championship three weeks ago. He’s also been clear that winning in St George wouldn’t represent redemption – but it was all he had available, and he was absolutely playing his cards from the start of the bike.
20km in and there were four athletes clear – Blummenfelt, Kanute, Funk and Miki Taagholt (DEN). They had a 30 second advantage over Ditlev, Iden, Royle and Germany’s Mika Noodt.
It didn’t take long until the word ‘penalty’ appeared in the race – and the man on the end of the blue card was Sam Long. Powering through the field and overtaking rider-after-rider, he was then awarded (!) a blue card, which seemed debatable at best, as Jackson Laundry overtook the Big Unit, while Long himself was in the middle of a pass. I’ll leave the interpretation of rules to others – but if there was ‘intention’ to gain an advantage there, well, then the sport is a mess. Confused.com – nobody more so than Sam Long.
Back to the race, and a notable change to the shape of the race around the 40km mark. After his T1 helmet disaster, Ditlev had now bridged back to the front of the race to make it a leading five. No surprise there, but the key was that he had dropped Iden and Noodt in the process. That represented a potentially very risky situation for Gustav, with the cycling power of Blummenfelt, Funk, Taagholt, Kanute and Ditlev up the road. When that deficit to the leaders expanded to 1:40 over the next 15km, that story was being played out. Would super shoes and a lucky hat be able to overcome?!
Kristian Blummenfelt continued to head the pace at the front, and with his running ability, clearly confident that any efforts on two wheels would not impact his ability to best Funk, Taagholt, Ditlev or Kanute on the run. Ditlev was on the wrong end of a penalty in Kona – was he biding his time, ready to make a big move on Snow Canyon?
That was soon answered with a ‘yes’, as the great Dane moved into the lead and put the pressure on the Olympic champion. Kristian was up to it – but the effort proved too much for Taagholt, who dropped 50 seconds over that 10km section. Gustav Iden’s prospects shifted from slipping away to seemingly ‘gone’, at least in terms of victory, when he dropped back even further on a climb which had been central to his championship win last year. He’s said pre-race that he was struggling to be fully committed to that race after his Hawaii victory – seems he was showing typical Norwegian honesty.
Into T2 and Magnus Ditlev lead the way, followed by Blummenfelt (+0:09), Funk (+0:11) and Kanute (+0:39). A rapid T2 saw Blummenfelt first onto the run course… which pretty much left a question, who would finish second, right?
Miki Taagholt was 5th off the bike (+2:25), followed by Mika Noodt (+3:34), Thor Bendix Madsen (+4:55) in 7th and then Gustav Iden, Jackson Laundry, Scott Steenberg, Aaron Royle and Clement Mignon, in close order.
Run – Big Blu gets it in the end
If there were any thoughts that the race was done with 21km of running remaining, well, nobody sent Ben Kanute that memo. The American – silver medallist in 2017 – didn’t just set off in pursuit, he caught and passed the PTO’s current #1 ranked athlete. While ‘Norway’ has been the talk of triathlon in 2021 and 2022, with world titles to Chelsea Sodaro and Taylor Knibb, Kanute was looking to keep the stars and stripes flying.
Kanute and Blummenfelt were locked together at the 5km mark, followed by Ditlev (+00:24) and Funk (+1:39). The man on the move was Mika Noodt, who was matching the pace of the impressive Kanute at the front.
One full lap in and Ben Kanute was still fearless, pushing the pace with Blummenfelt on his shoulder. Their advantage to Magnus Ditlev was now up to 56 seconds – but the Noodt charge continued. He was now 4th, less than three minutes down and not fading at all. By contrast, Gustav Iden’s race was done as he stepped off the course.
The Kanute / Blummenfelt battle continued into the final quarter of the run, with the American consistently the athlete pushing the pace. Was Blummenfelt biding his time, or simply hanging on? Somebody would have to make a move, sooner or later. Fantastic racing from both athletes.
Into the closing 5km and finally the champion from the IRONMAN World Championship here in May, made his move on the downhill. And what a move it was, stretching out, and Kanute had no answer. The Olympic champion was absolutely flying.
Olympic Champion. World Triathlon Champion. 2021 IRONMAN World Champion. He needed another one to complete the set – and after 16km of head-to-head with Kanute, he was quite literally running away with it. The IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship remains in Bergen, shifting from Gustav Iden to Kristian Blummenfelt.
Ben Kanute was still looking fantastic with 2km to go, but Kristian was not letting up, crossing the line with a winning margin of 49 seconds. high-fiving the crowds and chatting with the TV cameras in the process. Reserve his spot in the Hall of Fame now.
IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2022 Results
Saturday October 29, 2022 – St George, Utah
- Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 3:37:12
- Ben Kanute (USA) – 3:38:01
- Magnus Ditlev (DEN) – 3:3952
- Mika Noodt (GER) – 3:40:51
- Frederic Funk (GER) – 3:42:34
- Miki Taagholt (DEN) – 3:42:45
- Jackson Laundry (CAN) – 3:43:52
- Thor Bendix Madsen (DEN) – 3:44:42
- Aaron Royle (AUS) – 3:45:03
- Clement Mignon (FRA) – 3:45:45