The season couldn’t have started any better for Americans Rudy von Berg and Matthew Marquardt, as the pair took first and third respectively at IRONMAN Texas, in a race where just 21 seconds separated the podium.
Both confirmed in their post-race interviews that they will be accepting their slots at the IRONMAN World Championships in Nice this September, with von Berg likely relishing the chance to race on the roads he grew up on in the South of France.
For Marquardt, the 2022 IRONMAN World Championships Age Group winner, the sky is now the limit after a podium in the Princeton graduate’s first professional race.
‘My best run to date’
Despite featuring at the front of the race throughout the day, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for von Berg, who shared that after coming out of the water in the leading group of four, he managed to start the bike with his swim suit still on.
“From the start, we worked together the whole race, it was the four of us out of the swim. I had a bit of an issue at the start of the bike, as I still had my skin suit on, so I had to stop and throw it in an aid station, which is why I had to catch back up to the leader at the start of the bike.”
After overcoming his wardrobe malfunction, von Berg quickly rejoined the front group and after the race admitted his surprise at the rest of the group’s ability to stay with him on the bike, given how strong he was feeling on two wheels.
He said: “I felt quite good on the bike. The watts were really there all day, and I’m actually surprised those guys were able to pretty much match me. I was trying to get some of the guys to take some pulls, but that wasn’t really happening, which was a little frustrating.
“Off the bike I didn’t have much of a lead, which again I was a little bit surprised about.”
Having had no luck at gapping the rest of the field on the bike, von Berg admitted he knew it would take a great run to win. Fortunately, the American prevailed, despite going to some dark places in the final few miles, and managed to put together what he called his strongest marathon yet.
“This is my best run to date. I honestly thought I was going to be third with a couple of miles to go, even three to four miles to go, but my energy was really good and I just gave it everything I had. I don’t know how I got that out of me over the last two miles but I knew I had it in the last straight.”
‘Trying not to make any stupid mistakes’
To come within 21 seconds of an IRONMAN win is impressive enough in its own right, but to do so against a class field on your professional debut is even better and Marquardt was rightfully proud of his performance.
He said: “It feels really good. I came in this race trying not to make any stupid mistakes, to have fun and not to take myself too seriously, so I think I did that, although I would’ve had liked to have had a little more fun on that run course than I did!
“I grew up swimming, I swam in college for Princeton University and I’ve always been on a bike, so really it’s the run that’s come along, and I never considered myself a runner, but I think it’s coming along very nicely.”
With an impressive 2:43 marathon split off a great swim and bike, Marquardt has certainly proven himself as someone who can hold their own running off the bike. Unranked in the PTO World Rankings before the race, look for the Ohio native to be a podium contender at any race where he comes off the bike near the front.
All roads now lead to Nice
For both Americans, the IRONMAN World Championships in Nice will offer very different opportunities. The South of France, for von Berg, offers a familiar setting to attempt to make a first IRONMAN World Championships podium.
On the other hand, for Marquardt, the French Riviera presents an opportunity to test himself for the first time against the best in the world. A year on from his Age Group win in Kona, how will the rookie size up in his debut season as a professional?
Post race, both had similar sentiments about getting the job done in Texas, with von Berg stating: “The aim here was to qualify for Nice and the World Championships there is the big goal.” And Marquardt added: “My only goal for today was to get to Nice.”
With less than six months now until the big dance, the progress of both will be closely followed, as the US holds its breath for a first male IRONMAN World Champion since Tim DeBoom in 2002.