Kristian Blummenfelt added the IRONMAN World Championship title to his Olympic and WTCS crowns with a brilliant display to win the delayed 2021 event in St George on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Norwegian superstar was a doubt to even make the start line until very late in the week as he battled to overcome illness. Indeed his team-mate and pre-race favourite Gustav Iden was ruled out with a similar issue 24 hours before the start.
On the big day though, Kristian produced a terrific performance to run down gallant Kiwi, Braden Currie, on the marathon to become the first rookie to win this event since Luc Van Lierde back in 1996.
Several big names could not take part – Iden joined the likes of reigning champ Jan Frodeno, Patrick Lange, Alistair Brownlee, Joe Skipper and Javier Gomez on the sidelines. Just getting to the start line in Utah was almost a win, and Blummenfelt made it count.
On the day itself he then did what he has done so often in the last 12 months – he backed up the hype. Emphatically so, in only the second Ironman race of his life.
It was a wonderfully mature display given Blummenfelt’s relative lack of experience, one which saw the ‘Norwegian Hype Train’ ending a troubled week right back on track.
Swim – Tight at the front
Five men exited the water at Sand Hollow in a tightly-bunched lead group. The group was made up of Frenchman Sam Laidlow, Dane Daniel Baekkegard, New Zealanders Kyle Smith and Currie and German Florian Angert.
Scot David McNamee – twice on the podium in Kona in the past – was nicely placed in seventh while Blummenfelt was 2:10 off the pace in 10th.
There were a host of names in a pack just over 4:30 back – including the likes of Cameron Wurf, Lionel Sanders, Sam Long and 2014 champion Sebastian Kienle. It promised to be fun on the bike as they gave chase to that front group.
Bike – Big guns stay in touch
That lead group of five men would stay together for the entirety of the brutal 112-mile bike leg, which included 7000ft of climbing and that formidable test through Snow Canyon.
The quintet would share the work during a gruelling leg, while for much of the way the chasers really struggled to make any inroads.
Blummenfelt meanwhile appeared to be in no-man’s land for much of the way, behind that front pack but ahead of the chasing Wurf train. When the latter group eventually swept him up, it arguably helped him towards T2.
It was only late in the leg that Wurf, Sanders and Blummenfelt started to cut some time off the deficit, and the race was clearly on as the field approached the end of the bike leg.
Kyle Smith led Laidlow, Angert, Currie and Baekkegard into T2 – and he bounded out to claim an early advantage as the leaders exited onto the run course.
Behind the leaders, Wurf came into T2 4:19 behind with Sanders 4:24 back and Blummenfelt at 4:26.
Run – Blu’s long run to glory
Smith’s early charge on the run soon started to falter and he was passed by compatriot Currie as the pair exchanged a fist bump.
Braden then turned up the heat and finally that group of five at the front really started to stretch out. Meanwhile Blummenfelt was also starting to chip away at the deficit while Wurf and Sanders – the latter for now – went backwards.
By the time the field approached halfway in the marathon, Currie’s advantage was down to just over two minutes and it was highly likely now that he would be caught. Blummenfelt was cranking out miles which were consistently 20 seconds faster than his prey.
Blummenfelt finally made the pass with just over nine miles remaining and the Kiwi had no answer. Kristian on this day, just like so many before, would not be denied.
The Bergen boy romped clear to claim IRONMAN World Championship glory at the first attempt. His winning time was 7:49:16 – topped off by a 2:38:01 marathon. The margin of victory was almost five minutes.
Sanders, after for so long looking like a podium would be out of reach, finished like a train to pass Currie in the closing stages for second, with the Kiwi taking third.
IRONMAN World Championship 2021 Results
Saturday May 7, 2022 – St George, Utah
- 1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 7:49:16
- 2. Lionel Sanders (CAN) – 7:54:03
- 3. Braden Currie (NZL) – 7:54:19
- 4. Chris Leiferman (USA) – 7:57:51
- 5. Florian Angert (GER) – 7:59:35
- 6. Leon Chevalier (FRA) – 8:01:41
- 7. Daniel Baekkegard (DEN) – 8:02:06
- 8. Sam Laidlow (FRA) – 8:02:56
- 9. David McNamee (GBR) – 8:04:36
- 10. Ben Hoffman (USA) – 8:06:38
- 11. Kyle Smith (NZL) – 8:08:08
- 12. Matt Trautman (RSA) – 8:12:54
- 13. Matt Hanson (USA) – 8:13:48
- 14. Sebastian Kienle (GER) – 8:14:34
- 15. Sam Long (USA) – 8:16:34