Gustav Iden scored a brilliant victory at the 2022 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona on Saturday when he edged out Sam Laidlow late to win a thrilling race.
The Norwegian finally overtook the plucky 23-year-old Frenchman with less than 5 miles to go in a thrilling classic in Hawaii.
Iden had already left her friend, compatriot and reigning IRONMAN World Champion Kristian Blummenfelt deep in the marathon before running over leader Laidlow.
Laidlow bravely held on for a spectacular second place while Blummenfelt was forced to settle for third. Australian Max Neumann was another star performer in fourth place.
Swim: Angert, Laidlow lead the way
Excitement was at its height at 6:25 a.m. local time when the cannon rang to kick off the first PRO Men’s IRONMAN World Championship in Kona since 2019.
Laidlow quickly moved ahead and progressed smoothly alongside Germany’s Florian Angert and Denmark’s Daniel Bækkegård. But they were unable to break free, instead heading for a huge group of 19 that would emerge from the water just over 48 minutes later.
Angryt was officially first out of the water in 48:15, virtually alongside Laidlow, but they had plenty of company with 19 athletes separated by just 15 seconds. Smack in the middle of that pack were pre-race favorites Blummenfelt and Iden. New Zealand couple Braden Currie and Kyle Smith also participated.
The second group of athletes started coming out of the water around 1:20 off the pace, and included Rudy Von Berg, two-time King of Kona Patrick Lange, another top Danish threat, Magnus Ditlev, and American Ben Hoffman.
Further back in the field was another group of big names around 4:30 off the beat: In it were Matt Hanson, Chris Leiferman, Cam Wurf, Joe Skipper, Sebastian Kienle and Lionel Sanders.
It was a lot of play when they headed to the bike course, and the next big question centered on whether that huge leading pack could take drafting penalties after a penalty-strewn women’s race on Thursday.
Bicycle: Laidlow breaks tour record
Swede Jesper Svensson was fastest in T1 and headed into the pivotal bike stage at the front, but Neumann quickly moved to the front, followed by Svensson and Josh Amberger. Currie, Blummenfelt, Iden, Smith and Collin Chartier were all in attendance.
The first mini-disaster of the day would befall Chartier, who suffered a flat tire early in the bike leg, but managed admirably and soon found himself well positioned in the second chasing pack. Meanwhile, up front, Neumann led from Laidlow and they were followed by a chasing group around a minute behind. That included Angert, Ditlev, Blummenfelt, Iden, Bækkegård, Tim O’Donnell and Currie, among others.
If we thought that this race could pass without the penalties that marked the women’s PRO race, we were very wrong. And before the field had even covered a third of the bike stage, we had a slew of them. Particularly for Angert, who had been right in the mix from the start.
At the front, Laidlow replaced Neumann, who stayed close behind, with just over a minute left for the first chasing pack as they reached the 30-mile bike stage. That group still contained the likes of Blummenfelt, Ditlev, Iden, Bækkegård, and O’Donnell.
The first big move of the race came as the field approached 50 miles into the stage, when the Ditlev phenom surged forward to eradicate the gap and take over at the front of Laidlow and Neumann, with Blummenfelt and Iden battling it out. to keep the pace behind. The Norwegians quickly fell within 30 seconds of their Scandinavian rival as they looked to set up a score.
Anyone who thought that Laidlow’s time in the scorching sun was over was sorely mistaken. The Frenchman took the lead again and began to take pieces out of the chasing group. He was just devastating on two wheels as he really spilled it during the second half of the stage.
Laidlow’s lead grew with each stage and he was 6:15 behind Iden in T2 with Blummenfelt and Neumann both 6:21 behind. However, there was disaster for Ditlev, who took a five-minute draft penalty and served it before he could transition.
The bike leg for Laidlow was clocked in a blistering 4:04:36, more than four minutes faster than the previous bike course record of 4:09:06 set by Cameron Wurf in 2018.
Wurf himself and Frenchman Leon Chevalier also broke that ‘old’ course record by entering T2 in fifth and sixth place. They were 8:37 and 8:55 off the pace respectively.
Run: Iden class counts in a Kona classic
Laidlow’s lead held at over 6 minutes when he went out for a run, with Blummenfelt and Iden running together in second and third place. It seemed that the dream showdown that everyone had dreamed of was now underway. However, Neumann obviously hadn’t read that script when he passed the Norwegians to claim second place before they came together to form a chasing group of three.
At this stage, Iden and Blummenfelt had to be heavy favorites to finish 1-2 for Norway, but there was still work to be done. They were cutting into Laidlow’s lead: it was already 5:16 with less than four miles covered. They distanced themselves from Neumann in the process.
Iden and Blummenfelt continued to advance step by step, their different styles seemingly in perfect sync. Iden floating in the air, and Blummenfelt with that buccaneer walk. They gradually cut into Laidlow’s lead, but the Frenchman was putting in an admirable performance up front. He seemed remarkably confident and still led by just over 3 minutes going into the mid-marathon.
What seemed inevitable when the marathon began no longer seemed so as they entered mile 18, but Blummenfelt and Iden then cut their lead to 2:23 as Kristian injected new pace in the process. The tension was unbearable.
Mile 19 brought new drama as Iden hit the throttle to drop Blummenfelt quickly, immediately pulling 30 seconds away from his friend and compatriot. He was now behind Laidlow by just under 2 minutes with just over 7 miles remaining.
Iden, looking fresh and strong, cut a large part of Laidlow’s lead to cut it in half to just under a minute as they sped towards the end of mile 21. However, Blummenfelt’s bid for victory appeared to be dead. , as he was now trailing by 2:24.
Passing Iden now seemed inevitable as he had Laidlow clearly in his sights at mile 22 and he closed in quickly. The gap was just 23 seconds over 21.4 miles.
Gustav finally reclaimed the lead at mile 23 when he passed the plucky Laidlow to resume the race, giving the 23-year-old Frenchman a high five, giving him a pat on the back and a thumbs up as he passed to show his respect. for a remarkable performance by his rival.
Now the only questions that remained were how far Iden would beat the existing record at the Kona track, that 7:51:13 set by Jan Frodeno in 2019, and whether Laidlow could hold out for a well-earned second place finish.
The first was emphatically answered by the brilliant 26-year-old from Bergen when he stopped the clock at 7:40:24. His time in the marathon was another Kona career record: a staggering 2:36:15. Victory was sweet after illness forced him out of the delayed 2021 race at St George in May on the eve of the event.
Laidlow recovered from the disappointment of losing his lead straight away and held onto second place superbly with Blummenfelt third. Neumann was an excellent fourth for Australia.
Great Britain’s Skipper finished well with a marathon of 2:45:26 to claim fifth place, ahead of Kienle who was a gallant sixth in the last World Championship race of his glittering career.
Frenchman Leon Chevalier was seventh while Ditlev was eighth despite a five-minute penalty. Another Frenchman, Clement Mignon, was ninth with Lange tenth.
Results of the IRONMAN 2022 World Championship
Pro Men – October 8, 2022 in Kona, Hawaii
- 1. Gustav Iden (NORTH) – 7:40:24
- 2. Sam Laidlow (FRA) – 7:42:24
- 3. Kristian Blummenfelt (American) – 7:43:23
- 4. Max Neumann (AUS) – 7:44:24
- 5. Joe Skipper (GBR) – 7:54:05
- 6. Sebastian Kienle (GER) – 7:55:40
- 7. Leon Chevalier (FRA) – 7:55:52
- 8. Magnus Ditlev (DEN) – 7:56:38
- 9. Clement Mignon (FRA) – 7:56:58
- 10. Patrick Lange (GER) – 7:58:20
- 11. Cameron Wurf (AUS) – 8:00:51
- 12. Florian Angert (GER) – 8:01:53
- 13. Tim O’Donnell (USA) – 8:02:58
- 14. Denis Chevrot (FRA) – 8:03:24
- 15. Matt Hanson (USA) – 8:04:55