The 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championships saw Gustav Iden defend his world title in spectacular fashion in St. George, Utah.
With the postponement of Kona making the 70.3 World Championship the only Ironman crown on offer in 2021, a deep men’s field lined up fully prepared and ready to race. St. George provided a course that demanded each athlete’s focus with a challenging bike including the decisive climb up Snow Canyon and an extremely hilly run with virtually no flat sections at all.
As defending champion from Nice, 2019, Norway’s Gustav Iden (PTO #3) was a big favourite but there were plenty of other contenders including countryman, Olympic Champion and World Triathlon champion Kristian Blummenfelt, Denmark’s Daniel Baekkegard (PTO #10) and the top US-contender Sam Long (PTO #4).
The USA’s Ben Kanute (PTO #11) led a group of six out of the water – including Blummenfelt and Baekkegard – with Iden just over a minute back and Long a little over two minutes, indicating a solid swim from the Big Unit.
With serious bike firepower in the field, the inevitable bike pack formed and after comfortably wiping out his swim deficit, Iden sat contentedly in the group for the first half of the ride. The Norwegian then moved to the front, piling the pressure on his competitors while behind, Blummenfelt had a mechanical with his front wheel. The Olympic champ would get going again, but his shot at the title was over.
Iden managed to gap the competition with around 20km to go his fastest bike time of the day – 1:58:58 – creating a 44-second buffer to Denmark’s Magnus Ditlev (PTO #14) and nearly three minutes to the rest of the men. From there Iden was clear, his pace ferocious despite the lack of competition.
Behind, Sam Long used a combination of huge surges and a tight aero tuck on the downhills to help bridge up to the best-of-the-rest group, coming out of T2 3:17 back alongside Baekkegard. The Dane initially surged ahead but it wasn’t long before Long was on his shoulder.
The pair breezed past Ditlev and using his devastating downhill running prowess, Long gapped Baekkegard to put himself in second on the course.
Up ahead, Iden didn’t falter for a second even as the storms rolled in, running an astonishing average pace of 3:27/km to take the day’s fastest run split of 1:11:31. Crossing the line in 3:37:12, Iden successfully defended his title with an emphatic win almost four minutes clear of Sam Long, who continues his meteoric rise in the sport. Coming home in third, Daniel Baekkegard ran strongly to round out the podium.