Gustav Iden (NOR) showed exceptional running speed to outpace his competitors and win the PTO 2020 Championship men’s race in style.

With a mix of long-course veterans, 70.3 stars and ITU athletes, the PTO 2020 Championship men’s race kept us guessing until the astonishing pace of Norway’s Gustav Iden saw him power to victory. Along the way, we had aggressive biking, time penalties and plenty of cramping to add to the drama.

The Swim

There were no surprises when Henri Schoeman (RSA) emerged as the early leader and held that position throughout the swim. The South African had fellow ITU stalwart Andrea Salvisberg (SUI) on his feet with both Brownlee brothers in the mix too. 

Henri Schoeman PTO 2020 Championship
Henri Schoeman led the swim from start to finish. (Photo: PTO)

During the first lap, Schoeman began to stretch out the field with the top 20 maintaining contact then distinct groups forming. Losing time, defending Daytona Champion Lionel Sanders (CAN) was trying to stay with the pace of the third pack.

Schoeman also led for the entirety of lap two, leaping from the water after 2km with a string of athletes in his wake including Salvisberg, the Brownlees, ITU world champ Vincent Luis (FRA) and Javier Gomez (ESP).

The Bike

The South African was first to his bike, but it was Alistair Brownlee who led out onto the speedway for the first of 20 laps, Luis quickly settling in to second. Meanwhile, 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Gustav Iden (NOR) was 1:20 behind the leaders while Sanders was 3:20 back with plenty of work to do.

As the leaders started their second lap on the bike, the front of the race was disrupted by Michael Weiss (AUT), who was a lap behind. The Austrian powered to the front of the group, but then appeared unable to continue his charge, with Brownlee sitting up from time to time to ensure he maintained his 20m distance.

Alistair Brownlee PTO 2020 Championship
Alistair Brownlee was soon at the front during the bike leg. (Photo: PTO)

Whereas the front of the women’s race settled down after a few laps on the bike, there was a lot more movement in the men’s race.

On lap four, Ben Kanute (USA) came to the front, the following lap it was Florian Angert’s (GER) turn with Brownlee moving back into second. By lap seven Sanders had made up a minute with rising star Sam Long (USA) for company while up ahead Sam Appleton (AUS) took the lead.

Timothy O’ Donnell (USA) was the next to make a big move, the 2019 Kona runner-up pushing through the field to sit behind Brownlee, who was back in first.

As the bike reached its halfway point, we learned that both Vincent Luis and Jonny Brownlee would each have to serve a two minute penalty. Meanwhile, the older Brownlee was overtaken by wildcard athlete Magnus Ditlev (DEN) who came out the water in 40th place.

Lionel Sanders PTO 2020 Championship
Lionel Sanders put in a hard bike to take his deficit down to one minute. (Photo: PTO)

Rudy Von Berg (USA) soon passed Timothy O’Donnell into fifth, with Angert, Appleton, Alistair Brownlee and Ditlev ahead, that group holding 10 seconds to Schoeman, a fast-charging Thomas Davis (GBR), Kanute, Luis and Jonny Brownlee.

Only a lap later, Ditlev looked like he was beginning to struggle. The young Dane had no drinks bottles on his bike and had missed fluids while steaming through the aid stations. The head-down pace soon took Salvisberg and Matt McElroy (USA) out of the race with severe cramping.

Von Berg came to the front for the final push into T2, leading Ditlev, Brownlee, Angert and O’Donnell. Davis was just 12 seconds back with a 40 second lead to Luis while Sanders had managed to close his deficit to one minute.

The Run

Von Berg was first out of transition, followed by Appleton and Ditlev but Alistair Brownlee soon caught them and stormed ahead. Meanwhile, Luis – into transition 53-seconds back – served his two minute penalty, Jonny Brownlee opting to visit the penalty tent later in the run.

Matt Hanson PTO 2020 Championship
Matt Hanson translated his stellar Ironman run speed to the 18km course. (Photo: PTO)

Before the end of lap one, Ditlev was struck with cramps, resorting to shuffling along, getting a gel down before trying to get back into his stride. 

Someone who needed no help getting into his rhythm was Gustav Iden. The Norwegian came off the bike 1:36 down but blasted out of T2 at 5:17 mile pace – the fastest in the field. By the end of lap one, Iden had moved up from 16th to eighth with no sign of slowing.

At the start of lap two, the cameras caught up with Alistair Brownlee, who’d stopped to stretch his calf, a pulled muscle that soon put him out of the race.

This allowed Davis to take the lead, followed by Appleton with a little breathing room back to Von Berg, O’Donnell and Iden. Taking no time to ease up, the reigning 70.3 champ ploughed through to the front, completely outpacing his competitors.

Behind, Henri Schoeman was running strong, moving up to fourth on the road, followed by Von Berg and Sam Long, the two Americans in a run battle that saw them distance Davis and Appleton.

George Goodwin PTO 2020 Championship
George Goodwin had a cracking race and really made a name for himself on the international scene. (Photo: PTO)

Iden was still making time on the rest of the podium, but behind, George Goodwin was picking up the pace, bearing down on Davis while further back still Matt Hanson was showing off his best running legs by careening up through the ranks.

Von Berg was next to make a move, breaking away from Long to move into second place, Schoeman making the most of the taller athlete’s draft. Before the end of lap three, Goodwin was on their shoulders then running by them, Iden 1:12 ahead with the race sewn up barring catastrophe.

Goodwin managed to shake Schoeman and Von Berg, the South African ITU star also being overhauled by Hanson and Sanders. At that point, Hanson was undertaking an all-in effort, the American’s deceptively fast galloping legs and swinging arms propelling him past Von Berg and setting his sights on Goodwin.

His technique the polar opposite of Goodwin’s compact, high-cadence style, Hanson’s savage pace saw him overtake the Brit with around 1km to go.

Up ahead, Iden – still looking like he was on a training run – turned onto the red carpet to cross the line as the first-ever men’s PTO Champion in a finishing time of 3:05:06. The $100,000 cheque only underlining the fact he’s more of a middle-distance athlete than an ITU specialist.

Matt Hanson’s perfectly-judged run effort saw him take second place 51 seconds later while Goodwin held strong for third ahead of a fast-closing Lionel Sanders, the defending Daytona champion taking fourth ahead of Von Berg.

PTO 2020 Championship Men’s Race Results

PositionNameCountrySwimBikeRunFinishPrize Money
1Gustav IdenNOR00:23:4401:41:0200:58:1603:05:06US$ 100,000
2Matt HansonUSA00:24:4001:41:4400:57:2103:05:57US$ 70,000
3George GoodwinGBR00:24:4701:39:3400:59:2903:06:09US$ 50,000
4Lionel SandersCAN00:25:5401:38:3000:59:4603:06:16US$ 35,000
5Rudy Von BergUSA00:23:4101:39:3101:01:2703:06:41US$ 30,000
6Sam AppletonAUS00:23:1401:39:5801:01:3403:06:58US$ 25,000
7Henri SchoemanRSA00:22:2501:42:1501:00:3003:07:16US$ 23,000
8Vincent LuisFRA00:22:2801:41:5301:01:0503:07:21US$ 20,000
9Sam LongUSA00:25:5501:38:2301:01:0503:07:28US$ 18,000
10Andreas DreitzGER00:24:4201:39:1801:01:2303:07:45US$ 17,000
11Javier GomezESP00:22:3001:44:3100:58:4903:07:51US$ 15,000
12Thomas DavisGBR00:22:3501:40:5701:02:1803:07:57US$ 13,000
13Florian AngertGER00:22:4201:40:4101:02:4203:08:14US$ 11,000
14Magnus Elbaek DitlevDEN00:24:5401:38:1201:03:2903:08:57US$ 10,000
15Adam BowdenGBR00:22:3801:43:0201:01:1603:09:16US$ 9,000
16Timothy O’DonnellUSA00:23:1701:40:1401:04:4803:10:15US$ 8,000
17Frederic FunkGER00:23:4701:40:1701:04:0403:10:34US$ 7,000
18Pieter HeemeryckBEL00:24:0301:41:0801:03:3803:10:45US$ 6,000
19Chris LeifermanUSA00:25:5101:42:4601:00:1303:10:58US$ 5,000
20Ben KanuteUSA00:22:3301:42:0201:04:4703:11:21US$ 4,000
21Cody BealsCAN00:24:5901:43:3901:00:5203:11:42US$ 2,500
22Andy PottsUSA00:23:2001:42:0501:04:3503:12:28US$ 2,500
23Ruedi WildSUI00:24:0501:45:2101:01:0603:13:03US$ 2,500
24Jackson LaundryCAN00:24:5101:45:2801:00:4403:13:17US$ 2,500
25Boris SteinGER00:25:0701:39:3501:06:2803:13:24US$ 2,500
26Joe GamblesAUS00:23:5001:44:3801:03:0003:13:47US$ 2,500
27Thomas StegerAUT00:24:0201:44:1201:03:0703:13:56US$ 2,500
28Michael WeissAUT00:26:3301:42:0901:02:4703:14:26US$ 2,500
29Jason WestUSA00:23:1901:47:5701:01:2103:14:52US$ 2,500
30Jonathan BrownleeGBR00:22:3001:43:0501:07:4703:15:12US$ 2,500
31Eneko LlanosESP00:25:0401:45:2701:02:3803:15:41US$ 2,500
32David PleseSLO00:25:1201:46:3101:02:0303:16:29US$ 2,500
33Justin MetzlerUSA00:23:5801:46:1201:04:2003:16:41US$ 2,500
34James CunnamaRSA00:25:5701:43:0501:05:5303:17:13US$ 2,500
35Bradley WeissRSA00:24:4501:45:5501:05:1203:18:18US$ 2,500
36Igor AmorelliBRA00:24:4001:46:1001:08:0303:21:16US$ 2,500
37Matthew RussellUSA00:29:4901:41:5701:07:2103:21:51US$ 2,500
38Ben HoffmanUSA00:24:5501:51:3401:05:3003:24:37US$ 2,500
39Eric LagerstromUSA00:23:1601:49:0301:11:2603:26:08US$ 2,500
40Nils FrommholdGER00:23:2001:53:1601:07:3103:26:38US$ 2,500
41Kieran LindarsGBR00:24:3801:55:4001:05:4103:29:13US$ 2,500
42Taylor ReidCAN00:24:4401:46:5401:15:0903:29:17US$ 2,500
43Philipp KoutnySUI00:25:0601:47:5801:13:5903:29:29US$ 2,500
44Kristian HogenhaugDEN00:25:0201:40:0901:27:5803:35:50US$ 2,500
45Andre LopesBRA00:23:5002:07:1901:05:5103:39:29US$ 2,500
46Jesper SvenssonSWE00:22:5302:03:3901:11:3003:40:25US$ 2,500
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