Just as they were at the Ironman World Championship, Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden arrive here in St. George for this weekend’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship as the prohibitive favourites, even though both are bouncing back after a win (Iden) and third-place finish (Blummenfelt) in Kona just three weeks ago.
At yesterday’s press conference, Blummenfelt (pictured above, left, with Eric Lagerstrom at yesterday’s press conference) joked that since his training partner and friend “took his long-distance title” that maybe it was only right that he get to win his first 70.3 world championship. While Iden is the two-time defending champion, Blummenfelt has yet to finish on the podium at the 70.3 worlds – his best finish was fourth in Nice in 2019.
While Iden says he feels like he’s somewhat physically recovered from his big day in Kona, emotionally he’s still feeling a bit flat.
“There was a big emotional impact,” he said at the press conference yesterday. “For me, everything went into Kona. I still feel empty, in a way. I am not going into this race feeling like my career is dependent on doing well at this race. It’s hard to go into this race hungry, but I’ll do my best to perform.”
It is a tribute to just how much the two Norwegians have come to dominate the long-distance landscape over the last year that they arrive in St. George as favourites – they were the only two men who finished in the top seven in Kona who are racing here in St. George. (Others competing this weekend who finished in the top-10 on the Big Island include Magnus Ditlev, eighth and Clement Mignon, who was ninth.)What’s even crazier about the two Norwegians race plans? They look to bounce back from this race and turn their focus to Olympic qualifying at World Triathlon events for the rest of the season, including the Grand Final in Abu Dhabi next month.
It’s not as though the two Norwegians will have an easy go of taking the title this weekend.-The strong men’s field includes last year’s runner up, Sam Long, 2021 fourth-place finisher Miki Taagholt and last year’s fifth-place finisher, Canada’s own Jackson Laundry. Others in attendance at yesterday’s presser included German Frederic Funk, fresh off a bronze-medal performance at the World Triathlon Long Distance Championships in August, and American Eric Lagerstrom, who is coming off a huge win at Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz.
If a fast-moving swim group gets clear and sets up a strong enough lead group, look for the likes of France’s Denis Chevrot and Aussie Aaron Royle to be in the mix for a big day here in St. George, too. Thanks to a new run course that’s not as hilly, the race won’t be quite as much of a strength-fest (remember, I did say “quite as much”) as previous years, which could help those will less long-distance experience and more speed-based backgrounds. That could be good news for Ben Kanute, too, but he’ll have to pull out an incredible run if he’s going to stay with the speedsters lining up on Saturday.
Suffice it to say that all eyes will be on the Norwegians on Saturday, but they’ll have to be on their game to take the title. Which will make for a fun day of racing.
Triathlon Magazine is here in St. George to cover the event. You can check our Instagram and Twitter accounts for race day updates, and the website for race recaps right after the pro athletes finish each day.
Here’s a list of the pro men registered for Saturday’s race:
|58||Rodriguez Hernandez||Tomas Andres||MEX|