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It was calculated gutsiness that helped Norway’s Gustav Iden claim the 2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championship on his first try with a result that surprised no one – and everyone. Much like women’s race winner, Chelsea Sodaro, this was Iden’s second Ironman event ever, but he raced it like a veteran, making decisive moves on the bike, pacing well on the run, and seizing the moment to take it all. His time of 7:40:24 is also a new course record and his 2:36 would be a new run course record of 2:36:15. Read on to see how the 2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championship played out on the Big Island.
Hawaii Ironman World Championships 2022: The Swim
With similar conditions to Thursday’s women’s race – slightly choppy with a rolling swell – many assumed the swim would favor the stronger swimmers. But on this day, everyone seemed to be a strong swimmer. Straight from the start cannon, a large pack formed, led by Sam Laidlow and Florian Angert. Despite attempts to pull away in the first half of the swim, neither were successful in building a definitive lead.
Instead, a staggering 19 pros exited the water within 15 seconds of each other, led by Angert in 48:15 and Laidlow in 48:16. This tight pack included some of the most dangerous triathletes in the field, setting up the likes of Kristian Blummenfelt, Gustav Iden, and Braden Currie in perfect position for a tactical race at the front of the field.
One minute and 15 seconds later, another large pack emerged from the water, containing even more strong cyclists capable of quickly bridging the gap. These included Igor Amorelli, Patrick Lange, Rudy Von Berg, and Magnus Ditlev.
— Triathlete Magazine (@TriathleteMag) October 8, 2022
Hawaii Ironman World Championships 2022: The Bike
Laidlow was the one to take charge in the initial miles of the bike, setting an average pace of 27 miles per hour over the first 25 miles. Max Neumann was the only one willing to take the bait, staying just out of Laidlow’s draft to avoid a penalty. Behind them, big groups stuck together as the crosswinds picked up through the lava fields. Fifty seconds down, the first chase group of 11 included Ditlev, Blummenfelt, Iden, O’Donnell, and Bakkegard; almost two minutes behind was a group of 18 that included contenders like Lange, Currie, Ben Hoffman, and Denis Chevrot.
At mile 30 on the bike, the massive groups continued through the rolling hills on the way to Hawi. With 42 men racing within 5 minutes of each other, space was hard to come by – and the referees noticed. As with the women’s race on Thursday, the penalties began early and often, with Angert, Clement Mignon, Mathias Petersen, and Arnad Gilloux being the first to serve their five-minute punishment for position infractions. Leon Chevalier soon joined them for a one-minute penalty as well.
Soon, more setbacks started to snowball in the men’s field. With each passing mile, Sanders saw the race get away from him as his position slipped from 4:42 down out of the water to 7:13 by mile 30. Colin Chartier, who was in the first large pack out of the swim, found it difficult to recover after an early flat tire. Lange seemed unable to jump on to the train of competitors passing him at full speed, and in a shocking twist, pre-race favorite Currie dropped from the race around mile 35.
Meanwhile, the men’s race began to take shape near the base of Hawi as Ditlev went to the front of the race and took control. Behind him, Laidlow and Neumann could not match the effort, while countrymen and training partners Iden and Blummenfelt sat 30 seconds behind Ditlev, working together near mile 50.
Just after the Hawi turnaround, Laidlow reclaimed his lead, but Ditlev, Neumann, Blummenfelt, and Iden were hot on his tail. Further back, a group including Kyle Smith, Tim O’Donnell, and Jesper Svensson trailed the leaders by 2:30; 3:30 back from the leaders were Kristian Hogenhaug and Daniel Bakkegard. A big group of dangerous bike/runners sat 5 minutes behind the front pack that included Wurf, Chevalier, Skipper, Lange, Kienle, and Andreas Dreitz.
Near mile 90, disorganization plagued the chase group of Iden, Blummenfelt, Ditlev, and Neumann as they lost an additional 1:30 to the race leader, Laidlow. Further back, Wurf, Kienle, and Chevalier led a rally to try to get within striking distance of the front, putting 2:20 into the Norwegian group over a span of over 10 miles. As the race barreled toward T2, the chaos continued, with Ditlev receiving a five-minute position penalty at a time when most would be making their critical moves in a race.
Up front, Laidlow seemed to not know – or care – about what was playing out behind him. Instead, the young gun stayed focused on his own race, surging ahead. By mile 88, Laidlow’s lead grew to 2:37; at mile 94, a 4:11 advantage.
Heading into T2, Laidlow smashed Cam Wurf’s 2018 bike course record with a split of 4:04:36—knocking almost five minutes off the previous time. Behind him, the chase group was six minutes down, and the second chase had 8:30-9:45 to make up.
Laidlow set out on the run with a target on his back. The question then became: Would his bold bike strategy pay off, or would it end in disaster? Could he actually beat the notoriously fast Norwegian runners to the finish line? Could anyone?
Hawaii Ironman World Championships 2022: The Run
As the men’s pro field moved through T2, the field shifted from large packs to a steady trickle. It was soon clear who had paced themselves well on the bike and who had burned their matches. Behind Laidlow, Blummenfelt and Iden led the charge, setting out at a 5:54 minute-per-mile pace to the leader’s 6:13 pace. Behind them, O’Donnell and Kienle were the fastest movers in the second chase pack early in the run, along with Ditlev—finally released from his penalty.
As Laidlow made his way up the Palani climb, his pace slowed to 6:23. Iden and Blummenfelt powered on, checking their watches to ensure they were sticking to their staggeringly consistent 5:58 pace. With every footfall, they seemed to cut into Laidlow’s lead. Neumann, looking to hold his own in his Kona debut, followed suit.
Slightly further back, strong runners like Kienle and Ditlev were working together as well, slowly making their way up through the top ten, through the first half of the marathon—as did Joe Skipper. At the halfway point, they found themselves in fifth and sixth place, with elder statesman Kienle offering words of encouragement to the young Dane as they ran together.
Between miles 11 and 16, the Norwegians’ march toward Laidlow started to stall as the Frenchman found a way to staunch the bleeding. As he made his way out the Queen K, it seemed as if he found a pace he could comfortably sustain. At the turnaround in the infamous Energy Lab, Laidlow could see exactly where he was relative to his competition. He knew he had a lead of just over two minutes, but what he didn’t know was whether or not the Norwegians had another gear. Anticipating a battle, Laidlow gathered all he could from the aid stations – cups of ice, a gallon bottle of water to douse himself on the scalding Kona pavement.
Indeed, Iden had just decided to drop his friend and training partner, pulling ahead in the Energy Lab just before mile 19, while Blummenfelt trailed behind. With less than eight miles to go, Iden broke out into 4:38 min/mi pace, laser-focused on the task ahead.
At mile 22, Iden gave Laidlow a pat on the back to let him know his time at the front was up. With a handshake and a smile, Iden made the pass, striding confidently to the finish line.
Sorry Sam, Gustav is here
Gustav Iden looks to bring home a World Championship!
— IRONMAN Triathlon (@IRONMANtri) October 9, 2022
After the pass, it was the Iden show, as the Norwegian extended his lead to set a new course record with a time of 7:40:24 and a new run course record of 2:36:15. Not far behind, Sam Laidlow valiantly hung on for second place with a time that also broke the previous run record, 7:42:24. Kristian Blummenfelt would fade only slightly, but still stand on the podium with another course record time of 7:43:23.
“That was so freaking hard,” Iden said just moments after his record-setting finish. “The last 10K I was worried about the legend of the island killing me. Everything was going pretty smoothly until I caught Sam Laidlow. When I passed him, the island really tried to put me down. But I think my hat must be stronger than the legend of the island.
“That was so epic, and I’m so proud of Sam and Kristian making the podium. I’m not sure if I’m coming back here, this was too hard.”
Laidlow was tearful after leading the race for so long.
“I was just loving it, I’ve been dreaming this since I was four or five,” said an emotional Laidlow. “This is my style of racing. I’ve been inspired by Jan Frodeno, and the way he races. If I win, I want to win like he does. I’m just getting started.
“It’s hard to believe as I’ve been watching the Norwegians, and to beat the Olympic champion, I really can’t put words to it.”
Hawaii Ironman World Championship 2022: Results
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