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How Gustav Iden Won His Second 70.3 World Championship

On his victory over Kristian Blummenfelt (“Even without his mechanical issue, I think I still would have won.”), his equipment choices (“Think I could perform OK on a BMX [bike].”), two of his insane workouts, and more.

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Gustav Iden knew he was ready to defend his Ironman 70.3 world title when on the final 5km of one of his longest training sets, he ran faster than he had in the Olympics. “It was a bit annoying that my great shape came after the Olympics,” he explained about that moment. “But it’s better to be in great shape once than not at all!”

Following 70.3 success in Nice in 2019, victory at the inaugural PTO Championships last year, and setting a time at the Collins Cup only a few seconds shy of Jan Frodeno this past August, the Norwegian is very much the current king of the middle distance. The PTO rankings also reflect his dominance—with the win in Utah taking him above Frodeno to top spot for the first time.

“I’m happy to be the PTO #1 and will try to defend it from now until the end of the year and claim my $100,000,” he said. “My plan is to do the full distance in California. I think Jan is also racing, so hopefully he won’t get too many points to overtake me.”

The Showdown in Utah

Iden’s other great rival is, of course, teammate Kristian Blummenfelt, and while it was Big Blu who stole the show in Tokyo, the chance of a head-to-head between the two in Utah was dashed when the Olympic champion had an equipment failure on the bike.

Iden, though, believes he had the edge over his training partner. “Kristian really thought he’d have the victory, but that distance is kind of special for me, and even without his mechanical issue, I think I still would have won.”

Was he disappointed the showdown didn’t materialize? “Right there and then I was pretty happy I didn’t have to go that hard on the run. Even though I want to race the best, it’s still mentally challenging to bury yourself so deep. But afterwards I really wished I’d raced him.”

Iden won by almost four minutes over American Sam Long, but believes there was more pressure to perform than in Daytona and Nice. “The pressure I put on myself was the same, there were just more eyes on me and more attention around the whole thing.”

Moving From Short- to Long-Course

Other than spending more time on his tri bike, training hadn’t altered dramatically from the pre-Olympic focus. “I took my nutrition more seriously I guess, and did some longer runs, but I only adjusted it a little. The longest run for my normal training would be 12 miles, and I did some a little longer for St George, such as 3 x 5km intervals with a warm-up and cooldown.”

Having raised eyebrows by riding a road bike to victory at 70.3 Worlds in Nice, Iden is now firmly settled on his Giant TT bike. “I’m really natural on a bike, and think I could perform OK on a BMX as well. I really just enjoy bikes, so the transition from a road to TT bike is not a problem. I can handle a lot of different positions, it’s more about getting the efficiency higher.”

Related: 70.3 Worlds Pro Bike: Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden’s Giant Trinity Setups

Much of his time trial riding is done on an indoor trainer back home in Bergen, Norway. When he’s out on the road, he has fun posting on Strava trying to “maximize the speed to power.”

“I just love having the highest possible average speed at the lowest possible power,” he said. “I’m constantly working with aerodynamics, technique on the corners, and positioning. And I hate a slow bike. That’s the worst thing ever. If I have a dirty bike with a greasy chain, I feel all the energy going to waste, even in training.”

Next Year and Beyond

Next year’s plans are yet to be decided, but it looks certain he’ll be back in St George to attempt to become the first man to win the Ironman 70.3 crown three times in a row. First though it’s Ironman California on Oct. 24 and a potential first meeting with Frodeno as he feels out the longer distance.

“I have to see how it goes in California,” he added. “If I’m super talented at the long distance and really enjoying it, I will do the whole season as a long-distance season next year with the double Ironman world champs, and St. George middle distance. But if I don’t have a good experience in California, I’ll probably go back to short distance and only do the 70.3 in St. George to defend my title.

“As of now that [short course] is still the racing style I enjoy the most, even though I possibly have a greater talent at the long distance. But I’m not sure. I think my talent is about the same, but the level is a bit lower at Ironman.”

Related: Gustav Iden: Get to Know the Youngest 70.3 World Champ Ever

Gustav shares two sessions he used to prepare for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in  St. George:

Session 1: Bike-run brick session leading into race

Total Time: ~3 hours

Bike

Warm-up: 

6 min. easy
6 min. moderate
6 min. hard
3 x 45-second sprints
20 min. easy

Main set:

3 x 30 min. (for Iden, 320 watts) with 60-90 seconds rest

Run

Main set 2:

40 min. at race pace (for Iden, approximately 5:02 min/mile pace—do not try that at home!)

“I might do [this workout] eight days out. It’s a hard session, I don’t know why, but everything in training is so much worse than when racing! It’s also a big session to test the nutrition. Luckily I have a really good nutrition sponsor in Maurten so I just have to mix the bottles. I think most people race with Maurten now even though they are sponsored by someone else!”

Session 2: Norwegian classic kilometer reps run session

Total distance: 9-12 miles

Warm-up: 

20 min. easy

Main set:

8-14 x 1km on the track at lactate threshold with 60-90 seconds rest

Cooldown:

10 min. easy

“This is our classic run set, and depending on the season we do a variant of it once a week. The distance can vary from 8km to 14km depending on our level, and sometimes we do 2km intervals, for example, 7 x 2km. The breaks are just long enough for us to take lactate readings, so we stay on target. It’s especially important if we’re at altitude, so we can have even more precision. If we knew our intensity levels exactly at any one time, we could do 14km in one go, but we’re not there yet. It’s hard to know because our bodies are not the same every day.”