The most competitive 70.3 World Championship in history is over and winner was Gustav Iden, someone very few people had their eyes on. In my eyes, he was the favourite. When he started the run together with Alistair Brownlee and Rudy Van Berg I was certain that he was going to take the win.
His name is far from unknown in the ITU world of triathlon, but he has never been a superstar. Rarely winning, and often behind the more known Norwegian partner in crime Kristian Bummenfelt. What he has done is consistently been performing superb, and usually just a fraction from the top spot. In ITU 10 seconds can mean the difference of a first place and a fourth place. The winner gets all the glory, but form fitness and performance perspective the difference is marginal.
From Gustav’s results the last couple of year I knew he was healthy and consistently a very high performer. In IM 70.3 Bahrain his finish time of 3:29:25 was beaten by Kristian Blummenfelt, but only by 21 seconds. His lighter bodyweight fits the Nice 70.3 course better. In addition, coming into triathlon from road cycling, his technical skills on the bike can match the best. While comparing run times in different 70.3 is not a great comparison, his 1:07:13 run split in Bahrain is only matched by two other in the history of triathlon, Kristian and Jan Frodeno.
While all eyes were on Alistair Brownlee after the breakaway was clear, I was very optimistic on behalf of Gustav. He would run him down. How could I dare to bet against a two-times Olympian who was the best runner in nearly every ITU-race he attended? In his prime Olympic distance fitness Alistair run performance was only slightly better than Gustav’s current run fitness. When training and preparing for Ironman Hawaii I had my doubts that Alistair had his best high-end speed run legs. Training for an Olympic distance race is much better for a 70.3 performance compared to training for Ironman distance.
With that said it is obvious that Gustav did not have the optimal preparations either. His main focus is ITU and the Olympic in Toyko 2020. His fourth-place finish in the ITU Grand Final in Lausanne the week before worked as a good build-up, but probably not ideal. Another big topic was the bike. While nearly every other PRO used a triathlon bike he used a road bike. From looking at the result is was a good choice. The truth is more that he won despite using a road bike, not because of it. He just didn’t have a bike sponsor that could provide him with a good TT-option. I have no doubt in my mind that he would have been better off with a well-suited TT-bike like Sebastian Kienle which he had trained technical downhill riding on. In a course like Nice, however, the margins would have been small, and probably in the magnitude that it would not have changed anything. Not big enough to enable him to go in a solo breakaway. Still, I see many marginal gains to be made.
Watching the race (or listening to the commentators while I was out running on the big part of the bike leg) was a thrill. I had my hope since his 70.3 debuts in Haugesund 2016, where he swept away a solid field, that he would go for the 70.3 World Championship. The Norwegian Triathlon Federation has, at least until last year, been very reluctant of their athletes doing IM-branded races. That is understandable, but the 70.3 World Championship has become a big deal. Winning it would, in addition to prize money, bring attention and hopefully a decent bike sponsor in Gustav’s case.
It’s very easy to cheer for Gustav. He is sympathetic, honest, funny and shows great sportsmanship. He has, in my view, been hidden in the shadow of Kristian Blummenfelt, in regards to attention and sponsorship (that is not Kristian’s fault of course). Now it is his time to shine! So proud of you Gustav 😀