Gustav Iden romped to an impressive victory at IRONMAN Florida 2021 by coming out on top after a duel with Lionel Sanders at Panama City Beach on Saturday.
The two-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion proved that he will also be a big deal at the full distance by taking the win in his debut race over 140.6 miles. He added an exclamation point to a terrific performance he closed the show with a stunning 2:34:51 marathon.
Two weeks on from the cancellation at IRONMAN California, Iden was fully recovered from the cold he had suffered heading into Sacramento, and he never looked in any trouble.
Iden and Sanders were together for most of the day and ran pretty much side by side for the first 16 miles of the marathon. But from that point on the Canadian could no longer live with the pace as Iden surged clear to win comfortably in the end.
Brazilian Luis Ohde led the pack into the ocean and set the pace for the first lap of the swim course in choppy waters. Swede Robert Kallin, Iden, Cam Wurf, Frenchman Arnaud Guilloux and Justin Metzler were all literally behind him with Sanders, also making an excellent start, lying just six seconds off the lead.
The second lap of the swim saw Ohde fall off the front as Kallin, Metzler and Iden led the field into T1. Guilloux was some 12 seconds back in fifth with Sanders 19 seconds off the pace in sixth. Kallin’s slowish time in front (57:59) reflected the challenging conditions.
Bike – Kallin leads the way
Iden was swiftly through T1 to be first out onto the bike course ahead of the chasers – who included Kallin, Metzler, Wurf, Guilloux and Sanders.
Sanders had been the very definition of discipline in his last full-distance outing in Chattanooga as he finished a distant second behind Britain’s Joe Skipper. He was in no mood to play it as safe here though and aggressively moved up to lead by mile 15 on the bike.
The lead group continued to race in close order until the final third of a fascinating bike leg, when it was Kallin who made the first significant move by opening up a lead over Sanders, Iden and Guilloux. By the time he entered T2 that advantage was at just over a minute thanks to a terrific 4:03:59 bike split. Wurf meanwhile had been forced into a DNF due to sickness.
Run – Iden too good for Sanders
Kallin’s advantage disappeared after a toilet stop in T2 and it was Sanders and Iden who set off on the run together in front with the Swede just behind in third and Guilloux fourth.
As Iden and Sanders went literally stride for stride at the front of the race Kallin quickly started to fall away. The stage was now set for a duel between the two big guns. At four miles into the marathon Sanders was setting the pace with Iden sitting on his shoulder as the pair pumped out 5.34 miles. Kallin was more than two minutes back with Guilloux over three minutes away in fourth.
The duel at the front was an intriguing clash of styles – Iden seemingly floating on air and Sanders with that awkward trademark gait. So far they were delivering the race we had hoped for as they reached halfway in the marathon at just under one hour and 16 minutes.
Into the second half of the run and Iden came alongside Sanders to share the work at the front with the result still very much in question. With just under 10 miles remaining though Gustav injected a little extra pace to open up a gap of five seconds on Sanders – was it the beginning of a significant move, or would Lionel respond?
Within seconds we got the apparent answer to that question as Gustav extended his advantage over Sanders to 39 seconds at just under 18 miles. By 19 miles the gap was more than two minutes with Lionel now slowing noticeably and having made a toilet stop.
While Iden was now in unknown territory, it would take a major collapse for him not to claim victory on his debut at full distance. He looked fresh and full of running, with that effortless style again seen so often over the 70.3 distance again on show.
Going into the final five miles the only question mark appeared to be what records Iden would smash on his full-distance debut. He was regularly checking his watch as he surged further clear, with his mind apparently on doing something special.
The race record time of 7:46:28 set by Joe Skipper in 2019 (albeit on a different course) was duly lowered as Iden came home in 7:42:57. His marathon was a sensational 2:34:51. The winning margin over second-placed man Sanders was just under six minutes. Sanders by the way, despite those struggles late on, clocked a 2:40:43 marathon.
Kallin struggled badly during the latter stages of the marathon, but gutted it out to claim a fine podium in a time of 8.08.13.
IRONMAN Florida 2021 Results – PRO Men
Saturday November 6, 2021 – 3.8km / 180km / 42.2km
1. Gustav Iden (NOR) 7:42:572. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 7:48:503. Robert Kallin (SWE) 8:08:13
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