The 24-year-old from Bergen destroyed the best field in the sport’s history in jaw-dropping fashion with a performance for the ages at Daytona International Speedway®.
Iden, positioned in 17th after the swim, was still a minute and 28 seconds off the pace in 15th when he got off the bike into T2.
Iden slices through field
The 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion then showed that Nice victory was no fluke as he sliced through a star-studded field in unbelievable fashion on the run to win by 51 seconds in a time of 3:05:06. He picked up $100,000 in prize money, part of a record-breaking $1,150,000 total purse.
Even Iden’s 58:16 run split was bettered by the fast-finishing American Matt Hanson in second place. He surged through the faltering field in the closing stages courtesy of a spectacular 57:22 split. He had been way down in 22nd getting off the bike into T2. Hanson’s reward was prize money of $70,000.
Britain’s George Goodwin took the final podium place and $50,000 in prize money with a fine performance to sneak into third during the closing stages.
Lionel Sanders never looked likely to repeat his Daytona win of 2019 after he finished the swim more than three minutes off the pace in 42nd spot. He did though produce a stellar performance on the bike and in the run to recover into a creditable fourth position.
Agony for Alistair
Pre-race favourite Alistair Brownlee had been right up there after the swim and the bike, but began to give out distress signals when leading on the second of four run laps around the iconic motorsport venue.
The British double Olympic champion had suffered a calf injury, and while he attempted to continue after stopping to stretch, he was unable to finish.
Another man who saw his race ruined by pain on the run was young Dane Magnus Ditlev. He was only 40th out of the water but then stunned the field momentarily by blasting his way into contention with a blistering 1:38:12 bike split.
His hopes of a top-10 finish though died on Lap 2 of the run when he was beset by cramps. He would eventually finish 14th.
Jonny Brownlee, like Luis, was well in contention when he too picked up a two-minute penalty during the bike leg, and would come home in 30th.
The victorious Iden was a very happy man as he basked in the glory of a brilliant performance. It crowned a day which had not started well for him.
“The swim was not good. I was pretty afraid that I already blew up my race on the swim. On the bike I had no control in the start, but then I realised that the cars were following the leaders and I wasn’t that far behind on the bike.
“I decided to just not go over my ability because 18k is pretty long in the run. Then I started gaining a lot on the leaders from the start of the run. Then I went to the front and I had like 100% control, and then like five minutes later I really started feeling it.
“But luckily, I took a gel at the start of the run and when the caffeine kicked in after like 30 minutes, I was back in the zone. I had pretty good control.”
Gustav’s ‘lucky’ hat – the back story
Gustav also provided the back story behind the baseball cap he wore en route to victory. A hat which is turning out to be a pretty lucky piece of equipment.
“I started to believe it actually brings luck for real now, because every time I wear it I have an amazing race. I found it on the ground in Japan last year, and it’s from Taiwan.
“I really feel a connection with the Taiwanese people now, it’s so cool to wear it with honour.”
Second-place man Hanson meanwhile picked the ideal time to produce a stellar run split.
“I’ve been waiting for my run to show up all year and I picked a good day to have a good day I guess. I biked really well, I was pretty happy with where I came of the water to set up the day.
“I ended up getting dropped by the uber bikers about the halfway point, and then really I was on my own on the bike the rest of the day. It was just a constant reminder to stay focused.
“On the start of the run I have no idea what place I was in, I don’t think I was in the top 20 though. The goal was to try to find the top 10, I found that a little earlier than expected. Then it was just ‘see what happens’. Most of the time I had no idea where I was in the course. I didn’t know I was in second.”
Goodwin’s third place may have surprised some experts, but the British star had hoped for a big showing after coming in full of confidence on the back of a perfect preparation.
“I’ve had 10 weeks like perfect, absolutely perfect. I knew I had a top 10 in me. Going off onto the run I had really bad cramp in my left quad in T2. I was like ‘oh, maybe the run maybe just won’t happen today’.
“Everyone went off really quick and I just like sort of gradually moved my way through.”