The 24-year-old crossed the finish line first ahead of a star-studded field during the 100km race – holding off a later surge from second-placed Matt Hanson to win by just under a minute.
Prior to the event in Daytona, the Norwegian had competed only twice on the middle-distance IRONMAN 70.3 circuit – but had certainly put on a show in both races.
Iden finished second in the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 Bahrain before winning the 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Nice – and the PTO 2020 Champion has now laughed off any suggestions his performance in France was a one-off.
“I guess I’m not a one-hit wonder after all,” Iden commented on Instagram after the event.
“Unbelievable to take the Championship win here in Daytona. And the $100 000 is not too bad either.”
More to come from the champion
Despite taking victory, Iden was critical of certain aspects of his performance around the Daytona circuit – showcasing the unrivalled pursuit of perfection it takes to be one of the world’s best triathletes.
“The swim was not good. I was afraid that I had already blew up my race in the swim,” explained in his post-race interview, “and then on the bike, I had no control at the start.
“Then I realised that the cars were following the leaders, and I wasn’t really that far behind on the bike.”
Despite the self-criticism, the Norwegian star came out of the swim 21st (23.44) before producing the eighth fastest split on the bike (1.41.44).
Taking control from the front
The catalyst for Iden’s victory came in the final hour of the race as the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion produced a sub-hour 18km split (58.16) – the second fastest in the field.
“I decided to just not go over my ability because 18km is pretty long on a run,” Iden said, “but then I saw I was gaining on the leaders at the start, on the run.”
“I went to the front and I had 100% control. Then five minutes later I really started feeling it. Luckily, I took a [energy] gel at the start of the run and when the caffeine kicked in after 30 minutes I was back in the zone. I had pretty good control.”
Iden needed that energy to hold-off the late surge by Hanson who closed to within a minute of the leader on the final lap.
‘I believe in the lucky hat’
Many an athlete would have attributed their magnificent success to their preparation, training and peak physical conditioning. Gustav on the other hand believes in the power of his lucky hat:
“I’m starting to believe it actually brings luck for real now because every time I wear it I have an amazing race.
“I just found it on the ground in Japan last year, it’s from Taiwan. I really feel a connection with these people now, so it’s so cool to be wearing this, it’s an honour.”
Whatever is the behind Iden’s success there is no doubt he produced on the biggest stage of them all – and he is only just getting started in the world of middle-distance racing.