St. George, UT (September 18, 2021) — The professional class was dominated by two top performances Saturday at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George.
More than 3,500 athletes competed in the race, including more than 50 pros, but it was Gustav Iden of Norway and Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain who crossed their respective finish lines first.
Gustav Iden came to St. George on a mission.
The confident Norwegian, who in 2019 became the youngest ever Ironman 70.3 World Champion, defended his crown Saturday after he dominated the men’s field on his way to winning the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
At the pre-race press conference Thursday, Iden said he came here to win. He backed that up by blistering one of the toughest 70.3-mile courses on the Ironman circuit in 3 hours, 37 minutes, 13 seconds.
“I don’t like to be fake, so I really say what I’m actually believing in,” Iden said Saturday after his big win. “So when I said I came here to win, I really meant it and I really believed in myself.”
It didn’t come easy, especially at the beginning of the 1.2-mile swim at Sand Hollow Reservoir. In the first four meters or so, Iden said he was kicked in the chest by another swimmer, leading to what he estimated might be a broken rib.
“So I ran with some pain during the run, but the pain really started after the finish line,” Iden said. “I don’t think it affected the race at all.”
Iden didn’t look like he was in pain as he breezed through the 56-mile bike ride, gaining a lead which he never relinquished.
“Luckily I had a great start of the bike ride, and got up quite quickly,” Iden said. “But it wasn’t until I really started to run that I was really confident that the title was mine to win.”
Iden cruised through a comfortable 13.1-mile run over a double loop along the Red Cliffs Parkway, finishing almost four minutes ahead of Colorado resident Sam Long at the finish line on Main Street in front of St. George’s Historic Town Square.
“I’m thrilled with second-place,” Long said. “I’ve just worked my butt off the last two years to improve.”
Long made up time on the bike and on the run, but Iden’s lead was just too big to surmount. Long’s finishing time was 3:41:09.
“Realistically Gustav had a pretty good lead,” Long said. “It was going to be hard to close it down unless something wrong happened to him. So I just did my own race, from start to finish on the run.”
It marked the second silver medal in St. George for Long this year, as he also finished behind Lionel Sanders in a sprint to the finish line in May’s Ironman 70.3 North American Championship.
Following Long across the finish line in third place on Saturday was Denmark’s Daniel Baekkegard, who posted a time of 3:42:24.
“The new addition to the run course definitely made it another run, and that was too cool,” Baekkegard said. “The whole way through was just a crazy, crazy race. It was a great experience just racing.”
Fellow Dane Miki Taagholt was fourth with his time of 3:43:08. Rounding out the top five men’s pro finishers was Canada’s Jackson Laundry, who posted a time of 3:43:25.
Lucy Charles-Barclay got the best possible birthday present.
The triathlete from Great Britain just turned 28 years old Wednesday, and she celebrated by posting a time of 4:00:20 to win the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George.
“What I really wanted for my birthday was definitely a world title,” she said. “So, I just went and gave everything.”
Charles-Barclay led the race from start to finish, building a lead of more than 100 yards during the first leg 1.2-mile swim at Sand Hollow Reservoir.
“Swim is my background and my strength,” she said. “I definitely felt strong as soon as I got in the water. And when we turned it halfway, I looked back a little bit and noticed there was quite a good gap. So I just kept pushing that second half.”
Charles-Barclay added that she needed to remain focused despite her big early lead.
“You never really know how much of a gap you’re going to get. And I didn’t really want to look back, I just wanted to get through transition and get away on that bike,” she said.
As for the sudden rainstorm that came through just after she had left the bike-to-run transition zone, Charles-Barclay said her first thought when the deluge hit was, “They better not cancel the race.”
Jeanni Metzler of South Africa finished second among pro women with a time of 4:08:39.
Like men’s second-place finisher Sam Long, Metzler was runner up in May’s Ironman 70.3 North American Championship in St. George.
Metzler’s obvious strength was the run, and she moved into position to get on the podium after making up a lot of time on the the third leg.
It only makes sense that following Metzler in third-place was Taylor Knibb of Boulder, Colorado, as the two are training partners and shared a warm embrace after crossing the finish line.
Knibb finished in 4:08:50, just 11 seconds behind Metzler. The energetic American was competing in only her second Ironman 70.3 race.
The 23-year-old Knibb, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, said Metzler passed her when she stopped for a quick bathroom break.
“I’m still learning and I actually went into the porta-potty,” Knibb said. “And then when I came out, she had already passed me. In a race, you never know what’s going to happen or how everyone’s going to influence it.”
The fourth and fifth place finishers in the pro women’s race also hailed from Great Britain. Katrina Matthews crossed the line in 4:10:46, followed by Emma Pallant in 4:12:11.
Complete race results can be found here.
Athletes ranged in age from 18 to 85, with the average being 42. All 50 states and some 85 countries and territories were represented.
More than 3,000 volunteers helped stage the event, surviving a couple of quick-moving rainstorms that blew through St. George during the race.
St. George is also scheduled to host next year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship, in late October of 2022.