St. George Spectrum & Daily News
St. George once again welcomed IRONMAN triathletes to Washington County on Saturday, this time for the world championship races for both the men’s and women’s sides at the 70.3-mile distance.
Competitors were set to start at Sand Hollow Reservoir for the swim portion of the race before grabbing their bikes and traversing parts of Hurricane and St. George on their way to St. George to finish the bike race and then head out on foot for the run to the finish line downtown.
With the world title on the line, many of the world’s top professionals were set to participate, with a $350,000 total prize purse available.
Follow along here for live race results, traffic updates and news on other developments as the triathletes make their way through the course.
Among the competitors for the first-ever world championship were reigning IRONMAN 70.3 champion Daniela Ryf, who had a chance to become the first six-time champion at the 70.3 distance, along with triathlon stars like American Taylor Knibb, Australian Ellie Salthouse and Lucy Charles-Barclay, Holly Lawrence and Emma Pallant-Brown of Great Britain.
In the field for the male side was defending world champion Gustav Iden of Norway along with top competitors Kristian Blummenfelt, also of Norway, Sam Appleton and Tim Reed of Australia and Americans Ben Kanute and Sam Long.
IRONMAN was broadcasting the race live from www.facebook.com/IRONMANnow.
Even some heavy thunderstorms couldn’t slow down Norwegian triathlete Gustov Iden on Saturday.
The 25-year-old took the lead early in the bike section of the race and dominated the rest of the way to pick up his second IRONMAN 70.3 world title, crossing the St. George finish line in 3:37:13, several minutes ahead of runner-up Sam Long.
“It feels so good,” Iden said, noting that he was unsure if his strategy would pay off after really pushing to pick up the lead in the bike race.
“It was quite an easy bike ride until I really, really, really pushed hard the last half-hour,” he said, saying he didn’t know if he’d have enough energy at the end to keep the lead.
“In the end, I ran quite well and I’m super happy to remain world champion,” he said.
The win put Iden right back on the historic professional pace he’d started to set before the coronavirus pandemic forced a cancellation of the 2020 race.
In 2019, Iden became the youngest Ironman 70.3 world champion ever when he crossed the finish line first in Nice, France at the age of 23.
Two years later, he was back in the winner’s spot on the podium.
Rain and occasional hail hit the area just as the athletes had transitioned from the bike to the run course, keeping everyone cool as they headed up the hill from downtown onto Red Hills Parkway.
Iden maintained his lead despite a strong push from Long on the run course, using the long lead he’d put up during the bike section to provide enough cushion to stay in front.
Norwegian Gustav Iden was the first triathlete to transition from the bike course to the run course, coming in at under two hours at 1:58:59 as he dismounted and started the 13.1-mile run course through St. George.
Close behind were Magnus Ditlev and Frederic Funk, with another six athletes within three minutes of the leader.
The run course takes athletes from downtown up to Red Hills Parkway, where they run several times before coming back again to the finish line at Town Square, right in the heart of downtown St. George.
With the pace they were keeping, the leaders were expected to finish sometime around 10:20 a.m.
Charles-Barclay leads women, tight race for men
As the first male athletes started hitting the iconic bike climb through Snow Canyon State Park, the top 10 competitors were all within just 30 seconds of each other, led by Norweigian Gustav Iden, who was less than two seconds ahead of German Frederic Func with 35 of the bike route’s 56 kilometers behind them.
On the women’s side, Lucy Charles-Barclay was still leading the field, up nearly three minutes on the closest competitors after having taken a huge lead after the swim portion of the race.
Five-time 70.3 world champion Daniela Ryf was making up ground behind her though, running close behind Taylor Knibb, who was in second place with less than half of the bike course left to go.
Most of Utah is now in a marginal risk for severe weather.
Main threats include:
?️Strong, gusty winds in excess of 50 mph
Timing: thunderstorms will develop late this morning and continue through the evening. #utwx pic.twitter.com/K2K5oLULIi
— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) September 18, 2021
The weather forecast had changed quickly over the past two days, and meteorologists were now expecting monsoonal thunderstorms to pass into the St. George area by afternoon.
The cooler weather was helping the professionals at the head of the race to keep up a torrid pace as they moved through the bike course, and with the chance of rain increasing slightly each hour into the early afternoon, precipitation was possible for many of the participants.
The area was under a “marginal risk” of thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service, a designation the agency uses to describe the likelihood of isolated thunderstorms. It was unclear where or when they might appear.
Ben Kanute made it out of the water in under 24 minutes to lead a tight pack of male professionals headed into the bike transition.
Right behind him was Sam Appleton, Kristian Blummenfelt, Daniel Baekkegard, Miki Taagholt and a group of several others.
On the women’s side, Lucy Charles-Barclay was way out ahead of the rest of the field as she broke out of the water in 24:36, nearly 1:25onds ahead of the closest competitors, Holly Lawrence and Taylor Knibb.
The bike race provided plenty of room for athletes to make up time, with a scenic but hilly course taking them out of Sand Hollow and into Hurricane, then along state Route 9 back into Washington and St. George, with the back half of the course heading up a signature climb through Snow Canyon State Park before a steep decline down state Route 18 back into St. George.
Temperatures had dropped to below 70 degrees just before sunrise early Saturday as the first group of professional competitors jumped into Sand Hollow Reservoir at 7 a.m.
American Ben Kanute was pacing the way five minutes into the race, followed closely by Sam Appleton from Australia.
Water temperatures were just above 70 degrees for the first competitors in, a group that included the top triathletes from the men’s side of the event.
The female professionals were planned to get into the water at 7:10 a.m.
The first finishers were expected to make it to the downtown St. George finish line by about 10:25 a.m.
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David DeMille is the content strategist and editor for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom based in southern Utah. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.