In a Rollercoaster 70.3 World Championship, Kristian Blummenfelt Holds on for the Win

This article originally appeared on Triathlete

A relentlessly close swim, a controversial penalty, and a run battle for the ages – the pro men’s race at the 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championship was a high-stakes, high-drama affair that had viewers on the edge of their seats from the very start to the very finish. The moment of catharsis came in the form of a Kristian Blummenfelt victory in a staggering 3:37:12 on one of the toughest courses on the 70.3 circuit.

2022 70.3 Worlds Men's Race: The Swim

IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Swim
(Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

With water temperatures at 62 degrees F and air temperatures at 40 degrees F, the theme of the day was the same as the women's race prior: managing the cold conditions of late fall in southern Utah.

From the gun, Aussie Aaron Royle set the pace, with Americans Ben Kanute and Marc Dubrick hot on his heels. Though the three looked poised to pull away at the turnaround, a sighting error by Royle required a course correction, allowing any small gaps that had formed to close. Instead of building a sizable lead, the super-swimmers in this race found themselves pulling a train of 20 down the final stretch of the 1.2-mile swim. It was only in the closing meters that the original trio was able to break away, putting forth a monster effort to try to build any gap they could on the super-bikers behind, knowing that precious seconds could make or break their race. Royle emerged from the water first in 22:20, followed by Marc Dubric and Ben Kanute. But what came next was a rare sight in middle-distance racing: In the span of only 20 seconds, a pack of 19 athletes rushed out of the water as if one unit.

It was no surprise, then, that T1 was a bit of a circus, with athletes jockeying for position. The pack, which included Denmark's Miki Taagholt and Magnus Ditlev, Norwegians Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden, Americans Eric Lagerstrom and Jason West, Germans Mikia Noodt and Frederic Funk, and Canadian Brent McMahon, rushed out of transition as quickly as they entered.

Two minutes down from the lead, another chase pack formed, this one containing Canadian Jackson Laundry and American Sam Long. In 34th and 40th place, respectively, it was clear that if they wanted a fighting chance at the podium, they were going to have to put in some big work on the bike to catch their competition.

2022 70.3 Worlds Men's Race: The Bike

(Photo: Patrick McDermott)
(Photo: Patrick McDermott)

Blummenfelt had no intention of sitting in the pack and watching the race unfold in front of him. He pushed hard from the very start, setting out at a burning pace of 28 mile per hour in the rolling hills out of Sand Hollow. Behind him, the train from the swim continued rolling, and so did the congestion from the swim and T1. It was a game of musical chairs as athletes passed, dropped back, and re-passed to establish the pecking order early on.

Penalties, then, were inevitable. Sam Long, who had ridden his way from 40th to 8th place in the first 20 miles, was the one who took the hit. After getting caught in a tight spot during a pass involving Laundry, Long found himself with a controversial call-out from the referee and a five-minute stand-down in the penalty box. With a gap of 2:25 and an enormous chase pack of 18 athletes close together whizzing past the yellow penalty tent, Long was visibly upset. He knew the punishment had devastating consequences – would he be able to make up that lost time?

RELATED: Commentary: When the Penalty Doesn’t Fit the Crime

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