Norwegian Duo takes aim at Kona

Reigning Ironman 70.3 world champion Gustav Iden and Ironman 70.3 world record holder Kristian Blummenfelt have announced their plan to race the Ironman World Championship in 2021 after the Tokyo Olympics.

The Norwegian duo revealed their intentions during their guest interview on the MX Endurance podcast this week. As training partners and part of Norway’s first national triathlon squad, the two athletes have not only brought their nation into the limelight on the World Triathlon circuit, but have also shaken up triathlon’s half-ironman scene.

As the 2019 Ironman 70.3 world champion, Iden would have had a spot on the Kona pier this year before the race was postponed, and he would have had a shot at becoming both Olympic champion and Ironman world champion in the same year.

He said, “I had a real plan [for Kona] this year after Tokyo. Training plans plotted out, where we’re going to stay, how we’d get Kristian to qualify. And I also had to do a validation race... So we had a plan for getting Kristian to win in [Ironman] Copenhagen and I was just going to finish to validate my race. And then we’d go to Texas and Flagstaff to prepare for Kona and do well there.”

View this post on Instagram

Road to #Tokyo202ONE gives us another year with testing and improvements. What’s your thoughts about the Olympic design that we never got to use this year? #TrueGrit @trimtex 📸 @olavaleksander

A post shared by Kristian Blummenfelt (@kristianblu) on

With the 2020 race postponed to 2021, Iden now has a guaranteed spot even without doing a validation race.

Blummenfelt -- who set a new world record for fastest finish in an Ironman 70.3 in 2018 and then bettered that record the following year -- aims to join him on the starting line, and rates their chances of doing well on their maiden try quite highly.

“I think they [the long-course athletes] are kind of thinking the Big Island will be tough -- it’s going to be warm, it’s going to be humid, it’s going to be all that and everyone is failing on their first try in Kona but I can promise you we can do the preparation that it will just be an advantage for us,” he said.

Iden added, “First off we have a lot of knowledge now for heat preparation because obviously Tokyo will be really warm and humid. We have done a lot of research and training and protocols, everything we can do to perform in the heat. From our test data and scientists and coaches, we have general knowledge that we can perform on the Big Island.”

The two are aware of the scepticism they are met with, especially as upstart Norwegians coming up against triathlon juggernaut nations like Germany and Great Britain.

Iden said, “I actually thought the long-distance guys would take more notice of us after Bahrain in 2018 [he finished second to Blummenfelt]. I was really surprised that more people didn’t notice. I ran a 1:07 and we rode really fast, but people brushed it off as a stupid fast short course and the times were unrealistic. So when I got to Nice [for the Ironman 70.3 world championship], I was under the radar and the betting sites had me on really low odds. Winning Nice definitely made them realise it wasn’t for show, that it was actually real.”

Kristian noted, “When it comes to long course, it’s more because we haven’t raced Ironman. As we have done with 70.3, we will take it from Day 1… But at the moment our dream is winning the Olympics. The longer stuff can come later.”

View this post on Instagram

Tag your training partner that you always beat in the village sign sprint ;) photo: @marcelhilger for @incylence

A post shared by Gustav Iden (@gustav_iden) on

The two credit their success to the close-knit nature of the Norwegian squad. Iden said, “Since we all have the same training program and the same philosophy, if one guy is performing, it’s a testament to our training. It’s not only a personal win, it’s a team win. If the training is working for him, then later it’s more likely it will also work for me.”

Blummenfelt added, “Since we started training together 10 years ago we always had that big dream about becoming the very best in the world together. It’s a unique training atmosphere we have the group helping each other take the next step.

“In many other groups, the attitude is it’s better to be the best athlete from that country. So you see in the World Series you have a guy finishing 12th place, but he’s Best American or Best British. We have a different approach. It’s way better to get third place and be Second Best Norwegian, or third place and Third Best. If that’s possible, to sweep a podium. It’s better the other guys in your training group have success because it makes it more likely that they will keep doing triathlon, and I will have a training group around me for a longer time. It’s more fun to do it together.”

The Kona goal won’t distract them from their Olympic dreams, however; they will be 100% focused on getting fit to win Tokyo.

Iden said, “I think if you want to win the Olympics you have to go all in for it. You can’t do it halfway. You need to be in your best possible shape for Olympic distance and for the conditions we’ll face. But also in general we are used to doing a lot of volume with our training group. I think that will help us a lot when we’re trying to adapt for the longer stuff afterwards.”

Blummenfelt quipped, with wry self-awareness, “I’ve not won any of the biggest events in triathlon so it would be really stupid of me to try to play both without being one of the favorites going into Tokyo. So I will do everything going into Tokyo and then prepare for Kona after that.”

Listen to the full interview on the MX Endurance podcast.