Overcoming a flat tire and a 2:28 deficit after the swim, Gustav Iden of Norway blasted the bike and run splits to fend off home-country favorite Richard Varga of Slovakia and finish in 3:43:44 with a 1:21 margin on Varga and 2:49 on Thomas Steger of Austria at Challenge the Championship. Iden thus wiped away his disappointing non-start at the Ironman World Championship at St. George two weeks ago.
Sara Perez Sála of Spain combined a second-fastest 24:56 swim, third-fastest 2:15:42 bike split and third-quickest 1:22:20 half marathon to finish in 4:08:19 with a 1:53 margin over Emma Pallant-Browne and 2:46 over defending champion and fellow Briton Lucy Buckingham.
Super swimmers Josh Amberger of Australia and Richard Varga of Slovakia jetted away into the lead off the gun, with Varga winning their duel by 20 seconds – 23:22 to 23:42. One-minute arrears was a tightly bunched pack including Thomas Davis of Great Britain, Kyle Smith of New Zealand, Miki Taagholt of Denmark, and Pieter Heemeryck of Belgium. Twenty-five seconds further back was a chase pack comprised of Sam Wade of Great Britain, Frederic Funk of Germany, Youri Keulen of Netherlands, Thomas Steger of Austria, James Teagle of Great Britain, and, lagging at the very back of that pack, was Iden.
While Amberger fell back, Varga charged away into the lead, soon joined by Taagholt and Heemeryck. By 40k, they were a minute ahead of Davis and Amberger, with Frederic Funk close behind. Thanks to the tire Gods, Iden’s tire fix held, 2:23 back of the leaders and leading a chased group including Kyle Smith and Thomas Steger.
Nearing T2, Heemeryck surged and reached T2 alone, 30 seconds up on Taagholt and Varga. A minute and a half further back, heralded runners Iden and Steger led a group that included Smith, Thor Benndix Madsen of Germany and Davis. After a great swim and bike, Varga served a 30-second penalty for a bad bike dismount.
Midway through the 21.2 k run, Iden cruised past Steger and Varga on his way to a race-best 1:10:52 half marathon split that brought him to the finish in 3:43:44 with a 1:21 margin over Varga (1:12:54 run split) and 2:49 over Steger (1:13:14 run split).
“I was struggling so much in the swim,” Iden told Challenge media. “It was a sub-standard swim for me and then I had a low-pressure tire but luckily I quickly got a pump from the volunteers. I struggled to keep up the power at the start of the bike. But I slowly I got into it and at the end I got there – to take the win here is amazing! It’s really tough to run on the grass here but I think I was suffering less than others, it’s so demanding, but I think I managed OK!”
Thus, the current Ironman 70.3 World Champion, PTO 2020 winner at Challenge Daytona, and 7:42:57 Ironman-winning debut last year in Florida, the Norwegian stands atop all middle-distance male triathletes in the world.
As expected, super swimmer and defending women’s champion Lucy Buckingham led the field out of the water in 24;53, with Perez Sála of Spain just 3 seconds back. In their wake, Fenella Langridge of Great Britain was 90 seconds arrears. Throughout the 90 kilometers of the bike course, Buckingham and Perez Sála rode close together, and exchanged the lead and pushed hard to build a big lead. Stung by a bee and weakened, Emma Pallant-Browne fell back and lost touch with the leaders, while Langridge and Sarissa De Vries of Netherlands managed to stay within 90 seconds of the front. Off form, Ashleigh Gentle, Pallant-Browne, Daniela Bleymehl, and Lucy Byram arrived in T2 with a 7 minutes deficit.
Starting the run, Perez Sála immediately surged away from Buckingham. Although Buckingham regrouped and briefly rejoined Perez Sála on the third of four laps, the Spaniard cruised to the win with a 1:22:20 run split that brought her to the finish in 4:08:19. Recovered from her mid race slump, Pallant-Browne fought back with a women’s-best 1:17:19 run that advanced her to second place, 1:53 behind the winner. Far off her 2021 wining pace, Buckingham ran 1:25:06 to finish third, 1:07 behind Pallant-Browne.
“Right now, I feel really tired but is this is a dream, so I’m very happy,” Perez Sála told Challenge media. “I think I did the best race ever. I swam well with Lucy, and in the bike, I felt really good and did my best power ever. In the run the first two laps I felt strong but the last lap – whoa, that was really hard and I was really tired and my legs really hurt so I was really happy to get to the end! At the end of the second lap, I started thinking I have to run to keep ahead of Emma, I knew I wanted to win and I wanted to sprint. In the last two kilometers I knew I had it – it was a great day, it was amazing!”
Challenge the Championship
Samorin, Slovakia x-bionic Sphere
May 22, 2022
S 1.9k / B 90k / R 21.1 k
Men's Top 10
1. Gustav Iden (NOR) S 25:50 T1 3:16 B 2:01:36 T2 2:13 R 1:10:52 TOT 3:43:44 – 15,000 Euros
2. Richard Varga (SVK) S 23:22 T1 2:43 B 2:03:29 T2 2:39 R 1:12:54 TOT 3:45:05 – 9,000 Euros
3. Thomas Steger (AUT) S 24:57 T1 2:59 B 2:02:50 T2 2:34 R 1:13:14 TOT 3:46:33 – 7,000 Euros
4. Miki Taagholt (DEN) S 24:23 T1 2:44 B 2:02:30 T2 2:34 R 1:14:46 TOT 3:46:56 – 5,000 Euros
5. Kyle Smith (NZL) S 24:21 T1 2:49 B 2:03:38 T2 2:218 R 1:13:42 TOT 3:46:56 – 4,000 Euros
6. Youri Keulen (NED) S 24:57 T1 3:09 B 2:06:07 T2 2:31 R 1:11:11 TOT 3:47:53 – 3,000 Euros
7. Thor Bendix Madsen (DEN) S 26:22 T1 3:05 B 2:01:13 T2 2:25 TOT 3:48:26 – 2,500 Euros
8. Thomas Davis (GBR) S 24:18 T1 2:47 B 2:03:57 T2 2:27 R 1:15:16 TOT 3:48:43 – 2,000 Euros
9. Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) S 24:25 T1 2:41 B 2:01:56 T2 2:22 R 1:18:19 TOT 3:49:411- 1,500 Euros
10. Ondrej Kubo (SVK) S 27:30 T1 2:46 B 2:04:37 T2 2:38 R 1:15:27 TOT 3:52:55 – 1,000 Euros
Women's Top 10
1. Sara Perez Sála (ESP) S 24:56 T1 2:49 B 2:15:42 T2 2:34 R 1:22:20 TOT 4:08:19 - 15,000 Euros
2. Emma Pallant-Browne (GBR) S 26:28 T1 2:55 B 2:21:04 T2 2:28 R 1:17:19 TOT 4:10:12 - 9,000 Euros
3. Lucy Buckingham (GBR) S 24:53 T1 2:50 B 2:15:42 T2 2:36 R 1:25:06 TOT 4:11:05 – 7,000 Euros
4. Fenella Langridge (GBR) S 26:22 T1 2:53 B 2:15:39 T2 2:32 R 1:25:37 TOT 4:13:01 – 5,000 Euros
5. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) S 26:24 T1 3:02 B 2:20:58 T2 2:30 R 1:22:18 TOT 4:15:10 – 4,000 Euros
6. Sarissa De Vries (NED) S 26:31 T1 2:56 B 2:15:30 T2 2:37 R 1:29:40 TOT 4:17:12 – 3,000 Euros
7. Daniela Bleymehl (GER) S 30:31 T1 2:58 B 2:17:10 T2 2:42 R 1:26:33 TOT 4:19:51 – 2,500 Euros
8. Grace Thek (AUS) S 26:36 T1 2:57 B 2:24:18 T2 2:34 R 1:25:01 TOT 4:21:23 – 2,000 Euros
9. Lucy Byram (GBR) S 26:33 T1 3:02 B 2:21:23 T2 2:36 R 1:28:58 TOT 4:22:30 – 1,500 Euros
10. Gabriella Zelinka (HUN) S 30:27 T1 3:08 B 2:25:36 T2 2:50 R 1:28:36 TOT 4:30:36 – 1,000 Euros