After Chelsea Sodaro’s success on Thursday, it meant that both the men’s and women’s winners were debutants – the last man to win it on first attempt being Luc van Lierde in 1996.
It also capped a remarkable return to Kona after three long years, with the contest marked by a host of record-breaking feats including Iden posting a 2:36:15 marathon and Laidlow smashing 5mins off Cameron Wurf’s 2018 bike course record to lower it to 4:04:36.
What happened in the swim?
Laidlow started to the left of the Kona pier with Florian Angert to the right, but it was the Frenchman who cut across to take the early lead, with Dane Daniel Baekkegard on his toes.
The pace wasn’t hot enough for Angert who moved around the leader, with the rest of the field strung out behind with little separation.
There was slightly more swell than for the women’s race, and it began to tell after the turn as the front pack broke clear with Iden just making the cut and two-time world champion Patrick Lange being cut adrift.
Heading back into the pier it was Angert and Laidlow who came up the steps on Dig Me beach together in 48:15, but with plenty of company including New Zealand’s Braden Currie, both Norwegians and the USA’s Tom O’Donnell and Collin Chartier.
What happened on the bike?
Laidlow and Max Neumann took an early lead as the duo built a gap through the first 30 miles of the bike.
Just over 60secs behind them was a paceline led by Angert, but as they approached Kawaihae disaster struck for the German when he was handed a 5min penalty – the first of many that would be dished on the bike leg.
Magnus Ditlev came to the front at the 50-mile mark to join Laidlow and Neumann, with Iden and Blummenfelt riding together in third and fourth and 30sec behind. New Zealand’s Kyle Smith, O’Donnell, and Sweden’s Jesper Svensson were a further 60secs back.
At the Hawi turn, the front five had come together and while their pace was being matched by the powerful cyclists behind the chasers were struggling to make any inroads to the front.
It was then that Laidlow took off, hammering back towards transition and approaching the final 20 miles of the bike with a 4min lead.
Ditlev was issued a 5min penalty that put him on the back foot, as Laidlow came into T2 with a scarcely fathomable 4:04:36 bike split.
Iden and Blummenfelt dismounted together a little over 6mins back and had Neumann for company. They were followed by Wurf, Chevalier, O’Donnell and Kienle, with Skipper in 12th off the bike.
Having served his penalty, Ditlev was over 10mins behind, with Sanders way off the pace at 16mins, and Lange at 18mins.
What happened on the run?
Other than USA’s Matt Hanson, who was too far back to mount a challenge, the Norwegians were the quickest on course as they headed through the initial out-and-back section along Ali’i Drive and then up Palani hill.
But despite his blistering bike split, Laidlow showed few signs of wilting upfront and the gap wasn’t coming down as quickly as expected.
Neumann, who was on debut and won Ironman Cairns just three weeks earlier, was having a superb race in fourth, with Ditlev making ground in fifth.
Into the second half of the race and Skipper had moved through to eighth and continuing to look strong, sandwiched between the tricolore of Leon Chevalier and Clement Mignon, with Lange and Hanson making headway further down the field.
Coming out of the energy lab, Iden made his move on Blummenfelt to open a gap and slice a further few seconds into Laidlow’s advantage, finally taking the lead just beyond the 22-mile mark as the pair exchanged a quick handshake.
There only ever looked one winner from there, but Laidlow hung tough for a remarkable runners-up spot, with an exhausted Blummenfelt completing the podium ahead of Neumann – who also had a race to remember.
Skipper closed faster than anyone to finish fifth, with Kienle in his final year as a pro in Hawaii rallying for sixth ahead of Chevalier, Ditlev, Mignon and Lange completing the top 10, who all went under 8hrs.
- Gustav Iden: ‘Now we have won everything!’
- Sub 7:30hrs in Hawaii is within our reach, says Iden’s coach
- Kona runner-up Sam Laidlow credits family for keeping him in the sport
- Joe Skipper sees top five as a stepping stone to Kona podium
- Cameron Wurf shocked at how triathlon has moved on
- Sebastian Kienle: “I told myself there was no next year”
- How much can athletes win at Kona?
- How to qualify for Kona
- Free 12-month Ironman training plan
Top image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman