Magnus Ditlev’s megawatts earn giant Dane a podium in Nice

The 25-year-old Challenge Roth winner put the frustration of last year’s penalty in Kona behind him to finish third in the Ironman World Championship

Magnus Ditlev comes third in the Ironman World Championship in Nice

Magnus Ditlev is known for having the most powerful legs in triathlon and arrived in the south of France as many people’s favourite to replace Gustav Iden as the new Ironman world champion.

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But even pushing out more megawatts over the testing terrain in the Maritime Alps ultimately wasn’t enough, as Ditlev’s second-best 4:35:54 bike split saw him give up 4 ½min to eventual winner Sam Laidlow.

“To be honest, I felt I was biking really well, but I could just see that Sam was pulling away which was frustrating and difficult to handle,” Ditlev said in a frank assessment immediately post-race. 

“But I was looking at my numbers thinking it was really good, so I had to stay positive and try to race my own race and make some smart decisions.”

Laidlow stated post-race that it was a clear tactic to up the pace midway through the 2.4-mile swim off the Cote d’Azur to try and shake off Ditlev before the bike leg because he had “500 watts in his back pocket.”

While it paid dividends for the new Ironman champion, Ditlev was still able to claim a World Championship podium to match his 70.3 worlds result in Utah last year. 

It was almost one more step up too, but after duelling with Rudy Von Berg for much of the 26.2-mile marathon, Ditlev would eventually be overtaken by Patrick Lange for the runner-up spot.

“On the run I knew immediately that I didn’t feel as fresh and bouncy as in Roth [where Ditlev set a new course record in June] so it would be a long one,” he explained. “I still managed to do the first two laps at a really good pace, but then had to turn it down a notch. 

“As soon as I made the decision to lower it to 3:55min/km pace I knew that Patrick would catch me. After that it was more about making sure I could secure the podium.”

While Ditlev might have been frustrated by not catching Laidlow, his sanguine post-race demeanour contrasted sharply to 11 months earlier in Hawaii, where, hit with a disputed drafting penalty, he’d suffered 5min on the sidelines before eventually finishing eighth.

And he had plenty to be content with about the performance in Nice. After a 49:14 swim that left him less than 2min off the lead, he also delivered a fifth-best 2:41:07 marathon that saw him hold off Von Berg by 74sec. Given Ditlev only took part in his first full distance race in April last year, it has been a fast progression.

“I’m generally super happy about the way I fought and stayed positive throughout the entire day,” he added. “On the uphills I was going well, and on the downhills I was with Rudy, who didn’t go past me on the first couple of downhills which was a sign to me I was biking the downhills well.

“On the long one [in the closing stages of the bike leg] he took maybe a bit more risk on the bumps and potholes so got a little gap there, but I rode what I could on the day. I will have a break now. Next year I really want to go back to Roth and then it’s all about Kona as well.”

Ditlev dropped out of his last race, the PTO US Open, with stomach issues, but said seeing Jan Frodeno win in Milwaukee had given him extra motivation. “I think that was a good slap in the face for me – a wake-up call after Roth. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been doing the work, it was just a bit difficult after Roth to mentally focus 100%.”

Frodeno said that the Ironman World Championship would be his final race after a stellar career that has reaped three Ironman world titles and Olympic gold. It turned out to be a disappointing farewell as the 42-year-old eventually finished in 8:48:42 and 24th place,

“I don’t know what happened,” Ditlev said. “I overtook him on the main climb and could see he was not himself, then I saw him on the turnaround on the bike and it was a big gap that surprised me. It’s a shame that his last race – if it’s going to be his last race – will end like that. He deserved better.”

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Pic credit: Donald Miralle for IRONMAN