Inside Ben Kanute’s battle to 2nd at Ironman 70.3 World Championships

Ben Kanute poured his heart into an incredible all-around effort in St. George

Ben Kanute battled triathlon juggernaut Kristian Blummenfelt stroke-for-stroke and step-for-step at Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George. And though the Norwegian pulled away with fewer than three miles to go in the race, Kanute took second and validated his place among the fastest triathletes in the world after a frustrating season spent battling illness.

“I had an amazing time,” Kanute said after the race. “The lead-in was super great for me. I was out here early training on the course and just put in a great training block. And after kind of a lackluster season, I was really wanting to just put together a race that showed off my training.”

Kanute was at or near the front of the race from the start. He emerged from the swim in third position within a leading pack that included Aaron Royle and Marc Dubrick. All eyes were on the first transition a day after a women’s race in which how athletes layered up (or didn’t) played a major role in how they performed on the bike during a cold desert morning. Kanute made sure he would be warm for the 56-mile ride.

It put an exclamation point on a season that took a long time to get back to fitness.

“I think we fared a bit better than the women’s race that ended up being super cold for them; ours was a few degrees warmer,” Kanute said. “So I went with a Santini base layer, plus a little bit of safety blanket tucked into my chest, arms and legs, and then gloves and toe covers. And actually in between the toe covers and the shoes, I shoved some more of that emergency blanket as well.”

Kanute was the second rider onto the bike course, but quickly found himself once again in a pack of leaders. He entered the second transition needing the gain ground, 39 seconds back of then-leader Magnus Ditlev, and 36 seconds behind Blummenfelt. But he made up seven seconds at the second transition, then began an impressive charge on the run. 

By Mile 2 of the 13.2-mile run, Kanute passed Blummenfelt and took the race lead. For the next eight miles, Kanute kept Blummenfelt on his heels, and did everything he could to crack the Norwegian.

Ben Kanute keeping Kristian Blummenfelt

“I just tried to keep turning the screws, surge, whatever I could just to test how he was feeling,” Kanute said. “But he held on, and then I was just trying to run steady and be ready for a late surge by him. And he went a bit earlier than I thought at three miles to go. He was able to open up a bit of a gap that just slowly grew over the next mile or so.”

Kanute couldn’t catch Blummenfelt over those closing miles, but he maintained a high steady pace to keep himself within striking distance of the win in case Blummenfelt’s hard effort caused him to hit a wall of fatigue or cramp. Blummenfelt won, but Kanute was just 49 seconds behind at the line. He immediately found his wife and child standing near the finish platform.

“It was a big validation for me, and just showed exactly what I can do and what I’ve done in training,” Kanute said. “It put an exclamation point on a season that took a long time to get back to fitness. So again, I’m super happy and just ready to keep building on top of it.”