In the first edition of the Ironman World Championship to be held in Nice, 24-year-old Sam Laidlow took the victory on the Promenade des Anglais.
It was always going to be a historic day in Nice, with the Ironman World Championship coming to the Côte d’Azur for the first time. However, it was an extra special day for the thousands of fans that lined the Promenade des Anglais for the blockbuster event, with a first-ever French winner, albeit a British born one, being crowned on French soil.
Laidlow, who last year narrowly missed out on becoming champion, finishing second after having led for much of the race, pulled off a perfect performance. And just like last year in Kona, Hawaii, Laidlow, who was born in England but grew up in France from the age of three, made his lead on the bike.
After a strong swim, Laidlow then took the lead at the 70km mark, as the competitors made their way into the picturesque Niçois hinterland. Neither Magnus Ditlev nor Rudy von Berg could get close to Laidlow prior to his dismounting on the Promenade des Anglais for the marathon.
The major threat wasn’t posed by Ditlev nor von Berg, as the competitors set off on laps of the Promenade des Anglais. German Patrick Lange, arguably the most proficient runner, was coming from far back but was always in with a shot.
Laidlow – from Covid to Ironman World Champion in three weeks
He caught von Berg and Ditlev, but couldn’t catch Laidlow, who took a comfortable victory in a time of 8:06:22, beating the Nice course record, which was set by Van Lierd back in 2013 (8:08:59). Lange finished just under four minutes later in second, ahead of Ditlev.
Laidlow’s achievement is even more impressive when situated within the context of his Covid diagnosis just three weeks before the event. The illness severely impacted his preparations for this year’s edition.
“It has been a rocky season, with injury and COVID-19 two-and-a-half weeks ago. Sometimes it happens when you least expect it and I think I came here fresher than a lot of people, with just two weeks of work behind me,” said Laidlow.
He added, “I keep saying it, but I just don’t believe it, it’s the stuff I’ve dreamt of my whole life […] On the run, I felt like I was only running 35km because every time I came past these crowds, the adrenaline was absolutely crazy, there has never been a French World Champion and I hope this will be the first of many.”
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Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life