Due to the extreme weather conditions, they couldn’t make it to Mount Gausta this year for the traditional mountain top ‘black t-shirt’ finish. Roars of thunder and lightning rumbling around the valley from the early afternoon were Mother Nature’s way of telling the participants who were in charge.
The weather is always a talking point at Norseman, and with an unsettled forecast, most competitors had one eye on the clouds as race morning dawned cool and breezy. Another threat was on the horizon for 2021 and 2022 champion and course record holder Jon Breivold: Ironman athlete Sebastian Kienle.
Kienle was first out of the water in the Hardanger fjord, but Jon Breivold overtook him on the bike after 120 km, where he stuck to his wheel and proved challenging for the course record holder to shake. Shake him, he did, though, taking a definitive lead by the end of the 180 km bike and leading the modified run course from beginning to end. As the current Norseman and XTRI World Champion, Jon felt the pressure leading up to the event. During the press conference before the race in Eidfjord, Sebastian Kienle received a question about Jon’s accomplishments and performances, to which he responded with humour: “Jon who..?”
“Norseman challenged me this year with Kienle on the start line, but I’m still the King of Norseman and Zombie Hill,” concluded Jon ‘Who’ Breivold. “I’m up for meeting anyone in this course.”
On his second place finish, Kienle said: “Today was tough. Of course, it would have been cool to have another hour or two in the mountains, but for about 20 seconds, I was quite relieved to turn around, to be honest!” he laughed. “I had a powerful bike today and am pleased with the performance and experience. This was my professional career’s last long-distance race in Europe, and I’m so happy that I chose to race Norseman. I’ve been watching the videos from Norseman, and I understand why the race is on many triathletes’ bucket lists.
“I’m officially a Norseman ambassador after this experience in Norway. The people, the Norseman crew, my support team, Team BOB, and the other supportive athletes were amazing,” he said. “This was my first race with support, and it was great. In retrospect, I should have done races like Norseman earlier in my career, so my advice to up-and-coming pros is to try races like Norseman and experience something completely different in a very positive way.”
Norwegian Allan Hovda was third in the men’s race, having previously completed Norseman 11 times and achieving nine black t-shirt mountain finishes and the overall win three times. After some health problems this year, he was overjoyed to finish on the podium, crossing the line with whoops of joy.
The women’s race was a close competition between several athletes. Still, after sitting a few spots back for the bike, British athlete Flora Colledge made a decisive move on the run and worked hard to overtake several competitors to take the lead by Zombie Hill.
Finally crossing the line in first place after previously placing second twice at Norseman – and competing five times – her delight was obvious to see as she raised her arms in victory.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said at the finish. “Ever since I first saw a photo of Norseman I remember saying ‘That’s the race I want to win!”
Her coach Arild Tveiten, head coach of the Norwegian Triathlon team and now training Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden, was at the finish to congratulate her.
Emilie Klev Bergheim from Norway was second in the women’s race. She lost Flora while they climbed Zombie Hill but continued to finish strong. Another Norwegian, Kaja Bergwitz-Larsen became third. The three women battled each other during the whole day.
Of the 266 starters, 250 beat the harsh conditions and made it to the finish line. The organisers pulled the white finishers out of the race before 42,2 km of running due to thunder and lightning in the finish area.
First to the finish was:
1 Flora Colledge (GBR)
2 Emilie Klev Bergheim (NOR)
3 Kaja Bergwitz-Larsen (NOR)
1 Jon Sæverås Breivold (NOR)
2 Sebastian Kienle (GER)
3 Allan Hovda (NOR)