Courtney Atkinson added yet another silver medal to his collection when he was usurped in the final stages in an extraordinary performance from reigning world champion Alistair Brownlee in round three of the Dextro Energy Triathlon â€“ ITU World Championship Series in Madrid, Spain.
Atkinson and Brownlee ran shoulder to shoulder at the head of the field for the all but the home straight of the 10km run leg, but it was Great Britain’s emerging star â€“ contesting his first race of the season having recovered from a pelvic stress fracture â€“ who was able to sprint away and claim victory, with Atkinson second and Switzerland’s Sven Reiderer third.
Atkinson won silver behind Brownlee in the same event last year and claimed another silver in the previous round of this year’s world championship series when he was out-sprinted by Germany’s Olympic champion Jan Frodeno in Korea. While gold remains elusive, his consistency sees him ranked third in the series despite missing the opening race in Sydney.
â€œIt was a tough day because for some reason my swim was really off,â€ Atkinson said. â€œI didn’t feel great at various stages of each leg but the good thing is I put myself in the right position at important stages and set myself up for the run which has been going so well for me lately.
â€œThe main thing is I feel like I’m improving as the season progresses and I feel as though I’ve still got a fair bit of improvement left in me, so to walk away with a silver medal at a world championship race in that frame of mind is a positive sign.â€
The crucial part of the race came when a group of three and then another group of eight, which included Browlee and Atkinson, broke away three quarters of the way through the tough 40km ride to set up a decisive 90-second break on the main pack going into the final transition. From there, the medals were always going to be decided among the front-runners and while home crowd favourite Javier Gomez faded slightly to finish fourth, Frodeno ran through the field from the chase pack to record the fastest run split of the day in finishing sixth.
Brownlee was excited to emerge with the win in hot conditions, saying: â€œThat was more about the fight in the dog than the dog in the fight â€“ I had to give it absolutely everything today.â€
Australia’s other competitors had a mixed day. Youngster Jamie Huggett mixed it with the best, being part of the initial three-man breakaway on the bike before eventually finishing 20th, while James Seear was 26th. Brendan Sexton was 42nd, followed by Josh Amberger in 43rd.
Focus now turns to the richest triathlon in the world, with the running of the ITU Elite Cup in Des Moines, Iowa, next weekend, for which Emma Moffatt, Emma Snowsill and Brad Kahlefeldt all choose to skip the Madrid race. Atkinson, on the other hand, flies to the United States tomorrow having to back up today’s strong performance.