Despite dedicating his season to longer distances, Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee returned to the World Triathlon Series to reclaim his hometown race at the 2017 Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds. For the second year in a row, the two-time Olympic Gold Medallist wowed the crowd and put forth an incredible performance and remain undefeated on the Leeds course.
Alistair commented on his return win, “Yeah. I mean obviously races like that take a bit of circumstance to help you out. It was the little bits I didn’t know – I didn’t know what I’d be like in the swim start and I didn’t know if I’d struggle that first part of the bike because I haven’t done a lot of training for that kind of thing. Obviously little bits like that make the race and they did today – fortunately I felt good.”
Commenting on how the chase pack were close at one point, Alistair said, “when it was that close, Jonny said ‘let’s call it a day now and give up’, and I just said ‘No, let’s keep working because they’ve still got to catch us at the end of the day’ and the time started going out. We just kept working hard and we stretched it out. We had to work a lot harder in the first 2 or 3 laps in the city centre circuit than we’ve had to work before and that tired us out quite a bit.”
“I think it’s an all-round triathlon today – you need to be able to swim – my swim wasn’t great, I was 5th/6th and I had to move up – you need to be able to ride hard, tactically and technically, and do a good run at the end. There’s not that many races in the world that require you to race three disciplines.”
Finishing right behind Alistair was his younger brother Jonathan Brownlee, who earned the silver medal and allowed the repeat of the Brownlees going 1-2 in the WTS Leeds event for another year.
Jonny said of making podium after his WTS Yokohama bike crash, “Firstly, it’s nice to be on the start line, and it’s nice to have a race that didn’t go wrong – but it was a tough way of doing that race, today! Basically, from the start of the bike, just yelling to myself for 40k. I nearly gave up actually first lap in the city centre, and I said to Alistair ‘stop, we’re getting caught’ and he said to keep on going and suddenly we had 10-15 seconds from nowhere, and then I thought ‘wow, this is going be a long day out!”
“I’m used to getting told what to do by Alistair! But thankfully it was the right decision – it was the hard way of doing it but it was the right decision. It made it a fun race – it made it a hard race. I played into his hands – I made it a long-distance race, not really an ITU race. It’s great to have a good course – a course where you can actually show an all-round triathlete. Weaknesses get exposed.”
The bronze medal then went to Spain’s Fernando Alarza, who then with this finish is currently standing at the top of the leaderboard for the WTS rankings.
The success for Great Britain continued however when Tom Bishop and Adam Bowden finished in fourth and fifth place, signifying that the nation had four men in the top five on home soil, a feat that has never happened in either the men’s or women’s races in the history of the WTS.
To start off the day, the men awaited the success of the women’s race to end before lining up in Roundhay Park.
For the 29th time in his career, Richard Varga (SVK) led out of the swim, an effort he did in WTS Leeds the year before as well. However, this year he wasn’t entirely alone as Jonny Brownlee and Raoul Shaw (FRA) were right on his heels. The rest of the men’s field were also close behind, so after a busy first transition only a few men managed to get out onto the bike with a slight advantage.
With the unique course that Leeds offers, the men cycled 13 kilometres through the country side before heading into the main seven-lap course located in the city centre. During that first long scenic lap, a group of four men, the Brownlees and Frenchmen Pierre Le Corre and Aurelien Raphael, pushed ahead. However, as the men made their way closer to the city centre, where the mass crowds and grandstand awaited, the Brownlees broke away to ride as a leading duo to gain the cheers and their hometown support.
While the chase pack, that contained almost the rest of the field such as Aaron Royle (AUS), Alarza, Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) rode on, they worked hard to not allow the Brownlees to get too much of an advantage. That deemed to be slightly harder of a task considering the momentum the Brownlees gained every time they rode through the transition area. Out of the saddle and working hard, the Brownlees managed to have over a minute lead going into T2.
But once feet hit the pavement there was no stopping them. It became clear very early on that one of the Brownlee brothers was going to take the gold medal, it just had to be seen which one it would be.
As the remaining cyclists entered the run, two battles out on the course quickly developed: Alistair versus Jonny and Alarza versus the Brits.
Both Alistair and Jonny ran together for the first three laps of the run. While Jonny is more acclimated for the Olympic distance, in the end it was Alistair who had the fitness and got away from his brother to take the gold. Jonny was left to earn the silver, but gave him much needed WTS points for his overall Series rankings.
In the battle for bronze, Bishop, Bowden and Alarza broke away from the mass pack and rode side by side fighting for third place. While the position went back and forth between the three men and the possibility of a Brit sweep seemed likely, Alarza put forth a final push and got away to seal his fate of the bronze finisher.
Alarza said, “I am really happy, three podiums in the first races of the season, so I am very consistent. And really happy with today’s race. Ali and Jonny were the ones to beat, and I knew it was gonna be tough, because on this type of course, especially on the bike, they are way faster tan the rest of us. They just made the perfect race. On the first two laps of the run I wasn´t feeling really well, but after that I had the energy to keep pushing.”