By Merryn Sherwood on 22/11/11 at 9:18 am
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Brownlee shines amidst the rain
In addition to the ITU Photo of the Year competition, which takes you back to relive the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series through the best pictures, we’re also running a WCS Winners series. This aims to recall some of the best series moments this year and what they meant to the people that created them. This week, as we are taking a look at Kitzbühel, and the two winners, Paula Findlay and Alistair Brownlee. The eventual 2011 ITU World Champion is up first.
You only need to look back at Alistair Brownlee’s post-race interviews this year to see how hard it was for other athletes to race in the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series against him.
In Kitzbühel, Brownlee said of the swim, “I thought these guys are going really slow, so I just swam to the front.” Then on the run in that same race, the cold conditions and the fact that European championships were just a week after meant he slowed a little. “I just did what I had to on the run. I thought, I’ll just limit my damage and not run myself into the ground, it was cold and not conducive to running fast, so I was just kind of running along.” That just ‘kind of running along’ run split was still 31 minutes and 1 second, the fastest of the day.
It’s not like the 23-year-old is being dismissive, it’s just his racing strategy seems pretty straightforward. He sees what he has to do to get in front, and then just does it. Australia’s Chris McCormack, who raced against the Brownlee’s in his ITU comeback this year, said in an interview that Alistair and brother Jonathan were just ‘beautiful to watch.’.
“The kid is absolutely amazing. He is brilliant in both the physical and mental game of this sport, but seriously is just a born winner. That makes him special… Along with his brother, they simply dictate these races and do what they want.”
All About Alistair
ITU World Championships: 2 (2009, 2011)
Dextro Energy Triathlon Series wins: 11
Where he calls home: Leeds, UK
Interesting fact: He’s an accomplished cross country and fell runner (or mountain runner).
You can follow Alistair on Twitter @AliBrownleetri
But Brownlee’s 2011 season didn’t look unbeatable from the start. After winning five of the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series races in the inaugural season in 2009, he had 2010 interrupted by stress fractures , although still won Madrid and in the 2010 Grand Final in Budapest. In the opening round in Sydney this year he slipped and fell on a rain-slicked road to finish 29th, while Gomez put in an amazing comeback to win. The battle for the 2011 ITU world title looked to be up for grabs. That was before Madrid, and in a race he had won in both 2009 and 2010, Alistair Brownlee proved he was back. Gomez said he simply couldn’t compete with him and younger brother Jonathan Brownlee, who claimed silver, for the brothers first career shared podium.
“I think that was their best race probably, because I knew how fast we went on the bike and the way they ran was just unbelievable and amazing,” Gomez said. “So I’m happy with my third place there, because they were just better than me.”
Then came Kitzbühel. That’s where it became even more evident that Brownlee was not just the man to beat in 2011 because of his lightning quick run, but because he is the complete all round triathlete. Even without Jonathan in the field to work with, he still led the swim, he said afterwards it was perhaps the first or second time ever in a race he’d done so, led the bike and then brought it home with ease on the run. A perfect performance in all three legs, that handed him the overall lead in the series rankings for the first time in 2011.
Overall, there was barely a blip in his season. In addition to taking his tally of Dextro Energy Triathlon Series wins to 11 with wins in Madrid, Kitzbühel, London and Beijing (out of a total of 22 races run, he’s won a 50 per cent of the overall titles), it also included being part of Great Britain’s golden dream team at the 2011 Team Triathlon Championships in Lausanne. In those European championships he put something in the tank for in Austria, he fought back from a mechanical fault and a deficit of one and a half minutes on the bike leg to win that too. Fellow British triathlete Vicky Holland tweeted, “Seriously, who gets a mechanical, loses nearly 1m30, still makes it back into the pack & wins? O right, he’s a Brownlee. Awesome job B-boys!.” Favourtism for his home Olympics on the Hyde Park course he dominated this year? That’s assured.
But what does he say to calls he’s changing the face of triathlon? After the race in Kitzbühel, ITU commentator Barrie Shepley asked Brownlee just that. He was flattered, and said, “I looked at the sport and I thought I want to be a kind of athlete who can win in any condition on any day, on any course, independent of how the race goes, and I think that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment.”
In 2011, Alistair Brownlee did just that.
Find more details about this event - 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon - ITU World Championship Series Kitzbuehel