Alistair Brownlee becomes hometown hero with Leeds win
In front of a home crowd and on the streets where he was born and raised, Alistair Brownlee (GBR) scored the first-ever 2016 Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds title and his first WTS victory of the season.
After executing a flawless day of performances across the swim, bike and run, Alistair enjoyed the moment grabbing the winner’s tape and celebrating the win with his home town in an uproar.
“Unbelievable! I think I have said that the Olympics was the best race I have ever raced in, but now I think that just beat it. The run was absolutely phenomenal, by far the best World Series there has ever been,” he said of the support he got from the day’s crowds.
“I wasn’t fit enough to have a race like that. I had great legs for the first couple laps of the run, I could not believe that I was feeling good, it was the best I have run in months really. I knew there was three of them behind and I was waiting for Jonny and Varga to jump Gomez (on the bike), but at that point in a race you have to keep going. So I saw that Jonny got that gap and I knew I had to wait for him there and I knew I would be faster with him and obviously I wanted him to do well.”
Joining in on the celebrations and a spot on the podium, was his younger brother Jonathan Brownlee, who raced side-by-side with Alistair up until the run. Rounding out of the medal count was Aussie Aaron Royle, who took home the bronze.
Jonny said of his performance on the day, “I am really happy. Obviously to get first and second for both of us, it was amazing. But I kind of lost it in the race in T1. I don’t know what happened there, I was way behind and I could not get my shoes in. We were coming up and the gap was probably about ten seconds from the front group, and Javi wasn’t putting in any work really, if anything he was slowing down so I thought I would just try and jump him. Luckily Alistair dropped back and helped me, but I wasted a lot of energy there and I paid for that. But very few people could have beaten Alistair on his kind of day.”
With ideal English conditions that included the slightest bit of rain, the men took to the pontoon to kick start the first-ever WTS men’s race in Leeds.
Having also been familiar with the conditions after training in Leeds for some time, it was Richard Varga (SVK) who led in the water over the entire 1500 metres and into the first transition zone.
As the men exited the transition zone and began the bike leg, it looked as though two groups of three athletes were going to form. Alistair, along with Royle and Aurelien Rapheal (FRA) immediately joined as the leaders while a trio containing Jonny, Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) and Varga were a short distance behind. But with the idea of racing in their hometown streets being used as motivation, Alistair slowed down to allow Jonny to push ahead and join the lead to create a top foursome.
The move however, caused Gomez and Varga left cycling as a duo. And while they were able to ride together for a lap, they eventually fell to the massive chase pack behind them. The group then rode tallying 24-strong in pursuit of the four leaders.
The leading men however did not back down for one inch on the seven-lap course. By the time the four left the saddle and headed out onto the run, they had created a substantial lead of over two minutes.
It was only a matter of seconds once their feet hit the pavement that both Brownlee brothers took off and positioned themselves into the gold and silver spots. While the two ran together for a couple of minutes, Alistair’s determination proved too significant as he pushed ahead of his younger brother.
Alistair’s lead continued to grow after each lap, and as he hit the bell lap, it was more than 30 seconds. The Leeds native had a strong enough lead to walk into the finisher’s chute with the crowd’s cheers louder than ever, as he captured his first WTS victory of the year.
Shortly after, it was another Brownlee name that caused the crowds to soar as Jonny came in for second place. The one-two finish also marked the fifth time in WTS history that the Brownlee brothers have secured the top two positions in their careers.
The bronze was then left open for Royle, who managed to hold strong for his third-ever WTS podium.
“It was a tough race all around. The way they had the course made with the T1 and T2 split and the hill right out of T1 made for a hard race for the whole two hours. But the crowd was amazing, having them be three or four deeps and having the boys with me, Alistair and Jonny, in their home race really helped me out there today.”
Another phenomenal performance was put out by Gomez, who ended his day in fourth place in his first WTS race back of the season. Despite missing out in being in the front cycle pack and entering the second transition zone down by over two minutes, he executed the fastest run split of the day to just miss the podium.