Nothing could keep Alistair Brownlee (GBR) from retaining the European Championship, not even technical difficulties. Despite falling nearly two minutes behind due to a punctured tire, Alistair made a quick repair and sped his way back to the top to claim his second consecutive title after a monster run.
His brother Jonathan joined him on the podium in the No. 2 spot to give Great Britain top honors at the 2011 ETU European Championships. The battle for third went to Dmitry Polyansky (RUS), edging out Spain’s Mario Mola who finished in fourth in front of an excited crowd.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” Alistair said about winning. “It is my first re-claimed senior title, which I am delighted about.”
From the start, the Brownlee brothers positioned themselves well, swimming on the hip of leaders Ivan Vasiliev (RUS), Alessandro Fabian (ITA) and Richard Varga (SVK). Varga sped to the front on the second lap and made it out of T1 as the man to chase. Alistair, Vasiliev, and Jonathan followed, with a slew of men behind them ready to segway to the bike.
Vasiliev and the Brownlee’s took the reins in the lead group, controlling the pace with the the first chase group 20 seconds back in the first lap. Javier Gomez (ESP), who won the European Championships in 2009, rode in the second chase group on the first lap. Trying to reclaim his title, Gomez made his way to the front of the chase pack in the second lap in an attempt to catch a blistering pace set by Fabian.
On the third lap, Alistair, who was pushing the speed hard, fell out of contention due to technical difficulties. His brother and Vasiliev continued on in the top spots. By midway, Gomez joined Jonathan and the leaders, fusing the lead and chase pack together for a group of 29 men separated by just 5 seconds. Alistair, back on his bike, continued fighting, leading the new chase pack who were 56 seconds back.
By the end of the fifth lap, Alistair had made up an incredible 30 seconds, giving a vicious effort to catch his brother and new leader Attila Fecskovics (HUN). Without Alistair, the lead group continued to slow, allowing him to move the chase peloton all the way up to the leaders by the sixth lap, causing all 44 men to ride within seven seconds of each other.
“I just went as fast as I could and was racing as hard as I could,” Alistair said. “I just wanted to get back in the race. I had great support from the team. Todd did some great pulling and Jonny did some blocking. I’m sure he would have won if he hadn’t.”
In the final laps, Polyansky (RUS) and Todd Leckie (GBR) made a break for it, opening up a 10-second distance. Polyansky got caught up in T2 when he confused his spot in the transition area. He joined Pavel Simko (SVK) and Leckie, but the Brownlee brothers, 33 seconds down, wasted no time setting out on a cannon pace and quickly chasing down the leaders.
Gomez also pushed the first round, moving into fifth place and 22 seconds out of gold medal contention. For a short time, there were flashbacks from Madrid, where the podium consisted of the Brownlees and Gomez. However, it proved to be too much too soon, as Gomez faded nearly two minutes behind on the second leg due to a stitch.
“I just couldn’t run. I had a stitch,” Gomez said. “I almost stopped completely, but Ivan (Rana) came along and said ‘You have to finish.’ So, I tried to keep running and finish for the crowd. I am really sorry for the crowd that came to support me. They are very special. That’s why I wanted to finish.”
The Brownlees took the opportunity to continue to surge forward, giving themselves a 19-second lead. Polyansky attempted to hold of Spanish hope Mola, who was rapidly making up distance between himself and third place.
“For a while I thought I was going to win,” Polyansky said. “I was very happy. I was even happy when I was behind the Brownlee brothers. It was an enormous race today.”
By the final lap, Alistair entered the stadium with a hefty lead over his younger brother. Unstoppable, Alistair crossed the finish line first to claim his third title, followed by this brother eight seconds later. Mola made a valiant effort to catch Polyansky, but the distance was too great, giving Polyansky the bronze.
The European Championships continue tomorrow with the Junior and Elite Team Triathlons. For live timing, click here.