Reigning ITU World Champion Alistair Brownlee proved that even an injury can’t slow him down, as the 22-year-old Brit won on a very hot day at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Madrid for the second year in a row. It was Brownlee’s first race of the season after sitting out the opening two rounds of the Series due to a femoral stress fracture. The Brit ran side by side with Australia’s Courtney Atkinson for the entire run, before breaking away in the final 500 meters to take the win.
“This win overshadows anything I did last year,” Brownlee said. “It was totally unexpected. This is by far the proudest victory I’ve ever had after what I’ve been through in the last couple of months.”
Sixty-five men dove into Casa de Campo Lake to start the race, and to no one’s surprise, Russia’s Dmitry Polyansky sprinted to the front and led the men through the first 750-metre loop. The Russian was unable to force a large break during the second lap, exiting the water in 17:57 with a long line of men coming out of the water right on his heels.
After a quick transition, a lead group of eight men were able to form a small break on the steep hill right out of T1. In the group were Brownlee and his younger brother, Jonathan, Russians Polyansky and Alexander Brukhankov, and local favourite Javier Gomez. The lead pack was able to build an advantage of 15 seconds after the first of eight laps, but the chase pack, led by Belgium’s Peter Croes, cut the lead in half on lap two.
The two groups finally came together midway through lap three, forming a lead pack of 41 men. The big bunch stayed intact until lap six, when American Matt Chrabot, Croes and Aussie Jamie Huggett forced a break, building a 20-second gap with 10 kilometres left to ride. A chase pack of eight athletes broke away from the main bunch to catch the three leaders as the men headed into the final lap. Pushing the pace in the new chase group were Gomez, Brownlee, Atkinson and Switzerland’s Sven Riederer. The two front groups came together on the final lap and ramped up the pace to open up a one-minute advantage over the main field with less than five kilometres to ride.
The leaders hit transition with a 90-second advantage over the main group, with Atkinson sprinting out of transition and Brownlee giving chase. The Aussie ran solo for the first 400 meters of the run before Brownlee pulled up alongside him and the pair began to open up an advantage on the rest of the runners. Only one kilometre into the run, Brownlee and Atkinson held a lead of over 20 meters on Riederer and Gomez, who ran in third and fourth, respectively.
Atkinson and Brownlee continued to run side by side until the final lap of the run, gaining about eight seconds per lap on Riederer and Gomez. The lead pair remained neck and neck until the final 500 meters, when Brownlee put on a surge to open up a small gap on the Atkinson and the Aussie couldn’t respond. Brownlee charged down the finishing chute solo, as he did one year ago, breaking the tape in 1:52:41.
“I really thought I was running for second the entire time,” Brownlee said. “But with 500 meters to go, I decided to give it everything I had and I was able to pull away.”
Atkinson finished 10 seconds later to earn the runner-up spot in Madrid for the second year in a row.
“I’m not at all disappointed to finish in second here again,” said Atkinson. “My legs really didn’t feel that great yesterday and I didn’t feel great starting the run, but I was able to hang onto Brownlee until the end. He’s clearly going to be the one to chase again this year.”
Brownlee gave it his all in the stifling heat
Riederer rounded out the podium, finishing another 16 seconds behind Atkinson.
“It was a perfect day for me,” Riederer said afterward. “I was thinking of going for the win the entire day. Thinking about the win really helped me push through. Third place was like a win for me today.”
With his tenth-place finish, Russia’s Alexander Brukhankov remains in the lead of the world championship rankings heading into round four of the Series in Hamburg on July 17.