As the stage is set for the world’s best triathletes to do battle in Leeds, many of the star names are being made aware that Leeds does sporting spectaculars like no other city.
Huge images of Leeds’ own Brownlee brothers and other Team GB Olympic hopefuls are emblazoned on the Town Hall, the spectator hubs, race rigging and big screens are going up while international athletes and amateurs alike prepare for the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds this weekend.
The best athletes triathlon has to offer will fight it out along a spectator-lined course, starting with a 1.5km swim through Roundhay Park’s Waterloo Lake, before a 41.5km bike ride through Moortown and Headingley to Leeds and a 10km city centre run ending in Millennium Square tomorrow.
Ahead of the race, which is one of nine ITU World Triathlon Series stages, Bramhope-based Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee and women’s rankings leader Flora Duffy descended on the Royal Armouries in Leeds yesterday.
Alistair, who will take on his brother Jonny during the race, explained that the growing buzz around his home city for the sport he loves would make winning here “extremely special”.
“When other cities were bidding at the end of last year we weren’t quite sure it would happen but Leeds were very, very keen to have it,” he said.
“They were up for closing the whole city down for it and that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.”
Explaining that the growth of his sport in Leeds is there for all to see, he continued: “The massive pictures of us are a bit embarrassing but it’s great for the sport – I hope it translates into people supporting the race.”
Thousands of spectators are expected to line the route of the women’s and men’s elite events, starting at 1pm and 3.45pm respectively, as well as at four city spectator hubs.
Bermudan star Flora Duffy said: “England is football-mad so to see triathlon getting exposure is really cool and makes us want to come and race here.”
Jack Buckner, chief executive of British Triathlon, said: “This is our London Marathon moment, when people turn on the TV and go ‘wow’. British success would be the icing on the cake.”
The triathlon weekend will see around 5,000 amateurs take on a similar course hours before the pros tomorrow following a sports festival and beginners’ Go Tri mini triathlon in Roundhay Park today.
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “We have proved that we do sport well – it’s not even very long since the Tour de Yorkshire.”
The main event means roads are due to close en route from Roundhay on Sunday from 3.30am to 5pm, while city centre routes will remain shut until midnight, leading organisers to put on regular shuttle buses from Eastgate via York Road to Oakwood during the event. Fares will cost £2 per single journey or £4 per return, with half fares for under 19s.
For further details visit leeds.triathlon.org.