Alistair Brownlee would swap victories in every race for two years if he could win a second Olympic gold medal. Lee Sobot reports.
ALISTAIR Brownlee can well remember his London ITU World Triathlon Series debut as a 21-year-old in 2009.
Six years later, Yorkshire’s reigning Olympic champion will bid farewell to the venue in tomorrow’s elite men’s race which next year will be held in Leeds and start at Roundhay Park – barely six miles from the triathlete’s Bramhope home.
It goes without saying that victory in next year’s British leg would be special.
It speaks volumes then that the 27-year-old would swap wins in every single race in the next two years if it meant securing a second Olympic gold in Rio.
Brownlee savoured his career high at the London 2012 Olympics when sealing glory in a race in which younger brother Jonathan was third.
The duo were sandwiched by Spanish star Javier Gómez who, three years later, is the world champion and world number one heading into tomorrow’s London leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series – now in its final year and, for next year at least, being moved to Leeds.
Yet the older Brownlee brother’s desire to return to the top of his sport’s tree and defend his Olympic crown is so great that he’d even sacrifice victory in Yorkshire next May.
First comes the small matter of this year’s ITU World Series in which Brownlee is playing catch up having been previously sidelined with an ankle injury.
Victory in Cape Town followed by a second-placed finish in Yokohama offer signs that Alistair is set to bounce back with a bang.
If all goes well, the ultimate fireworks will then be saved for South America in 14 months’ time – even if Brownlee acknowledges that winning in his home city several months earlier would be a sparkling moment in its own right.
Speaking at his Bramhope home the morning before setting off to London on Thursday, Brownlee told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Victory in Leeds would be fantastic but I’d swap winning every race for the next two years to win in Rio, definitely.
“If I could do that I think that would be almost impossible to put into words really.
“The Olympics are only once every four years and that’s what that full on peak is about – making sure that you’re the best that you can be on that day.
“If I could do that again and win in Rio I would be over the moon and I think it is definitely more of a challenge than it was last time around.
“Naturally, if you can actually do it, that makes it a bit more satisfying.”
Alistair is currently ninth in the World Series rankings with Auckland and Gold Coast victor Jonathan fourth.
Spain boasts a one-two-three through Garcia, Mario Mola and Fernando Alarza respectively but Brownlee said: “It’s a Spanish one, two, three at the moment but I’m not making any excuses for it.
“Good on them for doing it but I think they are the guys that have done all the races and I think good results, especially for Jonny and me, will see us start jostling into the top few.
“They have got a full roster of five races a lot of them now whereas I have only actually got two results and Jonny’s got three.
“There’s plenty of the season left and we’ve got another four races to get in our full quota of five so I’m not too worried about that at the moment. There’s five to count and four left.
“Spain seem to be a real strong nation at the moment in terms of strength in depth.
“I suppose there’s me and Jonny holding up the flag for the rest of the world trying to race them. It’s Spain versus Yorkshire.”
Mouth-wateringly, next year will see a leg of that battle take place in Yorkshire but first comes this weekend’s London leg of the World Series which, for Alistair, will be a momentous one.
“This will be the seventh time I’ll have raced in London,” Brownlee recalled.
“It seems like a long time with the first time right back in 2009 and then obviously the Olympics – the big one – in 2012.
“The memories are brilliant – it’s been a fantastic venue and it’s been a massive part of my career – I’ve been there every year. But I think it will be nice to put it to bed as well.
“It was fantastic that the Olympics were there but it’s good to be able to move on as well.”
Races in Hamburg, Stockholm, Edmonton and the grand final in Chicago then complete this year’s series. Looking ahead to next year, and few can be more excited about the new 2015 Leeds leg than the Brownlee brothers.
Alistair says both his sport and his city are going from strength to strength with the Leeds ace in no doubt that the success of last year’s Grand Depart swayed the deal.
Alistair beamed: “It’s incredible and when the World Series first happened in 2009 you never would have considered that we’d get one in Leeds. It just shows how much triathlon has come on in the 15 years or however long I’ve been doing it. It’s fantastic that the sport has come so far in this country, and that the city has come so far as well.
“I think in the last two or three years Leeds has transformed itself into a major sporting city with the events it’s put on.
“It’s brilliant to see and the fact we are putting a triathlon on in my own home town is brilliant.”
Assessing the huge influence Le Tour had on the bid, Brownlee admitted: “Being involved for the bid for Leeds, that was one of our arguments and positives of getting it to come to Leeds – the fact that you could almost rely on the Yorkshire people to come out and support the race and have fantastic crowds.
“I’m pretty confident in telling the organisers and the international committee that Leeds would almost certainly have the best crowds of the whole series.”
The best crowds and, for the Brownlees, the best preparation.
The brothers now have their own houses in Bramhope and the journey to and from the start and finish line will be quite literally world’s apart to the travails of the most recent world series leg in Tokyo.
Alistair was faced with a flight home at 7am on Sunday morning after Saturday’s race.
Not this time, and Brownlee is already counting down the days until next May.
“It will be brilliant,” admitted the London 2012 champion.
“I’ll be sleeping in my own bed and then just cruising down to the start at Roundhay Park.”
He might currently only be ninth in the world rankings – but don’t be surprised to then see Brownlee cruising to his second Olympic success three months later.
Assessing the challenge of regaining his crown, Alistair mused: “I’m feeling good, there’s nothing injury-wise wrong with me at all and I have started to put some consistent training together and some consistent running – probably about as good as I have done for a few years really. I’m enjoying my racing and I’ve got a fair bit of time obviously – 14 months to Rio and that’s great.
“Hopefully I’ll get better with every race this year as well and I’m looking forward to Hamburg next and then the test event for Rio.
“If everything goes well there’s no reason why I can’t be pretty much as good as I’ve ever been.”