World Series Triathlon: Brownlee brothers deliver show of strength in home city of Leeds

Jonny Brownlee congratulates his brother, Alistair, on winning the Elite Men's Race. PIC: Tony Johnson
Jonny Brownlee congratulates his brother, Alistair, on winning the Elite Men's Race. PIC: Tony Johnson
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JONNY BROWNLEE had asked for a bit of luck going into yesterday’s World Series event in Leeds.

But it proved to be another hard luck story for the 27-year-old as elder brother Alistair marked his return to the series in style.

Young Brownlee fans look on intently. PIC: Tony Johnson

Young Brownlee fans look on intently. PIC: Tony Johnson

Alistair, who has stepped up endurance training to compete in half Ironman races this year, took advantage of Jonny’s lack of race time to clinch an impressive victory by eight seconds.

The brothers gave another show of strength in their 10-year dominance of the sport in front of another vociferous crowd in their home city.

No one could match their superior speed on the bike as the race became one of ‘us versus them’ 10km into the cycle leg.

But, even with the switch in training focus, double Olympic champion Alistair was once again the victor in the battle of British sport’s most successful brothers. As Alistair pulled clear in the final four kilometres, it was a case of “here we go again” for Jonny.

I would love to beat him next year but I said exactly the same 12 months ago and I said it at the Olympics too.

Jonny Brownlee

The result was the same as in the city 12 months ago, and that of the Olympic event in Rio.

“Some time will be my time,” reflected Jonny, who moved up to 15th in the Series standings.

“I would love to beat him next year but I said exactly the same 12 months ago and I said it at the Olympics too.”

In winning, Alistair gave a first sign that his attempts to win an Ironman world title would not affect his chances of claiming a third, and fourth , Olympic gold medal in 2020.

Alistair and Jonny Brownlee spray the champagne after their World Series one-two in Leeds. PIC: Tony Johnson

Alistair and Jonny Brownlee spray the champagne after their World Series one-two in Leeds. PIC: Tony Johnson

The International Olympic Committee approved plans to add mixed relays into the sport, allowing Alistair and Jonny the opportunity to double up in Tokyo. And the 29-year-old revealed the plan has increased the prospect of him racing for Team GB again.

On the decision, he said: “You can’t help but think someone like me that has been to three Olympics and is not too sure whether to commit to a fourth. It’s an extra carrot and it definitely will be.

“The next thing will be to wait and see if I feel competitive in three years time. The fact you can win two medals, I can’t deny that’s not a motivator.”

There were question marks over how Alistair would respond to his return to the shorter distance having raced three half Ironman races in 2017.

Those continued to surface as the 29-year-old trailed his brother by 11 seconds in the first lap of the swim at Roundhay Park.

But that gap shortened to five seconds as the pair went to the first transition and the familiar sight of the Bramhope brothers powering clear ahead on two wheels soon followed.

French pair Pierre Le Corre and Aurelien Raphael carried the pace alongside the brothers up the hill towards Headingley but both were dropped as the helmets of the chasing pack began to bob up and down in the distance.

Under threat of joining the ranks of the field, the Brownlees soon pushed the accelerator and forged a 10-second gap into the seven short laps around Leeds city centre.

By the end of the fifth circuit, the chasing pack had all but waved the white flag, swinging round the corner at a leisurely pace as the brothers continued to press the accelerator in front.

Like clockwork in symmetry, the Brownlees went onto in the run with a 73-second advantage – separated, as expected, by just a metre. Jonny looked most comfortable in the first lap of the run but Alistair kicked on shortly after the halfway point and was never headed.

“I was surprised how good I felt,” said Alistair, who retired from his last half Ironman event in Slovakia.

“I didn’t go into it with any preconceived ideas. When I got onto the run I thought I was going to struggle to beat Jonny.

“He was making me hurt on the first lap. You’ve just got to keep trying. I got the gap at the end and I was pleased to do so.”

The race also worked out for Leeds-based triathlete Thomas Bishop, 25, whose fourth-place finish moved him to fourth in the World Series standing and helped create history. British athletes made up four of the first five places as Bishop and Adam Bowden finished behind the Brownlees. Only a late surge from Spaniard Fernando Alarza prevented a first one-two-three in men’s World Series race.

“Four out of five, that’s really special,” said Alistair.

“The race went perfectly for all the Brits.

“Because me and Jonny were out in the front, it meant the other guys could sit and do no work and a lot of the guys that would normally outrun them blew their legs.

“It worked perfectly for the whole team.”

The Brownlees had helped design the course, which also saw more than 4,000 amateurs take part in various events over the weekend.

And their home city responded in kind by lining the streets and creating another fanfair similar to the street races of London 2012 and the 2014 Grand Depart.

A giant poster of the brothers featured on the front of Leeds City Museum in the lead up to the race and Jonny Brownlee was overwhelmed by the way the city had taken to triathlon.

Leeds has another year on its current contract to stage the race but the brothers hoped it would remain a permanent fixture.

Jonny said: “It’s great that the whole city gets involved but it is a bit embarrassing. I’ve spent the last two weeks walking around Leeds city centre looking at the floor so no one recognises me.

“It will go down as one of my proudest sporting moments coming down to the city just the two of us for the first time and having thousands of people cheering for us.

“Half of me was thinking it’s incredible, I’m so proud to bring this to Leeds. Another part was thinking, we’ve got another seven laps here.”

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