The arrival of the world’s best triathletes in Leeds this summer could be more exciting for spectators than when the city hosted the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014, according to the head of the sport’s governing body.
Jack Buckner, chief executive of British Triathlon, said Leeds’s hosting of its first ever stage of the ITU World Triathlon Series had the potential to be “something really iconic”.
Officials yesterday revealed the route for the inaugural Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds on June 12, which will see Bramhope’s Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee take on the world’s best in front of a home crowd.
The course, designed with the help of the Olympic gold and bronze-medal winning Brownlee brothers, will start with a 1,500 metre swim in Roundhay Park’s Waterloo Lake.
Elite competitors, and those taking part in the mass participation event earlier in the day, will then make the transition to their bikes and ride 42.5km through Roundhay, Moortown, Meanwood, Weetwood, Headingley and Woodhouse before completing seven circuits of a city centre loop.
They will then transition in Millennium Square from bikes to their running gear before covering 10km in four shorter laps of the city centre in the race to the finish line on the square.
We have the potential here to do something really iconic.Jack Buckner, British Triathlon
Mr Buckner, a former Olympian, yesterday joined elite triathlete Gordon Benson, from Leeds, and Judith Blake, leader of Leeds city council, in officially unveiling the route at Leeds City Museum.
He said: “This is one of the biggest events you will get in World Triathlon, it is a key event in the World Triathlon Series, all the world’s best triathletes will be here.
“It is going to have global coverage around the world. When I talk to people about coming here, particularly internationals, to start with they didn’t see why we wanted to move from London, but now they think it is amazing, particularly the way it has been embraced by the city of Leeds. We have the potential here to do something really iconic.
“In some ways it is more exciting than the Tour de France. We are doing laps of the city centre, and we have got two of the world’s greatest triathletes of all time from Leeds [Alistair and Jonny Brownlee] taking part.
“As well as having the engagement and fun of the Tour de France you have the great stars and it is a great opportunity to come and support Yorkshire’s best and the world’s best.
“Your mates are going to be out doing the event and there will be a fabulous sense of engagement.”
The decision to award Leeds the right to host the leg of the World Series is the latest boost for the city’s bid to be considered the nation’s triathlon capital.
It already hosts many of Britain’s elite athletes, with plans afoot to create a new base for them at the University of Leeds’s Bodington Pavilion later this year.
Mr Buckner said: “People around the world are interested in Leeds now. I was chatting to my counterpart in the USA, his wife is coming here ahead of the Olympics.
“People want to know about Leeds and what is special about it. I show them the pictures of the Tour de France. People here love sport, there is such a great tradition of sport here. People love sport and love the whole atmosphere and engagement.
“It is all around that sense of community as well, we have worked hard at that in this country. We do these things really well, we come out and celebrate and take part.”
Gordon Benson, a Halifax-born triathlete bidding for the third spot in Great Britain’s three-man squad for the Rio Olympics later this year, described the event as “an amazing opportunity”.
He said: “The World Series is the highest level of triathlon there is. For it to come to Leeds is amazing.
“If it can be anything like the Tour de France or the Tour de Yorkshire, it will be amazing to get support like that.
“Personally I think the route is really good. It offers a split transition so we ride through a section of Leeds on a single loop, and then you arrive in town and it becomes more spectator-friendly. It becomes quite technical then, it will be hard riding into town and the bit in town will be spectator friendly.”
The 21-year-old said be believed Leeds was the number one place in the country for triathlon.
“When I was 17 I was choosing where I wanted to go to university and there was nowhere else if I wanted to do triathlon seriously,” he said.
“I have moved to Headingley, we can ride out into the Dales and it is an amazing location to train.”
Kate Blackie, 44, from Otley a keen amateur triathlete and member of Leeds and Bradford Triathlon Club, is taking part in an Olympic-distance triathlon for the first time in June.
She said: “It is going to be incredible. As soon as I heard about the event I thought ‘I have to be in it’. I run and swim frequently but I will have to up my cycling.
“It is going to be like the Tour de France. It is going to be an incredible event, with crowds lining the streets.”