Leeds' Jonny Brownlee forced to go it alone in bid for World Triathlon hometown glory
Despite a hectic schedule chasing ITU World Series glories, the 28-year-old attempts to ensure that he spends at least “70 per cent” of his time in Yorkshire. A particular treat presents itself on Sundays with mum and dad Cathryn and Keith.
“I like going to see my parents for a Sunday roast,” admits the double Olympic silver medallist who frequently makes the journey from his Bramhope home to see his parents in Ilkley, along with brother Alistair.
Yet this weekend will present a Sunday in Yorkshire with a difference with the crowds flocking to Leeds for star attraction Jonny, who hopes to roast the opposition in the race closest to home and closest to his heart – the ITU World Triathlon Leeds.
Leeds is hosting the British leg of the ITU World Series for a third year running and for Brownlee junior two outings in Leeds have so far resulted in two runners-up berths.
The man responsible for denying him victory – double Olympic champion brother Alistair – is missing this weekend through injury.
Both have had their struggles with injuries of late with Alistair missing the second half of 2018 following hip surgery and Jonny having recently recovered from an issue with his femur.
The duo returned to compete at April’s Commonwealth Games but the Gold Coast race ended in disappointment with Jonny finishing in seventh and Alistair 10th.
Both were looking to bounce back in style in Leeds but ongoing problems have prevented Alistair from making a hat-trick bid.
“I’ve had a few niggles and won’t be able to compete to the best of my ability,” revealed Alistair.
“I’ll be cheering hard from the sidelines.”
Those cheers will be aimed at his younger brother and there is no hiding the significance of what a maiden victory in his own city would mean.
“Leeds is super important to me and I am very fortunate to have a race in my home town,” Jonny told The Yorkshire Post.
“I really appreciate that. That’s incredible to have and it’s a great opportunity to be able to race in my home town.
“The crowd here is unbelievable. It was a super special memory for me last year when we both came into the city centre together off the front of the race.
“It was probably one of the most special memories of my whole career. It was unbelievable.
“Not having Alistair there this year is a disappointment because racing with him is something that I really enjoy and, tactically, it’s very important for me. But, hopefully, it gives me a better chance to win.”
Unlike his older brother who has been more focussed on Ironman events, Jonny returned to World Series action one month after his Commonwealth Games outing when bidding for glory in Yokohama.
He filled the same position that he finished in at the Commonwealth Games and Jonny readily admits that the last 18 months have been a struggle. “I have had a disappointing 18 months really.
“Last year, I never really felt I hit my top shape and I think that was for a couple of reasons. I think the focus on Rio took a lot out of me as when you do so well at an Olympics like that you end up being a very busy person and I probably started training a little bit too late and I tried to catch up a little bit too much at the end of 2017.
“I also think the heat exhaustion in Cozumel took a lot out of me so that’s why 2017 was a bit of a blip.
“In 2018 I wanted to become a Commonwealth champion and it didn’t happen. Again I had a little bit of an injury which set me back but more than anything I just had a real bad day out on the Gold Coast.
“Since then, I have come home, have got some training and feel like I have got myself in a position to be competitive in Leeds. I’m not in amazing condition but I’m in very good condition.”
The ultimate aim is to arrive in peak condition for what could well be his final Olympics at Tokyo 2020 and Brownlee admits he would sacrifice any victory in an ITU World Series race if it meant crossing the line first in Japan. There will also be two shots at glory after the introduction of a mixed relay event into the Olympic programme. There is, though, no getting away from the sentiment felt for his home-town race in which Spain’s Mario Mola will be seeking back-to-back victories having topped the podium in Yokohama.
“Mario Mola is an incredible runner and this year the field is very strong,” said Jonny.
“There’s Richard Murray and Jacob Birtwhistle and these are people who we normally get away from on the bike. Losing Alistair hopefully doesn’t mean there’s no chance of that but it will make it a lot harder because to lose that energy in that front group is a bit of a hit. Those guys are in good form but, hopefully, I can beat them because of the form that I am in and the Leeds crowd.
“Leeds is a bit of a different event to other events. The town centre circuit is very tight and technical. Hopefully, I can use a little bit of home advantage there.
“This is a very special event that I would love to win because it’s more important to me than any other world series... It’s my home race.”