World Triathlon: Leeds welcomes the world
Cape Town, Stockholm, Abu Dhabi and Edmonton. Great cities of the world whose very names resonate across the globe.
Now you can add Leeds to that list.
Our city’s selection to host a leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series this weekend elevates it above its contempories and in to an exclusive club, one in which sporting bodies the world over will sit up and take note of.
It began with the Grand Depart of the Tour de France two years ago, on the back of staging key games in the World Cups of rugby league a year earlier and rugby union in 2015, and continues with the great and good of planet triathlon descending on the city.
Leeds is fast becoming a go-to city for major sporting events.
Reliable, aesthetically-pleasing and welcoming, with a great environment and facilities, plus a supportive city council and strong sporting culture – Leeds provides a cocktail of ingredients that is hard to ignore.
Throw in the Brownlee brothers, Leeds’s all-conquering brothers, and there was nowhere else the organisers could go when London relinquished its annual commitment to the race.
And so it is that we arrive at the very first staging of the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Series Leeds, a unique sporting event that sees competitors of all ages and abilities racing on Saturday and Sunday before making way for the cream of the crop to take centre stage on the closing afternoon.
And the beauty of it is you the people, the sports-mad public of Leeds, get to see it all for free.
Just like the Tour de France, a World Triathlon Series event is free to watch.
But where the Tour de France was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of sport – with cycling’s peloton breezing past in a blur of colour and wheels – a World Triathlon Series is a bonanza of action that lasts much longer.
Plonk yourself in the city centre loop – traditionally the reserve for car exhausts and beeping horns – and you can see the likes of Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, Non Stanford and Gwen Jorgensen, cycling past six times and running through a further four times as they bid for victory.
Position yourself at Roundhay Park and prepare to be entertained by a whir of arms and legs as the protagonists fight their way through the 1.5km section of the open water swim before they get on their bikes and embark on a 41.5km ride through Moortown, Meanwood, Weetwood, Headingley and Woodhouse before landing in the heart of the city and transitioning to the final 10km run.
As Jonny Brownlee aludes to later in this supplement, a day at the triathlon is a proper day out; so pack your sandwiches, get the deckchairs out, get the whole family out and go and join him.
Just remember to cheer all our guys and gals on and shout loudly for Leeds.
And throughout Saturday, why not go down and cheer on the local have-a-go heroes who will partake in a multitude of events that each in their own right add up to the festival of sport that is the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Series.
There are junior and age group aquathlon events, Tri-Star races which give local triathletes the chance to showcase their talents, plus the open races on Sunday morning which feature amateurs of all abilities.
Barely a minute of the upcoming weekend is not filled with action and excitement of some variety, and come Monday morning do you want to say you didn’t embrace it?
Great sport has a unique ability to lift the spirits, to generate a feelgood factor and instil in people a sense of civic pride, to get them walking through the streets with their chests puffed out.
This weekend’s World Triathlon Series event is great sport. So go and play your part in it. Go and be inspired.
Go and cheer on a few people giving every fibre of their being.
Go and do Leeds proud and continue raising its profile as one of the leading sporting cities of the world.