Leeds Triathlon: Home advantage sees Brownlee brothers blow away their rivals

PARTY TIME: Alistair Brownlee celebrates his win of the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Leeds by soaking his brother Jonny in champagne on the podium in Millenium Square.  Picture: Tony Johnson.

PARTY TIME: Alistair Brownlee celebrates his win of the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Leeds by soaking his brother Jonny in champagne on the podium in Millenium Square. Picture: Tony Johnson.

0
Have your say

It could not have gone any better had they planned it themselves. Only they did.

Such is the standing of Alistair and Jonny Brownlee in the world of triathlon that when the sport’s elite chose to visit their home city for a race, the local authority and British Triathlon leant on the brothers for advice on the route.

Start of the Elite Men Race at Waterloo Lake, Roundhay Park. Picture: James Hardisty.

Start of the Elite Men Race at Waterloo Lake, Roundhay Park. Picture: James Hardisty.

Knowing how a tough course plays to their strengths, the brothers helped design a beast of an Olympic-distance triathlon, full of twists, turns, narrow shoots and slippery descents.

And they put that home advantage to use emphatically.

The multi-garlanded brothers, the pride of Yorkshire sport, controlled the race from the minute they left the icy waters of Roundhay Park and for a long time it was a certainty that they would cross the line first and second.

That it was Alistair ahead of Jonny once more mattered not to the Leeds crowd. They had revelled in the spotlight of a global event being on their suburban roads and urban thoroughfares.

In the bigger sporting picture, this win for Alistair in his home city was as sweet as any of his previous 19 World Series wins. He grew up in this city, still lives there, and trains there every day.

“It’s a massive win for me,” said Alistair. “Obviously any world series victory is phenomenal but to do it in your home town makes it that little bit more special.”

He also needed to lay down a marker with the Rio Olympics just two months away.

The elder Brownlee had not won a World Series event for over a year, has not been a world champion for five years, but as the clock ticks towards the 31st Summer Olympiad, there is no question who remains the man to beat.

And for Jonny it was equally important to use his home race to further his claims as a serious contender later this summer.

“It was very important for us both,” said Jonny.

“We’ve had a couple of really tough years, getting beaten heavily sometimes, so to come and put a performance in like that is very, very important.

“We cycled harder than anyone and were willing to run harder than anyone. To come first and second is a good marker.”

Jonny’s own victory drought in the world series has extended to 12 races, and he is still to taste victory over his brother in a race of such standing, yet he remains one of the biggest threats to Alistair’s reign.

Threat is an oxymoron, however, when it comes to these two fine athletes, for whom assistance is the name of the game for 95 per cent of a triathlon. They worked together in the cycle race, headlining a four-man breakaway from Roundhay Park through the upper-class houses of Moortown, down into the student enclaves of Headingley and towards the city centre.

The Brownlees even had control of a chasing bunch that included their long-time nemesis Javier Gomez, with Slovakia’s Richard Varga, a member of their training group, controlling the pace.

By the time they dismounted the bikes, the gap was extended to two minutes, one second and Australian Aaron Royle and Frenchman Aurelien Raphael – who had shared the workload in the 41.5km cycle break – had no chance of keeping up with them in the 10km run.

Jonny – who felt he lost 15 seconds in the transition from swim to bike – exited first but within metres Alistair had surged ahead and he would not relent as he pounded around The Headrow towards a moment to savour in front of the packed grandstands at Millennium Square.

“Whatever happened today would have gone down as one of the highlights of my career,” said Alistair.

“The crowds here blow any previous world series or grand final crowd out the water. Crowds were probably five times as big and that’s not exaggerating.”

Jonny added: “To have four, five people deep, and noise all the way around is incredible.

“Bring it back to Leeds next year. The World Series goes to places where triathlon is welcomed and Leeds has really welcomed triathlon this weekend.

“I was just never going to beat Alistair on a day like today.”

Back to the top of the page