Brownlees and training group eager to kick Games off in style

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Yorkshire’s dominant Brownlee brothers have welcomed the pressure on their shoulders as they bid to kick England’s Commonwealth Games campaign off in style.

The White Rose heroes are first up on day one of the 20th Games in Glasgow as the triathlon beats a path through Strathclyde Country Park.

The Brownlee Brothers, Jonny and Alistair

The Brownlee Brothers, Jonny and Alistair

With Alistair, 26, the Olympic champion and Jonny, 24, the bronze medallist from London two years ago, the siblings are firm favourites to make that gold and silver in Scotland today, no matter their indifferent form this season.

Both struggled in the early part of the year; Alistair as he recovered from injury and Jonny as he cris-crossed the globe on a fruitless mission to chase world series wins.

But after a strong block of altitude training in St Moritz, and a one-three finish at the recent world series event in Hamburg, the Leeds lads appear to have found their form at just the right time.

And ominously for the rest of the Commonwealth field, the two-time world champion thinks the undulating course will play into the hands of both he and his brother.

Alistair said: “It’s a tough course. There’s nothing particularly hard on it but nothing easy either.

“It’ll be a really tough, honest race I think. That’s the kind of race I like to do so I’m looking forward to it.

“I can’t complain about my shape at all.

“I’ve done some of the best training I’ve done in a long time so I’m really happy about it and everything’s gone as well as I could have hoped.”

Jonny had to settle for third in Hamburg but that was a confidence-boosting result after back-to-back fifth places in Yokohama and Hyde Park, his worst placings in any race for four years.

The Brownlees have had to play second fiddle on the world stage this year to defending world champion Javier Gomez from Spain, who is almost certain to win the title for a fourth time.

The three have a keen rivalry and Jonny had hoped to get his own back in 2014 after being pipped on the line at the grand final in London last September.

The brothers both finished ahead of Gomez in Hamburg, and Jonny said: “I’m feeling good. I raced in Hamburg 10 days ago and that went well.

“Before that we were altitude training in St Moritz and before that Spain, so I’ve done a consistent block of training. I’m looking forward to racing.

“The Commonwealth Games has been a major aim since the start of the year.

“The world series hasn’t gone as well as I hoped it could have done so it’s up to the Commonwealth Games now.

“The Commonwealths is a one-day event and I love racing one-day events when all the pressure is on.”

Jonny also thinks the experience of having gone into London with expectations of medals for both brothers will help keep tension at bay.

“It’s not unfamiliar, London was very good practice for that,” said Jonny, who races with Alistair in Saturday’s team race.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to experience pressure like that again so after that everything feels easier.

“We will go into it as favourites and I quite like that position.

“There’s other good athletes out there – Richard Murray from South Africa – but we’ll try to keep them out of it by making the swim and the bike hard.”

And two women who moved up to Leeds to train with the boundary-breaking brothers, will be bidding for their own slice of glory in the women’s triathlon.

Vicky Holland, a 28-year-old from Gloucester, is the housemate of Wales’s 2013 world champion Non Stanford, who misses the Commonwealth Games after an injury-plagued year.

“I would have loved it if Non could have been here,” said Holland, who was 26th in the Olympic triathlon in London.

“We live and train together. For her to have the double blow of two injuries this year has been really cruel, especially after the year she had last year. Realistically coming into 2014 she was the favourite for the gold here.

“That has tainted things a little bit. It would have been fantastic to have her on the start-line with me.

“She really wants to see me do well and I guess the fact she’s not racing means she can support me even more.”

Holland finished seventh at the world series race in Hamburg earlier this month.

She said: “My form seems to be coming at the right time.

“I’m hoping to be near the top end of the results, and I know if everything went absolutely perfect I could be sneaking into the top five or the outskirts of the medal zone. That would be a dream.”

Holland is joined in the three-strong England’s women’s squad by Lucy Hall, 22, who she trains with alongside the Brownlees and Stanford in Leeds.

“Most of us train together in Leeds so we’re used to the hills and the hard climbs and we’re ready for it,” said Hall, who also competed at the London Olympics.

“I’d love a breakaway, that would be my ultimate goal. I’m looking forward to it and I’m quite confident it’ll be good for me, Vicky and Jodie. We all want a hard race.”

England’s best hope for a medal in the women’s race is Jodie Stimpson, who finished second behind Stanford in the world series last year and won races in Auckland and Cape Town earlier this season.

A foot injury suffered during May’s race in Yokohama meant a backwards step but she finished fifth over the sprint distance in Hamburg and is stronger over the full 1.5-kilometres swim, 40km bike and 10km run course that the athletes will compete in at Strathclyde Country Park.

The 25-year-old said: “I may go in as the favourite but there are so many girls that could get on the podium. I will try to control what I can control in the race and all I can do is give it my best.”

Seven of the top 12 athletes in the world this season are in today’s women’s race in Glasgow.