ALISTAIR BROWNLEE threw down the gauntlet to the world of triathlon as he marked his return to the World Series in style on the streets of Leeds.
The 29-year-old, who has stepped up endurance training to compete in half Ironman races this year, took advantage of younger brother Jonny’s lack of race time to clinch an impressive victory in front of a vociferous crowd in his home city.
In a season of hard luck stories, Jonny was left to rue another second place to his brother as the Bramhope pair again showed their dominance of the sport.
By winning, Alistair gave a first sign that his attempts to win an Ironman world title would not affect his chances of claiming a third, and fourth, Olympic gold medal in 2020.
The International Olympic Committee approved plans to add mixed relays into the sport, allowing Alistair the opportunity to double up in Tokyo,
The 29-year-old revealed the plan has increased the prospect of him racing for Team GB again.
On the decision, he said: “You can’t help but think someone like me, that has been to three Olympics and is not too sure whether to commit to a fourth, it’s an extra carrot and it definitely will be.
“The next thing will be to wait and see if I feel competitive in three years’ time. The fact you can win two medals, I can’t deny that’s not a motivator.”
No one could match the brothers’ superior speed on the bike as the race became one of ‘us versus them’ 10km into the cycle leg.
Despite his switch in training focus, double Olympic champion Alistair was once again the victor.
I didn’t go into it with any preconceived ideas. When I got onto the run I thought I was going to struggle to beat Jonny. He was making me hurt on the first lap. You’ve just got to keep trying.Alistair Brownlee.
As he pulled clear in the final four kilometres, it was a case of “here we go again” for Jonny.
The result was the same as in the city 12 months ago, and that of the Olympic event in Rio.
“Some time will be my time,” reflected Jonny, who moved up to 15th in the Series standings.
“I would love to beat him next year, but I said exactly the same 12 months ago and I said it at the Olympics too.”
There were question marks over how Alistair would respond to his return to the shorter distance having raced three half Ironman races in 2017.
Those continued to surface as he trailed his brother by 11 seconds in the first lap of the swim at Roundhay Park. But that gap shortened to five seconds as the pair went to the first transition and the familiar sight of the brothers powering clear ahead on two wheels soon followed.
French pair Pierre Le Corre and Aurelien Raphael carried the pace alongside the brothers up the hill towards Headingley but both were dropped as the helmets of the chasing pack began to bob up and down in the distance.
Under threat of joining the ranks of the field, the Brownlees pushed the accelerator and forged a ten-second gap into the seven short laps around Leeds city centre. By the end of the fifth circuit, the chasing pack had all but waved the white flag, swinging round the corner at a leisurely pace.
The Brownlees went into the run with a 73-second advantage – separated by just a metre.
Jonny looked most comfortable in the first lap of the run, but Alistair kicked on shortly after the halfway point and was never headed as he won by eight seconds.
“I was surprised how good I felt,” said Alistair, who retired from his last half Ironman event in Slovakia. “I didn’t go into it with any preconceived ideas. When I got onto the run I thought I was going to struggle to beat Jonny. He was making me hurt on the first lap. You’ve just got to keep trying. I got the gap at the end and I was pleased to do so.”
Leeds-based triathlete Thomas Bishop’s fourth-placed finish moved him to fourth in the World Series standing.
British athletes made up four of the first five places as Bishop and Adam Bowden finished behind the Brownlees. Only a late surge from Spaniard Fernando Alarza prevented a first one-two-three in men’s World Series race.
Alistair said: “Because me and Jonny were out in the front, it meant the other guys could sit and do no work and a lot of the guys that would normally outrun them blew their legs. It worked perfectly for the whole team.”