The amazing Alistair Brownlee rebounded from a DNF meltdown in a half-distance race 6 days ago to win the 2017 Columbia Threadneedle World Leeds Triathlon. Brother Jonny was second with Spain’s Fernando Alarza third.
The sport of triathlon, as expressed in Great Britain, has always honored the bike leg. This has not only been the case in long distance racing (Philip Graves) but also at the Olympic distance (Spencer Smith and Simon Lessing). The Brownlee brothers are inheritors of this tradition, bringing it into the draft-legal era.
Jonny and Alistair Brownlee were near the front of the swim, as is usual, though Ali was a little farther back in 8th place. They immediately formed the nucleus of a 4–man group on the bike – a climb right out of transition perfectly suited to the Brownlees’ talents. The course was honest, with elevation and turns, and that only helps those who know how to ride like cyclists, such as Flora Duffy among the women and the Brownlees today.
The large trailing group was happy to cede the chase duties to Kristian Blummenfelt, who stomps hard on the pedals, but the Norwegian’s power couldn’t overcome the technical expertise of the Brownlees. South African Olympic medalist Henri Schoeman occasionally spelled Blummenfelt, allowing the chasers to gain. Blummenfelt pulled a group of roughly 2 dozen riders to within 5sec of the Brownlees. "When it was that close,” Alistair said after the race, “Jonny said let’s call it a day now. But I said let’s keep working."
The Brownlees took the corners with hands on the drops and squirted further ahead during the turny downtown section of the course, just as Flora Duffy did in the earlier women’s race. "We kept working hard, kept working hard,” said Alistair. "We had to work a lot harder in the first 2 or 3 sections that we probably ever had to do on the bike. It was an all around triathlon today. You need to be able to ride hard tactically and technically.”
"The bike was the principle element in this race,” commented Alarza after the race.
By T1 the Brownlees had pushed their lead out to 1min12sec. Would brother Ali’s long course focus, and his aborted half-distance race just a week ago, give Jonny the advantage?
Spain’s Fernando Alarza jumped to a lead among the chasers, with GBR’s Adam Bowden and Tommy Bishop in tow.
After the first of 4 laps the brothers were together, trading places just as they did during the bike leg and looking down the leaderboard it was GBR 1, 2, 3 and 4. The concern was the pace among the chasers – they’d taken about 15sec out of the Brownlees by a quarter of the way through the run. Was it wise running a 10k pace a minute faster than the Brownlees?
Alarza took over by the 3k mark, running with a superior economy of motion. But the Brits hung tough. Halfway through the run the trailing trio took even more time out, trailing only by 51sec. Alarza decided his company had worn out its welcome and chose the climb just out of transition after 5k of running to make his move. He separated himself from the British duo and pressed home for third place.
Up front Alistair was inching ahead of Jonny, and the inches became feet, then became meters with 3k to go. What a rebound from his meltdown 6 days before!
By the start of the final 2.5km run lap Alarza had clawed back a few more seconds, trailing Alistair by 44sec and Jonny by 40sec.
Alistaire won in 1hr46min51sec. Jonny slowed but it was not a Cozumel-style collapse. He lost to his brother only by 11sec, with a comfortable 26sec margin over the steady Spaniard at the end. Alarza retains his number-1 world ranking with his podium finish.
The Brits had a banner day, with Adam Bowden 4th and Tommy Bishop 5th. This is probably the only time the Brownlees ever finish one-two while giving up time on the run to third thru fifth. Indeed, if the fastest runners buy the beer it’ll be the Brownlees buying pints for Bowden and Bishop tonight.
Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
June 11, 2017
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
Results: Elite Men
1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) 1:46:51
2. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) 1:47:03
3. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 1:47:28
4. Adam Bowden (GBR) 1:47:41
5. Thomas Bishop (GBR) 1:47:50
6. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 1:48:06
7. Joao Silva (POR) 1:48:58
8. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) 1:48:58
9. Vicente Hernandez (ESP) 1:49:04
10. Vincent Luis (FRA) 1:49:12