Jonathan Brownlee was up front during the swim, rode aggressively on the bike and then stomped on the competition during the run to take the win at ITU WTS San Diego. Hunter Kemper and Manuel Huerta stepped up to take those coveted US Olympic spots.
After a beach start in beautiful San Diego the elite men's field stormed into the water and it was quite clear that the outside positions were the ideal slots. Kris Gemmell who started on the very far left side seemed to have taken an especially smart line and was first out of the water after the first lap, but he had Jonathan Brownlee and Aurelien Raphael and a big bunch right on his heels. At the end of the swim though and with 17:47 on the race clock it was Ivan Vasiliev who led the bunch, with Brownlee and Raphael right there again.
A small group of nine that included Brownlee, Raphael, Gemmell, Courtney Atkinson and Matt Chrabot established early on during the bike segment, but they did not work very well together. Only Brownlee, Gemmell and Chrabot were seen up front and the rest appeared to either save energy or hang on for dear life, and the gap that was 18 seconds at one point was nullified by lap 3 of 8. That created a lead group of 32 with most big players present, and another group of 26 around half a minute behind them. Tim Don, Ryan Sissons and Chris McCormack were in that chase group and halfway through the bike segment they too caught the leaders. Yuichi Hosada broke away from the bunch soon after and did not look back to see if anyone else was willing to join him, but that effort was short lived and after that the white flag hung up high. All the way to the bike-run transition there was a bit of jockeying for position but the field seemed to be content to fight it out during the run. For a few folks like Brownlee that might be considered an ok idea, but for most of the athletes in that bunch not so much. In fact it was Brownlee who kept pushing the pace on the bike.
After a very clean transition Ivan Rana led the bunch out on the run course but in no time Brownlee had moved into the lead. Brownlee was quickly joined by Richard Murray and the two pulled away from the rest of the pack establishing a 14 second lead after 1 of 3 laps. As many had predicted, Brownlee took charge of the event and 5k into the run he was alone in the lead. Behind them Sven Riederer led a small group that included Tim Don and Manny Huerta, but the Swiss Pro soon pulled away from them and moved up to Murray.
"I went into the race very relaxed really because I knew I didn't have to do anything, I didn't have to finish top nine, top four or anything, I just had to race my own race, and yeah, I was pleased," said Brownlee.
With Huerta though running in 5th position, that made the US Olympic qualification scenario quite interesting. Hunter Kemper, Jarrod Shoemaker, Matt Chrabot and Greg Billington all were still very close but only Kemper managed to find that extra gear. With that extra gear of sorts he in fact reeled in Huerta and passed him just before the finish to take 5th place. Brownlee meanwhile had already secured the win in 1:48:47 with Sven Riederer in second place and Richard Murray holding on to the final podium position. For the Americans with Kemper in 5th place and Huerta in 9th position, that meant that these 2 athletes had earned tickets to represent the USA in London this summer. Quite a heart breaker for the other athletes who were reasonably close but yet so far away.
"Ultimately, you always want to settle it on a race course,” said Kemper, who will now go to the Olympics for the fourth time. "You don’t want a selection committee to decide who’s going to go to the Olympic Games. I did that today, and so did Manny, and that means a lot. I’m just happy to go back and represent my country. There’s no better feeling than representing the USA."
ITU World Triathlon San Diego
San Diego, CA / May 12, 2012
1.5k swim / 40k bike / 10k run
Elite Men Results
1. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) 1:48:47
2. Sven Rieder (SUI) 1:48:52
3. Richard Murray (RSA) 1:49:01
4. Mario Mola (ESP) 1:49:09
5. Hunter Kemper (USA) 1:49:18
6. Ryan Sissons (NZL) 1:49:22
7. Tim Don (GBR) 1:49:25
8. Bevan Docherty (NZL) 1:49:29
9. Manuel Huerta (USA) 1:49:31
10. Kris Gemmell (NZL) 1:49:40
11. Simon Whitfield (CAN) 1:49:44
12. Kyle Jones (CAN) 1:49:46
13. Courtney Atkinson (AUS) 1:49:48
14. Tony Moulai (FRA) 1:49:49
15. Greg Billington (USA) 1:49:50