Ali Brownlee triumphs at WTS Leeds
The Yorkshire setting. A buoyant and bumper home crowd. A one-two finish. Things couldn’t have been scripted much better for the Brownlee brothers at the inaugural ITU World Triathlon Series race in Leeds this afternoon following a blistering performance over their Rio Olympic rivals. After 1:49hrs of frenetic racing, Alistair would be the top dog while Jonny would follow him home in second.
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Roundhay Park in Leeds was the picturesque setting for one of the last showdowns before the Olympic Games. Much of the attention – and adulation – from the reported 100,000 crowd was centred on the Brownlee brothers, with Jonny and Ali truly racing on home soil.
It also gave tri fans a chance to see new Olympic squad addition Gordon Benson race with the Brownlees, and what tactical plan they had to quell the threat of Javier Gomez (the top ITU trio of Richard Murray, Mario Mola and Fernando Alarza were all missing from the action), who was returning to the ITU World Triathlon Series for the first time this season.
Just minutes after Gwen Jorgensen was crowned the women’s Leeds champ, the men’s 1.5km swim kicked off in Roundhay Park. As is customary, Slovakia’s Richard Varga led into T1 with the main contenders within seconds of him.
Ali Brownlee’s speedy transition saw him exit first and fly out of the bike course start. Within minutes Alistair, Jonny (albeit after a T1 fumble with his bike shoes), Aussie Aaron Royle and Aurelien Rapheal of France had daylight between the chasing pack, with the brothers tearing up his local roads and leaving Rio rival Gomez in their slipstream.
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By the time the twisty 40km bike route reached the grandstand in Leeds, the quartet had a 1:07min lead over Javier Gomez and Richard Varga, with the lead pack even further back. Gomez and Varga would soon become part of the chase pack, but the lead of the Brownlees continued to grow in front of the rapturous partisan crowd.
The BBC coverage went off air for a few minutes to frustrate armchair fans and when it returned the gap was 2mins over the pack. And it’d continue to increase until T2, where the Brownlees catapulted themselves onto the run to instantly drop Rapheal, with Royle soon to suffer the same fate.
By the end of the first run lap, Ali had broken away from Jonny to create a 20sec gap and he’d continue to extend his lead in front of the noisy five-deep crowds. Royle was clinging on to third while Gomez had managed to pull himself into fourth, but it’d be too little too late for the Spaniard on his ITU racing return as Brownlee surged to victory with a 31:10 run 10km split.