Alistair Brownlee, Duffy winners in ITU World Triathlon Leeds

by Chelsea White/ITU Media, Featured photo by Janos Schmidt

Alistair Brownlee returns to WTS to reclaim Leeds

Despite dedicating his season to longer distances, Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee returned to the World Triathlon Series to reclaim his hometown race at the 2017 Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds. For the second year in a row, the two-time Olympic Gold Medallist wowed the crowd and put forth an incredible performance and remain undefeated on the Leeds course.

Alistair commented on his return win, “Yeah. I mean obviously races like that take a bit of circumstance to help you out. It was the little bits I didn’t know – I didn’t know what I’d be like in the swim start and I didn’t know if I’d struggle that first part of the bike because I haven’t done a lot of training for that kind of thing. Obviously little bits like that make the race and they did today – fortunately I felt good.”

Commenting on how the chase pack were close at one point, Alistair said, “when it was that close, Jonny said ‘let’s call it a day now and give up’, and I just said ‘No, let’s keep working because they’ve still got to catch us at the end of the day’ and the time started going out. We just kept working hard and we stretched it out. We had to work a lot harder in the first 2 or 3 laps in the city centre circuit than we’ve had to work before and that tired us out quite a bit.”

Finishing right behind Alistair was his younger brother Jonathan Brownlee, who earned the silver medal and allowed the repeat of the Brownlees going 1-2 in the WTS Leeds event for another year.

Jonny said of making podium after his WTS Yokohama bike crash, “Firstly, it’s nice to be on the start line, and it’s nice to have a race that didn’t go wrong – but it was a tough way of doing that race, today! Basically, from the start of the bike, just yelling to myself for 40k. I nearly gave up actually first lap in the city centre, and I said to Alistair ‘stop, we’re getting caught’ and he said to keep on going and suddenly we had 10-15 seconds from nowhere, and then I thought ‘wow, this is going be a long day out!”

The bronze medal then went to Spain’s Fernando Alarza, who then with this finish is currently standing at the top of the leaderboard for the WTS rankings.

The success for Great Britain continued however when Tom Bishop and Adam Bowden finished in fourth and fifth place, signifying that the nation had four men in the top five on home soil, a feat that has never happened in either the men’s or women’s races in the history of the WTS.

To start off the day, the men awaited the success of the women’s race to end before lining up in Roundhay Park.

For the 29th time in his career, Richard Varga (SVK) led out of the swim, an effort he did in WTS Leeds the year before as well. However, this year he wasn’t entirely alone as Jonny Brownlee and Raoul Shaw (FRA) were right on his heels. The rest of the men’s field were also close behind, so after a busy first transition only a few men managed to get out onto the bike with a slight advantage.

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With the unique course that Leeds offers, the men cycled 13 kilometres through the country side before heading into the main seven-lap course located in the city centre. During that first long scenic lap, a group of four men, the Brownlees and Frenchmen Pierre Le Corre and Aurelien Raphael, pushed ahead. However, as the men made their way closer to the city centre, where the mass crowds and grandstand awaited, the Brownlees broke away to ride as a leading duo to gain the cheers and their hometown support.

While the chase pack, that contained almost the rest of the field such as Aaron Royle (AUS), Alarza, Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) rode on, they worked hard to not allow the Brownlees to get too much of an advantage. That deemed to be slightly harder of a task considering the momentum the Brownlees gained every time they rode through the transition area. Out of the saddle and working hard, the Brownlees managed to have over a minute lead going into T2.

But once feet hit the pavement there was no stopping them. It became clear very early on that one of the Brownlee brothers was going to take the gold medal, it just had to be seen which one it would be.

As the remaining cyclists entered the run, two battles out on the course quickly developed: Alistair versus Jonny and Alarza versus the Brits.

Both Alistair and Jonny ran together for the first three laps of the run. While Jonny is more acclimated for the Olympic distance, in the end it was Alistair who had the fitness and got away from his brother to take the gold. Jonny was left to earn the silver, but gave him much needed WTS points for his overall Series rankings.

In the battle for bronze, Bishop, Bowden and Alarza broke away from the mass pack and rode side by side fighting for third place. While the position went back and forth between the three men and the possibility of a Brit sweep seemed likely, Alarza put forth a final push and got away to seal his fate of the bronze finisher.

Flora Duffy earns back-to-back WTS win in Leeds

Earning her fourth career World Triathlon Series victory and second consecutive win of the season, Flora Duffy (BER) claimed the 2017 Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds in a near-perfect race scenario.

Exiting the waters among the leaders and then joining a small and fierce lead bike pack that worked well together to earn a large advantage, Duffy entered the run with a clear shot of earning the day’s gold medal. Giving her a second WTS win of the season and a trade up from the silver medal she earned in Leeds in 2016, Duffy’s victory also puts her in a solid position to continue her quest of reclaiming her World Title.

Duffy said of how the race played out, “I came out of the water in a good position and luckily the girls on the bike were keen to work with me. So perhaps they picked up on if you ride hard there is an opportunity to podium, so we made a huge gap and yeah it was fantastic. You know this was Taylor’s (Spivey) first podium and Alice’s (Betto) as well, so that is really cool and I am super happy for them.”

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Joining the reigning World Champion on the podium was two WTS medal first-timers: Taylor Spivey (USA) and Alice Betto (ITA). Spivey earned the silver medal, advancing from her first-time silver medal she earned in Madrid in the World Cup circuit only a few weeks before in order to become only the seventh woman in the USA to make a WTS podium.

A cloudy and slightly cool day welcomed the women as they kicked off the day of racing in Leeds. With wetsuits zipped on and ready, the elites dove off the pontoon and into the water for a 1500 metre swim. Right from the start Great Britain’s own Jessica Learmonth pushed herself into the leading position, with a string of women behind her. The two-lap swim made for a gap to appear in the water and as Learmonth exited into the second transition first, only a trickle of the field were close on her.

Duffy managed to exit the waters just seconds behind Learmonth, which set herself up perfectly to have an ideal cycle.

Coming out of the first transition, a small group of women instantly joined together on the bike, but as Learmonth slowed down in the first 12-kilometre countryside lap to wait for compatriot Non Stanford, the lead group lost its connection and narrowed down to only four riders.

The front four, which featured Duffy, Spivey, Betto and Maya Kingma (NED) pushed ahead as three of the rookie women tried to keep up with the master class of Duffy’s riding. However the four managed to work well together as they continued to gain a healthy lead over the chase groups.

The main chase pack saw some big names that just missed getting into the lead. Learmonth, Stanford, Gillian Backhouse (AUS) and Kirsten Kasper (USA) were among the crew, but despite their efforts they were not able to gain any ground on the leading four.

Aussie Ashleigh Gentle, who entered the race as one of the top threats, found herself in the second chase pack, who were minutes behind and out of contention.

As the main four steadily increased their advantage, they ultimately were untouched on the bike course, entering the bell lap with a lead of 2:30.

Entering the second transition, Duffy was off in an instant and never looked back. Her ability in the bike catapulted her into a perfect position to blast off on the run and bypass her younger and less experienced fellow cyclists. While the chase pack contained many strong runners, with the huge deficit, Duffy ran securely to claim her gold.

The power that was seen on the bike came through for the remaining three women from the lead group. Spivey and Betto also burst out of the gate in hopes of getting on their first WTS podiums. A dream that was realized for both women. While Betto was forced to serve a 15-second penalty for dismounting her bike late while entering the second transition, her advantage worked for her and she still had no one in sight to grant her the bronze medal. Betto then became the first Italian of either men or women to make the WTS podium.


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