All eyes were on Alistair Brownlee in his comeback race and he made certain to impress while re-asserting his position as the gold medal favourite at the London Olympic Games. The reigning ITU World Champion produced a masterful performance in Kitzbühel today, punctuated by an eye-popping 29:51 10km run split, and ascended back to the top of the podium for the 12th time in an ITU World Triathlon Series race. The result resoundingly answered questions around his Achilles injury.
“Obviously I couldn’t have done much better today, there’s always a bit of uncertainty so it was good just to get out there and see how it worked,” said Alistair after the race.
Younger brother Jonathan Brownlee finished second, his third consecutive podium, after wins in San Diego and Madrid. Spain’s Javier Gomez also made a successful return from illness and took bronze.
Russian brothers Igor and Dmitry Polyanskiy led the elite men after first lap of the swim in Lake Schwarzee. Alistair has a slower than usual start in his return but he pulled himself up from 15th in the first lap to fifth by the end of the swim, exiting the water alongside his brother Jonathan.
From there the Brownlees wasted no time on the bike and within the first kilometre rocketed off the front with another Russian, Ivan Vasiliev. That trio quickly build a 25-second lead on a chase pack of 28 athletes in the first lap.
But they were no match for the organized German Olympic team at the head of the first chase. Jan Frodeno, also returning from injury, Steffen Justus and Maik Petzold worked together to cut the gap to 20 seconds on the second lap and by the third of six laps, they had bridged to the leaders and became a large group of 31. After those groups merged, Stuart Hayes controlled a fast pace at the front of the pack as the group rolled into T2 together.
From T2, Alistair led from the start, sprinting out of transition to the lead. Jonathan tried to stay with him but he never came close from leaving T2 as Alistair hammered out an unforgiving pace that no one could match. He cruised to the finish line with a time of 1 hour, 50 minutes, 13 seconds, capping off a successful return.
“Races never go to plan, I never really have a race plan these days,” said Alistair, who has won seven of his last nine ITU races. “We just tried to push the early part of the bike as hard as we could and see what happened, but we couldn’t get away, but I think it was important we hurt a lot of people’s legs early on.”
Jonathan came across for silver, more than 50 seconds behind Alistair, his 13th consecutive ITU podium, an astounding streak that started in July 2010 in London.
“It was a tough, tough race,” said Jonathan. “Today was a real test because it’s a strong field and everyone who is going to be in the Olympics was there. It was kind of a practice Olympics really, so to have everyone there and still come second is great.”
Gomez held on for bronze to complete the podium after holding off a late surge by Alexander Bryukhankov.
Rising American star Lukas Verzbicas clocked the second fastest run split behind Alistair but finished in 32nd position in his debut in the ITU World Triathlon Series.
Caledon’s Andrew Yorke, alternate for Canada’s 2012 London Olympic Men’s Triathlon Team, finished 43rd (1:59:50).
1. Alistair Brownlee GBR 1:50:13
2. Jonathan Brownlee GBR 1:51:02
3. Javier Gomez ESP 1:51:18
4. Alexander Bryukhankov RUS 1:51:27
5. Dmitry Polyanskiy RUS 1:51:41
6. Steffen Justus GER 1:52:01
7. Laurent Vidal FRA 1:52:06
8. Tony Moulai FRA 1:52:07
9. David McNamee GBR 1:52:10
10. Tony Dodds NZL 1:52:19
43. Andrew Yorke CAN 01:59:50