Just two months ago Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee didn’t think he would be racing at all this season, but the reigning ITU World Champion came back with a bang in Japan on Saturday, leading from start to finish in a perfect all-round performance at ITU World Triathlon Yokohama.
It followed on from his older brother’s similar impressive return to ITU racing in 2013. Just last month Alistair Brownlee raced his first ITU event since the London Olympics in San Diego, and blew away the field there despite not being confident of his run form.
In Yokohama it was a similar story, except Jonathan had the added complication that his layoff was because of an ankle injury. That made his performance even more impressive, as he showed no signs of weakness on the run, burning off Spain’s Javier Gomez and Portugal’s Joao Silva over 10km to record his fifth career series win in a time of 1 hour 44 minutes and 59 seconds.
Brownlee was emotional afterwards as he revealed that he thought his entire season would have to be ruled out because of that ankle injury.
“At the start of the year I was told I wouldn’t be racing at all this season, so I got a bit emotional towards the end because this year I thought I wouldn’t be here at all,” he said. “I thought the season was over two months ago.
“I didn’t know what to expect all, to cross the finish line was more relief than anything. I was running around just pleased to be here to be honest, so this is nice.”
Brownlee ran an amazing 7:11 for his second lap, a move that won him the race.
“I started off and thought there would be a big group of us and turned around and there was just two of us. So I was feeling good, I have an advantage over everyone in that I was felling fresher, they’ve’ raced twice already all over the world and they have the points in the bag whereas I have been at home training in Yorkshire and that is a big advantage that I have had, I think that showed today, but yeah it was a big shock to get a gap.”
And he didn’t mind the wet conditions either.
“I did feel at home, I have been worried about the heat here, I have been training in a heat chamber before I came out, when I heard the forecast I thought I’m so pleased it is going to rain, I sat in my hotel room hoping for it to rain and it did.”
If one thing is becoming clear through the opening rounds of the ITU World Triathlon Series in 2013 (aside from the Brownlee’s class), it is that the men’s swim has been taken to a new level. Hot on the heels of a 16 minute and 6 second swim in San Diego, the field was again strung out behind the leaders out of the water in what became the decisive leg of the race.
From the first transition Brownlee, Gomez and Silva positioned themselves safely in a small but powerful lead group of eight and then went to work on the bike, casting aside the slippery conditions to further extend their lead on the chasers.
Meanwhile amongst those to miss the break were Richard Murray (RSA), as he along with most of the field could only watch his podium chances disappear up the road. An early casualty on the bike leg was last year’s Yokohama bronze medallist Dmitry Polyanskiy (RUS), the Russian not taking a corner in the tricky conditions and ending up on the pavement and out of the race.
At the front of the race, Ivan Vasiliev, Brownlee and Gomez just kept getting faster and put an average 10 seconds into the chase in each lap. It meant that the lead group of eight, that included Marco Van der Stel, Henri Schoeman, Andrew McCartney and Benjamin Shaw, entered T2 one minute and 30 seconds ahead of the closest chasers.
Once on to the run an eight man production quickly became a two man show, the only question was who was the leading actor in this show as Brownlee and Gomez bid farewell to the rest of the competitors. The answer most emphatically was Brownlee as the young Brit simply powered away on the second lap of four on the run.
It was his fifth WTS series win, which means he is now equal second in the overall WTS winners list with Gomez. The Spainard held on for silver, followed by Silva whose third consecutive bronze medal was enough for him to hold onto the top spot in the series rankings. Murray ended-up with the second fastest run split of the day to finish fifth, just overtaking fellow South African Henri Schoeman who recorded his best WTS result. He was followed by Canada’s McCartney, who also recorded his first top-10 WTS finish.
Gomez was not too despondent at being pipped by Jonny on the day.
“It’s not too bad, San Diego was a bad race but first in Auckland and second here, it is a pretty good start,” he said.
“It was a pretty tough race in these conditions but at least it was not cold, the course was pretty dangerous, we had to be careful on every corner. I felt much better than San Diego, I felt myself again but Jonny was really fast on the run, my legs were a bit heavy after all the rain and a hard bike so yeah, it’s OK second place.”
“Everyone worked together, not too fast but we kept the work up and then we had a gap to Murray who was the most dangerous one at the back. So yeah, I tried to give my best on the run, I hang on for the first lap to Jonathan but he was too fast today.”
Silva retains his lead in the WTS with yet another podium and admitted he like Brownlee enjoyed the weather conditions.
“I actually liked it today because it was not cold, wet but not cold. I had a good swim and that makes the rest of the race easy, it is a beautiful venue and everyone is cheering in the rain, so it is beautiful,” Silva said.
“Yes, definitely it is easier to start running with a group of 8 than the whole pack together so yes it was good choice to try and breakway and make that difference, it was really good.
“I felt terrible in the start of the run, so I thought thank god we have the break away so I can manage it a little bit my run, I had a solid race but a really terrible run.”
The 2013 ITU World Triathlon Series continues in Madrid on June 1 and 2.