Heading into today’s World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) Leeds all eyes were on the race between two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee and up-and-coming star Alex Yee. With Great Britain having two spots for the Olympics in Tokyo, and Jonathan Brownlee being pre-selected for one of those spots, it appeared that the final spot would go to either the elder Brownlee or Yee. In the end Yee charged to his first WTCS title, while Brownlee obviously wasn’t his normal self, still recovering from an injury that slowed him on the run.
Richard Varga (SVK), who we’re used to seeing at the front of the swim at World Triathlon events, led the way out of the water at the end of the first lap with Aaron Royle and Alistair Brownlee on his feet, setting things up nicely for the Brownlee brothers as Alex Yee found himself in a group with Javier Gomez (ESP) and the hottest man on the World Triathlon circuit at present, Kristian Blummenfelt, about 15-seconds back.
On the second lap of the swim, though, Varga went on the wrong side of a buoy, stalling the lead group’s progress at the front. That meant Australia’s Aaron Royle was first out of the water, with Alistair Brownlee on his feet. Yee and Blummenfelt continued their great swims, hitting T1 just 18-seconds back. Alistair Brownlee charged through transition and led the way onto the bike looking to set up a breakaway, with Jonas Schomburg (GER), Morgan Pearson (USA). Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), Royle, Leo Bergere (FRA), Marten Van Riel (BEL) and Kenji Nener (JPN).
On the third lap of the bike, the chase group led by Blummenfelt and Yee managed to bridge their way to the lead group of eight, setting up a large group of 25 at the front. That group stayed together for much of the rest of the bike, with athletes taking a flyer every now and again before Great Britain’s Samuel Dickinson powered clear, opening up a bit of a gap that he was able to just hold by a few seconds into T2.
As is his normal race strategy, Schomburg blasted out early on in the run, but it wasn’t long before Yee and Hayden Wilde (NZL) managed to move to the front. It quickly became apparent that Alistair Brownlee was not his normal running self – he was well back right from the start of the run. Adding insult to the injury, during the run we also learned that the elder Brownlee would be DQ’d for unsportsmanlike conduct during the swim.
Pearson towed the chase pack up to Yee before the end of the first lap, but all that managed to do was prompt the young British athlete, a former track runner, to open up the pace again. Yee pulled clear of the rest of the group, opening up 16 seconds on Wilde through the 5 km point of the run. Pearson led a group with Van Riel, Spaniards Fernando Alarza and Antonio Serrat Seone and Blummenfelt about 30 seconds back.
There was no stopping Yee through the rest of the race as he cruised to a 26-second win over Pearson, with Van Riel rounding out the podium 37-seconds behind. Alarza would run his way past Wilde to take fifth, while Blummenfelt would round out his four-week race-fest with sixth.
You can find results from today’s races at WTCS Leeds here.