In his first sprint distance race since 2015, Alistair Brownlee (GBR) made quite the return to ITU racing in Cagliari, Italy.
Coming out of T1, Brownlee, Ryan Bailie (AUS) and Sylvain Fridelance joined Justus Nieschlag (GER) and Mark Devay (HUN). Three laps into the race a lead group of 12 had formed and opened up a 15-second lead on the chase group.
Heading out of T2, Brownlee was joined by Nieschlag and Kevin McDowell (USA), and the three separated themselves from the rest of the field. McDowell was the first to make his move, taking a small advantage out onto the second lap. However, his lead was short-lived. Brownlee and Nieschlag passed him soon after, and McDowell could not keep pace with them.
Despite having done many half-Ironman distances since the Rio 2016 Olympics, Brownlee showed he still had some kick in his legs with a thrilling 300m sprint for the win. The Brit crossed the line in 52:02. “I am delighted with that,” said Brownlee afterwards. “I just said to myself with a couple of minutes to go, no-one can push harder than me so, if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to have to go really deep.”
With both Javier Gomez and Brownlee making their return to the ITU ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the qualification period is sure to generate lots of attention in the coming months. “As for what’s next, I am still sitting on the fence,” said Brownlee. “I have ETU Triathlon European Championships in two weeks and WTS Leeds the week after that. I’ll see where that leaves me in three weeks.”
In the women’s race, Sophie Coldwell (GBR), Caroline Pohl (GER) and Ilaria Zane (ITA) were the first onto their bikes out of T1. That trio was quickly joined by the likes of Emma Jackson (AUS) and Jodie Stimpson (GBR).
Heading into T2, Nina Eim (GER) and Coldwell were able to get a small gap to Stimpson heading out onto the run.
Early in the 5K run, Coldwell pulled away and didn’t look back, crossing the line in 57:57. Eim finished second, and Valerie Barthelemy (BEL) completed the podium in Italy. “I was really pleased,” said Coldwell at the finish. “We had a strong working group, and onto the run, I was really pleased with how it panned out.”