Spain’s Javier Gomez edges out Jonny Brownlee in a thrilling sprint finish, but Brownlee takes the series win.
The men’s ITU grand final began under dark clouds that poured with rain and increasing winds that whipped at the deep section wheels in transition. As the swim got underway, Slovakia’s Richard Varga took his natural position at the front of the race, with Britain’s Jonny Brownlee swimming powerfully in a bid to take the race as well as the world title. Throwing a long wake behind them, Varga and Brownlee forced a break in the field, completing the first 750m in 8mins10secs, while Spain’s Javier Gomez – Brownlee’s biggest contender – was back in the 18-man chasing pack.
The pair continued to push forward, Varga climbing out of the water first in 16:59 with Brownlee hot on his heels, the pair creating a gap of 36 seconds on the chasers and 46 seconds on Gomez, which was enough to allow them a quick escape onto the slippery bike course in an attempt to build on their lead.
With the chasing group still forming, Brownlee and Varga rode through and off to keep the tempo high in spite of the poor conditions. As Gomez began to organise the chase, the leaders’ advantage was 32 seconds at the end of the first lap of eight bike laps, a gap they held for another lap while riders dropped out of the chasing pack over the course’s three tough climbs.
Unable to see off the advances of the chasers, New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell brought the favourites back together at the start of the fifth lap and then went on the offensive himself as the rain abated. The Kiwi made his move on one of the climbs, quickly creating a wedge between himself and the main group. Gemmell, competing in his final ITU WTS race, continued to push hard, eking out his lead as the home crowds cheered him on enthusiastically. Behind Gemmell, Spain’s Ivan Rana was foiled in a short-lived escape attempt that kept the favourites on their toes.
Going onto the bell lap, Gemmell was holding an advantage of 42 seconds and still looking impressively strong, speeding on to lap other riders. Coming back into transition, Gemmell was first off the bike in 1:28:26, 58 seconds ahead of Brownlee, who led the 12-man chase pack in to rack their bikes.
Straight out of transition, Gomez, Brownlee and Switzerland’s Sven Riederer broke away from the rest of the field, running with dramatic speed to overtake Gemmell at around 2km. Testing each other as they overtook lagging athletes, by the third lap Riederer succumbed to the savage sub-three minute per kilometre pace being set by Gomez while Brownlee continued to run hard, matching each acceleration of the Spaniard.
The pair continued apace, Brownlee searching to secure his first world title via a grand final victory, Gomez looking to take the ITU’s biggest prize following Olympic silver. With just over 100m to go, Gomez, sitting on Brownlee’s shoulder put in a burst of speed that seemed to catch Brownlee a little off guard. He reacted quickly however, matching Gomez stride for stride as the duo sprinted onto the blue carpet.
Pumping their arms madly as they both drove for the win, it was Gomez who had the final punch left in his legs to carry his sprint across the line in 2:00:29 and secure second in the series rankings, this time to a different brother. Jonny Brownlee crossed the line in second place (2:00:31), more than enough to take the ITU World Championship title and end a superb year of racing on a high. Riederer continued to run strongly to take the third spot in 2:01:18 while Russia’s Dmitry Polyanskiy held off the fast-running Richard Murray of South Africa to ensure bronze in the series overall.
Top 3 Men
Javier Gomez (ESP) 2:00:29
Jonny Brownlee (GBR) 2:00:31
Sven Riederer (SUI) 2:01:18