Alistair Brownlee goes it alone to win the toughest course ever on the ITU WTS
With Jonny Brownlee sitting out the Kitzbühel race with food poisoning, it was down to Alistair Brownlee to test himself against the uniquely tough bike course up the Kitzbühler Horn mountain.
The men’s race began with a furious 750m non-wetsuit swim in warm 20.5ºC water. Richard Varga (SLO) spearheaded the swim, stretching out the field and exiting the water first in 8:50 leading all the favourites into transition.
The bike course began with a slightly downhill section through the cobbled streets of Kitzbühel before the big climb up the Kitzbühler Horn. Brownlee, Gomez, Mario Mola (ESP), Ivan Vasiliev (RUS) all in the 14-man leading pack.
The chase group, including Joao Silver (POR), was over 40 seconds behind the leaders by the foot of the climb. Brownlee immediately came to the front, shadowed as usual by Gomez as the riders took on the gentler gradients. Some riders were quickly spat out the back of the group while Brownlee led Gomez, Ben Kanute (USA), Aurelien Raphael (FRA), Henri Schoeman (RSA), Vasiliev and Varga.
As the hairpins began, Brownlee upped the power to go it alone, pushing off the front of the field to distance Gomez while Vasiliev was the first of the front pack to drop off. Kanute was visibly struggling to hold onto Varga’s wheel, who himself had been dropped by Gomez and Schoeman.
With 3.8km to go, Brownlee was holding a 1 minute 25 second lead over Gomez while Mario Mola (ESP), Thomas Springer (AUT) and Sven Riederer (SUI) pulled hard to bridge up to Gomez and then pass him.
Varga continued to ride hard, passing Gomez again and taking Ryan Sissons (NZL) with him. As he got onto the steeper sections of the climb, Brownlee was more than 50 seconds ahead of Mola and Riederer, who had space themselves over Schoeman and Springer.
Onto the steepest sections of the climb, Brownlee pulled himself out of the saddle and set to increasing his advantage. Coming into transition in 45:05, Brownlee struggled a little pulling his feet out of his shoes on the slope before pushing his bike to his spot and grabbing his running shoes.
Onto the gritty 2.55km run course, Brownlee grimaced as he pushed on at a savage pace. Behind him, Mola came into transition 1:02 behind having edged out Riederer (1:14 back). Schoeman was next to rack his bike, 1:31 back while Sissons was fifth to T2, 1:50 back. Gomez seemed to suffer towards the end of the bike course, displaying the wounds of a training crash from three days earlier, he got his trainers on in 11th place, 2:33 behind.
Brownlee continued his domination of the race, smiling up the final – and steep – climb, inexplicably wandering around the penalty box and then continuing to jog on and high-five every spectator on the way to the blue carpet.
Brownlee walked over the line in 55:24. Mola claimed second in 56:01. Riederer managed to stay ahead of a swiftly-closing Schoeman to claim third in 1:22, Schoeman taking fourth in 1:25 and Sissons rounding out the top five. Series leader Gomez finished in 13th place.