Britain’s Alistair Brownlee was in a class of his own at the ITU World Championships in Kitzbuhel today.
The pressure on Brownlee ahead of next year’s Olympic games grew more intense as he gave a display of complete, comfortable dominance at the ITU World Championship Series (WCS) in Kitzbuhel, Austria, leaving competitors at a loss to answer him.
As conditions went from dull skies to atrocious wind and rain throughout the elite men’s race, Brownlee’s victory never looked in doubt. Leading out of the swim he worked characteristically hard on the bike, though a break from the lead pack of 50 men wasn’t possible until the last few kilometres. Stuart Hayes and Brazilian Reinaldo Colucci were prepared to go with Brownlee to earn breathing room in T1, but Hayes never looked likely to achieve the two-minute lead that brought him victory here last year. With the three of them having gained a 30-second gap on the main pack going into transition, it was clear that only accident or injury could stop Brownlee taking the win.
Wind, rain and cold temperatures had knocked out some strong contenders by then, with Germany’s Steffen Justus and Canada’s Simon Whitfield among the casualties, but it was the pace rather than the conditions that put paid to one of the biggest names in the race. World Ironman champion Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack, putting his long-distance racing on the back-burner to try to qualify for the Australian team at next year’s Olympics, was more than a minute down on the leaders coming out of the swim. Although he did gain some company on the bike, he called it a day with a few laps to go. McCormack tweeted: “Joined @simonwhitfield on the side of the road here in Kitzbuhel. Empty tank for me today 13 days after Ironman. Kids r fast. I had nothing”.
Out on the run, Brownlee quickly opened up a solid lead on Hayes in second place, who was soon swallowed by a close chasing pack including fellow Brit Will Clarke, Australian Brad Kahlefeldt and Russian Alexander Brukhankov. It was Brukhankov who eventually made a move, shortly followed by Switzerland’s Sven Riederer who ran clear for third. That left a close battle for fourth place that Clarke eventually won from Kahlefeldt on the line, after a well-paced run. Coming in to the final laps, Brownlee looked relaxed and gave a thumbs up to the TV cameras with 200m to go, taking the win in 1:51:54 and moving to the top of the ITU WCS rankings from sixth place.
Speaking to the BBC after the race, Brownlee said: “It was a funny race today, the swim was really slow so I just swam to the front. I knew there was a chance there could be a break on the bike so I covered the guys who I thought might go, and in the end we made a break and I was amazed we got 30 seconds [on the pack].”
Notable absences in Kitzbuhel included Brownlee’s younger brother and ITU WCS contender Jonathan, and reigning world champion Javier Gomez, both saving their energy for next week’s European Championships in Spain. Alistair admitted he’d had the race in mind in Kitzbuhel: “I just thought I could limit my losses here and it’s really cold so not conducive to running fast today,” he said.
The women’s race is at 11:30am (UK time) tomorrow and you can watch it at triathlonlive.tv and on BBC Red Button.
1. Alistair Brownlee [GBR] 1:51:54
2. Alexander Brukhankov [RUS] 1:52:38
3. Sven Riederer [SUI] 1:52:59
4. Will Clarke [GBR] 1:53:08
5. Brad Kahlefeldt [AUS] 1:53:10
6. Laurent Vidal [FRA] 1:53:13
7. Vladimir Turbaevskiy [RUS] 1:53:19
8. Dimitry Polyansky [RUS] 1:53:20
9. Vincent Luis [FRA] 1:53:23
10. Bevan Docherty [NZL] 1:53:26
Photos: triathlon.org/ Delly Carr/ ITU