Brownlee returned to racing at the weekend for IRONMAN 70.3 Marbella. Brownlee led out of the water with a 39-second lead, but what appeared to be a mechanical issue on the bike put him 7 minutes back, arriving at T2 10 minutes down. Not giving up, a 1:11:03 run split took him to a comfortable second place.
Jess Learmonth led out of the water at the Bermuda round of the World Triathlon Series. By the end of the 40km bike in tricky conditions, Learmonth had formed a trio with Katie Zaferes and Lottie Miller who had a gap of 2.30 minutes. On the last lap of the run, it was clear Zaferes would claim her victory, but Learmonth looked strong in second place. Her second place finish also placed her second in the series rankings after her podium at the previous WTS round.
Vincent Luis (FRA) led the majority of the 1500m swim in the choppy waters, and it seemed like a breakaway would be imminent as the field was soon stretched out. The athlete who appeared to suffer the most was the pre-race favourite and reigning World Champion, Mario Mola (ESP).
The Spaniard at one point seemed to veer off course with a small group of athletes creating a gap which he’d end up chasing all race. HUUB’s Henri Schoeman (RSA) consistently in the top three out of the water was comfortably tracking Luis, and by the end of the swim, there was just a procession of athletes emerging from the Atlantic Ocean.
Soon into the bike it looked like a group of around 20 athletes would form a leading pack and with the likes of Jonny Brownlee (GBR), Javier Gomez (ESP), Martin Van Riel (BEL), Schoeman and Luis pushing the pace it initially looked like the winning move. The Norwegian trio of Kristian Blummenfelt, Gustav Iden, and Casper Stornes led the chase pack, clearly confident after their domineering display 12 months previously. They began to bridge the gap, dragging up athletes such as Fernando Alarza (ESP). By the seventh lap, the catch had been made, and the lead group swelled to over 30 athletes. Meanwhile, the gap to Mola and others increased with every lap. The lull in pace at the front of the race provided an opportunity to Jonas Schomburg (GER), Dorrian Connix (FRA), and Jorik Van Egdom (NED) to make a move and although initially looking promising for the three athletes, it was only Schomburg who was strong enough climbing Corkscrew Hill to maintain the gap into T2.
Onto the run and after catching the German athlete it was five-time World Champion Javier Gomez, Luis, Iden and HUUB’s Kristian Blummenfelt who looked to be competing for the medals. However Dorrian Connix running up through the field soon came into contention and shortly after began to push the pace, it was Luis and Blummenfelt who were the first to crack. In the final kilometre, Gomez made the first move, but Connix could not be dropped and at 200m moved clear of Gomez and Iden. Gomez won the battle for 2nd leaving Iden to claim his second WTS podium at Bermuda. Luis finished in 4th resulting in him taking the series lead from Mola who struggled to 26th place. Blummenflet rounded out the top 5. Unfortunately, Brownlee and Schoeman couldn’t capitalise on their positive start to the day as they finished in 11th and 15th place, results they will surely look to improve on come Yokohama WTS.
In contrast to the men, the women's race started with extremely stormy conditions, but as you would expect it was HUUB’s Jessica Learmonth (GBR) who made light work of the tricky conditions, along with reigning World Champion Vicky Holland (GBR), Katie Zaferes (USA) and Taylor Spivey (USA).
By T1 there was a small group of athletes with a lead over the rest of the field and onto the early stages of the bike it clear there was some intent to take advantage of this lead with Learmonth, Holland, Zaferes and Lotte Miller (NOR) breaking clear and pushing the pace. Inevitably the gap to the chasers grew as the smaller front group managed to negotiate the small ‘rivers’ of water running along the course while the larger chase pack tentatively tackled the tricky conditions.
Holland was first to get dropped from the leading four and was shortly swallowed up by the chasing group. The chase pack also dwindled as the course and conditions took its toll on the athletes, by the end of the 40km bike the trio of Learmonth, Zaferes and Miller had a gap of 2.30 minutes, and it was almost certain the win would be decided between the three of them.
Zaferes eventually established a lead over Learmonth, and it looked like Miller was struggling after her impressive display on the bike. Onto the last lap and it was clear Zaferes would claim her second WTS victory of 2019, Learmonth looked strong in 2nd place, but for Lotte Miller the finish line didn’t come soon enough as Joanna Brown (CAN) passed her in the closing stages of the race. Miller would eventually finish in 8th place.
Austrian athlete Lisa Perterer finished in 4th place with HUUB’s Georgia Taylor-Brown running through for 5th, another step forward from her performance in Abu Dhabi. Focus now switches to Yokohama and with strong resemblances to the Tokyo 2020 course both in terrain and conditions, this round of the WTS will be very important for many athletes with a number of governing bodies including Yokohama in their selection criteria for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Over in Marbella HUUB’s Alistair Brownlee returned to racing after a period out with injury. A hilly course which is known to suit the Yorkshireman hinted at a possible focus on the 70.3 Ironman Word Championships in Nice come September for the double Olympic Champion.
Brownlee started the race in an impressive fashion with a 39 second lead out of the water to second place. However shortly after he would find himself way down, nearly 7 minutes off the lead. It is unclear the reason behind this, but it is thought to be a mechanical on the bike. For many athletes, this would put an end to their race, but with Brownlee using this race as a test of fitness, he carried on and quickly made his way through the field.
It was Andreas Dreitz (GER) who lead the field into T2 with a sizeable gap of nearly 4 minutes to second place. Brownlee would arrive over 10 minutes down struggling with presumed mechanical issues. The win looked unlikely, but qualification for the 70.3 World Championships was still within reach. A 1:11:03 HM run split brought Alistair comfortably into 2nd place, an incredible performance considering the issues early on in the race. Domenico Passuello (ITA) would complete the podium.