Alistair Brownlee made an incredible return from injury in Cape Town as he was victorious in his first WTS race of the season, capping off a perfect weekend for British Triathlon as Vicky Holland was also victorious in the women’s race.
Brownlee’s performance was dominant as he surged away from old rival Javier Gomez Noya with a mile of the run to go, showing no signs of an athlete who was unable to compete in the first three WTS races of the season due to injury.
As in the women’s race yesterday the swim was shortened to 750m due to the very chilly 11c water temperature. Defending title holder from Cape Town 2014 Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) set a blistering pace and was first out of the water, closely followed by the only British entrant and Olympic champion Brownlee, competing in his first World Series race since winning the WTS Grand Final in Edmonton last year.
A huge peloton formed early on the bike course, the shortened swim lending itself an advantage to the weaker swimmers as over half of the 66 competitors found themselves in the lead group.
Whilst the women avoided crashes on the previous day despite a similarly large peloton the men weren’t so lucky, with Lucas Siska (SVK) taking a nasty fall at almost full speed with less than 10km of the bike gone. Lawrence Fanous (JOR) was also caught up in the melee. All the major pre-race favourites including Brownlee, Gomez, Mario Mola (ESP) and Cape Town local Richard Murray (RSA) stayed out of trouble and continued to sit comfortably in the lead group.
With less than half of the bike leg to go the chasing pack merged with the leaders, creating an extraordinarily large number of almost 60 riders at the front, a sight more akin to the Tour de France as opposed to ITU racing.
Murray decided to inject some pace with around 15km of the bike to go, but no one was willing to take the bait and the group stayed intact. Allessandro Fabian (ITA) also made a break with Murray following but the peloton chased them down with ease.
With so many riders coming into transition positioning was key, and Brownlee read it perfectly as he managed to arrive 1st into T2 as he headed out for the 10km run. Gomez, Murray, Vincent Luis (FRA) and Fernando Alarza (ESP) also followed, forming a front group of 5 in the first mile of the run. Renowned runner Mola led the 2nd group which included Sven Riederer (SUI), but perhaps surprisingly was unable to bridge the gap.
Frustratingly Brownlee took a fall half way through the run meaning Alarza had to effectively hurdle over him as he picked himself up – however Brownlee gritted his teeth and quickly bridged the gap back up to Gomez, Luis and Murray, leaving the fading Alarza behind him.
Four then became three as Luis was dropped, and a familiar sight of Gomez and Brownlee (with the increasingly familiar sight of Murray) began to pull away.
As they approached Green Point stadium for a lap of the athletics track Brownlee had opened a significant gap after surging away from old nemesis Gomez, and had time to soak up the atmosphere as he crossed the line in 1:39:19.
Ever-present podium finisher Gomez came home in 1:39:24, and Vincent Luis came 3rd in 1:39:28 after moving past Murray, who had blown up with 800m to go.
After finishing, Brownlee briefly analysed his tumble on the run, before expressing delight at taking his 18th WTS title despite being plagued with injuries through the winter:
“I think Javier (Gomez) may have run across me when I tripped, but in the heat of the moment when everyone’s going hard these things can happen, I don’t think it was done in bad faith though.”
“I am delighted with this win considering I didn’t really feel I even had good legs today, I think I’m only going to get fitter so I’m really looking forward to the next race in the World Series.”
The prospect of Brownlee senior getting stronger through the rest of the season is undoubtedly an exciting one, as brother Jonny Brownlee won his first two races of the season in Auckland and Gold Coast. The final podium for the 2015 World Triathlon Series is looking increasingly likely to be Brownlee-dominated once more.