The prospect of winning a gold medal at next year’s Olympic Triathlon in London is getting grim for any triathlete in the world not named Alistair Brownlee. Brownlee once again destroyed the field at Saturday’s Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Kitzbühel in the Austrian Alps, essentially putting the race in the bag a few hundred meters after T2.
It wasn’t only Brownlee’s running that was impressive. He exited the water first after only 17:18, and then proceeded to take up the role of pace-pusher on the bike. The wet, cold and windy conditions did little to slow Brownlee, who frequently trains in such bleak conditions in his home of Leeds, England. Brownlee rode most of the hilly and technical 40K course in the front of a group of 50 men, before he, countryman Stuart Hayes and Brazil’s Reinaldo Colucci broke away on the final lap to enter T2 with a 20-second advantage on the field.
Once on the run Brownlee quickly surged to the front, flying around the tiny mountain village at 30-minute 10K pace. His lead was almost a minute by the eight-kilometer mark, and perhaps because of the European Championships looming next weekend, Brownlee slowed through the final few kilometers to break the tape in 1:51:54. His run split over the rolling (and very wet) course was 31:01.
Russia’s Alexander Brukhankov posted the second-best run of the day (31:06) to pull his way up to second. Rounding out the podium was Switzerland’s Sven Riederer, adding to an impressive 2011 season.
Fourth-place finisher Will Clarke turned in what was perhaps the most significant performance of the day. It’s widely considered that Alistair Brownlee and younger brother Jonathan will be selected to the British squad for the Olympics, but the third and final spot is likely to be a tight contest between Clarke, Tim Don and Stuart Hayes. After breaking away on the bike to win this race last year, Hayes finished 13th today. Don struggled on the run, finishing a disappointing 46th.
Reigning Ironman world champion Chris McCormack dropped out of the race shortly after the halfway point of the bike. He exited the water 1:20 behind the leaders and continued to lose time to the lead group of 50 on each of the first four bike laps. McCormack was competing in his first ITU event since 2004. He was two weeks removed from winning the iron-distance Challenge Cairns in Australia.
Leading the way for the Team USA were Manny Huerta and Greg Bennett, who finished 24th and 25th, respectively. Jarrod Shoemaker opted to sit out a World Championship Series race for the first time in his career. Hunter Kemper is positioned well in the ITU points standings after winning the Ishigaki World Cup and also sat out today’s race. Shoemaker and Kemper appear in the best position to make the Olympic team, and will have an opportunity to do so next month at the London World Championship event. Up to two U.S. athletes will be selected to the team if they’re able to finish in the top nine overall on a course that will preview next summer’s Olympic course.
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