Stockholm has proved happy hunting ground for Rio silver medallist, Jonny Brownlee; today’s win his fifth visit to the Swedish podium, including two wins, but this his first over the Olympic distance. His best result of 2017 had been silver behind his brother Alistair in Leeds, but illness had curtailed his title challenge ever since.
The race started well for the younger Brownlee, following in training partner Richard Varga post-swim for a swift T1 and straight into the lead bike pack of seven athletes. But Varga became the first casualty, dropping back into the large chase pack of 25 men, which held series leader Mario Mola and teammate Fernando Alarza, 36secs back, before withdrawing entirely.
Alarza was the next to call it a day, a mechanical seeing him fall back to 40th before retiring from the race.
Following in Jodie Stimpson’s itchy footsteps from just a few hours earlier, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman received a 15sec stop-go penalty in T1 for an early swim start.
It was largely a group of unknowns in the lead group of six alongside Brownlee, only Aussie Aaron Royle and Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt having mounted a WTS podium. But it was still strong enough to hold off the chasers and build up a cushion of 53secs by the start of the four-lap 10km run.
Jonny, who’s won a WTS race every year since 2011, stretched out a 12sec lead over Royle and Germany’s Justus Nieschlag within the first lap, which climbed to 40secs by the bell lap and allowed him to cruise to his first win of 2017.
“It’s been a tough few months with my body not being right,” said Brownee at the line. “I was waiting for it to start hurting on the run but it only started with about 2km to go. But that how’s I like to race. It’s nice to have a race where the swim, bike and run all counts. I was worried about not winning one this year, but I’ve got one now, I can retire.”
Using his destructive leg speed, Mola had clawed his way back through the pack to challenge the chasers, but he had no answer when Blummenfelt made the first move for a podium position. And in a sprint uphill to the line, the Norwegian managed to pip France’s Pierre Le Corre for silver.
“That was such a hard last lap,” said Blummenfelt post-race, “especially with the sprint up the hill. I didn’t want to do too much work [on the bike to save his run legs], but I also didn’t want to lose too much time to the chasers, so it was a hard balance.”
GB’s Tom Bishop was the next top Brit across the line, coming in sixth ahead of Mola, who still has four wins, and therefore maximum points, to take into the Grand Final in Rotterdam in three weeks’ time, where he needs to finish fifth or above to retain his title.