Alistair Brownlee on Helvellyn, 2020 and the Olympics

We caught up with Alistair Brownlee post-race to find out how he has coped with this year, and how he stays motivated

Ali Brownlee wins Helvelly triathlon

How was Helvellyn triathlon?

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It was obviously a competitive field today, and it was good racing. Obviously I wasn’t in prime form but I gave it my best shot, and to be honest I enjoyed quite a lot of it. It was great that the PTO and organiser Rob clubbed together to do this at mega short notice. There are slim pickings at the moment!

In a funny twist of fate, last time I raced this was a week after the World Championships in Hamburg. I was a junior and finished second [World Championships]. Jonny and I then raced Helvellyn the week after. A funny world.

Was it nice to see locals out watching?

Ali Brownlee out on Helvellyn bike course

Yeah, it was good to see people spectating and enjoying it; there were loads of people around the course, right up in the mountains. There could have been about 50 to 100  right at the top in horizontal rain. That was cool.

After a season of cancelled races, does racing again remind you of why you love the sport?

Oh yeah, Absolutely. Just love racing. I am already thinking about how many can I pack in during the next two or three months. Also, nice to turn up and do a race like this, that’s not far from home, though it was a shocking commute to get here! [Alistair raced WTS Hamburg the day before Helvellyn] . It’s grassroots, in a field, get-on-with-it type of racing.

How have you coped with this year and the disappointment of not racing?

To start with, it was really hard, especially as I was focused on the Olympics, and getting as fit as I could. And then that was just gone. I came home and had a few weeks’ holiday in lockdown – well not holiday – a staycation at home! I quite enjoyed it. In a decade where I’ve probably not been at the same place for longer than four to six weeks at a time, to spend three months solid at home was lovely. I really enjoyed that.

How have you stayed motivated? Lionel Sanders says he thinks of Jan Frodeno. Do you think of your rivals at all?

Not really [thinking of rivals]. Two things. It is what I do every day and every day I want to be out doing my best, and go to bed at night knowing I’ve done the best day of training I can, and am heading in the right direction. I’ve also tried new things, explored a bit, to see what I can get out of myself. I have enjoyed that.

Anything new that you can reveal to us?

I played around with doing some different bike sessions. Normally I swim five times a week – four in the pool, once open water. But because of lockdown, did two months solid of only swimming in an Endless Pool. And then two months solid of probably swimming open water. So stuff like that. I enjoyed that – it was a good experience.

I was super happy with my swim yesterday in Hamburg. I felt absolutely great. I  was second-last person on the pontoon, and had the worst start position. I had to swim 3-4m further than most the other guys and I swam all the way up on my own and still led the swim out. I felt good so maybe I’ve learnt a few things!  Felt terrible swimming this morning, though!

Did you miss training with Jonny during lockdown?

For two months when we were in the strictest part of lockdown, we didn’t train together at all. But as soon as you could meet up, we were out training together again. I don’t know whether Jonny missed me but I definitely missed it. Once of the things that keeps me going is the competitive aspect. I like pushing it each day and having a bit of a race.

You’ve been put forward as an IOC Athletes’ Commission candidate and become a major spokesperson for the PTO. Is this something you want to do more of going forward?

Absolutely. Sport has been a massive part of my life, and I want to be involved with sport for a long time yet. I am very proud the part I’ve played in where triathlon’s come in the last 10 years, and would like to continue that. The PTO’s obviously specific to triathlon and its nice to be involved with that and doing what I can and learning new skills, and learn about the administration of our sport.

And the Olympics – I love the Olympics! I stayed up late as a 12-year-old to watch the Sydney Olympics, and was massively inspired by that. That’s when I thought I want to compete in triathlon at an Olympic level. Eight years later I was racing at the Olympics; 12 years later I won. I am a product of the inspiration effect of the Olympics. If I can play any part in that for one person, that’d be amazing.

Are you still going for the Olympics next year?

Yeah  absolutely.

Final piece of advice for the 220 readers?

My coach, Malcolm, gave me the best bit of advice. He said believe you can win in London but only by one stride. Got to believe you can win, but also need to know it takes a hell of a lot of hard work.

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Photos by PTO