A day after admitting to us that he’s had the worst triathlon season of his career and has barely ridden his Scott tri bike, Jonny Brownlee has emerged as the winner of the Beijing International Triathlon in China.
In breaking the tape, Jonny beat a host of non-drafting specialists (including American Cameron Dye), the Commonwealth Games champion Henri Schoeman as well as his brother Alistair, who came home in fourth.
Glorious if gusty conditions greeted the athletes at daybreak in the district of Fengtai, to the south west of Beijing, this morning, with a strong pro field battling for the $100,000 prize purse and leading out the age-groupers in the non-drafting Olympic-distance event.
The 1.5km swim took place in the choppy waters of the Garden Expo Lake, and South Africa’s Schoeman was first out of the water with Jonny and U.S. athlete Ben Kanute in hot pursuit. Alistair was back in sixth.
Onto the 40km bike and, after some swift TT action on the closed highways of the city’s outskirts, Kanute led Jonny and Cameron Dye to the top of the Qianling Mountain, the area’s highest peak. That would change by T2 after Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Schoeman edged past Kanute, before Jonny pushed the pace to take the lead at the 2km stage.
At 4km arrived the course’s biggest challenge: the 280 step ascent of the Garden Expo Park. Yet Jonny continued to seize the initiative over the reigning Beijing champ Schoeman and led to the finish line after 1:51:37 of racing, just nine seconds ahead of Blummentfelt and 21secs ahead of Schoeman.
The result marks an upturn in fortunes for the younger Brownlee, who’s witnessed Schoeman win Commonwealth Games gold and Mario Mola take ITU WTS glory in 2018.
Alistair, meanwhile, would finish fourth and would admit after the race that he ‘had to dig in as he hasn’t felt like himself for the last few weeks’ following his epic Ironman 70.3 Worlds showdown with Jan Frodeno.
GENTLE ON A ROLL
The women’s event was won by Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle just a week after her enthralling victory over Vicky Holland at the ITU Grand Final in the Gold Coast.
Gentle was led out of the water by the Brit pair of Lucy Hall and Non Stanford, and that trio would continue to dominate the race throughout over a field that included the 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Lisa Norden, former ITU World Champ Paula Findlay, as well as ITU veterans Andrea Hewitt and Barbara Riveros Diaz.
Gentle would take control on the run, winning in 2:05:55 ahead of Stanford (2:07:52) and Lucy Hall (2:09:12) who ensured that the Brit racers occupied three of the top six podium places.