One thing’s notably different from the women’s press conference on Thursday – there’s a platter of pork pies on display. All we need now is for the brothers to show up wearing flat caps and walking a whippet and the Yorkshire clichés are complete.
Somewhat disappointingly they rock up in their GB kit, Stuart Hayes in tow, and behaving like they always do when media are present – extremely polite but with that look in their eyes that says “I wish I was outside, on a bike, up a moor.” But the training’s done. Just a few qs to answer from the national press, two more sleeps, then race time. Here’s what our GB medal hopefuls had to say…
Stuart, what do you see your role as on Tuesday?
“I’m here to support Ali and Jonny. I’m also here to have a great race myself. We’re just going to go as hard as we can and see what happens out there on Tuesday.”
So have tactics been discussed?
“We haven’t actually gone through tactics yet. We still have to wait and see what we think on Tuesday morning, and then we’ll decide what we’re going to do.”
Ali and Jonny, yesterday demonstrated that in such a close finish two athletes will be separated in order to decide medals. And that you’ve been warned that if you try to manipulate finishing together you will be disqualified.
Ali: First off if we’re in that position, we’re both going to be very happy whatever the outcome cause we’ve got first and second. And obviously that would be an absolute dream outcome. But yeah I think it’s the Olympic Games and we’ve both got to race as hard as we can to see who’s the best athlete and see who crosses that line first. I think it’s a shame [that we can’t finish together], I think it’s absolutely in the spirit of Olympic ideals to cross the line together, but if it’s not allowed it’s not allowed.
Is there more pressure on you now to bring home medals?
“I think it takes the pressure of us to be honest,” says Jonny. “We’ve got so many golds so far, if we hadn’t then people might be looking to us more. But the fact we’ve done so well so far it gives us confidence. The home support has been incredible.”
And what did you make of the race yesterday, in particular the wetsuit swim and bike course?
“Wetsuit, non-wetsuit, it’s borderline, and it doesn’t really matter to us,” says Ali. “Either way we’re all great swimmers, so it shouldn’t really change the outcome too much.
“Out on the bike, there was a bit of a dodgy corner but to me that’s just racing… well, let’s hope I don’t fall off now! You race on the course that you’re given and get on with it and you don’t complain about it. We know that corner was dodgy and we knew it was dodgy before yesterday. Any corner that gets wet in the middle of a city with white lines is likely to be slippy. So that’s a given.
“We all got up and watched the race yesterday and obviously we all wanted Helen to do well. But I think it was a great effort from the British girls, I thought Lucy was absolutely fantastic. She did her job brilliantly for a young girl coming into the Olympics and showed what a team helper can do in that situation.
“And Helen, considering what she’s been through over the last few months, it was amazing how hard she was digging in there and holding on. She said the crowd were a big part of that and it was really great to watch.”
Ali, how does this compare to your Beijing Olympic experience?
“It feels a million times away from this time. I qualified for the Beijing Olympics last minute in Madrid, only a few months before. I didn’t expect to qualify, just sneaked in really with a third place there. I thought top-20 in the Olympics would be good and I’d only come 12th in the Euro Champs a couple of weeks before.
“Beijing was very different cause we were trying to prepare for those really hard, hot, humid conditions so I went on lots of different training camps. And I hadn’t done a lot of travelling at that point so it was a steep learning curve. By the time I got there I’d been away for months and months and was convinced I could win the race, even though I had no chance! And just went for it. It was a really different experience cause I went with no real expectations on me, Oonly my own.
“But I had much more of the Olympic experience around the race, staying in the village. Whereas this time I’ve come in very late and it doesn’t feel too much like an Olympic race.
“This time does feel very different going in as a favourite, in a home Olympics. But it’s still a triathlon. You’ve got to swim, bike and run. I’ve prepared for it a bit better I think, taken some of the things I learned last time and hopefully put them into practice and hopefully that’ll come out.”
Stuart, you recently joined the boys in St Moritz for some altitude training. How beneficial was that for your training?
“Oh it was a great experience. I’ve been away on these camps before but this was the best holding camp we’ve ever done. We all trained really well, we all got on really well, we had a really, really fantastic time. And at high altitude as well. I’ve done it a little bit before, but this time I felt we got it spot on. So fingers crossed!
How conscious are you of other teams working together to beat you on Tuesday?
“Yeah, there has been talk of other countries talking, to each other… and that says it all. They’ve had to talk to each other to find a way to try and beat us. And that’s fantastic. It shows you they’re already worried, they’re already trying to think of other ways. And that says everything to me. They can do what they want. We’re going to do what we can.”
Alistair, you proved in Kitzbühel that you’re fit, but there must have been times this year when you were worried about your form following your Achilles injury?
“Yeah, for most of the year! From the end of Jan until after Kitzbühel, so the end of June. There were times when I didn’t know if I could run, if my Achilles would snap again. Kitz was a surprise, to be honest. I didn’t think it would go that well. And I’ve had a better six weeks since then, too. So I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
And you built a pool in the garden, can you tell us more about that?
“When I first heard that I had a tear in my Achilles I thought, ‘well it’s the Olympics coming up. I’m going to have to do something special to get myself back in shape as quick as I can.’ So I looked into it a bit. And I’d done a lot aqua jogging in the past, which is just the most boring thing in the world. And I was doing this in a public pool, with kids jumping on my head and old grannies telling me that I shouldn’t be there. I was like this is ridiculous, I’m racing the Olympics in six months!
"So I looked into other ways of doing it. And a pool was one of them. And I thought I was only going to do a lot of it if it was in my back garden where I wouldn’t be able to get away from it. So I dug a hole. It was brilliant actually. I transitioned slowly into running and kept the volume there all the way through.”
And what was it like for you Jonny, while Ali was injured?
“To be honest he was a complete nightmare to live with. He loves training outside, so when he couldn’t do that and could see me going out it was horrible for him. A few times I felt a bit guilty but all sportsmen have to be selfish and there were times when I had to think I don’t care about him, sod him. I’ve got to look after myself.
"I didn’t enjoy it as much, though, cause Alistair wasn’t there. And I’d get back from biking and Alistair would still be sat in the same place as he was when I left him.”
And what are your plans for tomorrow?
“We’re just going to relax really,” says Jonny. “We’re just going to keep out of the way.”
Something you can be assured they won’t be doing on Tuesday…