Double Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee took victory in Edmonton to show he’s still a force to be reckoned with at the top level of the sport.
Brownlee hadn’t been on a World Triathlon Series podium since winning in Stockholm in 2017 and has had a miserable 2019 season, finishing an uncharacteristic 11th in Bermuda, 35th in Leeds and being unable to finish in Hamburg after a bike crash
But he looked in imperious form in Canada, powering through all three disciplines to take the tape ahead of reigning world champion Mario Mola with Belgian Marten van Riel in third.
“I doubted myself a lot,” Brownlee admitted. “Athletes have short term memories and it doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past. I didn’t know if I’d get on a podium again, let alone win. It’s been tough but I’ve finally won something.
“The swim was great, I got some clear water, the bike we really committed, and then the run I felt really good. With a lap to go I knew I’d be alright.
“People say he’s past it and has had his best years, but I still feel my best races are to come.”
One of those races now looks more likely to be the test event in Tokyo next month where a podium finish will guarantee Brownlee selection for next year’s Olympics.
This was not a weak field either. In contrast to the earlier women’s race, most of the leading male contenders had turned up in Alberta in force.
It was testament to the most open world title race since the inception of the World Series in 2009, with triathletes looking for vital points ahead of the Grand Final in Lausanne.
Three Spaniards were in the top five of the rankings including Mola and Javier Gomez who have won the last six world titles between them.
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Alex Yee was the leading Brit in the standings in 13th, but instead chose to race in athletics’ Anniversary Games in London where he posted a new 5km personal best of 13:29.
Series leader Luis set the pace in the 750m lake swim in Hawrelak Park in 8:30. Brownlee looked impressive to emerge in fifth, just 5sec back, and was able to form a strong front bike pack of five with Matt Hauser, Ben Kanute, Luis and Van Riel.
The quintet pushed hard to establish a 29sec gap in the first of five bike laps which had one short climb and a descent where speeds reached over 70km/h.
That lead was gradually whittled away, but Jake Birtwhistle, the only male triathlete to have won two WTS events this season – in Leeds and Hamburg – was an early retirement.
The lead group was 17sec ahead coming into T2, as a crash in in the chase pack as they approached transition left triathletes sprawled across the tarmac.
Brownlee looked strong from the start of the run and only Van Riel could stay with the pace. The Belgian’s resistance finally broken as they approached the last mile, but as Mola ran through for second, the Van Riel did enough to hold on for his first World Series podium.