Many expected WTS Yokohama to be a straight duel between Britain’s Alistair Brownlee and Spanish duo Javier Gomez and Mario Mola – and it proved to be exactly that, with Brownlee narrowly beaten to gold by Gomez on the final stages of a thrilling run.
After the rain and slippery conditions of the women’s race had largely abated, the men enjoyed largely dry roads and clear skies to cap off the fifth stop in the WTS circuit and mark the halfway stage of an exciting season that has now produced four winners in five races.
The run enthralled the large crowd lining the course and in the grandstand watching every stride on the big screen, with Gomez, Brownlee and Mario Mola (ESP) breaking clear early and taking turns to push the pace, with the medals only unfolding in the final kilometer for Mola and the final few hundred metres for Brownlee and Gomez.
Henri Schoeman (RSA) set the pace through the two laps in the water, and carried with him a small pack that would follow into the first transition. That pack, tallying seven, included the likes of Gomez, Brownlee, Igor Polyanskiy (RUS), Joe Maloy (USA), Aaron Royle (AUS) and Schoeman.
The lead group could not extend on the bike though, with the chasers highly motivated and well organised, soon closing to form a large lead bunch that would stay together till the end – that is apart from a brave solo bid by Marten Van Riel (BEL), the daring move saw the Belgian extend to over 30 seconds within touching distance of transition until he crashed inside smelling distance of the food vendors in Yahamshita Park and T2, ending his hopes of a brief time in front on the run.
Sven Riederer (SUI) was another to be prominent early on the run, the 34 year old winding back the clock with his laconic, rolling running style taking him to the lead inside the first kilometer, before the big three took control and made the race their own.
“I was probably running against the best runners in the sport in Mario and Alistair,” said Gomez afterwards. “I was feeling good and had something left, I tried with two k to go and dropped Mario but Alistair stayed and then surged.
“It reminded me a little of Cape Town but this time I kept up and it came to the last 200 meters and at that point anything can happen because we are both very tired and luckily I had a bit more than him and took the win which is great, the first one of the year.”
Alistair was more circumspect on his silver: “Three weeks ago if someone told me I would have a win and a second in the World Series, that is okay for now, I am pleased with that and hopefully it gets better from here.
“I knew Cape Town I wasn’t in great form and I thought I had come on from there and I probably have. I think this was one of those days, there was maybe a bit of jetlag and I thought I was better prepared but maybe now I can freshen up and be better for the next race.
“I am proud of that though, anyone can race well when they are having a good day and I have had some fantastic days over the years but a mark of you sometimes is what you can do on your bad days so I am pleased with that.”