it was a top-class line-up at the third race of the World Triathlon Series, WTS Yokohama, which included reigning world champion Mario Mola (ESP), double Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee, five-time ITU world champ Javier Gomez (ESP) and Rio bronze medallist Henri Schoeman (RSA).
Conditions in Yokohama, Japan, were wet and rainy, making it a slippy and unpredictable race. In the swim leg the men kept as a pack with Jonathan Brownlee leading after lap one and exiting the waters first.
However they still remained together and after a busy T1, 30 men emerged onto the bike leg, including some of the day’s biggest names Javier Gomez Noya, Mola and Brownlee.
The chase pack behind, which was being led by Aussie Jake Birtwhistle, had a large gap of over two minutes that they could not make up.
As the lead bike pack got close to the T2, it seemed that it would be Brownlee against the Spaniards on the run course, however, Brownlee got caught in a bike crash 1km from T2, which took him out of the running for the podium.
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But with true Yorkshire grit running through his veins giving up was never going to be an option, and he picked up his bike and ran it in to T2 to be able to finish the race, where he ended up 42nd.
Brownlee said: “My first reaction was to get back on the bike, get back riding, but then I got to my bike and the handle bars were pointing wrong direct and I couldn’t move it. I still want to run, I’ve not come all the way to Japan not to finish.”
The bike is not supposed to look like that. Taken down by another athlete. Not had a lot of luck this year. Really disappointed pic.twitter.com/JjMD3NigKu
— Jonathan Brownlee (@jonny_brownlee) May 13, 2017
Out on the run leg South Africa’s Henri Schoeman, Hungary’s Gabor Faldum and Blummenfelt were the immediate frontrunners, but on the first lap, Mola picked up his pace and swiftly overtook them to take the lead, where he remained for the rest of the race.
Behind him, however was a battle going on for the remaining two medals between Schoeman, Alarza and Blummenfelt. The three took turns passing each other and eventually Alarza pulled ahead to take the silver and first podium of the year.
While it then looked like Schoeman would take bronze after Blummenfelt held a face of struggle, he then surprised even himself and sprinted ahead of Schoeman with just enough time to snag the last podium spot.
“I am very happy obviously, it has been a very good day for me. On the bike we had to be careful. We saw at the end I think it was Jonny who had a crash with so many others. But with this day you never know what is going to happen, today luckily it worked for well for me so I am very pleased with it,” said Mola.
“I have said this before with triathlon it doesn’t matter how fit or how good you think you are, races put you in a place where sometimes you are happy and sometimes you are disappointed. But I was confident that I made the work during the winter, I kept doing the same work and when the result comes around you have to be pleased, so I will just keep trying to work to do the same things in the future.”
After suffering tooth ache and a root canal infection earlier in the week Javier Gomez finished 9th tweeting “9 today in Yokohama, gave everything it had, that certainly wasn’t much. Congratulations to the @mariomola cracks and @Fernando_Alarza! Great race!”