Alistair Brownlee believes winning the first World Triathlon Series event to be held in his home city of Leeds felt almost as good as claiming Olympic gold.
Thousands of fans lined the streets to watch their homegrown hero produce an exceptional display to finish 32 seconds ahead of his brother Jonny Brownlee, who took bronze at London 2012, in second place.
Alistair’s performance was even more impressive when you consider it was his first World Series race of the year and the 28-year-old insists the crowd were pivotal as he exceeded his own expectations.
Brownlee told the BBC: “I had a good day today and my form at the moment is nowhere near that good; I think I was carried around by the fact we are in Leeds. It was a phenomenal crowd and I kept surprising myself.
“It was absolutely brilliant and that was by far the best support there has been in the World Series before.
“This was very similar [to the feeling of winning in London 2012]. I have said time and time again that I do not think I will ever race in a triathlon as good as London 2012 but that one today went very close and it might have even beaten it.
“My ears are still ringing from the crowd and it really lifted me.”
It had been Jonny who had been further ahead earlier in the race as he came out of the swim in fourth place, with his older brother sixth.
But Alistair’s superb transition onto the bike saw him make up ground and the brothers were part of a four-man group at the midway point of the cycle.
It became evident early into the run, however, that Alistair would win as he continually extended his advantage.
“It was a tough day but it was a great day,” Jonny said.
“Well done to Alistair. No-one is going to beat him when he is on that kind of form.
“The Yorkshire crowd are the best in the world and nothing beats hearing a good Yorkshire ‘go on Jonny’.”
There was also a top ten finish for fellow Brit Adam Bowden in seventh, with Thomas Bishop 20th and Gordon Benson, who will join the Brownlee brothers in Rio, nine places further back.
Earlier in the day, Great Britain’s Vicky Holland celebrated her own Rio 2016 selection with a bronze medal after a successful late sprint for the line.
Holland saw off team-mate Jodie Stimpson, who finished fourth, in the final 200m to claim the podium spot in two hours, one minute and 57 seconds.
It was a superb run from the 30-year-old who was seventh after the swim and cycle.
The USA’s Gwen Jorgensen won by 51 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Flora Duffy, while Britain had four athletes in the top ten as Non Stanford and Jessica Learmonth came nine and tenth respectively, with Lucy Hall 13th.
“It was a crazy race, I was in a big group coming off the bike coming in after the bike, but one minute 30 down felt insurmountable,” Holland said.
“To catch all but one and be best of the rest behind Gwen and Flora was the best I could have hoped for.
“I was ten seconds out of the water behind the first person, but couldn’t get my wetsuit off and silly things like that cost you.”
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