Alistair Brownlee: Sick to miss St George but focus moves to Sub7

A sick Alistair Brownlee pulled out on the eve of the Ironman World Championship in St George – and watching the live broadcast coverage didn’t help make him feel any better.

“Some of the worst days of my career,” is how the double-Olympic champion described last weekend in Utah as he made the late decision to withdraw from the hotly-anticipated contest where he was among the favorites.

“Within the space of days, I went from believing I’d be completely competitive, to watching a race that played out ideally how I’d have liked it to go. That was frustrating.”

Why did Alistair Brownlee not race the Ironman Worlds?

Brownlee finished fourth in Oceanside 70.3 in California in April, having led for most of the race before fading in the final mile, and was looking to make a full recovery in the run-up to the first Ironman World Championship to have been held outside of Hawaii .

“I was really quite ill a week before Oceanside and was absolutely destroyed after that race, so had a blood test and it showed a flare up of glandular fever.

“I kind of got better and thought I was fine. I got back into training and trained well, and then a week before St George started easing down.

“Then I just felt really rough and not in a great place to race. I didn’t want to start and not be in a position to compete.

“I had a decision to make, and left it until the day before – as late as possible – and it was absolutely gutting to decide not to race. Being in St George and watching the race on Saturday was really tough.”

Alistair Brownlee’s next race

Brownlee’s next target is the Pho3nix Project Sub7Sub8 contest in Germanywhere competing against Kristian Blummenfelt he’ll attempt to become the first triathlete to complete the iron distance – a 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike leg, and 26.2mile run – in under 7hrs.

Being 5-6mins down you’d have thought would have potentially stressed Kristian out a bit, but he executed the run about as even-paced as he could, which was the crucial bit for him. I think that was really impressive

With Blummenfelt looking imperious, having backed-up a The fastest-ever Ironman in Cozumel in November with victory on World Championship debut in St Georgewhat did Brownlee make of watching the Norwegian?

“It was just a good, solid performance,” Brownlee said. “A lot of people use the word ‘executing’ when they talk about Ironman, and it’s not to belittle any sort of performance, but it’s just about getting it right over 8hrs – which is really flipping difficult to do.

“His swim obviously wasn’t great – and I’ll be trying to use that as much as possible [in Sub7]. But then he didn’t seem to panic on the bike even though he was losing loads of time. He just got himself settled in a group.

“Being 5-6mins down you’d have thought would have potentially stressed him out a bit, but he executed the run about as even-paced as he could, which was the crucial bit for him. I think that was really impressive.

“You could see massive preparation had gone into his nutrition in terms of picking up a bottle – his own – at every chance he got. Just really solid.”

What is Alistair Brownlee’s current form?

Brownlee was beset by injuries in trying to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics last year and add further silverware to his victories in London 2012 and Rio 2016.

But despite struggling in the closing stages at Oceanside and not feeling able to start in St George, he’s keen to stress the bigger picture is encouraging.

“The wider point is that it was probably the best six months of training I’d had for a long time. I’d worked hard, put everything in place,” he said.

In the immediacy, Alistair is focused on recovery, while also musing how Ironman could improve its live coverage of events.

“I’ve never watched so much Ironman before. It’s brilliant Ironman are broadcasting more races, but I feel – even as a massive fan – that it is slightly frustrating to watch the coverage. From a fan engagement point of view, that really hit home.”

How could Ironman coverage be improved?

“Mainly in-depth data”. There are massive gaps between the timing chips, and you just don’t know what’s going on.

“The tech exists easily and relatively cheaply to have people wearing onboard sensors where you can have GPS positioning that could then give you time gaps as well as other data – heart-rate and power, for example.

“But I think the first step is just to know where someone is at all times in the race. If you just watch the coverage and don’t look at the Ironman splits [on the tracker]you’ve just got no idea what’s going on behind the front person.”

The wider point is that it was probably the best six months of training I’d had for a long time. I’d worked hard, put everything in place

Moving on to Sub7, the tactics and names of the support athletes for the novel concept have started to be released.

Each can athlete have a team of 10 support athletes to help them through the swim, bike and run in whatever combination they choose.

Most of the focus is on how they’ll be utilised on the bike to not only clock the fastest 112mile split possible, but keep Brownlee as fresh as possible for the marathon.

“It absolutely makes the most sense to use as many pacers as possible on the bike,” Brownlee said. “I’ve been working with a few guys, mostly led by Jacob Tipper and Dan Bigham, to get the best team possible for a 180k team time-trial.

“A lot of guys they know – the Ribble team – make the backbone of it with a few added extras such as Alex Dowsett and Jon Archibald.

“I’ve done a couple of training sessions with them and planned stuff out, and we’re really hoping to hone everything we can in the 5-6 days before when we get access to the track itself. Riding that track at speed is going to be key. Going as fast as you can without blowing my legs up.

“We’re still not defining exactly how I use people. I’ll probably use seven people on the bike and have some spares. They’ll be swimmers who can cross over to run, and potentially someone who can bike and run, but we haven’t finalised everything.”

Alistair’s brother and fellow multiple Olympic medallist Jonny may also be involved in the swim and run elements.

We’re still to define exactly how I use people. I’ll probably use seven people on the bike and have some spares. They’ll be swimmers who can cross over to run, and potentially someone who can bike and run

Brownlee isn’t looking beyond Sub7, but cites a return to Kona, Where he finished 21st in his only appearance in 2019and the PTO races of the Collins Cup, and Opens in Edmonton and Dallas as targets.

“Obviously, I’m going to have to qualify for Kona somewhere too,” he said. “But I’m fully focused on Sub 7 at the moment, and will see how it goes after that.”

INTERVIEW CREDIT: Alistair Brownlee was speaking as part of his work with American Pistachio Growers. Pistachios are a convenient protein snack that’s portable and doesn’t require any preparation. The Brownlee Brothers incorporate pistachios into their training diet to fuel their active lifestyles, and to help refuel and recover before and after a workout.

For more information you can visit www.americanpistachios.co.uk.

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