Brownlee starts Paris Olympic bid with gold in Sardinia

GB’s Jonathan Brownlee has started his bid for a fourth Olympic Games start with a dominant display over the sprint-distance World Triathlon Cup in Arzachena, Sardinia, leading from the early stages of the bike all the way to the tape.

The race was the first event where athletes could collect crucial qualification points for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, with Brownlee hoping to be selected for what would be his fourth Olympic Games.

The pinnacle of Olympic-distance racing has proven happy hunting ground for the Leeds born-and-bred athlete as he’s the most decorated male triathlete Olympian, having collected bronze in London, silver in Rio and gold (in the mixed relay) in Tokyo.

What happened at the 2022 World Triathlon Cup Arzachena?

The temperatures had cranked up into the low 30s by mid-afternoon as the men lined up on the beach platform, a busy 750m swim ahead with a huge field of 64 men heading to the first buoy.

The familiar sight of Mark Devay (HUN) was first to emerge from the turn and spearhead a rapidly stretching field, with Richard Varga (SVK), Tom Richard, Brownlee and Dylan McCullough (NZL) for close company.

But it would be Italy’s Alessio Crociani with a slick transition to come out ahead of Valentin Morlec (FRA) onto the 20km bike leg.

Brazil’s Manoel Messias was alongside Adrien Briffod (SUI), just ahead of Emil Holm (DEN), Leon Pauger (AUT), Jonas Schomburg (GER) and Max Stapley (AUS), who poured out of transition trying to keep the leaders in sight .

By the time the first climb started to bite, Brownlee’s plan was clear – to lay down the hammer, with only Richard, Devay and McCullough able to stick with him.

Jonny Brownlee led a four-man breakaway over the tough sprint-distance Sardinian course. (Credit: World Triathlon)

Attacking at the crest and into the downhill corners, the quartet had carved out an impressive 25sec lead by the end of lap one.

Antonio Serrat Seaone and Shachar Sagiv (ISR) were among those working hard in the chasing group but they couldn’t prevent the gap stretching to 45 seconds at the bell; the unfortunate Casper Stornes (NOR) and Briffod both coming off at speed.

Who won the men’s race at the 2022 World Triathlon Cup Arzachena?

Despite an awkward transition, Brownlee was still able to pull clear on the opening stages of the 5km run, quickly putting 13secs into Devay, 20secs into Richard and 40secs into McCullough by the halfway point.

Jonny Brownlee falters in transition 2 at the 2022 Arzachena World Triathlon Cup. (Credit: World Triathlon)

Meanwhile, Messias was motoring, passing McCullough first then a tiring Devay, before easing into the silver position over the closing stages with 11secs over Richard in bronze. But there would be no catching the Brit, who now heads to WTCS Leeds (11 June) with the wind in his sails.

“I love racing here, it’s a great course, it’s one of the hardest on the circuit,” said Brownlee. “I didn’t have my best swim, on the first lap of the bike I learned from last year there’s no point going on my own so I went really hard at the top of the hill, got a gap.

“The three of us worked really well together, then I knew on the run that I should have enough. I doubted myself over the last few years and I think it’s because, in my early career, races and podiums came one after the other. I am never going to take it for granted ever again. It’s absolutely brilliant to win again.”

Devay held on for fourth, Max Studer (SUI) ran his way to fifth ahead of Alberto Gonzalez Garcia. Radim Grebik (CZE) then edged an almighty sprint down the blue carpet with Emil Holm and Lasse Luhrs (GER); Schomburg rounding out the top 10.

Alberto Gonzalez Garcia gets out of the way as Emil Holm runs through in a sprint finish with Radim Grebik (out of shot). (Credit: World Triathlon)

“A lot of hard work from a lot of people has come together to achieve this result, and I am delighted with silver and carry on a great day for Brazil in Arzachena,” said a happy Messias.

“I am very happy, this is my first podium in the World Cup, that was the goal before the race, so it’s amazing,” said third-placed Richard.

“We did a breakaway just after the swim, I was just after Jonny Brownlee so I thought in my head that it was a good follow. It was very hard in the three laps but I gave everything as I entered T2 so it was very very hard. It’s amazing to join a podium with Jonny Brownlee.”

Top image: World Triathlon

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