That epic win for Jackson Laundry at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside also brought a notable first for the rising Canadian star – his first victory over two-time Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee.
The 28-year-old looked for a moment like he might have to settle for second best when Brownlee kicked clear during the run in trademark fashion. The move would not be decisive though as he began to struggle.
Alistair was passed first by Laundry as the field entered the last 3k and then by the fast-finishing Lionel Sanders and Rudy Von Berg.
Laundry joined six-time Kona king Mark Allen on his regular ‘Mondays With Mark Allen’ series to talk about his rise to stardom, and also that battle at Oceanside.
Laundry on Brownlee battle
“For the first 7 or 8km it was basically me, Alistair and Rudy running together. At the time it felt it was definitely the right kind of move for me to be running with those guys. I was feeling comfortable – I knew the pace was hot and probably that I wouldn’t hold that exact pace.
“I think if you went and looked that was probably the fastest 7k of my run but it still was so important to stay there and I knew it wasn’t a pace that was going to totally blow me up so I kind of thought ‘alright , let’s go with these guys, see what happens’.”
Jackson knew that at some stage Brownlee would try to make a decisive break and inject pace which his rivals could live with. When it came the Canadian decided smartly he would not try to match it.
“Obviously with Alistair there, you’re just waiting for him to make a move because you know how aggressive he is when he races. And when he did, probably a pretty smart move on his point. I was kind of right at my limit of where I wanted to go and he just upped it and I knew it wasn’t the right move for me to go with him at that time.
“It was a little bit, kind of ‘okay, here he goes, it’s Alistair Brownlee, it’s not surprising’. I kind of held my pace and really stayed patient. I noticed after a few k that he wasn’t getting any further away. I thought okay, he’s struggling here, just keep on it and see what happens.”
As the race entered the final 5k Laundry knew he had more in the tank, and that thought was emboldened by the hunch that up front Alistair was starting to throw out distress signals.
“I sort of kept that gap and with around 5k to go I had another gear that I was able to find and upped it probably another 5 seconds ak or so. Rudy wasn’t able to hold onto that pace and then once I dropped Rudy I really was quite a bit closer to Alistair and I knew that I could get him. It was just a matter of keeping to the pace and keeping relaxed, not getting too excited and not going by too hard or blowing up.”
When Jackson knew
As Laundry drew upsides with the British star in the closing stages, he knew this wasn’t the race-sharp short-course king of previous years. Not on this occasion at least.
“I figured when I caught him 2 or 3k from the finish that he probably was struggling because he doesn’t really give up a lead, he doesn’t let other people make a move typically. He’s the one who wants to control the race so I figured at that point he was a little bit in the hurt box and I had an opportunity to go by him and that’s how it ended up playing out.
“I think he was probably hanging on for dear life and kind of bluffing towards the end there because that’s a lot and obviously he’s a guy who likes to win no matter what. He probably got discouraged as well, but he was probably trying just to hang on with the lead and hope that we would give up.”
Don’t write off Alistair
Next up Brownlee will move up to the full distance for that eagerly-awaited IRONMAN World Championship at St George on May 7. Laundry for one will not be writing off his chances there.
“Once he got passed he obviously didn’t have much left and he ended up losing another quite a bit because he didn’t even end up on the podium. He was really really struggling,
“I mean he hasn’t done a long-distance race in quite a long time so he’s probably got some rust that he’s scraped off and I wouldn’t be surprised if his next one is right back to being flawless.”