Triathlon: Team GB's Alistair Brownlee looks to Mark Cavendish for inspiration


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The Independent Online

There have been no shortage of golden moments at this Olympics for Great Britain but it was one of the few disappointments that Alistair Brownlee found the most inspiring.

The Yorkshireman is the reigning triathlon world champion and went into the Games as one of the host nation's best hopes for gold after dominating his sport for the last three years.

Tomorrow Brownlee and brother Jonny, who is expected to be his biggest challenger for gold, will get their moment when they swim, bike and run round Hyde Park and some of London's iconic sights.

The pair and third team member Stuart Hayes, who will work for the brothers, have kept away from the Olympic experience so far, training in St Moritz and then at home near Leeds.

They have been glued to the television, though, and Alistair Brownlee picked Britain's valiant but unsuccessful attempt to guide Mark Cavendish to cycling road race gold as his special moment.

He said: "I've watched almost everything, although it's obviously endurance sport that interests me most. I thought the men's road race was fantastic.

"To see some of the best riders in the world smashing it up for Cav, and then Bradley Wiggins, the best cyclist in the world, pulling off after giving everything for his team-mate was absolutely brilliant and that was probably the most inspiring thing for me."

On that day Cavendish paid for being the favourite, with other countries determined to foil the sprinter, and Brownlee knows he is in a very similar position.

Yesterday, New Zealand's Kris Gemmell revealed athletes from different nations are likely to work together in an attempt to stop the brothers claiming the top two steps on the podium.

Brownlee said: "What happened to Cavendish could definitely happen to me. I'm sure other nations have talked to each other to see what they can do and they're obviously worried about what we can do.

"All we can do in the race is go out and try our best and, to be honest, doing that would be more high risk for them than it is for us. We just have to go out and do what we always do.

"At the end of the day, they know that when they get to the end of the bike they have to have a lot fresher legs than me or be in front of both of us in the race, so if they want to try it, let them."

Brownlee's domination in such an unpredictable sport is staggering, with the 24-year-old having lost only four Olympic distance races in the last three years and none for 16 months.

Things have not gone entirely smoothly in the build-up, though, and he feared he might miss the Games altogether as he battled to recover from an Achilles tear suffered in February.

His first race in the World Triathlon Series this season did not come until June in Kitzbuhel, when any fears about his fitness were brushed aside as he destroyed the very strong field to win by almost a minute from Jonny.

Brownlee said: "Preparation really couldn't have gone much better. Obviously I had my injury earlier in the year and that set me back a lot but I had a good run in Kitzbuhel and then the last six weeks couldn't have gone any better at all.

"I've done what I wanted to do and I've arrived here fit as I could be and I'm really happy."

Jonny, 22, has had to play second fiddle to Alistair but he has been on the podium in 14 consecutive races and won the two in San Diego and Madrid that his brother missed.

There has been much talk in the build-up to tomorrow about whether Alistair and Jonny might try to cross the line together, but they would be split on a photo finish, as happened in the women's race on Saturday when Switzerland's Nicola Spirig won gold ahead of Lisa Norden of Sweden.

Alistair added: "Me and Jonny haven't talked at all about the potential result and we haven't talked about beating each other. It's the great unmentioned I think.

"If we are sprinting for the finish, we'll be going as fast as we can because we're very, very competitive so it'll be brilliant to watch."

Apart from Jonny, Alistair's sternest challenge is likely to come from two-time world champion Javier Gomez of Spain.

Russian trio Alexander Bryukhankov, Dmitry Polyanskiy and Ivan Vasiliev will go hard from the start while the defending champion is Jan Frodeno from Germany.