GLASGOW (Reuters) - Frenchman Pierre Le Corre ran away from the field to lift the European Championships triathlon title in emphatic style on Friday as Britain’s double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee failed to feature among the medals.
The 28-year-old demonstrated his considerable road running calibre, racing away from the opposition on the final 10km leg and eventually subduing a magnificent fast finish from Spain’s Fernando Alarza while Belgium’s Marten Van Riel took bronze.
Brownlee, who reckoned he was stepping into the unknown after an injury-disrupted season and having been in heavy training for the half ironman world championships, was still expected to do better than his eventual fourth place finish.
After the 1.5km swim and 40km on the bike at Strathclyde Country Park, the medals looked set to be fought out between Le Corre, Van Riel and Brownlee, whose relentless running is usually his strength.
But the 30-year-old was not his usual fluid self, looking heavy legged as the other two broke away. Then Le Corre, the former world under-23 champion and another fine runner, ploughed away from Van Riel in the last three kilometres.
Finishing like a train, though, came Alarza, who had been one minute 19 seconds down on Le Corre after the bike ride, but then produced a remarkable solo effort to pass Brownlee and Van Riel and finish just 11 seconds behind the Frenchman, who clocked one hour 47 minutes 17 seconds.
Le Corre had been unaware of the Spaniard’s surge. “Just at the end when I was looking back, I saw him and I thought ‘oh, he’s coming strong’ so I tried to push it a little bit to keep my gap.”
Van Riel came home third in 1:47:40, while Brownlee was fourth in 1:48:12.
Le Corre could hardly credit that he had caught the three-time champion Brownlee on an off-day.
“It feels really great. It was really tough and I was really scared of Alistair because he’s a really hard opponent to beat but today was my day and I’m really happy,” said Le Corre, the fourth Frenchman to win the title.
“He (Brownlee) is not in his best shape right now and I could see it but he will be back. Thankfully for me, he wasn’t great today.”
Brownlee, who will compete in the world half ironman championships in three weeks, told the BBC: “I knew I was going to struggle on the run as I’ve not done enough sessions yet, but I enjoy racing.
“The swim was really hard, I got really beaten up at the start but that’s all part of it. On the bike I got a group working but I couldn’t really do anything on the run.
“I had a terrible six months, I’ve had a handful of run sessions so I can be quite pleased. I’m just happy to be racing. I didn’t know what to expect, I’ve been training hard so I knew I was going to be tired going into it.”
Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Pritha Sarkar