As one of the only ticket-free events in the London 2012 schedule, the Men’s Triathlon in Hyde Park yesterday was a chance to get fully involved in the crowd experience without the forward planning, dogged persistence and pot luck required for attending a paid event.
Brownlee, Brownlee, Brownlee! The steady chant reaches a crescendo as Team GB’s medal hopes for the day, 24-year old Alistair Brownlee and his younger brother Jonny, 22, pedal furiously towards us amidst a sea of franticly waving union jacks.
Never in the two years I once spent as a triathlon WAG, waiting patiently in rain, mud and Bedford to cheer on my lycra-clad hero, have I ever seen such huge or enthusiastic crowds at a triathlon. Ominous clouds gather overhead, we all clutch our cappuccinos and prepare for a very British race.
After a speedy swim in the less than alluring waters of Hyde Park’s Serpentine, the brothers are looking well on their way to a place on the podium as they lead the first lap of the 40km cycle. In a manner slightly reminiscent of the men’s road race, most of the other 56 athletes don’t seem too keen to help out at the front and the Brownlees – accompanied by key challenger Javier Gomez of Spain, Slovakia’s Richard Varga and Italy’s Alessandro Fabian – increase the gap to 23 seconds. GB’s third contender in London’s Olympic men’s triathlon, Stuart Hayes, isn’t too far behind in the larger chase pack.
Excitement mounts as an enterprising chap with an iPhone and portable Bose speaker informs us Jonny has a 15 second penalty time for hopping on his bike too early in the transition. The gap narrows as the rest of the pack closes in on our heroes. Five more laps of the cycle and we’re into the real decider – the 10km run.
The flicker of gloom lifts as we hear Jonny’s made up his penalty and is positively flying as the closing stages of this punishing test of endurance draw nearer. Hayes has dropped back but is putting in a valiant effort, urged on by the frenzied cheering of the crowd.
Alistair Brownlee tears past at astonishing pace and that’s it – he’s into the finishing straight, followed by Gomez in Silver medal position, then Jonny. A deafening roar reverberates around the park and Britain has two more medals to add to its ever-rising tally – Gold and Bronze.
After so much expectation on their shoulders, the brothers take to the podium in yet another well-deserved victory for Team GB, leaving in their wake an almost palpable sense of inspiration.
Words & Pics: Catherine Hinds