Gómez shows his intelligence in Yokohama

The Spaniard beats Alistair Brownlee in a tactical battle with a historic sprint finish between the best Olympic-distance triathletes of all time

Photos: Delly Carr | ITU

A few seconds after crossing the finishing line, Alistair Brownlee may have recalled the way he mocked his brother Jonathan when he lost the world champion’s title to Gómez in the 2013 London Grand Final. “My brother was a complete tactical numpty” Alistair had said after the race.

Tactical numpty?

This time it was Alistair himself who succumbed to Gómez Noya’s tactical nous. Perhaps Jonathan hadn’t been such a numpty that day. Alistair’s face said it all. The customary handshake with Gómez Noya betrayed his frustration. “It was the worst I have felt in a race,” Alistair said as he digested his defeat in another psychological battle in front of the Triathlon Live microphones.

Today, Gómez Noya proved to the Yorkshireman beyond question that he is an intelligent triathlete, with experience and a range of resources available to him that are hard to match. “He has no sprint; he can only win races from a long way back,” people used to say. Even today Barrie Sheplie warned in his commentary of his usual attack long before the finish line. It’s a myth, and no more than that. The reality is quite different.

A lesson in competition

Gómez Noya can sprint, and then some. He has beaten all the greats in sprint finishes. He has nothing more to prove, but Yokohama reiterated his ability to read and interpret the energy he has in the tank, to find the right moment, to know when he has to lead and when he has to leave it to others, to measure his timing to the final metre. All in all, it was a lesson in competition from the four-time world triathlon champion. “It was one of my best races, ever,” Gómez Noya admitted at the finish.

The enthralling battle between the two continues and in some style. Who is the best in the world? On the day or consistently? Gómez Noya is as defiant as ever. He’s never satisfied. “Yes, I was having a pretty consistent season, but I hadn’t won,” he said. It’s clear that no one (except perhaps Jonathan, in years to come) can match him on consistency, but he never lets up in his efforts to show that he can also be the best on the day. Only Rio will tell.

Mola climbs the podium

Mario Mola claimed the final podium spot with humility, unable today to compete “with those two machines,” the Majorcan triathlete conceded. Mola swam well, near the front, and encouraged the chasing group to link up with the eight athletes in the leading bunch, including Gómez Noya and Alistair. Still, he didn’t have the legs to finish the job.

Van Riel’s heroics

Like in Cape Town, despite the fast pace imposed by Schoeman in the water, the groups merging nullified the cyclists, with only the Belgian Van Riel – fifth last year in the U23 World Championships – able to spur them on with a solo breakaway that ended with a fall that was unmerited given the effort he put in on a bike circuit that discouraged acts of daring.

The road to London

Now we just need to add to the mix the 2012 Olympic bronze-medallist, Jonathan Brownlee, , to head into a thrilling second half of the season. Jonathan, who laid the groundwork in Oceania, will arrive fresh and full of training to this second leg. Once again, all eyes will be on the Fantastic Three.

1 Javier Gomez Noya 01:47:00 00:17:50 00:01:00 00:58:07 00:00:20 00:29:45
2 Alistair Brownlee 01:47:02 00:17:53 00:01:07 00:57:58 00:00:23 00:29:43
3 Mario Mola 01:47:20 00:18:16 00:01:00 00:57:43 00:00:21 00:30:02
4 Mark Buckingham 01:47:48 00:18:33 00:01:03 00:57:25 00:00:22 00:30:27
5 Crisanto Grajales 01:47:52 00:18:41 00:01:02 00:57:18 00:00:21 00:30:32
6 Sven Riederer 01:48:00 00:18:26 00:00:58 00:57:33 00:00:24 00:30:41
7 Adam Bowden 01:48:04 00:18:28 00:01:04 00:57:29 00:00:22 00:30:43
8 Fernando Alarza 01:48:14 00:18:11 00:01:03 00:57:46 00:00:26 00:30:50
9 Jacob Birtwhistle 01:48:17 00:18:42 00:00:59 00:57:21 00:00:21 00:30:55
10 Alexander Bryukhankov 01:48:28 00:18:36 00:01:12 00:57:17 00:00:25 00:31:00