Leeds was a first-time event. All I knew about the course was that there was a split transition (transition one was at the lake, and transition two was in town with about 14km separating them) and that the Brownlee brothers designed the course, so I wasn’t surprised to find it a difficult, yet fun venue.
With the split transition, I was worried about getting my warm up done in time; however, the ITU made it easy for the elites to get ourselves and our equipment to and from the lake (where I did my normal warm up of efforts on the bike, a short run, and swim bands). In the race I managed to bike my way into fourth after exiting the water in the back of the first pack, but this was not good enough to make the first bike split.
Flora Duffy, Lucy Hall, and Jessica Learmonth were riding at the front, and I was riding solo behind them on the 14km trek into town. Flora was pushing the pace and the three gained time on me as I was caught by Emma Moffatt and Vicky Holland. A few kilometers later, we were caught by another chase pack before we entered town. I enjoyed the seven technical bike laps around Leeds; they were fast, fun, and challenging.
I entered transition about 1:30 behind the three leaders (Flora, Lucy, Jessica), racked my bike, and as I put my Evade helmet in my box, my Oakley Radar sunglasses slipped off my head and into the box as well. In a rush, knowing that every second would count, I started the run without my Radars. I was unsure of what the outcome would be, but was confident I could focus on running my own race. On the third lap (of four), I caught Flora and crossed the finish line first.
The theme of Leeds was getting comfortable with new things: it was a new course, I was in a new city, and I had a new custom Specialized Amira designed with Columbia Threadneedle (if you haven't seen images you must check out this link). It’s my favorite design and so incredibly pretty! I had new Oakley sunglasses to match the bike and a new Evade helmet designed by Red Bull (if you look closely, you can see Bucky Badger's eyes focusing on the road ahead). I wore a new Roka swimsuit, lined with special material to keep me warm. As an athlete, I’m resistant to change, but everything new was so exciting this time around. The complete bike with custom HED wheels to match will be auctioned off later this year for charity, so keep an eye out for that!
We usually race in big cities (London, Chicago, Hamburg, Sydney, etc.), but I prefer racing in smaller towns like Leeds, where it’s easier to train and the traffic isn’t a challenge. What really made Leeds a success was how the city welcomed the athletes, with billboard-sized pictures of Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, Non Stanford, and Vicky Holland. Thanks to all the great publicity, spectators lined the fences three-deep to cheer on their favorite triathletes and the awards ceremony was standing-room only—an atmosphere I haven't experienced since competing in the London Olympic Games. After the race, my hotel left champagne and some local favorites (tea, chocolate, and soap) as a congrats for winning. Thank you Leeds for welcoming all the triathletes.
After the race, Patrick and I flew to Norway where we took a mini break. Every year in the middle of the season, I take a few days to relax, recharge, and get away from triathlon. We did an amazing drive around Norway, immersed ourselves in fjords, mountains, and glacial lakes, and enjoyed the beauty of Norway and they delicious seafood. Also, I now have a new favorite food: brown cheese.
I'm now back in Vitoria Gasteiz to start the big push to Rio, with Hamburg as the only race in between.