LONDON (Reuters) - Home advantage at an Olympic Games can take many forms, including familiarity with the competition arena.
But that won’t be an issue in the men’s triathlon on Tuesday - London’s weather and notoriously heavy traffic have deterred even the local favorites training on the central city course.
Jonathan Brownlee and his brother, world champion Alistair, have not been out on their bikes on the route, nor swum in the Serpentine, since they arrived in the Athletes’ Village from training camps at altitude in St Moritz, Switzerland, and in the dales of their home county of Yorkshire.
“We’ve swum in a local leisure centre not the Serpentine, and zipping around it on the bike doesn’t appeal either with all that traffic,” Jonathan told the Guardian newspaper in an interview on Monday.
The Brownlees will instead rely on their knowledge from previous world series races staged on the London course, which takes in notable tourist sights on the 43-km, seven-lap bike route in between the 1.5-km swim in the lake in Hyde Park and a four-lap, 10-km run.
“We’ve competed on the course twice before, so we know what to expect,” Jonathan, 22, said.
“The bike, for instance, has a little hill going from Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace, but it’s only a 2 per cent incline, and the real challenge comes from handling the corners. We also knew that the bend where several riders crashed in the women’s race on Saturday was tricky.”
The crashes on Saturday were put down to slick roads caused by morning rain.
”British weather can be British weather,“ Alistair, the older brother at 24, told a news conference. ”Out on the bike there was a problem. There was a bit of a dodgy corner.
”You race on the course you’re given, and you get on with it. We know the corner is dodgy. Any course corner that gets wet in a city with a white line on it could be slippy. That’s a given.
“To me that’s just racing. Well, let’s hope I don’t fall off now,” said Alistair, who placed 12th in his debut Olympics four years ago.
Despite boasting a raft of world and European champions in the relatively new sport, no Briton has won an Olympic medal since triathlon was added to the Games programme in 2000.
Throw in the fact that no favorite has triumphed in any of the seven Olympic triathlons to date and it becomes clear that the Brownlee boys are by no means guaranteed to be jostling for podium places.
Following the disappointing fifth place for the hosts’ Helen Jenkins, the current world champion, in Saturday’s women’s race, there is possibly even greater expectation on the Brownlees to add to TeamGB’s growing medal count.
“Al and I enter the race as favorites, but that doesn’t faze us,” Jonathan said.
Alistair has won 12 of the 15 world series races he has entered since 2009, including London 12 months ago, where Jonathan finished third.
Jonathan has won six of his past 13 elite international races, including 2012 series events in San Diego and Madrid, in the absence of big brother.
“While people talk about pressure, it won’t affect us. A race is a race whether it’s in Madrid, San Diego or London. There is always pressure to do well. And controlling nerves, like winning, is a skill,” he said.
An Achilles’ tendon injury kept Alistair out of racing earlier this year, but he returned in June to win the ITU race in Kitzbuhel.
With Stuart Hayes making up the British trio as a domestique, they promise a strong swim and an effort to create a breakaway on the bike ride to whittle down the medal contenders to no more than a handful by the run.
But the gold medalist in that first Olympic triathlon in Sydney 12 years ago, Canada’s Simon Whitfield, who is competing at his fourth Olympics in London, suggests that there is always a chance that the Britons could be beaten.
“If you run this Olympic race 10 times, one of the Brownlee brothers will win nine out of 10 times,” Whitfield said. “But they won’t win it that 10th time, and you try to be that person to be there to capitalize on it that 10th time.”
Editing by Sonya Hepinstall