It may have been an Olympic year, but there was plenty to compete for on the World Triathlon Series in 2012.
Following it’s postponement as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the 2012 series kicked off in September 2011 in Yokohama.
Having won the 2011 series, Helen Jenkins led a team of seven British women in Japan just a week after claiming the title.
Lucy Hall led out of the water alongside Jenkins, with a large group of 20+ athletes catching them to cycle together as a lead pack.
Nicola Spirig (SUI) and Andrea Hewitt (NZL) were among the first athletes out of T2, with the rest of this lead group a couple of seconds behind.
Hewitt, having won the 2011 Grand Final in Beijing, pulled clear on the run to stretch clear and win in Yokohama with Jenkins the highest placed Brit in 6th.
In the men’s race, Joao Silva became the first Portuguese male to win a World Triathlon Series (WTS) race after he pulled away on the run.
It has been a tight race throughout, with a large group all staying together out of the swim and onto the bike. Dmitry Polyansky (RUS), who had led early on, finished third with his compatriot Bryukhankov in second.
Finishing within seven seconds of each other, Adam Bowden (7th) and Tim Don (8th) were the highest placed Brits, with David McNamee and Todd Leckie finishing 19th and 23rd respectively.
The first 2012 race in Sydney once again saw a strong British squad racing. Eleven men and women for Great Britain headed down under, seeking to gain points for the series.
Helen Jenkins once again provided a strong performance to finish 2nd,.
Mariko Adachi (JPN) set a blistering pace out of the swim, however, was soon caught on the bike as the chase group worked together to reduce the gap to see 29 athletes all cycling together.
Further back, a new chase group had developed, with Nicola Spirig at the front and pulling them forwards towards the leaders, seeing 50+ women all entering T2 within a couple of seconds of each other.
Jenkins and Erin Densham (AUS) pulled clear on the run to guarantee themselves a medal, however it was the home athlete who was able to make the final surge to claim the gold. Jenkins came second with Andrea Hewitt in third.
With an Olympic Games later in the year, many athletes were still trying to guarantee themselves a spot in their country’s squad. This saw James Elvery (NZL) and Ivan Vasiliev (RUS) attack as soon as they got onto the bike to try and stretch away from the rest of the field.
They managed to carve out a lead that was cut to less than a minute gap as they came through T2 and were caught on the run to fall back through the pack.
Steffen Justus (GER), Richard Murray (RSA) and Laurent Vidal (FRA) all powered on to secure the podium positions. William Clarke was the fastest of the British men, finishing 8th, 39 seconds after Justus.
From Australia, the series moved to San Diego for the first race in the city and first WTS race in the USA since 2009.
Having finished second behind Densham in Australia, Jenkins went one better as the two reversed their positions.
Jenkins was one of the first athletes out of the water alongside Emma Moffatt (AUS) as they headed out onto the technical bike leg.
Vicky Holland joined Jenkins in the lead group of eight athletes alongside Flora Duffy (BER), however as the run progressed, Jenkins pulled clear to race to victory in the fastest run time.
American Laura Bennett claimed third to secure her place at London 2012, with Holland coming home in fifth.
The men’s race saw the first appearance of a Brownlee on the 2012 series as Jonathan took his place on the start line alongside six other Brits for the men’s race.
Brownlee set the pace from the start, leaving the water amongst the leaders and cycling at the front throughout the bike leg. He was never able to establish a strong lead however, as 50+ athletes all arrived in T2 seconds apart.
On the run, he once again pulled clear with Richard Murray going with him before Brownlee was able to pull away to secure victory on his season debut. Sven Riederer took second ahead of Murray.
Tim Don, hoping to make it into Team GB for London, finished 7th.
From the US, the series made its way to Europe, with the first of four races on the continent taking place in Madrid.
Jonathan Brownlee made it two wins from two as he finished 39 seconds clear of second place.
Knowing the importance of getting into the lead cycle group out of T1, athletes battled hard in the water to gain position.
Brownlee was in this lead group of nine alongside Richard Varga (SVK), who was first out of the swim.
This group built a two minute lead, however on the run, the group broke up and saw athletes, including Mario Mola (ESP) from the chase group catch up as Brownlee strode away.
Crossing the line to the cheer of the crowd, Brownlee secure first place and was joined by two Russians, Bryukhankov and Polyanskiy, on the podium.
With neither Jenkins nor Densham racing in Madrid, there would be a new woman on the top of the podium for the first time in 2012.
Liz Blatchford and Vicky Holland entered T1 with the top athletes and were part of the leading pack to head out onto the bike.
The chasers caught up, meaning it was a 10km foot-race for the victory.
Nicola Spirig and Anne Haug (GER) drove them forwards as a group of five emerged. Spirig made a late break for it to win, with Morrison (ROI) and Diaz (CHI) second and third respectively.
Holland and Blatchford both secured top ten finishes, coming across the line in 7th and 10th.
Next up on the European leg was Kitzbühel, Austria, where Alistair Brownlee made his return from injury.
It was a story of brothers in the swim, as both Jonathan and Alistair were joined by Russian brothers Igor and Dmitry Polyanskiy at the front of the race.
From the start of the bike, it was another Russian, Ivan Vasiliev, who stayed with the Brownlees as they broke clear to try and drive forwards.
As the 40km bike leg progressed, the chase group caught up and engulfed the three leaders, seeing a large group of cyclists all arrive in T2 together.
Alistair Brownlee laid down the gauntlet by running a two minute forty five first kilometre as he pulled away from the rest. Jonathan also managed to pull away from the pack to come home in second as Alistair sprinted the final 50m to take the tape.
Despite three British women starting in Austria, only Vanessa Raw made it to the line as she finished 26th.
Compatriots Jodie Stimpson and Vicky Holland both recorded DNFs, with the latter suffering a mechanical issue late on the bike to see her drop from the lead group and pull out of the race before reaching T2.
Five athletes battled it out over the 10km run, knowing the medals would be won within their group. Nicola Spirig (SUI) outsprinted the rest to pull away with Lisa Norden and Andrea Hewitt second and third.
The final race before the London 2012 Olympics saw athletes head to Hamburg for a sprint distance race.
None of the Team GB triathletes for London took part in Hamburg, with William Clarke the highest placed man in 8th, with Lois Rosindale the highest placed female in 27th.
In the women’s race, Erin Densham (AUS) secured her third win of the series, racing clear of fellow Australian Emma Moffatt (2nd) and American Sarah True (3rd).
A competitive men’s race saw South African Richard Murray hold off Javier Gomez of Spain in a sprint finish to win gold, with home favourite, Steffen Justus, completing the podium.
Brownlee was eighth out of the water and had a good transition that got him into a lead group on the bike. A group of eleven stayed together and made it to T2 with a small lead over a very strong chase pack, which contained Olympic silver medallist, Spaniard Javier Gomez.
Brownlee held the lead through to the finish, despite a storming effort by Javier Gomez to catch him. Vincent Luis of France finished third.
Adam Bowden was the next British finisher in 21st with David McNamee 26th.
Non Stanford achieved her first ever top ten finish with sixth place in the women’s race, less than 30 seconds off the podium. After a solid swim and bike leg, she looked fresh on her feet, pulling away from some very experienced international triathletes.
London 2012 Olympian, Vicky Holland, was 19th and Lois Rosindale was 37th.
Also taking place in Stockholm was the Mixed Relay World Championships which Britain had won the previous year in Lausanne.
Jonathan Brownlee was the only athlete who raced in 2011 to also race in 2012, and he was joined by Holland, Will Clarke and Stanford to defend the title.
Taking on the ‘C-leg’, Stanford brilliantly moved the team up to second behind the German team to see Brownlee set off with a deficit of 28 seconds at the start of his swim, bike and run.
He halved the advantage of Stefan Justus after the swim and then the German slipped coming out of transition before crashing twice on the very wet roads. Brownlee rode with Vincent Luis but was too strong for the Frenchman on the run.
Brownlee crossed the line to claim the world title and was immediately embraced by the rest of the excited British team.
France came second, ten seconds behind, with Russia third a further thirty seconds back.
For the second time in the 2012 series, the athletes headed to Yokohama.
Sweden’s Olympic silver medallist, Lisa Norden, took the win in the last WTS event before the Grand Final.
Following on from London 2012, she featured in another exciting sprint finish to take the victory over Anne Haug (GER). Norden now sat second in the overall rankings, just 30 points behind Erin Densham (AUS).
Adam Bowden achieved his best ever WTS finish with sixth, having come seventh in 2011. David McNamee was just behind in eighth as Portugal’s Joao Silva took the win.
McNamee built his pace through the run and picked off athletes ahead of him to finish in the top ten for the second time this season. Aaron Harris finished 14th and Phil Wolfe 26th.
Silva’s win over Javier Gomez meant that, despite not racing, Jonathan Brownlee had a buffer of 280 points at the top of the overall rankings ahead of the Grand Final in Auckland.
Gomez would need to win the Grand Final race and rely on Brownlee finishing no higher than fifth in order to become world champion. The action from the 2012 Grand Final will be covered in a subsequent Swim, Bike and Rerun as we look back on recent British highlights in triathlon.