Alex Yee was the highest finishing Brit at the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama with a fourth-place finish while Sophie Coldwell and Non Stanford finished sixth and seventh respectively.
Through the first lap, there was tight bunching until two-time defending world champion Vincent Luis (FRA) made his way to the front and started to create a gap for himself. It was the Frenchman who led as the athletes exited and then dove back into the water to start the second lap, with Brownlee fifth and Bishop and Yee well-placed in the middle of the field less than 20 seconds back.
There was little change to the order of the leading athletes as they headed into T1, with Luis leading the way ahead of Martin van Riel (BEL) and Varga (SVK), with Brownlee in the first group into transition.
Despite the fast swimmers creating a lead pack, it wasn’t long into the first of nine bike laps that the chase group caught them and merged to make one group of 24 athletes that included Brownlee. Yee was in the new chase group at 35 seconds back after lap one, with Bishop a further 12 seconds behind.
Despite attempted breakaways from the front, rather than increasing the size of the gap to the chasers, as the opening laps went by the gap reduced and mid-way through the 40km bike, the entire field was all riding together.
As they came into the final lap, it was a case of jockeying for position ahead of T2 and the decisive run with Brownlee and Yee amongst the first athletes to change from bike to run and set off for the 10km.
As the kilometres ticked by, what had been a stream of athletes fragmented to create distinct groups, with Yee in the lead pack alongside Jonas Schomburg (GER), Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Jelle Geens (BEL).
Dropping the German, four became three and then two with Blummenfelt (NOR) and Geens (BEL) pulling ahead, as Yee fell away and found himself caught by Morgan Pearson (USA) at the end of the penultimate lap.
With a kilometre to go, the Norwegian made the decisive move to power to gold ahead of Geens (BEL), with Pearson (USA) completing the podium. Yee finished strong to finish in fourth, with Bishop and Brownlee 22nd and 23rd.
The women’s race saw Summer Rappaport (USA), Taylor Knibb (USA), and Maya Kingma (NED) lead the pack out of the swim and onto the bike leg.
Coldwell pulled her way up the ranks and with eight laps to go she was in sixth place in the leading pack with Stanford in 23rd place.
Coming into T2, Stanford was in 12th place with Coldwell in 16th and it was the latter that nailed her transition and got onto the run in a good place.
It was Knibb and Kingma that broke away on the bike and further extended their lead on the run. The Brits pulled their way up through the field to secure their sixth and seventh place for Coldwell and Stanford respectively.
The podium featured Knibb in gold medal position with Rappaport in silver and Kingma securing bronze.
British Triathlon Performance Director, Mike Cavendish, said: “It has been great to see racing again after a strange year for everyone. I think we’ve seen some strong performances across our teams. George and Michael were excellent today and I think we’ve seen steps forwards from Alex and Sophie.
“The races did further emphasise how unpredictable this year is going to be. I think the race showed that some people have benefitted from the extra year and some haven’t done as well. We know that this could all change so our focus will be on making sure that our athletes are as well prepared for that start line in Tokyo as possible.”
Re-watch the action on Triathlon Live