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Brownlee Foundation make significant purchase – and will use it to give back to the sport at grassroots level

A good news story to start 2024 as Britain's most decorated triathletes focus on growing the sport - and all for the benefit of youngsters.

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The Brownlee Foundation has announced the purchase of TriHard Events, whose races include the iconic Helvellyn Triathlon. The aim is to use the acquisition to fuel the ecosystem of triathlon in the UK in two ways. Firstly, by delivering great multi-sport events suitable for all levels of participants; and secondly, by donating the money raised from the events to the Brownlee Foundation to deliver more free mini triathlons for children in primary schools.

More than 53,500 children have now taken part in a Brownlee Foundation event, with Jonny Brownlee explaining: “It’s about starting the process of young people being involved in sport and all the valuable things that come with that.”

“If they stay involved with triathlon – or any one of swim, bike or run – then fantastic. But if they’re inspired to just realise that being active can be fun, then the Foundation has achieved something.”

Explaining how taking over TriHard Events will accelerate that process, Alistair Brownlee said: “We’re going to be asking the triathlon community to take part in our events and have a great experience. But we also hope the events will take on another level of meaning as everyone involved understands that any profit made will then go back into the sport at grassroots level.”

‘Bucket list’ race

The Helvellyn Triathlon in the stunning Lake District is a race close to Alistair’s heart. Renowned as one of the toughest in the world, it features a swim in Ullswater, a bike ride up the infamous ‘Struggle’ and then a run up and down Helvellyn itself.

He won it as a young athlete and then returned 13 years later in 2020 to repeat the feat in what was one of the first big events to take place after the onset of the global COVID pandemic.

“It’s a superbly run, no-nonsense and challenging event – and we want to retain all those aspects,” added Alistair.

Alistair Brownlee Helvellyn TRi photo Chris Sansom
Alistair Brownlee at the Helvellyn Tri in 2020 [Photo credit: Chris Sansom]
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Ripon showcases the best of Yorkshire

There will also be exciting changes to one of TriHard’s other marquee races, the Dalesman.

Merging with NYP Tri’s Ripon Triathlon, the renamed Ripon Triathlon Festival aims to build to a weekend of different events and distances (Sprint, Standard, Middle distance triathlons, open-water swims and a range of children’s races).

Catherine Lyons, secretary of NYP Triathlon club, said: “It was a no-brainer to work with the Brownlee brothers and their Foundation. Youth development is so important and Alistair and Jonny have been inspiring athletes for years and this very much ties in with the club’s ethos. Returning this event to its former glories with the Brownlees onboard is a wonderful opportunity and fully supported by us.

“Ripon has always been a ‘festival weekend’ offering great racing for adults and children, with a sideline of fun and activities for the whole family. We look forward to embracing this model, as well as engaging the whole community.”

That was echoed by Jonny Brownlee who referenced the now legendary Challenge Roth triathlon festival in Germany when he said: “We want to get the whole city and surrounding area to welcome athletes and visitors like Roth has done – that’s the goal, to get everyone to buy into it and benefit from what it can then become.

Both have similar populations and Ripon underlined its sporting potential when the area played host to what is widely regarded as the grandest of all Grands Départs when the Tour de France visited in 2014.

The brothers already have a long-standing track record of putting on major events in Yorkshire – the first ever Brownlee Tri took place at nearby Fountains Abbey – and have always championed the county.

Alistair wanted to stress: “We’re keen to take on this responsibility of growing the sport. 

It’s about doing everything we can to encourage as many people as possible to travel here to experience the magnificent countryside and also to help triathlon maintain a really strong presence in the north of England.

Alistair Brownlee on the new Ripon Triathlon Festival

“We’ll have lots of different distances at the Ripon Triathlon Festival as well as junior races and we want to get as many clubs as possible involved too. Then the next stage is using that money to drive and develop the sport for youngsters, with more and more Brownlee Foundation events.”

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Supporting the triathlon community

Rob Wilkins founded TriHard Events in 2006 and ever since has had the reputation of putting on scenic, responsible and top-quality events at a fair price that are accessible to all – from first-timers to Olympic gold medalists.

His knowledge and experience will continue to help maintain the high standards going forward but he’s excited to be handing the overall responsibility to the Brownlee Foundation and everything it stands for. 

He said: “Alistair and Jonny have always had a genuine desire to support the triathlon community. That, combined with their fame, means they are the perfect people to encourage others of all ages to come and have a go.

“I love the idea of these events being passed on to them and am delighted that I’ll still be involved.”

Brownlee Brothers Alistair Jonny London Olympic Games 2012 Triathlon
The Brownlee brothers – Alistair and Jonny – have helped over 53,500 youngsters get involved with triathlon through their successful Brownlee Foundation (Pic – World Triathlon).
Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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