He may have got run out of the win late on but Jonny Brownlee’s performance in Super League’s Grand Finale in Neom could have far-reaching significance.
It came hot on the heels of his second place at WTCS Cagliari, with both showing him back to close to his best following a frustrating injury-plagued spell after he was caught up in a serious crash at WTCS Leeds back in June.
In Saudi Arabia he dictated matters from the front and only Matt Hauser was able to overhaul him.
Back on the front foot
And there was no disguising the pleasure that Brownlee – who now has the full gold / silver / bronze haul of Olympic medals – took from the performance.
He told us: “To be honest with you I felt brilliant. Sometimes in these Super League races when you’re on the back foot, like I have been in this Series, it’s a lot a harder than being at the front.
“I think I got fitter as the Series went on and I’ve raced a bit better and a bit smarter and got over my worries.”
Those “worries” concerned the length of time it was taking him to regain confidence on the bike but he explained: “I’ve been a different athlete these last few weeks. Maybe not physically, but mentally.
“I genuinely believed I’d be able to jump back on the bike, flow round corners, be confident in the pack and so on but that’s taken me until the last few weeks.
Anyone out there who’s going through a setback, just believe and it will come backJonny Brownlee
And the transformation is obvious when he reflects on what most of the athletes felt was a tough bike course in Neom given the conditions.
He said: “I was loving it. I was moving forward and taking it on – and actually wanted it to be more windy! I’m really pleased because I did doubt if I could again be a genuine medal contender for Paris but that shows I can do it again.
“It’s been an up and down season for me and I thought it was basically over after Leeds. My main aim is to keep on showing I’m not too old yet and hopefully I’ve got two years where I can keep that going.”
It was also clear that Jonny’s fellow athletes were genuinely delighted to see him back in top form.
Race winner Hauser told us: “Massive credit to him. I mean, the guy has been through a lot this year. After crashing in Leeds and coming back, I think he’s gone from strength to strength during this Series.
“He always smiles and he’s got an experienced head on his shoulders and he’s a great guy to have around – I love competing against him.”
That was echoed by overall winner Hayden Wilde, who rounded off the podium and said: “Jonny put on a masterclass, he’s back in form and it’s great to see.”