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Chris McCormack Breaks Down The ITU WCS London Race

  • By Courtney Baird
  • Published Aug 9, 2011
  • Updated Jun 19, 2012 at 12:18 PM UTC

Triathlete.com: Being the tactician you are, I was curious as to your opinion on why the main pack let Alistair go. Why do they keep letting him go??!!

McCormack: Well I sort of answered that question previously, but will go here again. You said, “Let him go.” Let me tell you, he takes the time. He just keeps hitting these groups and creating chases. Then his brother will hit the group, and they continue to do it, until the other athletes in the pack start to look around and get others to take up the chase. It is all a mindset. It is basic bike riding 101. The advantage that these boys have right now is that the weakness in the ITU racers is not so much their bike strength but their attitude towards the bike. They are all scared to do too much work on the bike both in training and in the race, for fear of running badly. This has been created because of the drafting on the bike and really because in the past it has been the run that has won the races. But as I said in my last interview with you, sports evolve and I have watched this sport evolve for the past two decades. It is obvious where the flaws in the racing are, and the weaknesses that the racing has now. These guys swim like fish and all run well. The weakness is on the bike. Alistair and his brother have worked together to exploit this and will change the game. This is the future direction of the sport for sure. It is this old attitude from the other racers that has really made them extinct in their preparation, and picking up the pieces of the decimation that these boys are leaving behind that has seen them let their key bike work go, and this in itself has widened the gap between the Brownlees and the rest. Without being disrespectful, for the Brownlees it would be like being A-grade bike racers playing with the B-grade peloton. They know that people will cover the moves a few times, but it is only a matter of time before the break will be successful. In London you saw that perfectly, and like every race, the group chasing looked at each other and no one had the courage to take up the chase because they feel everyone else should do it. Before they knew it, these guys had 80 seconds. Jonathan sat in then and was able to take the rest out in the group on the run. It was beautiful to watch and unless these guys start thinking outside the box, start working out how to counter this, and start having the courage and the balls to race with the same sort of win-or-die-trying attitude, they will continue to be made to look pretty average by these guys!

Triathlete.com: Do you have any advice for the men who are going to try to beat the Brownlee duo in a year’s time? If you were in a position to beat them, what would you do?

McCormack: Someone has to take it to them and now. You need to start looking for flaws and stop allowing these guys to control the race from the onset. They need to work within their camps to really ascertain how they are going to do this. If you think that by continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result racing these guys next year in London, there are going to be some seriously disappointed people. These boys will go one and two in London. I have said it many times, no male favorite has ever won the Olympics and 12 months out before every Olympic games people were talking about this guy or that guy not being able to lose. They all lost. However, what these boys have over any other favorites going into these games is they are a team now and have been for their entire careers. This has not been the case ever before.

This [gold and silver] is not a foregone conclusion. What I do say is that the plans that were implemented 12 and 24 months ago building towards Olympic selection and Olympic preparation have been made obsolete by these guys. If athletes and federations coming to London Olympics think that things will be different next year, they’re nuts. These guys train and work together. You got it right when you said they are a duo, because they really are. They do everything together and it is this machine-like precision that they race with that has opened up these fields. This team talk in ITU is nothing new. Most nations don’t think it is necessary and to be honest have not given the team approach the precision preparation that is needed. A team needs to work well together across the board and be strong in many areas—not just closing bike breaks. The Brownlees are a team in themselves. Watch how they work together in a race. It is dead set a cut above. People are blinded and are not seeing this, because they are looking individually at these two guys and their strengths in the swim, bike and run. It is the complete package. You have two brothers who know each other better than anyone else, train together and have really streamlined their racing. Federations need to get this oil-like precision in their team preparations and for the guys they are taking to the games, they need to make sure they can work together across the board. The individualist taking on these two guys will end up with the scraps. For some people they are happy with this, but if you are going to London because you really think you can win, then you better start looking at this in your preparation and your approach to the race. It is getting this refined now! These guys have it purely because they are brothers. It is a natural synergy. You need to create that within your own teams and give belief to those racing that winning is a possibility. Both these guys know they can win. The rest of the world is asking themselves the question of “can we win?” This is the difference!

The only flaw Alistair has ever shown is when he has been pressured in races with multiple guys around him in the run, or when he has not been able to dictate the race on his terms. Not many people have been able to put him in that position since. This push towards Olympic selection will leave people conservative in their racing approach. For those who have made games teams, it is time to test the waters now, and try and find some kinks in this armor. Undermining his confidence prior to London would be my focus now, if you can.

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Courtney Baird

Courtney Baird

Courtney Baird is the editor-in-chief of Inside Triathlon magazine.

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