An Afternoon with The Brownlee Brothers
Arriving back to our desks after a sun-drenched weekend in June, we were greeted by an email from nutrition brand OTE, inviting us on a very special ride up north. We soon realised this was an invite we simply couldn't turn down. This summer has seen balmy Mediteranean-esque weather reach the shores of Britain, and two brothers from Yorkshire have definitely been making the most of this golden period, training in the unusually warm waters of Otley lake. These two brothers were not larking around in the water, they are two of the country's leading Olympians. Our invitation was to meet none other than Alistair and Jonny Brownlee. An unmissable opportunity, customer care advisor Joe, and Sigma Sports' co-founder Ian Whittingham, set off up north to join the duo for an exclusive afternoon.
The afternoon began with a leisurely lunch in the heart of Otley. Broomfield Square is a quaint cafe serving delicious cakes, in a cosy, home-like setting - The ideal place to meet the two brothers. Fully kitted out in Lycra, the plan was to grab a bite to eat and learn more about the men behind the medals. In a quiet corner of the cafe, Sigma Sports' co-founder Ian Whittingham and the brothers talked about riding in Yorkshire, their racing past and what the future holds for two of Britain's top sportsmen. Watch the interview below.
Interview complete, we headed out for a spin around some of Alistair and Jonny's favourite lanes.
Born around four miles from Otley and now living just two miles away, Alistair explained what makes the area such a fantastic place to live and train. "We've probably done millions of miles cycling on these roads and we've got a bit of everything. A bit of flat, a bit of hills, great scenery, a real cycling kind of culture and history." It's no wonder the duo spend most of their season training in the area. Clipping in and heading out for a short 32-kilometre loop with the Brownlees, we soon saw what keeps the world-class athletes in Yorkshire.
Alistair and Jonny were not the only pros joining us on the ride. Organised by the Brownlee's nutrition partner, OTE, Trek Drops rider, Annie Simpson, was also in attendance. Racing for one of Britain's leading women's road teams, the baking enthusiast splits her busy schedule between racing and working for OTE as a performance nutritionist.
The region is littered by quiet lanes, although flat roads are in short supply. For those partial to a good climb there are plenty of hills to get your teeth into. Alistair explained that there are always groups to ride with, which are always welcome - especially when clocking up between 15 and 20 hours a week on the bike. Thursdays are when the hammer falls, and the brothers roll out for the weekly chaingang. This evening's ride is a 40km loop and often sees up to 50 riders in attendance. It's no wonder Alistair describes the area as a great place to train.
Going at a slightly more subdued pace, we took in the breathtaking scenery and got a true taste of the terrain the brothers have spent over 15 years training on.
Heading out and over the Mill Dam Beck, our group forged north and we were immediately reminded why the roads around here are so tough. Climbing from the off, we wound our way up Moor Lane, passing the village of Askwith before beginning our descent into Blubberhouses. Crossing the Fewston Reservoir, we were soon back tackling the steep slopes of Hardisty Hill, another chance to raise the heart rate and get the lactic acid flowing. A long steady descent was a welcome respite and saw our group's average speed rise significantly as we passed Swinsty Reservoir. These roads are a familiar stomping ground for the Tour de Yorkshire peloton and it soon became apparent why the pros love racing in this county. The final test was a short sharp climb through Stainburn Forest, which was followed by a fast descent back to Otley.
Stopping at the local bakery to pick up some well-deserved cakes, the brothers had clearly enjoyed showing us around their local training route. A memorable spin on some of North Yorkshire's most picturesque roads, this wasn't going to be a ride we'd forget in a hurry.
A unique insight into the lives of two of triathlon's most decorated athletes. We'd like to thank Alistair and Jonny for their time and OTE for organising this truly unforgettable ride.