THERE is more at stake for Alistair Brownlee when he takes to the start-line in Leeds this weekend than simply trying to maintain his unbeaten record in his home city.

Brownlee, from Horsforth, is also hoping to prove to himself and the triathlon world that he can be a contender for a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo next summer.

The 31-year-old is already the only triathlete to have successfully defended an Olympic title, and another gold medal would cement his status as one of Britain's all-time great Olympians.

Having spent the first few months of the year focusing on training, Brownlee has returned to racing in recent weeks, winning a World Cup competition in Cagliari and, last weekend, the European Championships for a fourth time.

The World Series race in Leeds on Sunday represents a step up in level and a chance for Brownlee to see how he matches up to his potential Olympic rivals.

He said: "This is what this period of racing is about for me. Where can I get to? How well can I do?

"The two races that I've done, if both of those hadn't gone well, that would have probably put a nail in the coffin of it but obviously they have gone well.

"I'm happy that it's gone well and that I'm still on that path and let's see how it goes in Leeds this weekend, because obviously that's the first really top-flight race I'll have done. Then we'll take it from there.

"I'd love to be (in Tokyo) but I only want to be there if I feel I can be competitive."

This is the fourth year in which Leeds has hosted Britain's round of the World Triathlon Series. Brownlee dominated the race in 2016 and 2017 before being forced to miss last summer's event because of injury.

"I'm really looking forward to racing in Leeds," said Brownlee. "It was really tough last year. It made it a bad period as well, I'd had a few different injuries, it just seemed like one thing after another and I was a bit fed up with it but this year it's gone really well and I'm just happy to be on the start-line.

"When the World Series started 10 years ago I didn't think ever that a World Series race would make it to Leeds. It's fantastic that it did. It's great to see the people of Leeds out on the streets supporting it, that's really cool, and it's brilliant to see the whole city become genuinely about the triathlon."

After winning in Rio, Brownlee had initially been unsure whether he would want to compete in Tokyo.

He has dabbled successfully in longer-distance triathlons and will again compete in the half-Ironman world championships, where he finished second last year.

But injuries have been a frequent problem and the only Olympic distance race he has won was in Leeds in 2017.

He said of the period since Rio: "In terms of the triathlon it's been pretty tough."

Occasional thoughts about calling it quits have crossed his mind, but the competitive fire still burns brightly.

"In the same way that everyone wakes up on a Monday morning sometimes and are a bit like 'I think I need a change, do something different'," he said of his doubts.

"I don't think there's been anything deep down and too genuine about it. I think long after I've retired from elite triathlon racing, I'll still be doing some kind of competition. That's part of who I am."

Brownlee will be joined on the start-line by his brother Jonny, who has also had a tough time since winning a silver medal in Rio, as well as 21-year-old Alex Yee, the breakthrough star of the season so far with top-five finishes in his first two World Series races.