ALISTAIR Brownlee insists he would not still be pushing through the pain barrier if he did not totally believe he could retain his Olympic title in Rio this summer.

The triathlon champion's training regime across Yorkshire's hills is famously brutal and has been the bedrock of his domination of the sport.

The 28-year-old won two world titles prior to his runaway Olympic success in London's Hyde Park in 2012 and, although injuries have been a frustratingly frequent occurrence since, he remained the man to beat.

But over the past year the Bingley Harriers' grip has loosened. Spain's Javier Gomez, his long-time rival, has been world champion for three straight years.

While Gomez won the Olympic qualification event over the Games course in Rio, Brownlee trailed in 10th, hampered by ongoing ankle problems.

He ended his season early to have surgery, returning at a World Triathlon Series race in Australia, but felt off colour from the start and eventually finished down in 36th place.

However, he did return to form with a bang at the recent World Triathlon Series contest in Leeds.

Hyde Park has hosted Britain's round of the world series every year since 2009 but this year it was the turn of the city that can lay claim to being the world capital of triathlon.

The Brownlees grew up in nearby Horsforth and live just north of the city, while Non Stanford and Vicky Holland, who will also represent Britain in Rio, have made Leeds their home.

That victory around his home course has surely given Brownlee confidence ahead of the challenges of Rio?

He said: "Of course I feel I can do it. I wouldn't be bothering if I didn't think I could."

He cites the London Olympics, when he ground down Gomez and his brother Jonny on the 10 kilometre run to surge away to victory, as the best race of his life.

"I don't think we've seen standout performances of the quality we saw in London, from me, Javier or Jonny, I don't think any of us have competed that well again," said Brownlee

"It probably is more competitive now so it probably is a bit harder to win this year but it makes it more of a challenge. It'll be better if I can pull it off.

"In terms of the stage of the year, I'm probably a better athlete now, but on that day, to get to that place, I've got a long way to go."

His poor race on the Gold Coast was an unexpected blow after a great block of training following the ankle surgery.

But, having competed at the Olympics in Beijing as a 20-year-old and won his first world title a year later, Brownlee has plenty of experience to draw on to put things right.

"It's just a bit of a shame really," he said. "Just because I trained really hard, really consistently, worked really hard on being healthy and injury free and then it just all fell apart on me.

"But hopefully I'm okay now. Thankfully there's a lot of time, particularly before Rio, to be fully fit.

"I've had a lot of ups and downs, times where I think I've been on top of it and in great shape and then other times where it's been really tough.

"The ankle is absolutely perfect. That had been a big ongoing thing and I obviously had to take that big decision whether to have surgery on it or not, and so far I'm glad I did.

"In a perfect world I would have raced more but I'm not massively worried about my lack of racing. I've done a lot of racing over the years so hopefully that's all in there somewhere.

"Confidence for me comes from a backbone of training hard. If I can get that done, then I haven't got any worries."