Duffy streets ahead

  • Riding high: Flora Duffy rounds the bend on to Queen Street, during her victorious procession on the roads of Hamilton in MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda on Saturday (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

    Riding high: Flora Duffy rounds the bend on to Queen Street, during her victorious procession on the roads of Hamilton in MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda on Saturday (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Flora Duffy demolished the rest of the world on the packed streets of Hamilton during a masterclass performance in MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda on Saturday.

It was the Duffy show from start to finish, as the script had demanded, the headliner emphasising her staggering superiority in front an army of adoring fans, the majority of whom were watching her in the flesh for the first time.

From the moment Duffy emerged first from the water it seemed no longer a question of whether she would win, rather how comprehensive the margin would be over an elite field including Olympic and Commonwealth Games medal-winners.

Indeed, she made history by becoming the first woman to win a world series race after being the fastest in all three disciplines of swim, bike and run.

“It was an amazing moment for me and my sporting career, it was incredible!” said Duffy, who finished 1min 46sec ahead of runner-up Vicky Holland, of Britain, in a time of 2hr 1min 39sec.

“I don’t think this moment is going to sink in for a while. I love that all sorts of people were out here, whether they knew what triathlon was a year ago or not — and they were celebrating. I just want to say thank you to every Bermudian that came out to support.”

It has been a month to remember for the darling of Bermudian sport. She entered the WTS Bermuda on a crest of a wave, having stormed to gold at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, 3½ weeks ago.

If her victory Down Under was thoroughly convincing, her triumph on home turf was simply jaw-dropping as the local hero executed an impeccable display to add another stellar moment to her growing legacy.

“I’ve known about this [event] for a year and a half, but running on Front Street — I did the Front Street Mile every year growing up — was a very surreal and special moment,” Duffy said. “It’s been a long journey to get here, lots of ups and downs. I have to thank my parents for sticking with me and driving me to every single triathlon, every swim practice, every running race. I couldn’t do it without them.”

Three women, Cecilia Pérez, of Mexico, Georgia Taylor-Brown, of Britain, and Austria’s Lisa Perterer, served a 15-second penalty in the first transition after a false start off the pontoon. There was no such misstep from Duffy, however, who clawed her way into the lead after a matter of strokes, surfacing from Hamilton Harbour three seconds ahead of American Kirsten Kasper, an advantage she aggressively extended throughout a 40-kilometre solo bike ride and 10km run.

From the moment Duffy put down the hammer on the first climb of the menacing Corkscrew Hill, any hopes Kasper had of joining the breakaway vanished.

It had not been Duffy’s intention to be a lone wolf, pursued to no avail by a pack of nine in the first chase group. But she had no choice but to go it alone as Jess Learmonth, the Briton who has formed a strategic alliance with Duffy on the bike in recent times, opted out of the trip after winning silver on the Gold Coast.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting that and I didn’t want to be on my own,” Duffy said. “I just split up and thought, ‘I’ll try the first few laps and if they catch me I’ll reassess then’. I went for it and it was fine.

“Going up Corkscrew {Hill], I wasn’t really sure where everybody was; I knew Kirsten was there. I attacked it because that was my plan and I thought she would come with me, but she didn’t. So I thought, ‘well I guess I am going 40km solo’.”

Duffy turned the screw during the final three laps of the bike, seemingly dancing on the pedals to the top of Corkscrew Hill, and opening an unassailable 1:24 lead by the start of the run. By the bell lap, Duffy was 2:08 ahead of Katie Zaferes, of the United States, and Holland; a lead she could have built upon had she not eased off to “soak up” the carnival atmosphere.

“I knew after the first 5K that this was going to be it,” said Duffy, who proudly carried the Bermuda flag across the finish line. “It was hard for me to control my emotions throughout that whole 10km, I just thought I needed to smile, celebrate and soak this in.”

Duffy’s win may have been a procession, but there was plenty of drama still to come as Holland won a photo finish against Zaferes.

“I just found out I came second; I could not have told you at the finish,” said Holland, who won bronze at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro two years ago.

“I give all credit to Katie; she pulled me around a lot on the run. I had a bad transition, it took me a lap to catch her and after that I just sort of tucked in and tried to hold on.

“This was my first Olympic distance in over 11 months and I wasn’t sure how I would fare on the second half, so I really just let Katie do the work and prepared myself for a sprint.”

Zaferes, who finished in 2:03:25, added: “This race wasn’t exactly an easy one. I was fighting from the start of the swim; it just did not feel good. I’m just so happy to be on the podium.”

The “Go, Flora, go!” chants briefly subsided while Duffy took her rightful place on top of the podium to receive a gold medal before the playing of Hail to Bermuda for the second time this month.

By then Bermuda had already collectively expressed its own acclamation of its sporting superstar: “All hail Flora Duffy!”

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Published Apr 30, 2018 at 12:01 am (Updated Apr 30, 2018 at 3:20 pm)

Duffy streets ahead

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