Zaferes continues her ascent
Katie Zaferes sent out a statement of intent with an emphatic MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda victory cementing her place as the dominant force in the women’s field.
In Flora Duffy’s absence, Zaferes seized the initiative, staying in the leading pack for the swim and bike disciplines before showing her prowess by taking command on the run to cross the line in a time of 1hr 59 52sec. Her winning margin was more than 1min 40sec ahead of Britain’s Jessica Learmonth, who in turn finished more than 40 seconds ahead of Joanna Brown of Canada.
Zaferes, whose run was reminiscent of Duffy’s dominant display last year, having studied the home-town hero’s performance, strengthened her position at the top of the ITU World Triathlon Series standings, having won the season opener in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m just so happy. I was inspired by Flora’s victory last year,” Zaferes said. “I watched the race back a few times, spoke to her for tips and tried to put everything into practice.
“I learnt a lot about the bike from Flora last year and where she picked up time, and pretty much studied her whole race. I’m just delighted with how it panned out.
“Getting a strong swim was vital and then it was a case of focusing and really pushing on in the bike and run sections. As soon I got to the run, I knew I had to run as hard as I could and just go for it.
“It is awesome to be able to start the series with back-to-back victories. You are always nervous ahead of a race. You never know how it is going to go and so you just have to commit fully in your process.
“I’m always confident in my plan ahead of the races and it was great to execute it.
“I’m just focusing on one race at a time and trying not to focus too much on the series as a whole. The main aim is to qualify for Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but if I can end up as the series winner along the way then that would be a fantastic bonus.”
Having exited the 1,500-metre swim first amid stormy conditions that included lightning, Learmonth stayed in contention with Zaferes until her pivotal push on the 10km run, with the Briton having no answer to her rivals greater pedigree when it mattered most.
“I was absolutely dying to be fair, the swim took it out of me,” the 31-year-old said. “It was absolutely ridiculous out there and it felt like I was in the middle of the ocean. I had no idea where I was going. I couldn’t see a thing and I was hoping for the best because it was absolutely incredible out there; I’ve never experienced anything like it.
“After that Katie just smashed me on the bike for an hour and then the run was horrendous.
“I was prepared for her to really take off on the run because she’s just incredible, the best triathlete in the world without a doubt. She’s just so strong in every discipline and you can’t really fault her.
“I’m delighted to finish second, though. Every time I race I’m just shocked when I do well; maybe one day I’ll gain some confidence, but this will definitely help.
“Hopefully, now I can start getting in the top three consistently and go from there looking ahead.”
For Brown, a third-place finish was just rewards for an incredible comeback on the run, in which she chased down Lotte Miller, of Norway, with 1½ laps left, wiping out more than a 2½-minute deficit on her way to deservedly taking the final place on the podium.
“I’m so happy with my run today and I’m delighted to have finished third,” said Brown, who was tenth last year.
“The swim and bike were really hard, but I hung in there and when I got to the run I had an extra fire in my belly to really push on and try and catch the leaders.
“I was really determined and, although I was some way back coming into the run, I always try not to count myself out. You never know what might happen and when I saw Lotte in my sights, I knew it was my time to go for it.
“I feel like I’m missing an entire lung after that run; for sure I worked hard for my third place. One thing I learnt from last year was just how hard this course is. You just have to keep pushing and go hard.
“I’ve had a few fourth-place finishes but this is definitely up there for me. I just want to keep pushing on and move forward ahead of Tokyo 2020.
“There is not only the points for the season but all of us are trying to qualify for our countries for the Olympics. Every race will help towards that and so the pressure is on for all of us over the next year.
“I’ve gained a huge amount of confidence from this and now I have to go on and achieve a number of top five WTS places to move up in the Olympic standings.”
Zaferes leads the series on 2,000 points, with Learmonth second on 1,781 and American Taylor Spivey third on 1,602. The next World Triathlon Series event is in Yokohama, Japan, on May 18.
• To view the elite results, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”