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It’s top two or bust for Duffy

All on the line: Duffy, left, speaks during a press conference in Cozumel as her rival Jorgensen looks on

Flora Duffy and Gwen Jorgensen go head-to-head in today’s Grand Final Cozumel with both triathletes in a battle to be crowned the ITU World Series champion.

Duffy has enjoyed an extraordinary season and leads second-place Jorgenson in the Columbia Threadneedle rankings by 166 points going into today’s showdown, where points count for double.

The Bermudian will be guaranteed a maiden title if she places in the top two regardless of where Jorgensen, the defending two-times champion, finishes.

Jorgensen, who claimed the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio, could become the first woman to win three titles in a row and will hope the British squad of Helen Jenkins, Vicky Holland and Non Stanford can also play a part in scuppering Duffy’s plans.

Duffy said she was mentally prepared for Jorgensen to be breathing down her neck and will look to establish a healthy lead in the 1,500-metres swim and 40km bike before the 10km run — the United States triathlete’s strongest discipline.

“This season has blown my expectations out of the water,” Duffy said at a press conference held on the Mexican island.

“I didn’t expect to be leading the series coming into the Grand Final and I’ve got myself into a position where I’ve got the Olympic champion right behind me.

“It’s going to be a really tough battle out there and I know Gwen really wants to win.”

Duffy put her disappointment at finishing eighth at the Olympics behind her by placing fourth in her next race at this month’s World Triathlon Edmonton to solidify her position as No 1.

Becoming the World Series champion would surpass her pair of Xterra Series titles and ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship victory, with Duffy admitting she needs a massive performance in Cozumel.

“These [hot] conditions aren’t easy to race in and it’s the end of a really big year with everyone coming off the Olympics,” she said.

“I’m going to give it my all and try to win the series. It will be huge for Bermuda and huge for me.

“Either way it’s been a really great season for me so I can’t complain.”

Jorgensen, an admirer of Duffy’s talents and quick to console her at the finish line in Rio, said her rival’s “in-your-face” style of racing has forced her to raise her game this season.

“I’ve been pretty vocal about wanting to win gold in Rio over the past few years,” Jorgensen said. “I said I’d be happy if the only race I won in 2016 was the Olympics and I did that.

“Whatever I do here is the icing on the cake. It’s pretty tight with the top contenders and I’m assuming Flora will try and break away in the swim and the bike.

“She’s definitely made me a better competitor this year and she’s pushed me, and it’s been great for the sport.”