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Duffy enters final frontier in Australia

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One to beat: Duffy is fancied to complete a stellar 2016 with a third world title

Flora Duffy will be looking to end an extraordinary season on a solid note when she rests her title on the line at the Snowy Mountains Cross Triathlon World Championships in Australia tomorrow.

The defending champion is the firm favourite going into the event, consisting of a 1.5 kilometre swim, 32.8km mountain bike and 10km cross-country run, taking place at Lake Crackenback, New South Wales.

“Final race of the season and it is a good one!” Duffy tweeted. “Thanks for such a great course.”

The Bermuda triathlete is gunning for a second straight title at this event and a third world title of the season, having already won the World Triathlon Championship and a third successive Xterra World Championship.

While Duffy is the heavy favourite, she cannot afford to take anything for granted in a field that also boasts Olympic bronze medal-winner Erin Densham, World Triathlon Series rivals Charlotte McShane and Barbara Riveros, as well as Jacqueline Slack, who is very experienced at cross-terrain events.

Located in the heart of Australia’s High County, and starting at an altitude of 1,100 metres with Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciusko as the backdrop, this course will both delight and challenge athletes of all levels.

The course includes some of the best fast and flowing single-track mountain bike trails, and gritty off-road running trails found anywhere in Australia.

Set in typical Australian bushland alongside Lake Crackenback and the Little Thredbo River views are spectacular and native wildlife abound.

In her previous outing at the Island House Triathlon in Bahamas last month, the four-times world champion finished second behind Gwen Jorgensen, the Olympic champion.

Duffy’s overall time for the three events — individual time-trials, enduro and sprint non-drafting — was 3hr 55min 18sec to claim a portion of a record prize pool of $500,000.

Irrespective of where she finishes in Australia tomorrow, nothing can take away from Duffy’s truly remarkable season, in which she captured a maiden WTS title when she held off Jorgensen, the two-times defending champion, at the Grand Final Cozumel in Mexico in September.

More success soon followed after she claimed a third successive Xterra title in Maui, Hawaii, last month to become the first woman to win both the off-road circuit and WTS title in the same season.

“This season has exceeded my expectations and I just wanted to be consistent and finish in the top ten of every ITU race,” said Duffy, who finished a career-best eighth at her third Olympics, in Rio this summer.

“My lowest finish was fourth and then I won the overall title. I was never expecting to achieve that.

“When I took the overall lead in April, I was thinking, ‘That’s great, just hold them off until the next race and at least get to wear the gold numbers once’.

“I’ve won the one that truly mattered to me, so it will be the icing on the cake if I manage to win three titles in a row.”