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Duffy in dreamland after third world title

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Different class: Duffy brought her year to a spectacular ending with a wire-to-wire finish at the Snowy Mountains ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship

Flora Duffy crowned a career-best season by romping to victory at the Snowy Mountains ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Australia for an historic third world championship title on Saturday.

Duffy entered the race as the defending champion, reigning ITU world champion and Xterra world champion — and she did not disappoint.

The Bermudian, whose season included an Olympic-best eighth-place finish at the Rio Games, led from the gun and increased the margin at every changeover to eventually win by four minutes from Barbara Riveros, of Chile, with American Suzanne Snyder third.

“It’s really surreal and I don’t think I’ve fully absorbed it yet,” said Duffy, who completed the 1,500-metre swim, 32.8-kilometre mountain bike and 10km trail run in 2hr 54min 11sec. “This race was pretty hard and I was so empty on that run course today.”

Duffy then let the magnitude of her accomplishment sink in. “It’s cool,” said the understated and often shy 29-year-old. “It was kind of a crazy idea that formed after the overall win at Cozumel. I thought, there’s two more world titles this year; maybe I can win them.

“To do it, to keep it together for this long under this much pressure and attention to detail, you really have to race at a high level if you want to win. To do all of that is cool.”

Duffy led from the outset and a newcomer to off-road racing, Charlotte McShane, was not far off the pace in second after the swim.

But once Duffy got on to the single-track mountain bike leg, she was out of sight and amassed a huge four-minute lead off the bike. With limited time spent on her mountain bike, McShane lost ground over the two-lap 16.4km loops. With McShane’s lack of bike-handling skill, she was soon overtaken by the last-minute inclusion to the start line of Riveros, who had little run training after recovering from a broken foot.

That did not seem to affect the fleet-footed Riveros, who easily glided over the tough run trails and on to the podium for a second successive silver medal at the World Championships.

Snyder was consistent all day and slowly worked her way to the front of the field and into her first world championship podium for a bronze medal.

But all the glory goes to Duffy, who clocked comfortably the best times in the swim and the mountain bike, with 18:08 and 1:41:02 respectively before a second-best 55-minute run put the finishing touches to a year to remember.

“I didn’t have much time to train,” she said. “I was almost running on fumes and hopefully going off all the training I’d done this year. I was definitely unsure how this race would go, as it’s the end of a big year, but I managed to pull it off and hold it together.”

Duffy’s will be the first name on many lips when triathlon’s end-of-season awards are handed out. Already her swim at the Discovery World Triathlon in Cape Town has been chosen as the best of 2016.

After finishing fourth in the first two World Triathlon Series races in Abu Dhabi and Gold Coast, when the first sprint race of the season came, Duffy stamped her authority.

With wetsuits on to help conquer the 750-metre swim, Duffy pushed ahead in the short distance. She exited the water with a healthy gap, which saw Carolina Routier, of Spain, able to keep up and the other women in the field more than 15 seconds behind.

That lead resulted in Duffy getting a large enough advantage to cycle on for a solo ride that eventually landed her on the podium for the bronze medal.

It was that swim that put her on the top of the Columbia Threadneedle rankings, a position that she never lost and which eventually led her to a World Championship title.

Bermuda’s leading athlete has now begun a well-deserved break.

After collecting her sixth world title, Duffy took to Twitter with the following: “The struggle was real today. Left it all out there! Three world titles in one year ... am I dreaming?! Thanks 2016. Now holiday!”

Who could blame her?

Summary race results

1, Flora Duffy (Bermuda) 2:54:11

2, Barabara Riveros (Chile) 2:58:05

3, Suzanne Snyder (United States) 3:05:45

4, Charlotte McShane (Australia) 3:08:13

5, Myriam Guillot-Boisset (France) 3:10:39

6, Elizabeth Orchard (New Zealand) 3:14:41

7, Jacquiline Slack (Britain) 3:14:14

8, Catherine Sterling (United States) 3:15:36

9, Jessica Simpson (Australia) 3:17:25

10, Renata Bucher (Switzerland) 3:23:26

For full results and split times, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”