Duffy opens title defence in Abu Dhabi
Flora Duffy will been keen to lay down a marker when she starts the defence of her world title at the ITU World Triathlon Series Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates tomorrow morning.
The two-times defending WTS women's champion is among a record field of participants from 51 countries including Olympic and world champions.
A nagging hip injury ruled Duffy out of last year's event but she is healthy this time around and champing at the bit to compete the iconic Yas Island course for the first time.
“I was disappointed to miss the Abu Dhabi race last year due to an injury,” the Bermudian triathlete told triathlon.org.
“I've heard a ton of great things about Yas Island course so I can't wait to tackle it — especially the bike course which looks like it's really suited to my aggressive style of racing.”
Duffy has her work cut out as nine of the world's top-ten ranked women triathletes are also among the field, including New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt, the event's defending champion, and Australian Ashleigh Gentle, who finished runner-up behind Duffy on the WTS overall championship leaderboard.
The WTS season opener will see the world-class field tackle a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike and 5km run.
Despite missing the first two races of last year's WTS, Duffy won six of the seven remaining events to retain her ITU world title.
She also won a fourth consecutive Xterra World Championship crown, as well as the Island House Invitational in the Bahamas.
Duffy, who pocketed nearly $300,000 in prize earnings alone last year, opted not to defend her title at the Xterra South African Championships in Grabouw last weekend, choosing instead to focus solely on today's event.
“It was tentatively on my schedule but with my first WTS race in five days I decided to skip the Xterra to focus on Abu Dhabi,” Duffy told The Royal Gazette.
Duffy romped to her fourth straight women's title at last year's Xterra South African Championships to get her 2017 season off to a flying start.
But it came at a price as she was forced to withdraw from the season-opening WTS Abu Dhabi a week later because of the hip injury.
The 30-year-old will compete in the individual triathlon, mixed team relay and mountain biking at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, next month.
Duffy, who will be competing at her third Commonwealth Games, will join Tyler Butterfield and teenage triathletes Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley in the mixed relay team.