Flora Duffy storms to gold in World Triathlon Montreal super-sprint finals
Flora Duffy moved back into pole position to win a record-equalling third women’s world title after storming to victory in the World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal on Saturday.
Having comfortably navigated her way through the opening two elimination races – finishing eighth and sixth respectively – Duffy took to the final start line alongside Laura Lindemann, Taylor Knibb, Katie Zaferes, Verena Steinhauser, Taylor Spivey, Leoine Periault, Sophie Coldwell, Nicole Van Der Kaay and Non Stanford as the top ten battled it out for gold.
Getting off to a strong start, Duffy exited the water from the 300-metre swim in third place, in 4min 4sec, along with the Americans Spivey and Knibb. The trio remained together throughout the three-lap 7.2-kilometre cycle, finishing with 16:01 on the clock to set up an exciting climax on the two-lap 2km run.
However, heading into the final lap of the run, Duffy made her decisive move, breaking away solo to open up a pivotal gap over her rivals.
From that point on there was no catching the 33-year-old as she cruised to the line in a winning time of 23:07 to clinch gold, just two weeks on from fulfilling her lifelong dream of capturing Olympic gold in Tokyo. Knibb secured second place, narrowly ahead of compatriot Spivey to complete the podium places.
“That was incredibly brutal but it was really exciting to do something different,” said Duffy, reflecting on the new format in which 30 triathletes contested three super-sprint races. The slowest ten finishers were cut after the first and second races, making tactics and conservation of energy crucial.
“I’ve never done this style of racing and I think for me at this stage in my career where it is something new and makes me nervous is quite nice and kept things exciting.
“As the rounds went on, I felt better and I certainly felt better than yesterday [qualifier], which was a shock to the system. I haven’t done much since the Olympics and so that opened my body up.
“Today I felt strong and I tried to be as tactical as possible in the first two rounds. Taylor Knibb is riding incredibly well at the moment and I definitely took advantage of her tactic to go hard on the bike. I don’t know if she’s as comfortable on her run, so I definitely took advantage of that.
“On that last two kilometres I just gave it all I had and I’m super pumped to take the win. It feels good to be on top of this podium.
“I’m really looking forward to Edmonton. Coming in and winning here, I think, gives me a nice buffer heading into the final.”
As well as securing yet further title glory, the victory and 1,000 points on offer moved Duffy above Maya Kingma – who was not competing in Montreal – and back to the top of the standings ahead of the championship finals in Edmonton on Friday.
Duffy, now on 2791 points in the overall standings, holds a 449 point advantage over Spivey, on 2324 points, with Kingma now in third, on 2315.
The day began with the 30 women lined up for potentially three tough races ahead.
In the first eliminator it was Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes who lead a group out of the water which also included the likes of Lindemann, Knibb, Duffy and Spivey.
By the second lap of the cycle it was Knibb who seized the initiative, pushing the pace with only Duffy and Spivey keeping within touching distance.
Heading into the run, the trio had opened up a gap of 26 seconds from the rest, with a group of 20 athletes vying for the 17 places available in the next round.
With Knibb refusing to let up the pace, Duffy and Spivey settled into a steady rhythm with the likes of Zaferes, Emma Jackson and Stanford reeling them in.
Duffy ultimately crossed the line in a group of athletes; eight seconds adrift of Knibb, while missing out were some surprising names such as Natalie Van Coevorden, Nina Eim and Alice Betto.
It was Knibb, who again led out of the water in the second eliminator, with Duffy comfortably within the lead group of eight.
Those eight worked together in the early stages of the cycle to create a gap over a chasing pack of five with Stanford and Van Der Kaay trying to stay ahead of Anabel Knoll, Audrey Merle and Rainsley.
It was Lindemann who claimed the first spot in the final, 19 seconds ahead of the rest of the lead pack, including Duffy in sixth, all crossing the line comfortably together.
With just two spots remaining in the final it became a straight race to the line between Stanford, Van Der Kaay, Knoll and Merle. Ultimately Stanford broke to ensure her progression with Van Der Kaay also holding off the challengers behind to finish 10th and snare the precious last spot.
In the final it was Coldwell who led into the first transition with Duffy, Spivey and Lindemann in close quarters as the quartet attempted to put some daylight between themselves and the remaining six.
However, by the opening kilometre of the cycle, Knibb had dragged the chasing pack back up to the lead group as all ten came together. As she had done in the previous two races, Knibb made her move, increasing the pace.
By the second lap only Duffy and Spivey had maintained the pace and in mere moments the three suddenly had their opening, with a 30 second gap to the rest of the field by the final transition.
With the top three all but decided it was a case of who would claim victory. Knibb again attempted to break but to no avail and as the bell rang for the final lap it was Duffy who streaked away, wrapping things up in true style, with the fastest time of the entire weekend’s six women’s races.