Dame Flora Duffy returns from Covid to resume WTCS title defence in Leeds
Dame Flora Duffy is relishing a return to World Triathlon Championship Series action as she continues her quest for an historic fourth world title.
The 34-year-old Olympic champion is among a stellar field competing in the third round of the series in Leeds tomorrow, as she aims to overhaul Georgia Taylor-Brown at the top of the standings. Duffy is sitting in second place on 1,856 points, just 69 adrift of her British rival.
The Bermudian got her title defence off to the perfect start by storming to victory in Abu Dhabi last November before following that up with a battling third-place finish in Yokohama last month, behind Taylor-Brown and Leonie Periault, of France.
“I’m really looking forward to racing again on Saturday,” Duffy said. “It will be a new course over a sprint distance [750 metre swim, 20km bike and 5km run] for the first time in Leeds. From what I’ve seen it will be very challenging, with a hilly bike and run section.
“For me personally, the biggest and most exciting thing is that crowds will be back for the race. I believe there are no Covid restrictions in place and so it will be great to have a big crowd back. It will be my first time racing in front of a big crowd again for a long time and so that is really exciting.”
Taylor-Brown, who will have the privilege of wearing No 1 in her home race, heads up a strong British contingent which also includes Sian Rainsley, Beth Potter and Sophie Coldwell, all of whom are sitting in the top 15 of the standings.
The French female team consisting of Periault and Cassandre Beaugrand will pose Duffy a further threat, as will the likes of Maya Kingma, Lotte Miller, Emma Jackson, Summer Rappaport and Taylor Spivey.
“It will be a really strong field, especially from the British contingent, a lot of whom train out in Leeds and so it will be a tough event for sure,” Duffy added. “Because a lot of them are based here it creates a really nice atmosphere — a lot like Bermuda — and so I always enjoy competing in that sort of environment.
“For sure people like Georgia Taylor-Brown will be strong because this is her home race and so no doubt she will have that extra motivation to go out and win.”
Duffy’s preparation in the build-up to the race proved far from ideal having tested positive for Covid at the end of last month. However, having made a full recovery she is determined to pick up where she left off and continue her strong start to the series campaign.
“I’m actually feeling fine after having Covid.” she said. “Obviously it wasn’t ideal timing between Yokohama and the is race in Leeds. There was only three weeks between the races and ten days of that I had Covid and then had to recover form that.
“However, I’ve had about a week’s worth of solid training and so we will have to see how that sets me up for the race.
“Not ideal preparation for sure but I’m just looking forward to getting back to racing and improving on a few mistakes I made in Yokohama.
“Hopefully it will be a smooth race and I can finish strongly to keep myself well placed in the overall series standings.”
Saturday’s event kicks off a busy schedule for Duffy, with further WTCS races in Montreal, Canada, on June 24 and Hamburg, Germany, on July 9, making up key preparation for her overall focus of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham at the end of next month, when she will be defending her title from 2018, as well as competing in the mixed relay alongside compatriots Tyler Butterfield, Tyler Smith and Erica Hawley.
“After this race, the season really kicks on with Montreal in two weeks’ time, then Hamburg another couple of weeks after that, and then the big one, the Commonwealth Games
“It’s quite scary just how quickly it has all come around but the main focus is just to keep building from here and towards the Commonwealth Games.
“Obviously, I want to defend my title that I won in 2018 and I’m also super excited to also be in the mixed relay, which will be really cool for myself, Tyler, Tyler and Erica.”