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Dame Flora Duffy to go extreme this year

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New challenge: Flora Duffy, pictured in her debut competing in the Collins Cup triathlon series, has signalled her intent to focus on more longer distance races on the Professional Triathletes Organisation 100-kilometre Tour this season

Dame Flora Duffy is relishing the opportunity to “prove herself” as she aims to focus on longer distances in advance of her attempt to successfully defend her Olympic title next year.

After winning just about every short-course triathlon title, including the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, a record four World Triathlon Series Championships and Xterra World Championships, Duffy, is undoubtedly one of the sport’s most dominant forces

But the 35-year-old, who was crowned last year’s female triathlete of the year, remains far from content and has signalled her intent to step up in distance and compete on the Professional Triathletes Organisation 100-kilometre Tour this season, which begins in Ibiza, Spain, on May 6.

“My whole life goal was to win at the Olympics, and I did that,” said Duffy, in a new PTO video feature, on fulfilling her childhood dream in Tokyo in 2021. “Anything that I do in my career from now is icing on the cake.

“My goal for this year was to do some different types and styles of racing. I’ve only actually ever done one sort of longer-course race, and that was in the beginning of 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago because that’s pre-pandemic.

“Paris [2024 Olympic Games] is my big goal, but I would also love to to jump into 100k distance.

“The distance is not what I’m comfortable with, but it’s new for me to be somewhere where I’m uncomfortable or unsure of how the race will play out for me.”

Despite her relative lack of experience over the longer format, which consists of a 2km swim, an 80km bike ride and 18km run, Duffy heads into the campaign twelfth in the PTO rankings after encouraging displays at the 70.3 World Championships, US Open and Collins Cup displays last season, while she also won Ironman 70.3 South Africa in January 2020.

While acknowledging that she is the most famous face within the sport, Duffy is aware that she will be in the unfamiliar position of underdog on the tour, which boasts a star-studded line-up headed up by Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf, a five-time winner of the Ironman World Championships and Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Rivalry resumed: Flora Duffy, representing Team International, congratulates Daniela Ryf, of Team Europe, after she won their match in the opening race of the Collins Cup series in Bratislava, Slovakia. The two will come face-to-face again on the PTO Tour this season

“I come in as the reigning Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion and I guess my reputation precedes me a little bit,” added Duffy, who was beaten by Ryf in the opening race of the Collins Cup series in Bratislava, Slovakia in August last year.

“It’s great to come in as someone who can be perceived as a bit intimidating or unknown and unsettle your competitors. You know, it’s quite a power position to come in with.

“However, the women’s field is really strong. Daniela [Ryf] is a tough girl; she’s got many, many 70.3 world titles, Ironman world titles, and has absolutely pushed the level.

“For me, I haven’t proven myself over this distance at all. I’ve done one race and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t the best performance at all. So I think I have a lot to prove that I can race well at this distance.”

Despite Duffy’s own reservations, Ryf is adamant the Bermudian will cope with the transition to the longer distance after observing her incredible success over the past few years.

“I raced her back when we were juniors, and it’s amazing to see how she has developed as an athlete,“ Ryf said. ”She had amazing races and then was also for a while, I think, struggling. It’s really impressive how she turned around and really brought up this amazing career.

“The last couple of years, she’s just been absolutely brilliant. She improved that performance when it really counts. When the pressure is on, some people crack, Flora won’t crack, she’s very tough.”

While Duffy, who opted out of the opening World Triathlon Championship Series race in Abu Dhabi last week, shows no sign of any weakness across the three disciplines, she admits to having to give extra focus to the bike to cope with the gruelling races.

“The biggest difference that I found from short course to long course is spending time on the Time Trial bike,” said Duffy, who is aware patience will be needed in making the step up. “It’s so different and I think each athlete takes to it differently.

“I’m definitely going to have to spend another year or so riding it consistently, getting used to the position and getting my aero position more and more dialled, working on my fuelling.

“It’s like lots of little things that make a massive difference over 100K distance, so continuing to dial that in will be important for me if I want to be really strong over this distance.

“It’s a much longer distance, so I think a bit of patience needs to be had. It needs some patience and smart racing to cross the line first.”

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Published March 07, 2023 at 7:40 am (Updated March 08, 2023 at 9:32 am)

Dame Flora Duffy to go extreme this year

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