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Can Flora Duffy get her first win in Abu Dhabi? Has Lucy Charles-Barclay learned to transition well enough to win?

Competitive field set to line up for sprint-distance event in the United Arab Emirates

Photo by: Ben Lumley/ World Triathlon

Bermuda’s Olympic and world champion Flora Duffy will highlight a stacked field at this weekend’s World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) Abu Dhabi, looking to win one of the only titles she hasn’t claimed during her impressive career. While she’ll head in as the race favourite, there’s a strong field ready to beat her to the top of the podium, including 70.3 world champion Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR), who has had a magical 2021 season with everything from her first world title to top finishes in Super League and WTCS events to go along with an appearance at the British Olympic Swimming Trials.

Flora Duffy shows off her Olympic gold medal. Photo: Wagner Araujo/ World Triathlon

Then there’s the closest thing we’ve seen to a Flora Duffy mini-me, American Taylor Knibb, who won WTCS Yokohama this year thanks to a breakaway bike ride followed by a solid enough run to hold off the rest of the women in the field. She followed a similar pattern to dominate the Collins Cup this year, too, and took third at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship to solidify herself as one of the top triathletes of 2021. (She was part of the US silver-medal relay team in Tokyo, too.)

Knibb takes the day to win the final, Duffy makes history with World Triathlon Championship win in Edmonton

Add to that the Olympic individual silver medalist, Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown and her fellow gold-medalist from the relay in Tokyo, Jessica Learmonth, and you have the makings of a frightening lead pack in Abu Dhabi. Some other lead pack swimmers who will be doing their best to hang on to Charles-Barclay’s feet include her countrywomen Sophie Coldwell and Sian Rainslay, Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Laura Lindemann (GER), Summer Rappaport (USA) and Taylor Spivey (USA) – look for at least a couple of that list to be in the mix at the front of the bike, too. (Barring something really crazy happening Charles-Barclay will lead the women out of the water. After struggling with transitions at WTCS Leeds and at Super League Malibu, she’s worked on her transitions quite a bit. If she’s improved those, along with her bike handling skills, she should lead the charge early in the bike in Abu Dhabi. The question will be who will join her at the front early on.)

Lucy Charles-Barclay balances Kona desires and Olympic dreams 

Great Britain is sending in a nutty-deep women’s contingent to the race – we’ve already talked about three front swim pack contenders and haven’t talked about Rio medalist Vicky Holland, Non Stanford or super-runner Beth Potter, who might not make the lead swim pack, but will be factors in the chase group should the leaders not make enough of a break.

The sprint-distance race features a 750 m swim in the Yas Marina followed by a five-lap, 20 km ride on the Formula 1 track and a two-loop 5 km run that finishes in front of the marina.

The women head off at 16:11 local time, which will be 8:11 EST. You can watch the race live on TriathlonLive.tv. The water temperature in the Marina is expected to be 31 C and the air temperature is also expected to be very hot.

There are no Canadian women registered for the race – you can see the full start list here.