Duffy beats stacked field at WTCS Abu Dhabi in dominating stylePhoto by: Kevin Mackinnon
It has been an incredible year for Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who took her country’s first Olympic gold medal in July and took her third World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) title in August. While many Olympic gold medalists call it a season after their big win, Duffy has managed to work her way through the bedlam that surrounds an Olympic champion to continue her winning ways. Less than a month after celebrating a new national holiday named after her in Bermuda, Duffy used all of her talent and racing smarts to win the final WTCS event of the year in Abu Dhabi.
Charles-Barclay doesn’t lead the swim
The race began with a bit of a surprise as Lucy Charles-Barclay wasn’t able to power her way to the front – it was another Brit, Sophie Coldwell, who led the women out of the water with countrywoman Jessica Learmonth on her feet. Charles-Barclay was sixth out of the water but managed to run her way to hit T1 in third place.
The defending 70.3 world champ’s transition skills have obviously improved, but her bike handling skills still aren’t at the level required to ride with the likes of Flora Duffy at the front of a WTCS race – Charles-Barclay found herself desperately trying to get up to the lead group that was forming ahead of her that included Coldwell, Learmonth, Duffy and yet another athlete from Great Britain, Georgia Taylor-Brown. Charles-Barclay would get herself to the back of that group a few times, but kept losing ground on the corners and would eventually drop back.
American Taylor Knibb managed to ride her way up to the lead group, overcoming the 15-second deficit she had after the swim. That set up a formidable group of five at the front as the American drove the pack. Knibb was riding so hard that as the group reached the end of the second lap she kept looking for someone to pull through, and no one had any interest in helping out. Knibb finally slowed right down and pulled over to the side to force the rest of the group to do some work. The American then tried to break clear after Duffy had taken a long pull, being joined by Learmonth on the break, but the pair weren’t able make the move stick and the group of five would stay together heading into T2. Charles-Barclay put together an incredible ride, finishing the ride by herself after a solo effort kept her clear of the chase pack. The 70.3 world champ was just over a minute behind in sixth, with the huge chase group 1:45 down starting the run.
Duffy breaks away … then breaks away again
Out on the run course all of Knibb’s efforts on the bike became apparent almost right from the start – Learmonth flew out onto the run course with Taylor-Brown and Duffy responding, with the American quickly losing time. As she did in Tokyo, Duffy seemed to wait a few minutes to get her run legs under her, then put in a surge to pull away. At the end of the first of two laps Duffy had a lead of six seconds on Taylor-Brown, but then the Brit made a strong move to get herself back onto the Bermudan’s shoulder.
Duffy wasn’t going to let the race come down to a sprint, though, and with about one km to go made another big move to get herself clear, allowing her to hit the blue carpet well ahead and able to enjoy the win in 55:42. Taylor-Brown would take second in 55:54, followed by Coldwell in 56:12. Learmonth would take fourth in 56:28 with Knibb rounding out the top five in 56:36.
“It was really hard out there,” Duffy said after the race. “I didn’t know what to expect – since Tokyo my whole world has turned upside down. I had to use all of my skills and tactics to win today. I tried to stretch it on the downhills. The last 800 m or km I went as hard as I could. I could barely lift the finishing banner at the finish line because I am so emotionally and physically tired. I am so glad the season is done.”
Charles-Barclay couldn’t hold off all of the chase pack on the run, but still hung tough for a 12th-place finish.
There were no Canadian women in the field.
You can see full results from today’s race here.