Her foray into long-distance racing in 2022 served some challenges, but there’s no doubt that Bermuda’s Flora Duffy remains the world’s top draft-legal competitor after an impressive race in Abu Dhabi that gave her both the win at the Grand Final, but also a record-setting fourth world title.
The Olympic and Commonwealth champion led out of the water, then kept the pressure up on the bike to whittle down the lead pack before running away from Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, who would have taken the world title herself with a win today.
“I’m really, really proud of this one,” Duffy said. “It was a difficult start to the year for me coming out of the Olympics and Covid and everything and it took a lot of work to get my mind back into it so I’m thrilled. I smiled a few times when it was just me and Georgia… I feel like she brings me to another level. We don’t really give each other an inch and I just wanted to stay safe because it’s super hot out there. When I got a little bit of a gap on the third lap of the run it was a little sooner than I anticipated but I thought; ‘well, gotta go now!’”
Knibb at the front
American Taylor Knibb was in front during the early part of the swim, leading out of the water after the first lap of the swim, but Duffy moved her way through the crowd to lead out of the water and flew through transition to lead onto the bike.
Knibb was a bit slower in transition, but managed to work her way up to the lead group of nine that formed alongside Duffy. Duffy’s relentless driving at the front dropped a couple of athletes from the lead group, and then Knibb went down with a couple of laps to go, taking the Netherlands’ Maya Kingma with her. Knibb struggled to get her chain back on, but was able to get back up to Kingma’s wheel for the last lap.
“The corner was entirely my fault, I wasn’t full processing things at that point, it was a bit of user error and I’m sorry to Maya and Vittoria and Lena behind me for that,” Knibb said after the race.
Duffy led a group of four into T2 alongside Taylor-Brown, Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes and Germany’s Lena Meissner – they would now contend for the medals, it appeared.
Duffy and Taylor-Brown quickly separated themselves, as they have for much of the season. Duffy was just too strong for the Brit, though, and started to open up some space on the third of four laps. Duffy would continue to pull clear, eventually winning by over a minute. Taylor-Brown would take second, while Meissner took the bronze ahead of Knibb.
“I gave it everything I had today,” said Taylor-Brown. “It’s been a hard few months and I’ve tried to forget about it all but i’m really proud of myself out there today and giving it everything and doing all I could. We were battling it out to the end and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I don’t think she would. I’m still learning in every race and I still want that world title one day.”
Legault leads Canadian contingent
Emy Legault’s breakthrough year rounded out with a 22nd place finish, while two-time Olympian Amelie Kretz finished 42nd.
Full results are here.