Earning her fourth career World Triathlon Series victory and second consecutive win of the season, Flora Duffy (BER) claimed the 2017 Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds in a near-perfect race scenario.
Exiting the waters among the leaders and then joining a small and fierce lead bike pack that worked well together to earn a large advantage, Duffy entered the run with a clear shot of earning the day’s gold medal. Giving her a second WTS win of the season and a trade up from the silver medal she earned in Leeds in 2016, Duffy’s victory also puts her in a solid position to continue her quest of reclaiming her World Title.
Duffy said of how the race played out, “I came out of the water in a good position and luckily the girls on the bike were keen to work with me. So perhaps they picked up on if you ride hard there is an opportunity to podium, so we made a huge gap and yeah it was fantastic. You know this was Taylor’s (Spivey) first podium and Alice’s (Betto) as well, so that is really cool and I am super happy for them.”
“Four was perfect, especially when we came into the circuit because it is so technical here, so the smaller the group is the faster you get through the corners and just the more efficient you are. Those girls rode super well technically so it helped the speed, so we just gradually just put more and more time into the chase group, which was pretty cool,” she said of the small lead bunch she cycled with. “Obviously you go into each race with a goal, so yeah it is nice that I have won the first two, which kind of came as a surprise but I guess I will just keep the momentum going.”
Joining the reigning World Champion on the podium was two WTS medal first-timers: Taylor Spivey (USA) and Alice Betto (ITA). Spivey earned the silver medal, advancing from her first-time silver medal she earned in Madrid in the World Cup circuit only a few weeks before in order to become only the seventh woman in the USA to make a WTS podium.
“I am beyond thrilled, I wasn’t expecting it all. I just am so happy that all of my hard work has paid off and it came together today,” Spivey said. “I think making that front pack with Flora, she is just so strong and technically amazing. I really had to push to stay on her wheel because I am not as technically as strong as her, but I am just so happy I managed to pull it together today.”
A cloudy and slightly cool day welcomed the women as they kicked off the day of racing in Leeds. With wetsuits zipped on and ready, the elites dove off the pontoon and into the water for a 1500 metre swim. Right from the start Great Britain’s own Jessica Learmonth pushed herself into the leading position, with a string of women behind her. The two-lap swim made for a gap to appear in the water and as Learmonth exited into the second transition first, only a trickle of the field were close on her.
Duffy managed to exit the waters just seconds behind Learmonth, which set herself up perfectly to have an ideal cycle.
Coming out of the first transition, a small group of women instantly joined together on the bike, but as Learmonth slowed down in the first 12-kilometre countryside lap to wait for compatriot Non Stanford, the lead group lost its connection and narrowed down to only four riders.
The front four, which featured Duffy, Spivey, Betto and Maya Kingma (NED) pushed ahead as three of the rookie women tried to keep up with the master class of Duffy’s riding. However the four managed to work well together as they continued to gain a healthy lead over the chase groups.
The main chase pack saw some big names that just missed getting into the lead. Learmonth, Stanford, Gillian Backhouse (AUS) and Kirsten Kasper (USA) were among the crew, but despite their efforts they were not able to gain any ground on the leading four.
Aussie Ashleigh Gentle, who entered the race as one of the top threats, found herself in the second chase pack, who were minutes behind and out of contention.
As the main four steadily increased their advantage, they ultimately were untouched on the bike course, entering the bell lap with a lead of 2:30.
Entering the second transition, Duffy was off in an instant and never looked back. Her ability in the bike catapulted her into a perfect position to blast off on the run and bypass her younger and less experienced fellow cyclists. While the chase pack contained many strong runners, with the huge deficit, Duffy ran securely to claim her gold.
The power that was seen on the bike came through for the remaining three women from the lead group. Spivey and Betto also burst out of the gate in hopes of getting on their first WTS podiums. A dream that was realized for both women. While Betto was forced to serve a 15-second penalty for dismounting her bike late while entering the second transition, her advantage worked for her and she still had no one in sight to grant her the bronze medal. Betto then became the first Italian of either men or women to make the WTS podium.
“I couldn’t believe it because it was a first time podium for me. This race was perfect for me, I had a great swim and on the bike we pushed very hard. I know that my running condition isn’t so good so I tried to keep going,” said Betto. “I was so nervous (about the penalty) because this was the second time, the first was in Yokohama and now again so I was very angry with myself because this was the second time.”