Olympic medallists Flora Duffy (BER) and Dorian Coninx (FRA) successfully navigated a new eliminator format at World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) Montreal on Saturday to romp home in first place.
The podium was decided after competitors raced in a new ‘eliminator’ format that hasn’t been seen in the World Series before. It means the athletes had to race in two qualifying heats on the Friday, with the first 10 finishers from each heat making it into the finals.
Anyone finishing in the next 10 places in each qualifier would then compete in a repechage, with the 10 best finishers from that heat also making it through to the finals, which consisted of three separate races with the bottom 10 dropping out from each.
The racing took place over a supersprint course consisting of a 300m swim, 7.2km bike and 2km run.
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Duffy makes it a month to remember
Duffy’s first WTCS gold since 2018 earned her vital points in the series and ensured she carried on her fine summer form after her impressive gold at Tokyo 2020. Crossing the line in 00:23:07, the Bermudian edged out USA’s Taylor Knibb (second), Taylor Spivey (third) and Katie Zaferes (fourth).
The usual suspects came through unscathed in Friday’s qualification rounds, setting up an exciting three-stage final on Saturday. The first went as expected, with Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes leading out the swim. Just 10 seconds separated the top 24 on the bike and the packs soon descended on the 2km run. Among the 10 missing out was Britain’s Olivia Mathias.
The second final saw Knibb setting the pace with a breakout of eight athletes, with the likes of Non Stanford (GBR), Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL), Anabel Knoll (GER) and Audrey Merle (FRA) chasing down the final to spots for the final. Coming down to the run, both the Brit and the Kiwi prevailed to make it into the final.
Knibb continued her excellent performance over the weekend, taking it on from the front and never relenting on the pace. This time, though, it was Duffy first out of the water with Sophie Coldwell and clearly keen to control how the bike segment played out.
Spivey and Laura Lindemann (GER) were right on their tails, but all 10 triathletes soon came together before Knibb once again started to push. There was no discernible surge from the American, but her drive over the remaining 6km slowly saw athletes drop off the back of the group. Zaferes lost precious ground on the second lap as Duffy and Spivey came through and in mere moments the three suddenly had their opening.
Zaferes then tried to drive on the likes of Leonie Periault (FRA) and Lindemann but without success, the gap 30 seconds as Spivey led the front trio into transition and emerged out in front.
With the three back together, the bell and the crowd’s cheers was the signal Duffy took to make her final and decisive play. The Olympic champion stretched away, the two Americans locked into a battle for silver until Knibb found an extra gear of her own to drop Spivey and take silver.
Zaferes came in fourth just nine seconds back and ahead of Periault, Lindemann, Sophie Coldwell (GBR), Verena Steinhauser (ITA), Van Der Kaay and Stanford.
“It was incredibly brutal but it was really nice to do something different,” admitted Duffy. “I have never done this style of racing. I think for me and where I am at with my career, to do something new that makes me nervous and unsure is quite nice and kept things interesting and exciting.
“As the rounds went on I started to feel better and better, I certainly felt a heck of a lot better than yesterday, that was such a shock to the system. I haven’t done much since the Olympics so that opened my body up and today I felt pretty strong and tried to be as tactical as possible in the first few rounds.”
Duffy’s win in Montreal means she now sits at the top of the leaderboard in the World Series ahead of Spivey and the Netherland’s Maya Kingma, who didn’t race this weekend because of her thoughts on the new ‘eliminator’ format.
French put Olympic disappointment behind them
Fresh from his bronze relay medal at Tokyo 2020, Coninx finished in 00:22:08 to top an all-French podium, with compatriots Vincent Luis and Leo Bergere taking silver and bronze.
Most big names made it through the qualifying rounds on Friday, with USA’s Chase McQueen earning his finals spot at the second time of asking through the repechage. Britain’s Grant Sheldon just missed out in his qualifier, finishing 11th, and was unable to earn his place through the repechage.
Luis unsurprisingly led out the swim in the first final, with McQueen and Japan’s Takumi Jojo hot on his tails. Over the course of the bike and run legs the field came back together, with 24 athletes vying for position as the bell sounded.
Hayden Wilde (NZL) crossed the line first and was followed into the next final by big names such as Jelle Geens (BEL), Martin Van Riel (BEL) and the French contingent. Jonas Shomburg (GER) and McQueen weren’t so lucky, missing out on a spot in the second final.
That left 20 men aiming for a place in the final and the swim was once again led by Luis, with a group of eight athletes forming a lead pack on the bike including Kevin McDowell (USA) and Van Riel. Wilde and Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle worked their way back into touch with the eight out front, while Manoel Messias (BRA) crashed out on the first bike lap to end his chances.
Wilde racked his bike as Luis and Bergere exited T2, with Geens just behind Tim Hellwig (GER), but a coming together effectively ended the Belgian’s challenge as he fell to the ground, adding to his bad luck this summer. Coninx had a lot of ground to make up but he and Birtwhistle were able to pass Hidalgo down the final metres and scrape into the gold-medal showdown.
Another strong swim from Luis got the last final started, but all 10 athletes stuck together on the bike, before a fast and furious 2km run split the field up. In the end, it came to a French shootout, with Bergere and Coninx battling it out for gold before being split by a resurgent Luis.
Behind them Van Riel was fourth, Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) fifth, and Wilde, Birtwhistle, Tayler Reid (NZL) and Seth Rider (USA) rounding out the top nine with McDowell 10th overall.
“It was a very hard weekend,” said Coninx after his second World Series gold. “It’s crazy but it’s nice. I like when it’s fast, I like this racing. It’s very nice to be on the podium with Vincent and Leo, all French. it’s a good feeling. I knew before racing that 2km running is good for me but, you know, three times is much different than once!”
The result now means that Coninx is up to eighth in the World Series rankings, while Bergere and Luis are fifth and sixth, respectively. Britain’s Alex Yee (who claimed an Olympic silver and a relay gold in Tokyo) retains top spot ahead of Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt (neither of whom raced this weekend).
The World Triathlon Championship Series comes to a conclusion on Saturday 21 August in Edmonton, Canada.