Flora Duffy capped an incredible year of racing to beat a strong field to first place at the final World Triathlon race of the year in Abu Dhabi, as Brits Georgia Taylor-Brown and Sophie Coldwell came in second and third.
Speaking right after the race Duffy said: “It was really hard out there. Coming into this race I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve had a really busy last few months. My whole world’s flipped upside down since Tokyo. Today I really had to fight for it and use all of my skills, experience and tactics.”
The race, the second round in the 2022 WTC series, took place at the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit and saw the strongest women’s field since the Olympics in Tokyo.
Taking to the sprint-distance UAE course was Olympic and world champion Flora Duffy (BER), Olympic silver medallist Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), Olympic mixed relay gold medallist Jess Learmonth (GBR), World Finals Edmonton race winner Taylor Knibb (USA), reigning 70.3 world champion Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) and Rio bronze medallist Vicky Holland (GBR).
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Strong start from the Brits
The two-lap 750m swim saw GB’s Sophie Coldwell lead out just in front of Learmonth, with Charles-Barclay a few seconds behind in sixth, Taylor-Brown eighth and Duffy 10th.
Using her immense experience and talent, Duffy was soon in the lead quartet alongside Coldwell, Learmonth and Taylor-Brown, as Charles-Barclay did her best to hang on for fifth before quickly succumbing to the relentless pace.
Knibb, using her immense bike talent, bridged the 15sec deficit post-swim to join the leaders at the end of lap one of five over the 20km bike leg.
Working perfectly in sync, the five had pulled out close to a 1min lead to Charles-Barclay, racing solo, by the start of the lap four, with Knibb pushing a relentless pace from the front.
At the start of lap five, the huge chase group had lost a further 5secs to Charles-Barclay and were down 1:30mins to the lead quintet, meaning the podium could only be decided by the top five.
The chase is on
T2 was a characteristically swift affair, with the three Brits taking to the front, Duffy just nipping at their heels and Knibb the first to fall off the pace.
Charles-Barclay hit T2 1:14mins later, the chasers a further 30secs back and now simply racing for ranking points.
As Knibb continued to fall back Duffy made her move, putting down the power and stretching the gap between herself and the trio of Brits behind her. Moving onto lap two the lead pack began to spread out, with Learmonth and Coldwell dropping off the pace slightly.
Not one to give up a fight, Taylor-Brown gradually clawed Duffy in and, for a minute, it looked like a fight was on for the win. But as all Olympic champions do, Duffy responded by pulling away once more.
This time Taylor-Brown wasn’t able to respond and the Bermudan crossed the line in 00:55:42 with a relieved smile across her face. Taylor-Brown claimed second 12secs after and was followed by Coldwell, who’d passed Learmonth for the final podium in the last few hundred metres.
Knibb came in fifth, 46secs down on the lead and was followed by the chase pack 50secs later. Among them were Brits Beth Potter (seventh), Non Stanford (eighth), Holland (10th) and Charles-Barclay, who’d faded to 12th.
Top image credit: World Triathlon/Tommy Zaferes