Flora Duffy put in a masterclass at her home World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) race in Bermuda today, taking gold and putting herself in a great position to challenge for the title in the final race of the series.
Just one week on from a fifth-place finish at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, the reigning world and Olympic champion showed no signs of rustiness, much to the delight of the excited spectators.
Meanwhile, newly-crowned Ironman 70.3 World Champion Taylor Knibb (USA) ensured her incredible year continued apace with a solid silver and was joined on the podium by a charging Beth Potter (GBR), who was hot on her heels.
Who raced in the 2022 WTCS Bermuda women’s race?
Joining her on the start line were Brits Potter and Sophie Coldwell, who sat fourth and seventh in the rankings, respectively.
Knibb was also understandably drawing attention after her convincing win at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship just nine days previously. Were the legs recovered enough for a strong showing here?
What happened in the swim?
Conditions were less than ideal for a quick swim, with choppy waters and 40km/h winds.
After a clean start three groups formed, led by Duffy, Vittoria Lopes (BRA) and Bianca Seregni (ITA), who was starting just her second WTCS race.
By the first buoy the Italian had taken the lead and was followed by Duffy and Lopes, while Summer Rappaport (USA) and Coldwell were hot on their heels.
Come the second lap, there were no noticeable changes to positions at the front, but Rappaport managed to move to third during that final 800m.
The swim came to an end as the rain arrived, with Duffy and Seregni emerging side-by-side and the three chasing athletes just a few secs down.
Newly crowned 70.3 world champion Knibb and Brit Potter came out in 19th and 20th some 30secs down on the leaders
What happened in the bike?
Duffy hit the eight-lap bike course hard, instantly pulling away from the quartet that came with her into T1. Coldwell laid chase with Rappaport, Lopes and Seregni a little further back.
However, it wasn’t long before that chase group came back together with Coldwell and they were quickly joined by Maya Kingma (NED), who’d twisted an ankle earlier in the week and was racing with heavy strapping on it.
Duffy had successfully managed to stretch out a 21sec lead by the end of that first lap but further back that chase group had grown and now included the likes of Lindemann, Spivey, Kirsten Kasper (USA) and Potter.
Interestingly, Knibb still had a significant gap to bridge to the chase pack, having not come with Potter earlier on.
Halfway into lap two a charging Kingma left the chasers and reached Duffy, with the two of them subsequently sticking together for the rest of the bike.
By lap four that ever-growing chase pack were some 30secs down, but they’d now been joined by Knibb.
That gap had grown to 44secs by lap 5 and it soon became clear Knibb had no plans to hand around. Any questions about fatigued legs were quickly banished as the American broke away from the group on Flora Duffy Hill and quickly pulled out a 10sec gap.
Going into the last lap Knibb was 35secs down and the chase pack, led by Potter, were almost a minute further back.
Kingma and Duffy came into T2 and were followed by Knibb some 40secs back. By the time the chase pack arrived, the leaders were already 1min 40secs up the road.
What happened on the run?
As they left T2 Duffy quickly started to put time into Kingma, with a couple of grimaces suggesting that the latter’s twisted ankle may have been giving her some grief.
That gap to Kingma continued to grow throughout the first of four laps and was a sizeable 43secs as the athletes crossed the line for the start of the second lap.
Knibb came through an extra 30secs behind, though the American gradually closed that gap and passed Kingma for second late on lap two.
Potter was next down the road with a gap of roughly 24secs by the end of lap two, but the former track runner looked strong throughout and took third place in the late stages of lap three.
By the end of the lap Knibb was 1min 40secs down on Duffy while Potter was an extra 25secs back. Would the Brit have enough road to take second?
As she approached the end of the run, Duffy finally allowed herself to crack a smile and engage with the adoring crowds, who quickly launched into a chorus of “Flora! Flora! Flora!”
The local hero finished in a time of 2:01:26 and waited at the line for her fellow athletes. Knibb managed to hold on to second with a time of 2:03:04.
Potter then came through some 13secs later to take a well-earned bronze, while the battling Kingma eventually crossed the line in sixth, just behind Lindemann and Spivey.
Coldwell, who’d been part of that chase group on the bike, eventually crossed the line in 22nd with a time of 2:07:45.
The result means Duffy can take the series win if the race goes her way in Abu Dhabi, while Potter moves into third, Linemann into fourth and Knibb into fifth.
Quotes from the women’s 2022 WTCS Bermuda race
Speaking after the race, Duffy said: “Today was incredible, I couldn’t have asked for a better race. I was hoping to have a good day. The crowd was incredible, racing at home as the Olympic champion.
“I knew I needed a big performance if I wanted to keep my foot in and try to win this series. Today was just incredible and just one of those days where everything lined up.
“[I’m] so thankful for Maya on the bike, she was so strong and we worked together nicely, and then the crowd just pulled me though on that 10km run.”
Top 10 women’s results at 2022 WTCS Bermuda
1. Flora Duffy, BER 2:01:26
2. Taylor Knibb, USA 2:03:04
3. Beth Potter, GBR 2:03:17
4. Laura Lindemann, GER 2:04:00
5. Taylor Spivey, USA 2:04:05
6. Maya Kingma, NED 2:04:26
7. Miriam Casillas Garcia, ESP 2:04:35
8. Verena Steinhauser, ITA 2:04:38
9. Luisa Baptista, BRA 2:04:53
10. Bianca Seregni, ITA 2:05:01
Top image credit: Wagner Araujo/World Triathlon