Flora Duffy of Bermuda joined Jessica Learmonth of Great Britain on a bike breakaway that yielded a 2:11 lead at T2, then cruised to a 1:21 margin of victory at Stockholm and earn her 5th WTS victory of the season.
Learmonth earned the first WTS podium of her career, taking a silver medal 1:21 behind Duffy and 12 seconds ahead of hard-charging Ashleigh Gentle of Australia.
Starting the run with a 2:52 lead on Gentle, Duffy ran 34:45 to take the win. Learmonth ran 36:05 to secure the runner-up slot and Gentle ran a sizzling-fast, race-best 33:27 10k to advance from 15th place and 2:52 back to take the bronze.
With her victory, Duffy will arrive in the WTS Grand Final in Rotterdam three weeks hence with a perfect season score of 4,000 points, 500 points ahead of Gentle. With that lead, Duffy simply needs to finish 7th or better at Rotterdam to guarantee her second straight WTS World Title.
“I was very happy today,” said Duffy. “I had a very solid race. My swim was a little shaky so I was happy to come out of the water third and make a break on the bike.”
“I can't believe it,” said Learmonth. “I had to work extremely hard to stay with Flora on the bike. I was sorry to hear about Katie [Zaferes, the U.S. competitor who crashed hard on lap three while riding with Duffy and Learmonth on the breakaway]. Riding with Flora was kind of hairy going so fast on the corners on a technical, hard course. I was very concerned about Ashleigh – she had a phenomenal run and kept getting closer every lap. I was delighted to get second place.”
“I had a really bad swim,” said Gentle. “The packs split up and it was hard to get back. While I was 2 and a half minutes back after the bike, I knew I had a chance to get a good result of I could stick with it.”
Jodie Stimpson made a false start off the pontoon and was assessed a 15 seconds penalty. Brits Lucy Hall and Jessica Learmonth lead the field in 19:09 and 19:12, followed closely by Flora Duffy (+4s), Katie Zaferes (+5s), Alice Betto of Italy (+11s), Natalie Coevorden of Australia (+14s), Stimpson (+16s – plus a 15 seconds penalty). Then came U.S. competitors Taylor Spivey (+17s) and Kirsten Kasper (+20s). Significantly, Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand and Ashleigh Gentle of Australia emerged from the swim in 25th and 26th places, 1:16 to 1:18 behind the leader.
Flora Duffy, Katie Zaferes and Jessica Learmonth quickly broke away off the front to a massive lead. They were followed 35 seconds later by a group of five chasing including Alice Betto, Taylor Spivey, Kirsten Kasper, Lucy Hall and Claire Michel. Stimpson, who led five other women to join the chase group on lap 2, would have been riding with the three leaders if not for her 15 seconds penalty assessed at T1.
After lap 2, the chasers numbered 11 women, 1:13 down.
Straining to stay with Duffy on lap 3, Zaferes’ front wheel washed out on a corner and she crashed face first on to the tarmac and limped off to the side of the course. Zaferes rejoined the race a few minutes later, but she soon stopped and withdrew with unspecified injuries. After four laps, Learmonth and Duffy increased their lead to 1:35 over Joanna Brown of Canada, Kirsten Kasper of the U.S., Taylor Spivey of the U.S., Stimpson, Leonie Periault of France, Natalie Van Coevorden of Australia, Yuko Takahashi of Japan, Lucy Hall of Great Britain, Alice Betto of Italy and Claire Michel of Belgium. Falling 2:27 behind were a disappointed duo of Ashleigh Gentle, third-ranked going into this race, and Andrea Hewitt, who won the first two WTS Races of the season before Duffy recovered from injuries and joined the circuit.
After 5 laps, Duffy and Learmonth increase their lead to 2 minutes over the chase pack while Gentle and Hewitt matched the leaders’ pace at 2:35 down.
After 7 laps, the chase group took back 15 seconds from Duffy and Learmonth, trailing by 1:45 while Hewitt and Gentle fell back to 2:45 down. With 1 lap to go, the chasers fell to 1:57 down, although Lucy Hall and Claire Michel fell off 2:30 off the pace..
At the bike finish, Duffy led Learmonth by 1 second, while a pack of 8 women including Kasper, Stimpson, Takahashi, Periault, Brown, Betto, Van Coevorden and Taylor Spivey trailed by 2:11 to 2:12. Next in line 2:52 back were swift runners Michel, Hewitt and Gentle dreaming of a podium or a top 10 finish.
While Duffy appeared certain to take her 5th win of the year barring an unexpected mishap, Learmonth could give back 33 seconds per 2.5-kilometer lap and still earn her first WTS podium.
After one lap of the run, Duffy sped to a 34 seconds lead on Learmonth, who held 2 minutes lead on Kasper, Joanna Brown, Takahashi and Periault. From 2:40 to 2::43 arrears were Alice Betto, Jodie Stimpson and Ashleigh Gentle, who was charging hard.
Midway through the second lap, Gentle blasted past all the other chasers into third place. Halfway through the run Duffy led Learmonth by 1:02. Surprisingly, Learmonth looked a good bet for a silver, holding off Gentle – the Montreal WTS winner two weeks ago - by 1:29.
Hanging tough after3 laps of the run, Learmonth trailed Duffy by 1:22. More important, Learmonth maintained a 54 seconds lead on Gentle and appeared to be assured of not only a first podium, but even better, a smashing silver medal. Fighting for 4th and 3:18 back of Duffy were Yuko Takahashi, Kirsten Kasper, Leonie Periault, and Joanna Brown.
With a final surge, Joanna Brown of Canada took 4th place, 1:22 back of Gentle and 3 seconds ahead of 5th-place Yuko Takahashi of Japan.
August 26, 2017
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 2:00:09
2. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) 2:01:30
3. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 2:01:42
4. Joanna Brown (CAN) 2:03:04
5. Yuko Takahashi (JPN) 2:03:07
6. Leonie Periault (FRA) 2:03:08
7. Claire Michel (BEL) 2:03:22
8. Kirsten Kasper (USA) 2:03:29
9. Alice Betto (ITA) 2:03:49
10. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:04:05
11. Taylor Spivey (USA) 2:04:17
13. Jodie Stimpson (GBR) 2:04:28