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Swim and ride and run with confidence she did. Duffy combined a 5th-best 19:07 swim, a race-best 1:01:18 bike split and a 3rd-fastest 34:25 run to finish in 1:56:18 with a 1:51 margin of victory over Katie Zaferes of the U.S. and 1:59 over 3rd-place finisher Kirsten Kasper of the U.S.
Duffy’s victory at World Triathlon Series Yokohama was her second regular WTS win after Stockholm last year and her third overall WTS win after her victory at the WTS Grand Final at Cozumel in September.
On a rainy day that made the roads on the bike leg slick and scary, Duffy’s fiancé Dan Hugo urged her to remember that she possessed the best cycling skills in the field. “The rain is intimidating for everybody, but Dan kept telling me ‘No Flora! This is going to be your strength, be confident and ride like you always do and you’ll be fine’. I had low pressure on my tires and I felt super comfortable out there, so it worked.”
U.S. star Katie Zaferes found a return to her 2015 form, thanks to her comfort level in the wet. “I am really excited,” she told ITU media. “My favorite part is that it was a pretty technical bike and I did really well in it and that was something I have been working on all winter.”
After a two-lap swim, Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth and Lucy Hall led with 19:01 and 19:03 splits followed closely by fellow Brit Sophie Coldwell, Duffy, and U.S. star Summer Cook, while Zaferes trailed the leader by 39 seconds.
While Great Britain’s Non Stanford slipped and crashed in the wet to throw her out of contention, Duffy’s sure touch and power helped her join Sophie Coldwell and power away from the field.
In a heavy rain, Stanford and Learmonth also crashed, dropping them out of the top 10 on the 8th of 10 laps of the bike leg. Meanwhile chase groups were losing touch – a prime example was Andrea Hewitt, who won the first two WTS races this year but fell 2 minutes back on the bike.
After race-best bike splits of 1:01:18 and 1:01:22, Duffy and Coldwell earned a 1:21 lead on their nearest chasers at T2. While Coldwell tried a surge out of transition, Duffy quickly took control.
U.S. teammates Zaferes and Kasper ran hard and passed Coldwell for the final two spots on the podium. When when Zaferes dropped her sunglasses and stopped to pick them up, Kasper ran into second. But nearing the line, Zaferes surged and retook the runner-up slot.
By the end of the 10 kilometer run, Duffy crossed the line with a nearly 2 minute margin on Zaferes, who finished with an 8th-fastest 35:13 run. Kasper ran 35:15 to secure the final spot on the podium, 8 seconds back of Zaferes and 31 seconds ahead of 4th place Coldwell, who was 2 seconds ahead of 5th place Vicky Holland.