With a masterful flourish, Flora Duffy of Bermuda took the lead in the 2017 World Triathlon Series points chase with her 4th straight WTS victory, by a one minute margin at Edmonton.
With Olympic gold medalist and two-time champion Gwen Jorgensen taking the year off to have a baby, Duffy has stepped into the dominant role on the prestigious WTS circuit. After taking off the first two WTS races of the 2017 season due to a hip injury, Duffy won Yokohama, Leeds, Hamburg and now Edmonton by decisive margins.
On the sprint distance course at Edmonton, Duffy exited the water in 5th place, 6 seconds behind swim leader Summer Cook of the U.S. Duffy charged out of transition and into the lead of the bike in the first few hundred meters. For a few moments, WTS points leader Katie Zaferes tried to stick with the leader but fell back into a chase pack on the first time up a steep hill.
Thanks to 19-year-old U.S. up and comer Taylor Knibb, Duffy would have company on her breakaway charge on the six-lap, 21 kilometer bike leg. Knibb, who trains with Duffy under coach Neal Henderson, worked seamlessly with the 2016 WTS World Champion in creating a 1:21 lead over the chasers after 5 of the 6 laps. On the last lap, the veteran surged away from Knibb on the final time up the hill and hit T2 with a 12 seconds lead on her squad mate and from 1:33 to 1:37 on Taylor Spivey of the U.S., Gillian Backhouse of Australia, Jolanda Annen of Switzerland, Kirsten Kasper of the U.S., Rachel Klamer of Netherlands, Chelsea Burns of the U.S., Paula Findlay and Joanna Brown of Canada, and Zaferes and Cook.
“Taylor (Knibb) is riding super strong at the moment,” Duffy told ITU media. “I have been in a breakaway with her before, in Montreal last year. We worked together really well [today] but she was so strong I thought she might be running really strong too. So I attacked her on the last hill to get a little buffer.”
Running well within her limits, Duffy kept up a high-rev footfall on her way to a 2nd-fastest 17:21 5k to finish in 1:00:22 with a 1 minute margin of victory over Knibb, who ran 18:09 to preserve a silver medal. Battling all the way to the blue carpet with fellow U.S. competitor Cook, Zaferes sprinted away at the end to a race-best 17:14 run to finish 3rd, 1:29 behind Duffy, 29 seconds behind Knibb and 12 seconds ahead of 4th place finisher Cook.
“I just tried to follow Flora and it worked alright,” Knibb told ITU media. “On the run I just wanted to hold my own. To be on the podium on a race like this, on a WTS race, is simply amazing.”
After her third place finish, Zaferes said: "I knew this was gonna be tough, but it was even harder than what I expected. I was pretty close to Flora and Tayler on the first kilometers, but on the first hill I got trapped. When Flora is riding you need to be with her any second or you will loose her. And the bike had a hill, but the run had my own hill too, with the battle with Summer Cook. I just kept telling myself be strong, be strong.”
With her fourth straight 800-poiint finish, Duffy passed last week’s points leader Katie Zaferes, who finished 3rd, by 8 points – 3,200 to 3,192. Kirsten Kasper of the U.S., who finished 9th, maintained third in WTS points with 2,677.
Including her win at the 2016 Grand Final at Cozumel, Duffy now has a WTS win streak of 5. Her six career WTS wins puts her alone in second place behind Gwen Jorgensen’s 17 WTS wins and pulls her out of a tie with Andrea Hewitt, Paula Findlay and Emma Moffatt at five WTS victories.
Of note, Vanessa Fernandes of Portugal, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist and 2007 ITU World Champion who has 20 World Cup and World Championship Series wins, continued with her comeback to elite competition after a hiatus of six years, but pulled out of the race during the bike segment.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
July 29, 2017
S 750m / B 21k / R 5k
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 1:00:22
2. Taylor Knibb (USA) 1:01:22
3. Katie Zaferes (USA) 1:01:51
4. Summer Cook (USA) 1:02:03
5. Jolanda Annen (SUI) 1:02:09
6. Rachel Klamer (NED) 1:02:14
7. Joanna Brown (CAN) 1:02:20
8. Yuka Sato (JPN) 1:02:26
9. Kirsten Kasper (USA) 1:02:42
10. Chelsea Burns (USA) 1:02:54
11. Taylor Spivey (USA) 1:03:14
15. Paula Findlay (CAN) 1:03:32