Flora Duffy (BER) dominated a strong field at the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds. The reigning world ITU champion showed her strength in winning her second WTS race in as many starts this year.
In a pair of breakthrough races American Taylor Spivey finished a strong second and Alice Betto gave Italy its first ever podium finish in a WTS race by taking the bronze.
A mass of spectators lined the course for the Columbia Threadneedle event in Leeds, the first WTS race of the year in Europe. American Summer Cook was a late withdrawal from the race, UK super swimmer Jessica Leaermonth led a pack of 8 out of the wetsuit-legal swim. Flora Duffy was part of that group.
Learmonth dropped back to work for Non Stanford, who didn’t make the lead bike pack, and the lead group quickly slimmed to Duffy, Alice Betto (ITA), Maya Kingma (NED) and Taylor Spivey (USA). Duffy pushed the pace during the first half of the honest 6-lap bike course, using her power on the hills along with unmatched bike handling prowess.
“She’s just so strong and technically amazing,” Spivey would say after the race. "I had to push just to stay on her wheel.” That was evident as Duffy gapped her packmates while pedaling through the many corners of the downtown section like a seasoned criterium racer.
Even with Learmonth’s help as a domestique Non Stanford and the rest of the first chase pack was unable to dent the lead the front pack enjoyed. Indeed, every time Duffy went to the front the lead seemed to grow. The trailing pack finished the bike 1min25sec back, and they were only that close because Duffy took her foot off the gas pedal on the last lap of the bike.
The Americans had competitors in every bike pack, with Kristen Kasper in the first chase pack, with Non Stanford.
As the leaders commenced the run Duffy did her best Gwen Jorgensen imitation, running away from the other 3 so quickly, so early, it was a race for silver after a quarter mile of running. Kasper showed off her gaudy youth run credentials by immediately distancing herself from the second pack as they began the run. It was a case of what might have been for Kasper, who was in that leading group of 8 out of the water and just barely missed making the front pack.
Up front Taylor Spivey was having a career day. Through the first 2.5km lap she put 9sec on the the Italian Alice Betto, who had the further concern of a costly 15sec penalty by overshooting the dismount line by a matter of centimeters. Spivey’s confidence continued to grow, along with her lead, which doubled over Betto by the second lap.
By the 5k mark of the run Duffy had a minute on Spivey, and Kasper made her way into 4th place. The remaining intrigue was whether Kasper might find a way to bridge to a podium spot, bearing in mind Betto’s 15sec penalty. As the racers headed into the final 2.5km lap, Duffy’s gap to Spivey grew only by a handful of seconds. Back in the pack diminutive Ai Ueda from Japan was tearing through the runners all the way back from the 2nd chase pack.
Flora Duffy breezed to the win with absolute command, finishing in 1:57:02. Spivey trailed by 1min30sec, and Betto, overcome with elation over her finish, took the bronze a further 1min4sec behind Spivey. Kasper finished 4th while Ueda stormed all the way up to 5th.
Taylor Spivey was having a good season so far, with a 2nd in Madrid and a 4th place in New Plymouth. But there’s a big difference between World Cup and WTS races. The Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds is a much bigger fish.
The hometown UK squad was snakebit, with Learmonth’s fallback strategy backfiring. The lead pack’s gap simply continued to grow and she could have been part of it. Non Stanford had a bad luck race and Lucy Hall was a non-starter because of illness. Learmonth had a terrific run and is probably steaming over the podium finish that she must feel was hers for the taking.
Kristen Kasper’s 4th place puts her atop of the WTS standings, displacing countrywoman Katy Zafares, who didn’t race in Leeds.
Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
June 11, 2017
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
Results: Elite Women
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 1:57:02
2. Taylor Spivey (USA) 1:58:32
3. Alice Betto (ITA) 1:59:36
4. Kirsten Kasper (USA) 2:00:33
5. Ai Ueda (JPN) 2:00:59
6. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) 2:01:06
7. Gillian Backhouse (AUS) 2:01:06
8. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 2:01:40
9. Charlotte McShane (AUS) 2:01:50
10. Juri Ide (JPN) 2:01:53