After her 2nd place at WTS Leeds last month, Flora Duffy of Bermuda won her career first World Triathlon Series event at Stockholm with a brave solo break on the bike leg which she held on the run.
Duffy broke out to a one minute lead midway through Stockholm’s tough and curvy cobblestoned bike course and dropped to a 23 seconds margin at T2. Duffy then unleashed a 2nd-best 34:28 10k run to finish Stockholm’s rugged course in 2:03:38 with a 20 seconds margin of victory on New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt (race-best 34:22 run) and 28 seconds on 3rd-place Helen Jenkins of Great Britain.
Speaking on earning her first WTS gold, Duffy said, “I have been trying and trying to win one of these and today when I was out there on the front of the bike I had no idea how it was going to play out. But I got off and felt strong on the run and just ran as best as I could. Obviously it is a bit scary with Helen and Andrea chasing me.”
Vicky Holland of Great Britain took 4th, 1:05 behind the winner and Ai Ueda of Japan took 5th, 1:18 back. Two-time WTS Stockholm winner Sarah True of the U.S. took 6th, 10 seconds behind Ueda, and Katie Zaferes of the U.S. took 10th 1:56 behind the winner.
The surprise of the day was Taylor Knibb of the U.S. who, in her first WTS race at 18 years of age, took 11th place, 9 seconds behind U.S. Olympian Katie Zaferes.
With her victory, Duffy now leads the 2016 WTS women’s standings as previous leader Jodie Stimpson dropped out with illness and top threat Non Stanford of Great Britain crashed and dropped out with a sore wrist.
After Stockholm, Duffy leads the WTS women’s season rankings with 3491 points to 2599 for Hewitt, 2513 for Stimpson, 2340 for Jorgensen, 2276 for Ueda, 2169 for Jenkins, and 1859 for Vicky Holland.
Duffy also staked a claim to be among the favorites for the Rio Olympics. On this day prohibitive Rio favorite Gwen Jorgensen, 2012 Olympic champion Nicola Spirig and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Lisa Norden chose not to race.
Zaferes led the choppy swim in 20:05, with Duffy, Sarah True and Jure Ide close behind and British top contenders Vicky Holland, Jodie Stimpson, Non Stanford and Helen Jenkins about 20 seconds back.
Right off the bat on the bike leg, Duffy, True, Ide and Zaferes broke away to a 100 meter lead. Duffy surged out front, hoping someone from the original quartet would go with her, but no one could match her pace.
“I managed to ride a bit more controlled today, I have learned from [her 2nd place finish at WTS] Leeds. It is so much more technical here and that is my strength, so I just tried to gain as much time as I could in the technical sections and then ride smooth for any straightaways. It just worked out to ride solo. I came out of the swim with a few girls and I was hoping they would come up behind on my wheel but they didn’t and then I was in no-man’s land, so there were times where I was questioning what I was doing out there, but I just stuck to my plan and it worked out today.”
After the 2nd lap, WTS rookie Taylor Knibb surged away from the second chase pack and on the next lap rode to the front of 16 chasers. By the 4th lap, Duffy increased her lead to 59 second on 15 chasers who included True, Nicky Samuels, Jenkins, Hewitt, Charlotte McShane of Australia, Ai Ueda, Knibb, Holland, and Zaferes.
At this point, Duffy decided to reserve some energy for the run and allowed her solo lead to plateau. After a race-best 1:07:37 bike leg, Duffy started the run with a 23 seconds lead on Mari Rabie of South Africa, 25 on Vendula Frintova of the Czech Republic, 26 on Hewitt, Ide and Jenkins, and 27 seconds on True.
While many observers expected that Duffy’s lead would quickly evaporate after her brave solo effort on the bike, Duffy’s decision to back off slightly the last half of the bike leg paid off. At the halfway point of the 10k run, Duffy increased her lead to 29 seconds over Hewitt, 30 seconds on Jenkins and 33 seconds on Ueda, with True and Holland dropping 7 and 8 seconds off the leading chasers.
On the 3rd lap, Hewitt and Jenkins broke away from Ueda, True, and Holland and pushed hard in search of Duffy. At the end of Lap 3, Hewitt and Jenkins managed to slice Duffy’s lead to 21 and 22 seconds, but at that point Duffy slammed the door shut, finishing with a 2nd-best 34:28 run and a 20 seconds lead on Hewitt and 28 seconds on Jenkins.
“I am really happy to get on the podium today,” said Jenkins. “I made life hard for myself, I had a terrible swim, but I felt good on the bike and on the run I just kind of hung in there, but I am really happy to come away with a podium. Flora is so strong at the moment. I am actually really happy for her to get the win. She deserves it the way she raced today.”
July 2, 2016
S 1.5k / B 40.6k / R 10k
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 2:03:38
2. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:03:58
3. Helen Jenkins (GBR) 2:04:06
4. Vicky Holland (GBR) 2:04:43
5. Ai Ueda (JPN) 2:04:56
6. Sarah True (USA) 2:05:06
7. Charlotte McShane (AUS) 2:05:17
8. Nicky Samuels (NZL) 2:05:18
9. Vendula Frintova (CZE) 2:05:26
10. Katie Zaferes (USA) 2:05:34
11. Taylor Knibb (USA) 2:05:43
12. Juri Ide (JPN) 2:05:47
24. Renee Tomlin (USA) 2:08:50