Flora Duffy produced perhaps one of the most astonishing performances ever in Triathlon World Series racing in Stockholm today as she won her first ITU World Series race to extend her World Series overall top place.
For Duffy it was an extra special moment as she has more than once come close to taking top spot on the podium with some “off the front” racing but just been pipped to the line in the last few kilometers of the run.
The manner of Flora’s victory today was spectacular. Emerging from the water with a 23 second lead with a group of six, including two favorites Sarah True and Helen Jenkins, Flora set a blistering pace out of transition. None of the others seemed prepared to go with her and with 38km to go it seemed likely that once a pack formed behind Flora she would be caught. Undettered, Flora once again showed that she is prepared to risk all by riding the full 38km on her own, at one point opening up over a minute margin over one of the strongest fields assembled. Inevitably the group behind closed the gap to just over 20 secs by the bike to run transition and after Flora’s solo effort it seemed like only a matter of time before the runners in the field such as Jenkins, Vicky Holland and Andrea Hewitt would catch her.
Flora however defied all the odds by extending her lead to 30 seconds after the first of four x 2.5km laps on the run and still had a 23 sec gap going into the last 2.5km lap. Despite their best efforts Jenkins and Hewitt were not able to reel in Flora and despite her clear exhaustion as she reached the line Flora had a beaming smile and was clearly overcome by the emotion of her first World Series win.
There have been many occasions in World Series racing when a small group of athletes got away on the bike and took the podium places. But, I do not recall a race when just one athlete was able to stay away for the whole of the bike and run on their own and win so convincingly. Flora’s performance must rank as one of the, if not THE, top performance on World Series racing.There can be little doubt that Flora’s style of racing has caused mayhem amongst the women’s field and played havoc with all of the coaches best laid plans. What will worry them even more going into the Olympics is that in the past few months Flora’s has developed from a swim / bike specialist who could be caught on the run into an all round triathlete with a run to match nearly all of the top women in the sport. Today she posted the second fastest run time and her time of 34:28 was only beaten by Andrea Hewitt (34:23) with Helen Jenkins, recognised as one of the fastest runners in the sport, finishing the run in 34:30. What is even more extraordinary is that working on her own for the full 38km bike course Flora will have expended significantly more energy than the chase group going into the run so her run time is especially impressive.
The USA’s Gwen Jorgensen and Britain’s Non Stanford were not in Stockholm and would likely have been in the chase group that entered transition 2 around 25 seconds behind Flora and certainly Jorgensen have caught her. However, they know now that if Flora can get away on the tough Olympic bike course in Rio with the likes of Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig and Sweden’s Lisa Norden, and they are not in that group, then Flora and the lead group could open up a lead which even Jorgensen cant close over the 10km run. And by Rio that lead might only need to be 1 1/2 minutes.
Flora still has seven weeks before Rio and if she continues to progress as she has been every race then she will fear none going into Rio and could well gain the overall and especially run fitness to produce an even stronger performance and faster run in Rio.
“Don’t let Flora get away because you might not catch her” will be the message many coaches will be giving their athletes going into Rio.
FOR THE ITU WRITE UP ON THE RACE GO HERE
FULL RESULTS HERE