After having to miss the opening two races of the 2017 World Triathlon Series (Abu Dhabi in March and Gold Coast in April) due to an injury that prevented her from running, Flora Duffy makes a welcome and anticipated return to the 2017 World Triathlon Series this weekend in Yokahama, Japan.
Flora will no doubt be eager to make up ground on the likes of 35 year old New Zealander Andrea Hewitt who has got off to a fantastic start in the World Series winning the first two events. Flora’s cause may be helped by the fact that the field includes the two GB triathletes ,Jessica Learmonth and Lucy Hall, the well known swim / bike specialists with whom Flora has “teamed up” in 2016 to put time on the field before the run which helped her to take the win at Cancun, Mexico in the Grand Final.
However, 2017 is a new season and no doubt many of this weekend’s competitors will have been looking in the off season on how to counteract Flora’s “race from the front” tactics that brought her so much success last year. Nevertheless, unless GB team tactics come into play and Hall and Learmonth ( as happened in Leeds) are told not to help Flora ( to allow their fast runners such as Vicky Holland and Non Stanford to be within touch of Flora off the bike) then Flora’s 2017 tactics might still work in Yokahama.
Whatever the outcome, Flora showed in 2017 that she has developed the running ability to compete off the bike even without a lead, although with limited running in recent weeks it is difficult to know how her run will go this weekend. After Yokahama there are still five races left in the series with the Grand Final in Rotterdam serving up double points so there is still time for Flora to accumulate enough points to retain her title. However, if she is to do that she will most likely need a solid performance this weekend to get some good points on the board.
The womens elite field is a strong one with Andrea Hewitt looking for a third successive win in 2017 being joined by the likes of Charlotte McShane, the 2016 Grand Final bronze medallist from Australia, Uri Ide of Japan, 3rd in Gold Coast and 5th in Abu Dhabi, and a host of other contenders including dutch triathlete Rachel Klamer, Australia’s Gillian Backhouse, Vicky Holland (3rd in the Rio Olympics), Non Stanford (4th in Rio and the 2013 Grand Final winner and a winner this past weekend in a 2nd tier world cup race in Chengdu), Katie Zafferes of the USA and Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle, who was a very close 2nd to Hewitt at Gold Coast. With the USA’s Kirsten Kasper and Summer Cook , Austria’s Sara Vilic, 3rd in Abu Dhabi, and Australia’s Emma Jackson also in the field Saturday’s race, which gets underway just after 10AM Yokahama time, promises to be an exciting one.
As with all of the World Triathlon Series events, the race will be televised. For more information and results go to http://www.triathlon.org and https://triathlonlive.tv/