At 10 PM Bermuda time this Friday 11th May, Flora Duffy will continue her quest for a third straight ITU World Series title as she lines up with a very strong field in WTS Yokahama, Japan.
After her accident in Abu Dhabi led to a DNF when leading the race Flora entered WTS Bermuda in 18th spot in the world rankings but another emphatic victory in Bermuda infront of an adoring home crowd has lifted her to 7th in the rankings ahead of WTS Yokahama. With 1000 points to the winner, Flora will be hoping to repeat her performance in Yokahama in 2017 when she got away on the bike with the UK’s Sophie Coldwell and then posted the third fastest run time to win by a record margin of 1 min 51 secs in a time of 1hr 56 mins 18 secs for the 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run.
The Yokahama course, like the Bermuda course, plays into Flora’s strengths with the 1500 meter swim allowing her the opportunity to break away with one or two others before heading out on the technical bike course. The technical nature of the bike course means that a small group of riders can negotiate the corners quicker than a larger chasing pack which, if Flora does get away with a small group, will allow the leading group to put time into the pack before the 10km run.
The field in Yokahama will be stronger than Bermuda and bigger, with 54 athletes taking to the start line. It will also include Ashleigh Gentle, who was not in Bermuda but is the only person to beat Flora in 2017 and is perhaps the fastest runner in the field. Vicky Holland (UK) and Katie Zaferes (USA) who were involved in an exciting sprint finish in Bermuda to take 2nd and 3rd place respectively, will also be on the start line. Returning to Yokahama after missing Bermuda, will be Australian Natalie Van Coervorden who was an impressive 3rd in Abu Dhabi and since then has won the Oceania Triathlon Championships.
Japanese triathletes are known to perform well infront of home crowds so expect Yuko Sato, ranked 4 in the world and who was 7th in Bermuda, and Yuko Takahashi, ranked 5 in the world and who was 5th in Bermuda, to be in contention for top honours.
Rachel Klamer, who by her standards was a disappointing 12th in Bermuda, will be hoping to bounce back to the form that saw her win Abu Dhabi. Klamer is currently ranked 2nd in the world and is a strong all round athlete with a very strong bike and run . I suspect Bermuda was just one of those bad days and on current form she might present Flora with the biggest challenge if there isn’t a split in the field or if she ends up coming into T2 with Flora.
If Flora is to get support on the bike then it is likely to come from the current ITU Series No.1 ranked athlete, Kirsten Kasper of the USA, who was 4th in Abu Dhabi and 4th in Bermuda. Kasper was distanced on the first lap of the bike by Flora in Bermuda but on the Yokahama course might be able to stay with Flora and take turns at the front. Kasper is not however as strong a runner as Flora so a break with Kasper would be the ideal scenario for Flora.
If the race comes down to a larger group going onto the run then Flora, with her much improved run ( she had the fastest run split in Bermuda despite he effort of riding solo in windy conditions and with 10 Corkscrew Hills to climb) will still be one of the favorites to take the win.
For those wishing to watch the race live it can be streamed by going to Triathlonlive.tv and subscribing for the rest of the season’s races for approximately $30.