After a lengthy injury layoff and with many of her loyal followers worrying about her triathlon future, Flora Duffy made a spectacular return to ITU World Series racing at the Japan Olympic test event this month with a typically bold performance that must have put fear into her rivals before next year’s Olympics and delighted her many followers in Bermuda and around the world. Flora’s 3rd place finish ( changed to 1st after a bizarre disqualification of Brits Learmoth and Taylor-Brown) after such a lengthy layoff from running was once again a testament to her iron will. Nothing other than first place is good enough for her but she will take huge encouragement from her comeback race and in particular in the way she was able to drop all but a handful of her competitors on the bike.
It’s always dangerous to rule out Flora in any race but with the longer distance on the run in Sunday’s ITU World Series Grand Final, Flora will likely need to once again split the field on the bike into a small lead group if she is to podium. At this stage of her recovery runners like Vicky Holland and Katie Zaferes ( if fully recovered) may be a little too strong for her on the longer run if they exit T2 with the lead group.
In Japan Flora was unable to deliver her textbook plan by leading out of the water with Jessica Learmoth but a superb bike leg gave her the cushion she needed to ensure a podium. If Flora and Jessica had exited the water together then they might well have broken the field long before the run. Whether Flora’s swim is at 100% yet remains to be seen but with the tough hill on the Lausanne bike course, the bike leg may be enough for her to distance all but a few of the strongest cyclists even if the swim doesn’t narrow the lead bike group down. However, if Flora and Learmoth and perhaps one or two others get out of T1 with a 20 second lead onto the bike then there is no doubt that Flora could be on the podium, and perhaps even on the top step, this weekend.
With the 2020 Olympics now Flora’s sole key goal her build up to that event will be carefully planned and regardless of the result this weekend her performance in Japan will have shown her that she is back on the right track for 2020.