Flora Duffy ready to pick up this season where she left off
Flora Duffy (BER) knows what it means to be first. She was the first female triathlete from Bermuda to compete in the Olympics, she was the first woman in ITU history to win back-to-back cross triathlon World Titles, she was the first Bermudian to win the World Triathlon Series World Championship and she can also be seen regularly as the first woman in the lead bike pack.
Being first, signifies being historical and in the case of Duffy, her whole career can be described as just that.
This year, ITU is debuting its own historical “first”. On August18-27 the inaugural ITU Multisport World Championship Festival will take place in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. Over the course of the week, the three-discipline multisports, aquathlon, cross triathlon, long distance triathlon, duathlon and aquabike will all be contested in one place, crowning the most world championships in the shortest amount of time in ITU’s history.
So, with the countdown to Penticton hitting the five-month mark, Duffy, a Multisport Champion is counting down until the start of her 2017 triathlon season, where she will encounter another first – starting a year with the weight of a reigning World Crown on her head after an amazing 2016 year.
Last year (2016) was a crazy year and it took me a while to decompress from it. It was only when I started training again for the 2017 season did I truly appreciate how amazing last season was. I could not have asked for more and it is so special to go into this year as the reigning World Champion,” said Duffy.
To say that 2016 was a successful year for Duffy would be an understatement. She earned four World Triathlon Series (WTS) podiums, earned her first-ever WTS gold in Stockholm, and went on to win the overall Series Crown in Cozumel, Mexico. On top of that she also added in a World Cup victory in Montreal, finished 8th at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and finished the year by claiming her second consecutive Cross Triathlon World Title. And since she did all of these things being a small-time island girl from Bermuda, it is no surprise that Duffy has attracted quite a bit more attention than she was used to.
“Yeah, since Cozumel there has been quite a few more interview requests! In a way, a lot has changed but on the other hand it hasn’t. The daily training routine is still the same and so are my training partners. I think winning Cozumel has led to more teasing from training partners. All in good fun though. That is what I love about my training group- no one is put on a pedestal,” Duffy said. “I get recognized a lot more when I am at home in Bermuda. That has been the coolest part- people of all walks of life are now following my triathlon career. It has been nice to see how triathlon is now one of the major sports in Bermuda.”
While the WTS season has already kicked off with Abu Dhabi earlier in the month, Duffy who was scheduled to compete had to pull out due to an ongoing hip injury. However, she is gearing up to race in the Gold Coast on April 8th. Toeing the line will officially start her journey of trying to reclaim her thrown and answer the question of if she can repeat the success that she showed last year.
“Going into the season as reigning world champion does not add any extra pressure to perform but of course it puts a huge target on my back. I am sure I won’t be able to sneaky away on the bike anymore! It is a privilege to be the reigning world champion and it doesn’t add any pressure to myself but it does add expectation. That is only natural and comes with the territory. I have been working on viewing that as a positive thing. I won’t always be the reigning world champion so I may as well enjoy all that goes along with it.”
But the WTS crown is not the only headpiece that Duffy will be safeguarding this season. Duffy is a two-time Cross Triathlon World Champ, so depending on the decision to go for a three-peat or not, Duffy could be showcasing her Multisport skills in Penticton and trying to hold onto another title. However, that challenge should not be much of a challenge after all, given Duffy’s strength and ability to dominate across all three disciplines of the sport, making her a strong contender in the Multisport world.
“My training for WTS and off road triathlon is very similar the only major difference is one involves riding a mountain bike. In general terms, the swimming and running stay the same the only major difference is I add in more mountain bike session to my training week in the build up to an off road triathlon. Off road triathlons tend to be a little longer so I bump up the volume on the bike and run too. I find that training for WTS racing gets me into such good physical condition that only little tweaks need to be made to be ready for an off road race. Pretty simple really!”
With the addition of Penticton this season, a lot of triathletes have the chance to be exposed to a new range of the sport and enter into the Multisport world, following the footsteps of Duffy.
“It would be great to see more people get involved with the different genres of triathlon. Of course, I would encourage anyone and everyone to try an off road triathlon. It promises to take anyone out of their comfort zone and experience triathlon in a completely new way.”
The Penticton Multisport Festival will highlight athletes that excel across all three of the disciplines. Sharks in the water, cruisers on the cycle course or roadrunners all will highlight their strengths in the variety of race formats offered. The best of the best will win. However, for Duffy, while she clearly is one of the best cyclists in the field, she has been working on becoming more of the more well-rounded athletes where she holds no leg of weakness, a talent that has taken years and a lot of training to accomplish.
“I think it is the combination of a lot of hours and hours of hard work and being consistent with my training. I have a great set up in my two training bases- Stellenbosch and Boulder, CO that have allowed me to develop my swim, bike, run to where it is today. Parts still need a lot of work but I have enjoyed the process so far. Improving my running has been the big focus over the last 18months. A combination of staying injury free, working on my biomechanics and doing lots of gym work has helped me move up a level. I still have a way to go but slowly I am getting there.”
Well whether she is there or not, while 2016 was a big year for Duffy, 2017 is going to be bigger. So this year while it could be watching her cruise with more solo breakaways on the WTS course, to slinging mud on the off-road paths, Duffy has a lot more up her sleeve, and we all are excited to tune in. Ready or not, the year of Duffy is coming.
“What to expect from me this year? Well probably a bit of the same from last year (hopefully!) with a few more tricks up my sleeve. I am known as a strong swim/biker but would like to hear every now and then about ‘how well Flora can run’ that would be cool. However, at the moment I am coming back from a small injury so 2017 might be a slower start but that should leave me fresh for the back end of the year.”