Duffy keeps her winning streak alive in Yokohama
In her first race back after claiming her debut World Triathlon Series World Title last year, Flora Duffy (BER) returned to the 2017 season and walked right back to the familiar top of the podium when she won the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama.
After having to pull out of the first two races of the season due to injury, Duffy lined up in Japan and executed a performance that proved she is ready to tackle another world crown attempt.
“I didn’t know what I would have in the tank for today, I was pretty nervous coming into the race today, I felt like a WTS first-timer, but I had to keep reminding myself that I am the World Champ and I need to ride with confidence. So the race worked out great to my strengths and I am super happy,” said Duffy.
Rain made the race day a little more challenging for all the women out on the course, but it was Duffy who used it to her advantage to get her first gold of the year.
“The rain is intimidating for everybody, but everyone including my fiancé Dan kept telling me ‘No Flora! This is going to be your strength, be confidence and ride like you always do and you’ll be fine’. I had low pressure on my tires and I felt super comfortable out there, so it worked.”
Zaferes said, “I am really excited, I didn’t make that race the easiest for myself so I was just really happy. And my favourite part is that it was a pretty technical bike and I did really well in it and that was something I have been working on all winter.”
Conditions for the third stop of the 2017 WTS were wet and rainy, making for what would be an interesting and slippery race ahead. Jumping off the pontoon for the two-lap non-wetsuit swim, it once again was Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth and Lucy Hall who took charge as the leaders in the water. The long distance of the 150 metres spread out the women and upon exiting the waters, a group of five consisting of Learmonth, Hall, Sophie Coldwell (GBR), Duffy and Summer Cook (USA) headed into T1 ahead of the pack.
Getting onto the bike the rain continued to pour down, which caused a few issues out on the course. Great Britain’s Non Stanford who was debuting her WTS season in Yokohama slipped on a corner and took her out of the running.
Showcasing that she is till the queen of the cycle, Duffy wasted no time breaking away from the field and within a couple kilometres she had created a gap. She did not go alone however as Brit Coldwell rode with her. The two continued to create a time and space between a group of 10 riders behind them and were despite efforts, were never caught for the entire 40k course.
The group of 10 as the top chase contained Learmonth, Hall, Vicky Holland (GBR), Alice Betto (ITA), Zaferes, Kasper, Gillian Backhouse (AUS), Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS), Yuko Takahashi (JPN) and Minami Kubono (JPN) rode together as the main chase pack, but would end up losing time lap after lap and eventually be over a minute down from the top two.
The on the eighth lap, Learmonth and Zaferes took a tumble on the wet streets that took them out of the leading 10 women, but by the time the women hit the second transition zone, they both managed to regain their group.
Other chase groups struggled to get into the game. Andrea Hewitt, who won the first two races of the season, found herself down by minutes and unable to get in the running.
Heading onto the run Duffy and Coldwell had created a healthy lead of 1:21. While Coldwell busted out of the gate to try and overtake Duffy, the veteran remained collected and bypassed the WTS standard distance rookie within a matter of seconds.
From there Duffy was left untouched as she continued to increase her gap and as she strode onto the blue carpet for the first time this season, she did so with a lead of 1:51 seconds, a new WTS record.
The battle for the remaining spots on the podium remained between the Americans and the Brits. Zaferes and Kasper ran together and eventually passed Coldwell. Not sure who would take the silver and bronze, Kasper then capitalized on a moment when Zaferes dropped her sunglasses and went to pick them up.
However, as the two drew nearer to the finish line, Zaferes went all out and pushed hard enough to come back and get the silver. It was then Kasper who followed behind and earned her first WTS podium of her career.
“I am ecstatic, it kind of has not hit me yet but that was a really hard race, but it was exciting too to be able to be on the podium. The rain made every component really challenging, there was a lot of girls that went down and the bike was really tough, so it was just a matter of staying up and trying to be smart,” said Kasper.
Due to her second place finish, Zaferes then took over the leaderboard and now is the top woman in the WTS rankings.