In what looked like a near perfect race outcome that suited her strengths, Flora Duffy (BER) had a dominating performance at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Rotterdam to claim victory and reclaim her ITU World Championship title for the second year in a row.
Making a name for herself as one of the most consistent swim, bike and run athletes, Duffy’s Grand Final gold ended a season that saw her claim six WTS races in the year, that all aided in her repeat world honour.
Duffy said of her win: “I am pretty reluctant to ever say you can have a perfect race, but I would say today went just how I wanted it to. I had a great swim and set myself up perfectly for the bike. I tried to play it safe on the bike because there is so much on the line and then on the run I felt pretty strong, so I wanted to go for it. Yeah, it was a great day. I just try to make it a swim, bike and run. Not a swim, get through the bike and then onto the run. So maybe it is forcing everyone to be really good at all three, but that is how I want to race a triathlon, I just love to race.”
Coming in second place in the race was USA’s Katie Zaferes, who also had a strong overall performance from start to finish. With the result, she pushed her way into the third overall spot in the rankings to take the final place on the world championship podium; a career first for Zaferes.
“I am so excited. I told Flora (Duffy) when I finished that ‘you might have won, but I feel like I did.’ I am one more up from last year, so I just keep making my way,” she said of getting third in the overall season.
The bronze medal then went to Jessica Learmonth (GBR), who earned in Rotterdam her second WTS medal of her career.
Learmonth said, “It was hard from start to finish to be honest. I didn’t feel very comfortable throughout, I know I led out of the swim and stuff, but on the bike Flora (Duffy) and Katie (Zaferes) were so strong I was really struggling. I didn’t know how the run was going to go, I felt alright but my back was really stiff and the back of my calf hurt towards the end, but it was just a battle to hold on.”
One of strongest performances of the day came from Aussie Ashleigh Gentle, who despite being down by over three minutes on the bike, had the run of her life to finish sixth, which was the exact position needed in order for her to maintain her second-place spot on the world championship podium. The silver overall Series trophy was a career first and best for Gentle.
“I am very pleased. I didn’t really know what this year would bring. I had a lot of changes, I relocated to Wollongong to work with Jamie Turner, I had my longest stint in Europe this year doing more WTS races than I have ever done before so I am just absolutely thrilled with getting second,” Gentle said.
Despite the rain that occurred for the majority of the day, as the women lined up to start the sky began to clear and they were met with clear weather conditions.
Learmonth led out of the water after the first lap and despite the additional 750-metres, there was no change in the water after the second lap as well. Learmonth was the swim leader on the day, making it her fourth time this year and eighth of her career that she has led out of the water in a WTS race. Duffy and Zaferes were not far behind.
Duffy, Learmonth and Zaferes utilized time from a swift transition to get out ahead. Mimicking the situation that happened in WTS Stockholm just weeks earlier, the three rode as a leading trio and worked on gaining as much ground on the bike as they could.
By the time the bike reached the lap section of the course, the trio had a lead of 30 seconds over a chase group of seven women that had formed. These seven, included Joanna Brown (CAN), Jodie Stimpson (GBR), Kirsten Kasper (USA), Taylor Spivey (USA), Summer Cook (USA), Alice Betto (ITA) and Rachel Klamer (NED).
While the seven tried hard to close the gap, the strength and speed from the leaders was too much and the margin only increased. Heading into T2 that gap was close to two minutes.
A second larger chase group also saw big names in the bunch, such as Gentle and Nicola Spirig (SUI), who was racing in her first WTS race since having a baby only months ago. This group however had an over three-minute deficit going into T2.
The three-woman breakaway was the perfect set-up for Flora to then hammer away on the run. She took off once on her feet and then it was over from there.
She took the opportunity to gain the ground she needed to bring it home and get the finish tape and the world crown.
From there the only deciding factor who would finish out the podium. Zaferes finished around 40 seconds after Duffy, which bumped her ahead of Andrea Hewitt (NZL) in the rankings.
Learmonth finished third for the race and then Gentle had one of the fastest runs of the day to get her into sixth place and keep the second-place spot in the rankings.