It is hard to believe that Flora Duffy (BER) had to miss the first two races of the World Triathlon Series due to injury as she continues to be unstoppable after earning her third straight victory of the season at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Hamburg.
Collecting her first-ever sprint distance win, Duffy executed a breakaway performance that brought her into the finish line without a challenger in sight to earn her fifth WTS victory in her career.
Duffy said, “I really actually can’t believe it. Coming into the third race I felt a lot of pressure, especially it being a sprint and in Hamburg, I have not raced here in years. So, I just really had to go for it, I tried to race fast from start to finish and I had to make the most on the bike because I knew that my run pace speed was not at the same level as some of the top runners are, so I just took a chance and luckily it worked out.”
“I came out of the swim a little further back than I wanted to so I just really hammered the first part of the bike and I knew the chute was quite technical so I knew if I just hammered that into transition I would be ok. We were able to breakaway three of us, we were working ok, I was getting a little frustrated though so I thought I would attack and go solo and that ultimately made the race for me.”
The silver medal went to Aussie Ashleigh Gentle, who picked up the fastest run split time of the day (16:10) after the swim put her in a position where she needed to come from behind to get in the podium mix. The podium was finished then by Germany’s own Laura Lindemann who at a sprint finish on the blue carpet earned her a first-time WTS medal in front of a home crowd.
Gentle said of her race, “I actually had a good start at the dive in, but to be honest I got squished from either side and got dunked for a little bit, it was quite horrific to be honest. So I just got onto my bike and did the best I could. There has been plenty of races where I have been in that situation, but I have been able to salvage a good result so there is no reason you should quit after the swim you still have two legs to go. This is triathlon, so I just tried to race as hard as I could and thankfully it paid off and I was able to come away with second.”
Lining up for the fifth WTS race of the 2017 season, Hamburg always welcomes the elite athletes with thousands of fans filling the streets. With just cool enough weather for a wetsuit swim, the women dove from a pontoon for a short 750-metre lap. Finishing through a 40-metre long tunnel, Vittoria Lopes(BRA) exited the water first and led a long train of women behind her into the first transition.
Duffy was 11 seconds back out of the swim, but she managed to have a swift T1 and get near the front on the bike. Then continuing in the first lap, she teamed up with USA’s Kirsten Kasper and Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth to breakaway as a trio.
From there the three women pedaled hard and created a gap that continued to spread wider after each lap, eventually reach about half a minute over the chase.
However, the large chase pack did not back down. With a lot of talent included in the group, many women pushed hard to make sure they had a chance to kick in gear on the run.
It was in the final five kilometres that Duffy once again proved her World Champion capabilities as she burst away from Kasper and Learmonth and decided to finish the bike leg alone. Upon entering the second transition, she had edged out a 25-second lead over her cycle-mates, who then were an additional 20 seconds ahead of the chase, so Duffy had a margin over 40 seconds over the majority of the field.
She then was left to ease up on her run. Knowing that she had the gold in the bag, Duffy completed the five-kilometre course solo and without pressure in order to stride into the finish chute and claim her third consecutive WTS win of the season, keeping her goal of claiming the World Title still in sights.
Gentle then was seen on the run having the performance of the day. After being near the back after the swim, she had to push it through the next two legs in order to have a shot. But Gentle is a top runner and once she got her feet on the pavement, her strength catapulted her through the competition and easily into second place. It was her second silver medal of the season.
The true battle came for the bronze medal. While at first a group of three women that included Lindemann, Jolanda Annen (SUI) and Andrea Hewitt (NZL) looked to be in the mix, USA’s Katie Zaferespushed herself in the running.
At the final moments it then was a battle between Zaferes and Lindemann. Maybe it was the huge applause from the local crowd that gave her the last effort, but ultimately it was Lindemann who had the better sprint at the tape and finished third, giving her a first-time WTS podium place.
Lindemann said,”I am so happy about the podium today. It is so much more with the WTS than in junior races and here with the home crowd, it is so wonderful. It was so loud and I was just pushing as hard as I could, I was so amazed with the crowd!”
Another strong performance on the day was for Aussie Charlotte McShane, who with an eighth place finish qualified her for a spot on the 2018 Commonwealth Games team