Sunday afternoon in Karlovy Vary saw Bermuda’s Flora Duffy back on an Olympic-distance course for the first time since the Lausanne Grand Final, and putting in a performance to prove beyond any doubt that her injury troubles were finally behind her.
Duffy took the tape for the first time in a World Triathlon race in two-and-a-half years with a time of 2:05:17, the 90-second margin of victory over newly crowned World Champion Georgia Taylor-Brown highlighting the dominance of her display on a demanding course. The Netherlands’ Maya Kingma‘s joy was evident for all to see as she rounded off a storming run to score her first ever World Cup podium with bronze.
“Wow! It was so hard, man that was a shock to the system,” admitted a thrilled Duffy. “A first Olympic distance of the year and on such a challenging course and with such a stacked field. Jess is unbelievable in the swim and I was just trying to recover from that for most of the bike to be honest, which isn’t easy on this type of course. I wanted to ride strong but not over-extend myself and the run just felt like survival. I’m just so thrilled to win, it has been a while since I’ve done it at this level and it’s a huge confidence boost and something I feel personally I’ve really needed.”
One of the strongest World Cup fields in recent memory saw 54 athletes line up for the 1.5km lake swim, and predictably it was Jessica Learmonth who wasted no time getting out ahead.
The Brit still led the field as she raced along the pontoon and dived back in for the second lap of Rolava Lake, Katie Zaferes in check with Vittoria Lopes and Natalie van Coevorden.
By the end of the second lap, Learmonth’s lead was an incredible 25 seconds, but wetsuit issues in transition cost precious time and it was Zaferes narrowly out first onto the bike. The pair wasted no time worrying about how the pack behind them might be looking, riding aggressively on the point-to-point section and attacking the early stages of the 7 technical city laps.
Behind them, Laura Lindemann and Duffy were also riding together as a pair and trying to close the gap, but they were joined by World Champion Taylor-Brown who was looking to make up the 60-second deficit on the front out of the swim.
The chasers worked well together, including the Brazilian duo Luisa Baptista and Djenyfer Arnold, a small error from Duffy seeing her swerve erratically for a moment off the back of Taylor-Brown’s bike and there was still 30 seconds to the front two with three laps to go.
It was on the fifth lap that Zaferes chose to give her legs a break and drop back to join the chasers, Learmonth left to press on solo and try and keep the pressure on the field, but with the American working with Taylor-Brown and Duffy, it was a formidable bunch in pursuit.
The Brit was showing no signs of tiring out front though, 30 seconds still the difference at the bell but reduced to 17 seconds by the time she had negotiated T2.
Somewhat inevitably, by the end of the first of the four run laps, Duffy had already picked her way impressively to the front, Taylor-Brown also easing past Learmonth over lap two. Kingma then moved into third at the bell, increasing the pace up the final long climb to ensure the third podium spot was hers.
Meanwhile ahead, Duffy was really eating up the final few hundred metres, eventually taking the tape more than 90 seconds ahead of Taylor-Brown. Kingma was just 13 seconds behind the World Champion, and it was another 40 seconds to Learmonth in fourth.