Flora Duffy looked imperious in Abu Dhabi as she pulled away from Georgia Taylor-Brown on the run to win her fourth World Triathlon title in hot, challenging conditions.
Coming into the race all the talk was about who was going to triumph in a straight shoot-out for the title, Taylor-Brown or Duffy? With just 69 points separating them in the standings, whoever finished ahead was going to take the honors.
Both athletes had great races, staying at the front from start to finish, but it was the reigning World Triathlon, Olympic and Commonwealth champion that took the honors today.
What happened in the swim?
The athletes emerged with wet towels draped around their shoulders and vests filled with ice to deal with the hot conditions, with even the water temperature hitting a balmy 30°C
Aside from that, swim conditions looked good, with calm waters leading to a speedy start.
reigning Ironman 70.3 world champ Taylor Knibb (USA), out of contention for the title here, was straight to the front of the pack and was joined by Duffy, Taylor-Brown and fellow Brit beth potter.
Just minutes into the swim the field had spread out, but managed to stay in touch with each other, with very few gaps opening up.
Vittoria Lopes (BRA) was part of that lead group, which was later joined by Summer Rappaport (USA) halfway through the second lap.
As the swim looked to come to its conclusions, several more athletes began to come to the front, with competitors once again swimming side by side.
In the last few hundred meters a gap eventually arose between a large front and chase pack. Duffy climbed out of the water first and was joined by Potter, Taylor-Brown, Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) and a dozen other athletes.
What happened in the bike?
A trouble-free transition saw Duffy lead out of T1 in front, quickly followed by Taylor-Brown and Potter, with a large group of other athletes coming soon after.
Duffy went to work straight away, teasing out a small gap before being joined by a chasing pack of seven just several minutes in.
That front pack included the two Brits, plus Maya Kingma (NED), Laura Lindemann (GER), Lopes, Lisa Tertsch (GER) and Lene Meissner (GER).
Knibb, in front for so long in the swim, fell away a little toward the end of the swim and in transition, but bridged the gap to the front in trademark fashion.
further back, Taylor Spivey (USA) made a break away from the chase pack with fellow American Kirsten Kasper in an attempt to reach those at the front.
Behind them a huge chase pack included Sophie Coldwell (GBR), who got married just a couple of weeks ago, and fellow Brit Sian Rainsley.
But it was on lap four when things started to happen up front. Lindemann and Tertsch were the first athletes to drop off the pace. Soon after Duffy made a temporary breakaway, but was quickly reeled back in.
With just under four laps to go the front pack had lost another member, as Potter quickly dropped off for a lonely second half of the bike.
And there was another spanner in the works come lap six as it emerged that Duffy and Kingma had both been handed a 15sec penalty for swim behavior, only for officials to take the penalty away from the Bermudian and hand it to Kasper instead.
There was more drama toward the end of lap six, as several athletes from the large chase pack were involved in a crash on a technical part of the course.
Just one lap later that corner proved a challenge once again and this time it was the front pack that fell victim to it. Knibb, looking strong throughout, was the athlete that went down as her front wheel went from underneath her, with Kingma also caught up in the incident.
It meant the lead pack was down to just four, comprising of Duffy, Taylor-Brown, Meißner and Lopes, with Kingma and Knibb working together to try and make up for lost time further back.
The four leaders came into transition together, with Taylor-Brown looking almost faultless in T2.
What happened on the run?
The Brit was first onto the run and quickly put daylight between herself and the chasing Duffy, with Meißner and Lopes following further down the road.
Within minutes there were only really two athletes in contention for the win, with the front two gradually pulling away from the chasing duo.
That small gap between the front two didn’t last long, though, and as we moved into lap two Duffy was running side-by-side with the Brit.
Meanwhile, Knibb was doing her best to make up time, sitting in fifth halfway through lap two, and the large chase group containing the likes of Beaugrand, Spivey, and Potter were some 3mins down on the leaders.
Just after the 5km mark Duffy made her move, upping her cadence and building a gap to Taylor-Brown. Could the Brit respond? Not today, it seemed, as the gap continued to gradually grow larger.
And that’s the way it went for the rest of the race, with Duffy eventually taking the win just over 1min ahead of Taylor-Brown.
Meißner crossed the line a minute and a half later for an impressive podium and was followed by Knibb some 45secs down.
Coldwell finished in 11th, just over five minutes down, while Potter, who had such a great start to the race, eventually hobbled across the line two minutes later in 32nd.
The results meant an incredible fourth World Title for Duffy. Taylor-Brown finished second in the series, with Knibb in fourth, Beaugrand in fifth, Coldwell in sixth and Potter in seventh.
Top 10 women’s results at WTCS Abu Dhabi 2022
1. Flora Duffy, BER, 1:53:24
2. Georgia Taylor-Brown, GBR, 1:54:28
3. Lena Meissner, GER, 1:55:59
4.Taylor Knibb, USA, 1:56:40
5. Leonie Periault, FRA, 1:56:51
6. Vittoria Lopes, BRA, 1:56:59
7. Taylor Spivey, USA, 1:57:44
8. Emma Lombardi, FRA, 1:57:50
9. Miriam Casillas Garcia, ESP, 1:57:56
10. Cassandre Beaugrand, FRA, 1:58:13
11. Sophie Coldwell, GBR, 1:58:34
32. Beth Potter, GBR, 2:00:47
Sian Rainsley, GBR, DNF
Top image credit: Tommy Zaferes/World Triathlon