It was a record-equalling third title for Bermuda’s Flora Duffy on Saturday in Edmonton, bronze ensuring that she becomes the first triathlete in history to be crowned both the World and Olympic Champion in the same year.
This time around it was USA’s Taylor Knibb dictating the outcome of the race with the kind of imposing bike ride more commonly associated with Duffy, France’s Leonie Periault cruising to a career-best silver. The battle still raged for the overall Series bronze between Taylor Spivey and Maya Kingma, the American able to hold off the young Dutch star down the chute.
Riding solo for the entire 40km, Knibb then ran her way to gold and second place in the 2021 Series behind Bermuda’s star.
“It was a very hard race. I had a pretty mediocre swim and had some ground to make up and I knew I had to try and get close before Taylor got off the front,” admitted Duffy. “Once she attacked she was gone, that was such a great performance from her today and as soon as she was gone it became more of a defensive race for me and the purpose was to win the world title and not to win the gold, although that would have been nice. I can definitely say it is hard to win the Series after the Olympics! The new blood is definitely here and they’re on fire, it was great to see Leonie on the podium and Taylor is so strong and has so much talent.”
“I feel like the season is still getting started!” said Knibb. “Yokohama surprised me and I felt in a really good place into Tokyo but you saw that race! So these past two have been a bit of channelled energy, but I’ve just been enjoying racing and trying to do so to the best of my abilities. On lap three or four I thought ‘maybe I have a flat’ but no, it was my legs… but I saw I was gaining time each lap and that was motivating for me, so then I knew I had to just run to the best of my abilities.”
It was Flora Duffy, Taylor Spivey and Katie Zaferes all lined up together on the left side of the short beach start at Hawrelak Lake, the Bermudian soon pulling away from those around her, Vittoria Lopes (BRA) leading the middle group and WTCS Leeds winner Maya Kingma clear on the far side as they approached the first buoy.
As the swimmers began to stretch out, it was Knibb second with Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS) and Vicky Holland (GBR) on her shoulder, the US trio of Spivey, Zaferes and Kirsten Kasper together, as were the British threesome of Sophie Coldwell, Sian Rainsley and Beth Potter, Duffy there too and all within 10 seconds of the Brazilian pace-setter Lopes.
Knibb took up position at the front on lap two, unaware that she would stay there for the rest of the race, coming out alongside Kingma into transition and onto the bike. Spivey joined them, while Duffy’s customary slick transition saw her close enough to give hope of bridging up to the early leaders.
Knibb was having none of it, however, making sure to go onto the gas at the first opportunity and make life as hard as possible for Duffy and the rest of the field to get on her wheel. Spivey and Kingma couldn’t, and at the end of lap one of eight Knibb already had 34 seconds to Duffy and the now eight-deep chasers, including Van Coevorden and Periault, Laura Lindemann (GER) and Coldwell.
Knibb continued to streak away from the ten chasers and looked so comfortable every time she scythed through the s-bend out of transition, emerging each time to witness the gap grow and with more than two minutes to pack two after 20km.
That became two minutes to the first chase group as she refused to let up the pace and by the time she had racked her bike and got safely out onto the run, the likes of Duffy, Zaferes and Spivey suddenly had a massive 2:43 to chase down.
Duffy knew she only needed a top eight to make the title hers and settled into position at the head of the chasers, Periault and Kingma on her shoulder, Van Coevorden sat behind Zaferes a few yards further back.
Periault soon settled into her now-familiar easy stride as she and the champion-in-waiting became locked into a battle for the silver, taking only 25 seconds out of Knibb’s buffer on lap one of four.
At halfway, it was Spivey versus Kingma versus Coldwell for the third spot on the overall podium, Lindemann and Zaferes just off their pace, while Periault pulled clear of Duffy on lap three, 90 seconds off the leader.
As first Knibb took the gold and then Duffy the world title, Kingma and Spivey – nine points between them heading into the race – were right together in the battle for the final spot on the Series podium over the final lap as Zaferes built again and moved ahead of Coldwell and then into fourth.
Spivey would win the last duel on the course to take third overall ahead of Kingma, Coldwell and Lindemann, Vicky Holland running her way into 9th and Kirsten Kasper rounding out the top ten.
Taylor Spivey (USA)
“I had some food poisoning so wasn’t even sure I would start today so to come away with fifth and overall podium makes me so happy. These girls are so strong and really pushed me out there today. I was with Taylor Knibb and Maya out of the water and had a feeling she would attack but I didn’t have that top end power to stay with her and she was so impressive making that much time on us. I did my best but it wasn’t easy for me today.”
Leonie Periault (FRA)
“It is all new for me, but this season is just perfect, to get a first podium is amazing for me. Thank you to everybody for this!”
For the full results, click here.