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Road to Paris 2024: What we learned from WTCS Cagliari – Beaugrand vs Potter, Taylor Knibb debrief and Flora Duffy is BACK

WTCS Cagliari is in the books and Mark Allen provides the expert analysis on a spectacular women's race as Paris 2024 looms ever closer.

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The final qualifying event in the two-year journey to Paris is in the books – WTCS Cagliari was the last chance for athletes to punch their tickets to the Olympic Games this summer. Our last chance to see all the best race together before the big dance in France later this summer.   

A lot of predictions are going to be made from those WTCS Cagliari results. And there were a whole slew of lessons learned that foreshadowed what might take place in Paris. Today we start with a spectacular elite women’s race.

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It’s a running race

Unless the likes of Taylor Knibb and Flora Duffy can actually make a breakaway stick in Paris, the race is going to be all about the run. The true medal contenders all swim in roughly the same neighbourhood. So, unless something happens in the Seine, it’ll be a top contender front pack at the start of the bike.

Both Taylor and Duffy spent a lot of time pulling the train in Cagliari. Taylor made a few shots at breaking the pack up and dropping the key runners, but it never worked. Both Knibb and Duffy have shown they can win going solo off the front. Neither did that in Cagliari.

Paris could be slightly different since the course is not dead flat like the race in Sardinia was. There is a chance that something intriguing could take place and we don’t see Beth Potter or Cassandre Beaugrand come into transition with the lead group.

My prediction: the runners will find a way to keep up front in Paris, effectively reducing the podium to the swift of feet.

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Knibb could win on the bike, lose in transition

All that said about how I don’t think a break can’t happen in Paris, Knibb is the one who could turn that prediction upside down. She didn’t get away in Cagliari, but then she’d just done Yokohama two weeks earlier – placing second. Then she flew back to home turf and won the US Cycling Time Trial to qualify for the Games in two sports. She then headed back over to Europe for this race.

There’s an argument that could be made that she was just off a few ticks from the real damage she could do on the bike if fresh. That said, she could easily lose a winning gap with the transitions she’s having. She lost 15 places in transition this past weekend. The actual time lost was 4-6 seconds on her key rivals. But as we all know that difference can be massive at the end of the day in Olympic racing.

My prediction: she’ll get that piece together by Paris.

Taylor Knibb and Flora Duffy lead the bike pack at WTCS Cagliari 2024
Taylor Knibb leads Flora Duffy on the bike at WTCS Cagliari 2024 (Photo Credit: World Triathlon / @by_wout).
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Potter vs Beaugrand, more to come

Caligari was Beth’s first WTCS race this year. She finished in third, and even though she pushed the pace trying to break Beaugrand and Germany’s Lisa Tertsch several times, it didn’t stick. Beth admitted that she’d just recovered from being sick a couple of weeks ago. So clearly her prep was not the most ideal.

Cassandre, even though she won, admitted that she hadn’t had a lot of running leading into this race. If she can stay injury-free and add back in her normal running, Paris could be blistering for her.

Not only that, but her experience and power at the Olympic distance is coming into form at exactly the right time. Cagliari was her first win at the distance at this level. Sceptics have pointed out that she can win at sprints, but that she lacked the endurance to sustain that lightning speed over the Olympic distance. Those same sceptics are silenced now.

Potter won the Olympic test event last summer with a run that steadily pulled away from Beaugrand. There was no sprint finish needed.

This past week in Cagliari, that didn’t happen. She tried a few times to gap Cassandre. But each surge was unsuccessful. France’s best hope for gold in triathlon kept coming back. And while it looked like that effort was a challenge for her, when it came time to accelerate off of race pace for the sprint, Beaugrand did it with commanding control.

My prediction: We’ll see both women at another level by Paris. Beth will be able to execute the strategy which won her the Olympic test event last summer. Cassandre will have no problem covering the surges her competition throws at her, which will put her in sight of Olympic gold. If it’s a sprint finish between Beaugrand and anyone else, she wins. The only hope the rest of the field has is to put a buffer between her and them that is too large of a gap to close on a finish sprint.

Beth Potter Cassandre Beaugrand WTCS Cagliari 2024
Potter vs Beaugrand will be even better in Paris (Photo Credit: World Triathlon / @by_wout).

Flora Duffy is BACK

The defending Olympic champion spent a huge chunk of the ride pulling the lead pack. She didn’t shy away from doing the work. On the run it took her a bit to find her legs, but once she did, it was all pass and no “be passed”.

Two weeks ago, Flora finished seventh in Yokohama and was eighth here against an arguably stronger field. With two more months of prep, she could be on her way to doing something amazing in Pairs.

My prediction: if there is an agreement between her and Knibb to break up the lead pack and they can gap the top runners, she’s going to medal. Never bet against a returning champ!

Flora Duffy on the run at WTCS Cagliari 2024
Reigning Olympic champ Flora Duffy is back in her happy place (Photo Credit: World Triathlon / @by_wout).
Mark Allen
Written by
Mark Allen
Mark Allen has to be in any conversation about the greatest triathlete of all time. A six-time IRONMAN World Champion, he won every other title that mattered in the sport and dominated like few others
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