Quality. That pretty much sums up the Elite Women’s race at Friday’s World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi.
The British women threw everything they could at the Olympic champion at Yas Marina, but Bermuda’s Flora Duffy further cemented her position as one of the sport’s best ever, by winning again.
Flora fast foots it to Abu Dhabi title
Katie Zaferes aside, the Elite Women’s start list in Abu Dhabi was nothing less than stellar – one of the strongest we’ve ever seen in WTCS racing. Given that, no surprise then that the pace would be full gas from the start.
A significant part of that strength was the eight-strong British team, and they were front and centre during the opening 750m swim in the 31-degree waters of Yas Marina.
Sophie Coldwell and Jess Learmonth reached the swim exit ramp side by side first, and with Lucy Charles-Barclay out 6th (+0:06), Georgia Taylor-Brown 8th (+0:08), Sian Rainsley 9th (+0:08) and Vicky Holland 11th (+0:10), the Brits were looking good early on. Beth Potter (+0:22) and Non Stanford (+0:27) were not out of contention – but there was some serious firepower ahead of them.
The race took shape on the bike almost immediately – Coldwell, Learmonth, Taylor-Brown, Charles-Barclay, Taylor Knibb (USA) and Duffy were away and clear, with IRONMAN 70,3 World Champion Charles-Barclay clearly struggling with the technical aspects of draft-legal racing. After a few yo-yos off the back, she was soon dispatched as those repeated efforts to bridge back took their toll.
And then there were five – and what a quintet it was. With just one lap (of five) to go on the bike, their advantage was more than a minute over Charles-Barclay (still riding strongly but solo), with the main chase group even further back. Difficult to see the podium spots being filled by anyone not in that top five however.
Through T2 and it was Learmonth who was first out onto the run, but with the Olympic gold and silver medallists right with her this was going to be a tough 16 or so minutes. Grand Final winner Knibb, was seemingly the first of the top five to fade. Could any of the trio of Brits topple Flora, however? We wouldn’t have to wait too long to find out.
With the temperatures rising, Duffy gently increased the pace, gapped her British rivals and would start the final (2.5km) run lap with a six-second advantage over GTB, 11 on Learmonth and 18 over Coldwell.
Was it over? Absolutely not! Taylor-Brown was building into the run and looking better every minute and started to reel in the Olympic champion. The Brit closed back to the shoulder of Duffy – and the opportunity to reverse the finishing positions from Tokyo looked on.
Flora surged again (!), and this time it was definitive. The reigning Commonwealth, World and Olympic champion showed her class and would push on to a 12th career WTCS victory. What an athlete.
GTB held strong for the silver, and it would be Coldwell who got the better of Learmonth to take her second WTCS podium, matching her bronze medal from earlier this year in Leeds.
Ahead of the race we referenced what was perhaps the strongest British WTCS entry ever – and with three in the top four, six of the top 10 and seven of the top 12, that was more than just talk.
World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi 2021 Results
Friday November 5 2021 – ELITE WOMEN
750m / 20k / 5k
- 1. Flora Duffy (BER) – 55:42
- 2. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) – 55:54
- 3. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) – 56:12
- 4. Jess Learmonth (GBR) – 56:28
- 5. Taylor Knibb (USA) – 56:36
- 6. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 57:25
- 7. Beth Potter (GBR) – 57:29
- 8. Non Stanford (GBR) – 57:32
- 9. Rachel Klamer (NED) – 57:35
- 10. Vicky Holland (GBR) – 57:39
- 12. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) – 57:55
- 24. Sian Rainsley (GBR) – 58:54