Flora Duffy on top again at WTCS Montreal 2021 ‘Eliminator’

The Eliminator made its debut as part of the top tier of draft-legal racing at WTCS Montreal 2021 – but Flora Duffy still topped the podium

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Triathlon, but not as you know it (unless you’ve been watching Super League Triathlon). That was World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal, which was raced in the Eliminator format, over two days, which we previewed earlier in the week.

(Click here for the Elite men’s report on the French podium sweep in Montreal)

Flora Duffy, class of the field – again

Different format, same result, as Flora Duffy continued her form from Tokyo 2020 to take another WTCS victory – and set her up, potentially, for a third World Triathlon Championship next weekend in Edmonton. She will be the strong favourite to do that, over the Olympic distance next weekend.

Race 1 (30 started, 20 to qualify for Race 2)

Laura Lindemann (GER) was first onto the bike, with Olympic Champion Flora Duffy leading a long line of athletes just seconds behind. Alice Betto (ITA), who finished on the podium at the 2019 Tokyo Test event, was surprisingly far back out of the water and then all but sacrificed her race by crashing on the T1 mount line. Seventh at the Olympic Games, her race effectively ended after four minutes with a rather sore knee to take forward to Edmonton next weekend.

23 athletes within seven seconds after lap one (or three) on the bike, meant that anyone behind was pretty much out of contention already, with 20 to qualify for race two from the 30 starters. Second at IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder last weekend (and then selected for the Collins Cup), Taylor Knibb was pushing hard on the front of the bike, taking Flora Duffy and Taylor Spivey with her, extending a lead out to 12 seconds on a chasing group of 20. Plenty more big names in that group, most of them more than content to let the leading trio do what they want – as long as they qualify, who cares?!

Four British athletes started, qualified from Friday – Sophie Coldwell, Non Stanford, Sian Rainsley and Olivia Mathias – and all but Mathias were in that large chase pack.

A significant lead off the bike meant a relaxed 2km jog for Knibb, Spivey and Duffy, while for those behind, well, pretty much the same for the bigger names. Taylor Knibb seemingly wanted a solo win (which she got), while the Brits (less Mathias), Lindemann, Zaferes et all just did enough to progress. Sian Rainsley took the final qualifying slot (20th), which meant that Natalie Van Coervorden (AUS) in 21st, along with Alice Betto (ITA) and Vittoria Lopes (BRA) were among those to miss out.

Race 2 (20 started, 10 to qualify for final)

With a break (!) of around 15 minutes, it was time to go again. With Vittoria Lopes (BRA) already eliminated, one of the strongest swimmers for the 300m swim was absent.

No surprise (again) to see Taylor Knibb pushing the pace on the bike, after the 300m swim did little to split the majority of the field. A group of eight quickly formed (which included Spivey, Duffy, Coldwell). Sian Rainsley was out of contention for the top ten, but in between, Non Stanford started the run with Knoll (GER), Van Der Kaay (NZL) and Merle (FRA), in 9th-12th.

The top eight could enjoy a pressure-free 2km run to final, while Non Stanford and Nicole Van Der Kaay were the strongest of the chasing four, to complete the final line up. Laura Lindemann crossed the line first, while Flora Duffy, Taylor Spivey and Sophie Coldwell ‘ran’ as slow as possible, burning up as little energy as possible for the final. Smart racing.

No obvious favourites missing from the final line-up – and this time, they would be racing to the finish line.

The Final

Sophie Coldwell out first from the swim, but even Non Stanford and Verena Steinhauser (ITA) in 9th/10th, were only nine seconds back. The long run to transition could be key – and Flora Duffy was pushing it hard.

Four got away very quickly, but Taylor Knibb was not going to let that stick, and within two minutes there was a group of ten together on the bike. Would everyone stick together?

Knibb on the front, pushing the pace was surely great news for Katie Zaferes and Flora Duffy, who would fancy their chances on the run. The pressure from Knibb on the front soon stretched the ten athletes out, and there was no way that everyone would reach T2 together.

Sure enough, Taylor Knibb, Flora Duffy and Taylor Spivey broke clear and surprisingly perhaps given her Super League Triathlon success, Katie Zaferes was dropped, and the chasers were 14 seconds behind with the final bike lap of 2.4km remaining.

Taylor Spivey exploded from T2 like a bullet from a gun, but Knibb and Duffy responded and closed the gap. With 1km to go, Duffy pushed the pace and started the last lap with a small gap over the U.S. duo.

The Olympic champion may have been celebrating, but was still the class of the field, and clearly wants to add (another) World Triathlon championship to her Olympic Gold. Victory in Montreal makes that a real possibility in Edmonton next week.

Team USA filled 2nd/3rd/4th, with Taylor Knibb proving that her decision to race at IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder last weekend would not adversely impact her racing this week.

WTCS Montreal – Final Results

300m / 7.2km / 2km

  1. Flora Duffy (BER) – 23:07
  2. Taylor Knibb (USA) – 23:14
  3. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 23:24
  4. Katie Zaferes (USA) – 23:33
  5. Leonie Periault (FRA) – 23:37
  6. Laura Lindemann (GER) – 23:39
  7. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) – 23:56
  8. Verena Steinhauser (ITA) – 24:00
  9. Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL) – 24:11
  10. Non Stanford (GBR) – 24:28
WTCS Montreal 2021
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