Her return to WTS racing could not have gone better for Flora Duffy (BER). The ITU World Champion had missed the first two races of the season due to injury, but this performance in Yokohama signalled to the world she was not going to relinquish her world title lightly.
As well as Duffy the women’s field at WTS Yokohama included Katie Zaferes (USA), Vicky Holland (GBR) and Non Stanford (GBR) but with wet and slippy conditions the race would prove anything but predictable.
In the swim Britain’s Jessica Learmonth and Lucy Hall took the lead and upon exiting the waters were among a group of five, which included Sophie Coldwell (GBR), Duffy and Summer Cook (USA), that headed into T1 ahead of the pack.
Proving her biking skills were still as good as ever Duffy then wasted no time in breaking away from the group, taking Coldwell with her.
And despite the best efforts of the chase group of 10, which contained Learmonth, Hall, Vicky Holland (GBR), Alice Betto (ITA), Zaferes, Kasper, Gillian Backhouse (AUS), Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS), Yuko Takahashi (JPN) and Minami Kubono (JPN), they could not catch Duffy and Coldwell.
The rain continued to pour down, and cause problems for the riders. A slip on a corner took GB’s Non Stanford out of the running for a podium finish, while on the eighth lap Learmonth and Zaferes took a tumble on the wet streets. This briefly took them out of the leading chase group, but they both managed to catch the group as they entered T2.
By the time Duffy and Coldwell headed out on the run they had created a lead of 1:21. Coldwell made an early break but within a couple of seconds Duffy overtook her to take the lead, and there she remained for the rest of the race, finishing 1 minute 51 seconds ahead of her rivals – a new WTS record.
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Coldwell then got passed by the two American athletes Zaferes and Kasper, who would then take silver and bronze respectively, but managed to hang on to take fourth spot. Vicky Holland finished in fifth
“I didn’t know what I would have in the tank for today, I was pretty nervous coming into the race today, I felt like a WTS first-timer, but I had to keep reminding myself that I am the World Champ and I need to ride with confidence. So the race worked out great to my strengths and I am super happy,” said Duffy.
Natalie Van Coevorden