The 2016 World Triathlon Series will come to an end this week at the World Triathlon Grand Final Cozumel. Two-time reigning world champion and Olympic gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen (USA) will attempt to defend her title over top-ranked Flora Duffy (BER) on Saturday, September 17 at 3:30pm.
The battle for the World title is an exciting one this year, as a two-time reigning champion and a first-time candidate will duke it out in the hopes of claiming the 2016 crown. Coming off winning Olympic gold last month, Jorgensen won rights the last two years to call herself the fastest woman in triathlon. Currently sitting second in the Columbia Threadneedle rankings, earning the title once again would make her a three-peat defender, an accomplishment no elite woman has ever done in the history of the Series.
Earning a third title would put her on par with only Emma Snowsill, who is both a three-time World Champion and an Olympic gold medallist.
But Bermuda’s Flora Duffy has been the woman on top this season and she has no intention of giving that up. Duffy has never won the overall title before and after her season’s accolades, the title would be well deserve.
However, only 166 points separate Duffy from Jorgensen, which means that the race on Saturday will be a close one. In order for Duffy to be crowned World Champion, she needs to finish first or second in the race. While Jorgensen could still win on Saturday, if Duffy is right behind her in second, Duffy will still beat out Jorgensen for the title.
Duffy usually positions herself among the top swimmers in races. It is her strong swim that sets her up to be among the top cyclists and that is where her talent really lies. She can handle the ocean swim, so there should be no worries about Duffy excelling in the water.
While at one point in her early career Jorgensen’s toughest discipline was the swim, she now has mastered the waters and has continued to thrive amongst the leaders. However, sometimes she can find herself missing the mark and exits the waters in the middle of the pack, which prevents her from making the lead bike pack. If Duffy wants a fighting chance from Jorgensen, she needs to hope that Jorgensen has an off day at sea in Cozumel.
Spaniard Carolina Routier will without a doubt be in the mix for swim leader. She dominates in the water and was the first out of the ocean at the Olympics. However, Brits Lucy Hall and Jessica Learmonth also have proven their strength in the water, as has local athlete Carolina Rivas (MEX). Both Hall & Learmonth have led the swim at WTS events this year, but if the British women are are implementing any team strategies, don’t expect the pair to help Duffy take turns pulling on the bike. Also expect to see Pamella Oliveira (BRA) and several of the Americans leading out of the swim, such as Katie Zaferes and Sarah True.
There is no denying that Duffy is arguably one of the best riders in the history of ITU. She is a World Champion in cross triathlon and excels when the course is challenging – the more technical the better. The world also witnessed her famous solo ride in Cape Town, when she completed nearly the entire 40-kilometre course on her own. Knowing that Jorgensen is strongest on the run, it will be up to Duffy to attempt some breakaways and have a fighting chance to ward off Jorgensen’s power.
The question then will remain, who will go with Duffy? We all saw in Gold Coast when Duffy, Andrea Hewitt (NZL) and Helen Jenkins (GBR) rode away as a trio, it created enough of a gap to fend off Jorgensen from claiming the gold. If that strategy worked in Australia, it could work in Mexico.
However, with such high stakes on the line, it may be hard to get the chance to breakaway, as evidenced in Rio. Brits Vicky Holland and Non Stanford typically do well on the bike, even more so when they are riding together. As training partners, they work as a strong unit and could be extremely influential on closing or gaining any gaps that exist out on the course, as could former World Champion Lisa Norden (SWE).
The Americans and the Aussies also host a crop of talented cyclists. The USA’s Katie Zaferes, Sarah True and Summer Cook just recently led the charge in Edmonton, which aided in them sweeping the podium. While on the Aussie side, Ashleigh Gentle has produced some of the strongest chase comebacks in the year, both in Abu Dhabi and Yokohama, where she worked the chase pack to put her back with a fighting chance that ultimately landed her on the WTS podium.
The run is where the women’s race will get interesting. Positioning coming off the bike is crucial and could determine the fate of one’s result. Obviously, Jorgensen is one of the biggest threats when it comes to the run. This year in Leeds, she won the race despite being down 94 seconds off the bike, which was a run that made it in the record books for a victory from the largest come-from-behind deficit. So if she is anywhere within that margin coming off the bike, it could mean trouble for her competitors.
Holland, Stanford and Jenkins all are phenomenal runners. Each woman has proven their speed and tactics on the run course, so it is very likely that at least one Brit will be on the Grand Final podium.
Duffy is going to need to put a lot of work in on the bike in order to benefit herself for the run, but also ensuring she saves enough on the run to perform in the final 10km of the race.
Hewitt is also a top runner. She has proved time and time again her leg strength in the final kilometres. Saturday’s competition will be a big one for Hewitt as well, she has the possibility to make the overall ITU podium, which would be her sixth time in her career - the most of any woman ever.
The women will get the ITU World Triathlon Championships Cozueml underway at 15:30 on Saturday September 17, while the men will follow the next day on Sunday at 15:00 local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive.
Join the conversation with the hashtags #WTSCozumel and #CTrankings.