On Saturday 17 September the women’s 2016 World Triathlon Series will come to an end at the World Triathlon Grand Final Cozumel, but who will emerge World Champion?
Two-time reigning world champion and Olympic gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen (USA) will attempt to defend her title and beat present WTS leader Flora Duffy (BER).
Jorgensen is currently sitting second in the Columbia Threadneedle rankings, 166 points behind Flora Duffy from Bermuda, and earning the title once again would make it three in a row, an accomplishment no elite woman has ever done.
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.
However for Duffy to podium she needs to beat the British squad of Helen Jenkins, Vicky Holland, and Non Stanford.
How the race could play out
Duffy is a strong swimmer and that sets her up to be among the top cyclists when entering T1 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 a bad swim.
Duffy is arguably one of the best riders in the history of ITU. She is a World Champion in cross triathlon (we named her in our top 6 Xterra athletes of all time) and excels when the course is challenging – the more technical the better. The world also witnessed her famous solo ride in WTS Stockholm, when she completed nearly the entire 40-kilometre course on her own to take victory. 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.
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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.
Obviously this is Jorgensen’s strongest discipline and one her competitors fear her on. 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.
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.
And don’t forget the Brits. Holland, Stanford and Jenkins all are good 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.
The women’s race takes place at 3.30pm (local time) 10.30pm British time and you can watch it live on triathlonlive.tv/live if you have a pass or is available on the red button. We will also be tweeting all the action live throughout the race @220Triathlon and highlights will be shown on Sunday18 September at 14.30 BBC2