December 5, 2022
December 5, 2022
December 5, 2022
Zafares, 29, who was narrowly beaten to the world title by Vicky Holland in the final race of the 2018 season, made it two wins from two WTS starts after victory in Abu Dhabi in March.
Holland finished 15th having broken away with the leaders early in the 40km bike ride, but was unable to hold the pace. Fellow Brit Georgia Taylor-Brown came through for fifth, with Non Stanford producing the fastest run leg in the field to claim 13th.
The home crowd had hoped to see the return of local favourite and Commonwealth champion Flora Duffy, who had succeeded with a solo charge to win the inaugural WTS contest on the island last year.
But Duffy, who has struggled with injury since taking the Commonwealth title last spring, withdrew in the build-up and has delayed setting a date for her return.
In her absence, Zafares became the dominant force and looked untroubled on the run, closing out with a 34:36 10km split and a comfortable 1:41 victory margin.
“Inspired by Flora in last year’s race I just wanted to commit to those first few laps [on the bike],” she said. “Jess and Lotte [Miller] did so much work, we just kept pushing the entire 10 laps and it put us in a good position for the run.”
A downpour and flash floods greeted the start of the women’s race, meaning choppier conditions and poor visibility during the swim and plenty of surface water for the beginning of the bike leg.
“It was torrential,” Learmonth said. “I was halfway through [the swim] and ready to roll on to my back and put my arm in the air to be rescued – you couldn’t see a thing. So that were a drama. On the bike, Zafares is a train – I was dying. The run, I was just trying to get through. I’m glad we got just enough time because I was hanging on. I’m delighted with second place.”
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As has become routine in WTS racing, Learmonth led the out of the water after the 1.5km two-lap swim, but world champion Holland was in close attendance along with Holland’s Maya Kingma. Zafares was fourth leaving T1 and quickly closed the gap as they approached the first of 10 climbs up Corkscrew Hill – the one meaningful incline on the course – showing her power that would soon split the race apart.
Norway’s Miller also made the front pack and after Kingma had been jettisoned it was Holland who was next to suffer as the front three broke away.
From there Zafares continued to drive the pace and the gap over the 40km bike ride grew from seconds to minutes as the trio built on their advantage.
They made it to T2 over 2mins clear of the second pack and although Learmonth was first to emerge, Zafares quickly forged ahead and by the end of the first 2.5km lap was 23sec clear.
Miller’s valiant effort to equal Gustav Iden’s feat in the men’s race and grab the final podium berth for Norway was thwarted when Canadian Commonwealth bronze medallist Joanna Brown passed her with 3km remaining.
Miller eventually dropped to eighth to add to her sixth place in Abu Dhabi, but it was a brave performance that suggests it’s not just the Scandinavian men who are becoming a force to be reckoned with at this level.
Learmonth wasn’t threatened for second, and although she is yet to win a World Series race, has now recorded five podiums along with Commonwealth silver and a European title.
The 31-year-old lies second in the overall standings behind Zafares, with USA’s Taylor Spivey in third and Georgia Taylor-Brown in fourth.