America’s Katie Zaferes rocked up in Lausanne battled-scarred after hitting a crash barrier in the Tokyo test event just two weeks earlier. But the 30-year-old American was in a powerful position heading into the Grand Final, needing a 12thplace finish or better to take her first world title.
Her title chase started well, with a decent swim some 17secs behind GB’s Jess Learmonth, who was second in the standings. While Learmonth shot off down the road on a one-woman mission post-T1, Zaferes was able to catch the main chase group and sit in with GB’s Georgia Taylor-Brown (third in the standings pre-race) and Sophie Coldwell, Flora Duffy (first in the test event), Taylor Spivey (USA, 4thin the standings) and Vittoria Lopes (BRA, 4thin the test event). Nine kilometres in and they’d met up with Learmonth to form a lead group of seven.
London 2012 victor, Rio silver medallist, mother of three and all-round Swiss heroine Nicola Spirig was also towing the line in her home country, but a 52sec swim deficit saw her head up the chase group for almost the entirety of the 40km bike leg. Joining her were GB’s Non Stanford (fifth in the standings) and reigning world champion Vicky Holland.
Halfway through and Spivey and Coldwell were dropped by the lead group, while Holland and Stanford dropped back from the chase pack, which was now some 47secs down.
With one lap to go, Duffy finally made the break she’d been hinting at all race… but it lasted all 500m before Zaferes bridged the small deficit to set the race up for a 10km showdown.
Out of T2 and Lopes was the first to succumb to the pace up front as the leading quartet started the run running in a diamond formation. In scenes reminiscent of last year’s Worlds in New Zealand, where Zaferes was kept honest by Holland, who ultimately took the title, the American was once again joined by a British contingent, as Duffy started to drop back.
With 6km to go, the trio were running shoulder to shoulder, all three looking strong and none of them giving an inch. Dutch athlete Rachel Klamer, meanwhile, who had spent the entire race in the chase group, passed Duffy for fourth at the end of the third lap of four.
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Twelve-hundred metres to go and Taylor-Brown just started to drop back, leaving Zaferes and Learmonth to duke it out for the top podium spot. But finally able to put some daylight between her and Learmonth, Zaferes broke the tape to take the race and the title win. Taylor-Brown crossed the line for third, to keep the race and title top three the same.
Spirig crossed the line in 10thto the delight of the home crowd.