Just two races stand between Vicky Holland and what could be her first-ever World Tri Series title. In what has been her most successful season to date, the 32-year-old Rio bronze medallist is currently second in the standings on 3579 point, 591 behind Series leader Katie Zaferes (USA). And with 1,000 up for grabs for the winner, and 1250 at the Grand Final, it’s all to play for in this coming Saturday’s Montreal race and the final event in Gold Coast on Saturday 15 September.
“I’m just taking it one race at a time,” said Holland on the phone the day before she flew out to Montreal. “Montreal’s a race I’ve not done before but I have noted the key areas, and will take a closer look at those when I get over there. I’ll hopefully then put together a race that I can be proud of.”
Despite a consistent season, which has included two wins (Leeds and Edmonton), the absence of the reigning and two-time world champion Flora Duffy (BER) in the second half of the season due to injury hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“That’s opened up a window for someone else to come in and become world champion,” said Holland. “And I’m definitely working towards that being me. All I can do is go to these last two races in as good a shape as I possibly can, and I think I’ve put myself in a good position for that.”
Joining Holland on the start line is the full GB senior women’s squad (minus Non Stanford): Jess Learmonth (currently fifth in the rankings), Georgia Taylor-Brown (sixth), Jodie Stimpson (10th) and Sophie Coldwell (37th)
For Learmonth, 2018 has also proved a consistent year, with two top-five finishes on the World Series and silvers at the Gold Coast Commies and Glasgow European Champs.
“Things have come together well at the end of the season so I’m hoping to get a couple of good results in and finish as high up the Series rankings as I can,” said Learmonth pre-Montreal. “Obviously there’s a lot of travel involved, so managing that will be a big factor. I need a decent result in Montreal to give me a chance of being competitive overall in the Series, so that’s what I’m focusing on now.”
While Coldwell, 23, won’t be challenging for the Series win, several stand-out performances (most notably in Leeds where she led until halfway through the run) means she’ll be lining up on the Gold Coast in her first senior final.
“I’m feeling confident for Montréal, I’ve had a good block of training. I’ve not raced the WTS for a couple of months now, as I’ve been off on leave, so I’m excited to be racing back at that level. As far as goals, I’d like to swim better than I have been this year. It’s just getting that confidence back, so if I can have a good swim that’ll be really good.”
But while team tactics usually come into play at one-day competitions, such as the Olympics, the presence of such a strong GB women’s squad in the last two races does not mean there will be any role-playing.
“We’re not approaching these races in a team capacity,” said Holland. “No one’s playing a role for anyone else, and we haven’t done that all season. At the same time we do work together quite well and it’s always good to have a lot of Brits on the start line. We’re in such a strong position at the moment, especially with the girls, whichever race we go to we’re going to have a full start line and that’s great really.
“The girls are ruling the roost this year, but that’s a real testament to the team we’ve got and the way in which we encourage each other,” continued Holland. “We’ve done a great job of nurturing the talent coming through. And that’s a real testament to what British Triathlon have done and what the girls at the top over the years have managed to continue to nurture and cultivate. And hopefully that just keeps going.”
If all goes as planned in the next two events, Holland will join her 2012 London teammate Helen Jenkins and 2016 Rio teammate Non Stanford in an exclusive group of British female world champions.
“At the end of it [Montreal and Gold Coast] we’ll count the positions, see where I am and count the points! On the Gold Coast it could absolutely be all to play for, and that’s more exciting than anything else.”