Georgia Taylor-Brown rounded off her strong season with World silver after a second-place finish at World Triathlon Championship Finals Abu Dhabi.
Taylor-Brown was top of the rankings heading into the season finale after three World Triathlon Championship Series wins in 2022, setting-up a straight shootout for the world title with Olympic and Commonwealth champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda.
It was again a thrilling head-to-head battle between the pair, and delivered the enthralling finish on the run that has been a feature of recent battles between the duo at both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
For most of the race in Abu Dhabi, there was nothing to separate the pair as the heat made for tough racing conditions.
Duffy led out of the 1500m swim, but Taylor-Brown was close behind, exiting the water only five seconds after Duffy, with Beth Potter also well-placed in sixth. Sophie Coldwell was 20th out of the water and Sian Rainsley 33rd.
Onto the nine bike laps and Duffy immediately tried to gain an advantage at the front, opening a gap at the head of the race just like she had done at the last race in Bermuda. Duffy was quickly brought back and came part of the front group of nine athletes which included both Potter and Taylor-Brown.
The group became seven after the third lap, a sign of the pace and the pressure imposed within the front group. It was the pace that saw Potter lose touch with the leaders on lap five as the British athlete tried to consolidate her place on the overall series podium.
Now a group of six at the front, it was reduced to four when Taylor Knibb (USA) and Maya Kingma (NED) were involved in a bike crash as the front group went around the final corner of lap seven.
Into transition two, there was nothing to separate Taylor-Brown and Duffy as they dismounted from their bikes side-by-side, with Lena Meißner (GER) and Vittoria Lopes (BRA) also part of the front group.
With the race headed to a shootout on the run, a quick and smooth transition from Taylor-Brown, amongst all the pressure, saw the Olympic gold and silver medallist head onto the 10km run first. Looking calm and relaxed, Taylor-Brown opened up a gap on Duffy, Meißner and Lopes as the top-two in the overall rankings were the front two in the race.
Initially holding the gap to Taylor-Brown, Duffy closed the gap over the next two laps as they ran side-by-side.
As the leaders ran up the hill at the start of the third lap, just after the halfway stage of the run, Duffy started to open up an advantage and, despite the best efforts of Taylor-Brown, it would be a gap that would grow to over a minute as Duffy claimed the race win and the world title.
Taylor-Brown came across the line in second to also secure silver in this year’s World Triathlon Championship Series, rounding off a year that has included three World Triathlon Championship Series wins, Commonwealth individual silver and mixed relay gold and back-to-back Super League Triathlon Championship Series titles.
"I just knew that I had to follow Flora the whole time," Taylor-Brown said. "I knew I needed good feet. I enjoy racing Flora and we have a good comraderie so I just needed to keep my fluids in and stay focused to do all I could in the race.
"Out of transition, I didn't want to be at the front but I was so I waited for Flora to catch me. I gave it absolutely everything but my legs gave in with two laps to go. I had nothing more in me and just wanted to sit down to be honest. I'm obviously disappointed to not get the title but I gave it everything today and I'll make sure I come back another year."
In the battle for the remaining podium spot, Potter finished 32nd in Abu Dhabi after a big effort on the swim and the bike to finish seventh overall, one place behind Coldwell who gained a number of places on the run to finish 11th in the race and sixth overall.
A bike mechanical saw Rainsley record a DNF but still finished in the top-20 for the series with four British triathletes ending the World Triathlon Championship Series in the top-20.