As the excitement builds for the XTERRA World Championship on Maui, we gathered the top pro and men and female athletes to try to gain a little more clarity about who might take the top three steps of the podium on Sunday.
What we found was that the top off-road athletes in the world have trained hard, rested well, and are ready to take on one of the toughest XTERRA courses in the world.
2017 Pro Women Pre-Race Press Conference
The women’s briefing included reigning and three-time XTERRA World Champ, Flora Duffy, two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson, two-time XTERRA Pan Am Champ Suzie Snyder, 2017 XTERRA New Zealand Champ Jacqui Allen, 2017 XTERRA France Champ Laura Philipp, XTERRA European Champ Brigitta Poor, and 2017 XTERRA Chile Champ Barbara Riveros.
The favorite, Flora Duffy has a laid-back attitude towards the 2017 XTERRA World Championship on Sunday.
“I’m thrilled to come back and defend my title,” said Duffy. “But to be honest, I’m not feeling any pressure. Last year I raced until November and I was pretty exhausted so I came up with a different set of goals this year. I’ve been enjoying my training and seeing my friends and planning my wedding this year. Do I have the form to win? We’ll see on Sunday.”
Duffy’s first and only XTERRA race of the season was XTERRA South Africa in February, which she won. This season she was focused on the ITU circuit (she won the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam last month), but she still managed to get on her mountain bike a few times a week.
Lesley Paterson, the “Scottish Rocket,” talked about her alter ego, Paddy McGinty.
“Paddy’s a dude, not a chick,” said Paterson. “Having an alter ego is about embodying a character who has the traits I want to have as a badass racer. Paddy is always up for a challenge and always ready to go on race day. “
Suzie Snyder admitted that she has been having heart rate and breathing issues caused by a vocal chord dysfunction that constricts her breathing. The “death before DNF” athlete displayed her characteristic poise and said that despite her challenges, she is going to stay calm and play it by ear.
Jacqui Allen validated the general opinion that this has been a breakout year for her. She has been working on her riding and has been doing longer rides at higher intensities.
“The running just seemed to come this year,” said Allen. “I’m riding stronger and I’m fresher for run sessions. “
Another breakout XTERRA racer is rookie Laura Philipp, who won XTERRA France on a very challenging course. After placing third at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, last month, she has been on her mountain bike more and is excited about the race.
“I don’t have experience on this terrain but I’ll try to surprise myself on race day,” said Philipp.
Brigitta Poor, is the third up-and-comer of the group. This year has been her best year ever, and Poor is looking forward to seeing what she can do on the course she hasn’t raced on in six years.
The final woman was the tiny racer from Chile – Barbara Riveros – who may be the fastest runner of the group. This is the first time in three years that she hasn’t had to sit out the race because of a broken bone. Riveros did admit that she crashed on her bike a couple of weeks ago and that her coach grudgingly allowed her to come to Maui. Even if she is injured, we shouldn’t forget that she was the only racer at the Rio Olympics to come out of the water with Flora.
Pro Men’s Press Conference
2017 Pro Men Pre-Race Press Conference
On the men’s side, three-time XTERRA World Champ, Mauricio Mendez gave a nod to 80-year old XTERRA age group World Champ, Nathaniel Grew, who was in the audience.
“You told me my life would change when I was a world champ and it has,” said 21-year old Mendez. “I’m just happy to be here. I’m feeling great and looking forward to defending my title. XTERRA to me is freedom.“
It’s clear that he will have some fierce competition on his heels. 2016 XTERRA Worlds runner up, Ruben Ruzafa has been swimming in the ocean in rough water to prepare for Maui. He echoes Mendez’s motto – tope y sin control
– which means to go as hard as you can for as long as you can.
“I’m gong to try put down the gas and drop everyone on the bike, but you never know,” said Ruzafa.
Ben Allen is hoping for hot and humid conditions on Sunday as well as big surf.
“Hopefully there’s a massive swell and we’ll sort the men from the boys,” he joked.
After placing third for three years in a row, Allen wants badly to win.
“I’ll be very proud to get on the podium with the caliber of guys here, but I’m going to keep going until I get the win.”
He was referencing the veteran, Josiah Middaugh, who has been racing XTERRA for 17 years. When asked how long he would keep racing, Josiah joked that he was always told that he was a late bloomer.
Sam Osborne is also having a strong year, having won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour, XTERRA Saipan, and XTERRA New Zealand.
“Last year, everyone kept asking me when I was going to win a race,” he said. “Well this year, I finally got the monkey off my back.”
Osborne has been training this year with Bradley Weiss. They have gone head to head four times and they have each won twice. It is anyone’s guess who will come across the finish line first on Sunday.
Weiss, who beat Ruben Ruzafa in XTERRA Denmark this summer, admitted he hasn’t performed his best in Maui in the past.
“In 2014 I was ninth, and last year I was too far back to care,” said Weiss, who said that he tends to struggle in muddy conditions because of his size. “But I want to put together a good race this year.”
Judging by his success in Europe and Asia this season, this could be the year for Weiss.
Francisco, “Paco” Serrano, who won the ITU Cross Tri World Championship this year, explained his poor finish last year at XTERRA Worlds.
“I had a very, very painful run,” said Serrano. “I injured my leg on the bike and I was just focused to cross that line. This is my favorite race but I have also had the most accidents and problems here. I just want to have a perfect day in Maui. Maybe I will come back the 15th
time like Josiah.”
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