Duffy Takes Four In A Row, Weiss Surprises With His First World Championship
Bradley Weiss and Flora Duffy are your 2017 XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon World Champions. You probably read that story already, and what a great race, eh? Weiss the surprise winner we all should have expected and Duffy making it four in a row on the back of a stellar 2017 ITU World Championship.
Here at DirtTRI, off-road multisport is our only focus and we’re gonna take a deeper look at how the race unfolded and give you inside insight into what went down.
Surprisingly Not Surprising
Mauricio Mendez was supposed to defend his 2016 XTERRA World Championship. If not him Josiah Middaugh or Ruben Ruzafa would repeat their 2015 or 2013/14 titles respectively. Hell, if not them then surely it would be Mexico’s 2017 ITU Cross Triathlon World Champion, Francisco “Paco” Serrano. However, unfortunately for those guys nobody told Bradley Weiss this wasn’t his year to win.
No, instead Weiss has spent the past several years being mentored by fellow South African XTERRA superstars Conrad Stoltz and Dan Hugo. Oh yeah, and he picked up a training partner in the form of Dan’s fiancee and now six time off-road triathlon World Champion, Flora Duffy.
Indeed, Weiss’ victory was one of those surprises we’ve been expecting for a long time. Like coming home on your birthday to a driveway full of all your friends cars.
Get Away Early
Middaugh made things difficult for himself after exiting the water three minutes behind the men’s leaders. We’ve seen him overcome this sort of deficit before, but not this time. Middaugh would say, “unfortunately, I never really got into the mix, trying to play catch up all day but losing time to the athletes battling hard at the front of the race.”
One favorite gone.
Meanwhile Weiss would have a great swim, exiting the water two minutes faster than 2016 and with the lead pack.. In the pro press conference Mendez had stated he planned to attack the course and try to lead wire to wire, claiming to have a secret weapon. One has to wonder if this motivated Weiss to push even harder in the early climbs. Weiss is a smaller and lighter athlete which is often an advantage in sustained climbing. Within the first 5 miles Weiss had opened a substantial lead of almost 3 minutes with only former pro mountain biker and three time XTERRA World Champ, Ruben Ruzafa closing the gap.
“One hundred percent I won the race on the swim,” said Weiss, perhaps half in jest. “It’s been letting me down all these years. When I stood up out of the water and saw Mauricio and Ben, I thought, ‘Game on, here we go.’ And I think mentally I won the race there. I was just so, so confident.”
Prepare for the Run
Ruzafa would catch Weiss 3/4 through the bike. However, Weiss stayed close and was within seconds coming into T2. Did Weiss move early on the bike in order to play to his greatest strength on the climb knowing Ruzafa and possibly other strong bikers, Middaugh and Serrano, would catch him late, thus allowing him to sit in and recover going into the run? Possibly, it is a tactic that makes sense and with Mendez being exceptionally strong on the run Weiss may have wanted slightly fresher legs.
Move Early Again
The race was far from over. Weiss came to T2 within 30 seconds of Ruzafa and with Serrano gaining despite having a broken shift lever. Mendez was three minutes down but put 4 minutes into Weiss at the 2016 XTERRA World Champs.
Like the bike, the XTERRA World Champs run course has a sustained climb for the first ten minutes. And like the bike, Weiss would use this climb to his advantage.
Serrano, who out split Ruzafa by a minute and matched uber-runner Middaugh at the ITU Cross Tri World Championship in August, closed on Weiss over the first mile, possibly spurring a response which would see Weiss pass Ruzafa for the lead within the second mile. All the while Mendez was moving quickly and would catch Serrano in mile three and Ruzafa in mile five.
However, Weiss was too strong on this day and was able produce the third fastest run split, only loosing 1:50 to Mendez.
Weiss becomes the third South African XTERRA World Champion and give the country its sixth title over all.
It won’t do much good for us to deep dive into what went down in the women’s race. Dominant may be to soft a word to describe Flora Duffy’s 2017 XTERRA World Championship. Duffy had the fastest swim by a minute, the fastest bike by five minutes, the fastest run by a 1:20, and was the 13th pro overall, regardless of gender.
So what’s her secret? Will anyone be able to challenge Duffy in the years to come?
Consistency is King
Flora Duffy is arguably the best female triathlete in the world right now. Doubtless she is the best short course triathlete in the world having 6 off-road triathlon World Titles and two ITU World Championships. What sets her apart is her consistency.
“I did my first XTERRA World Championship in 2013, and I can vividly remember almost falling over running on that beach down there,” said Duffy. “So, to be here today after winning four in a row is pretty unbelievable and pretty crazy to think about where I started.”
All elite athletes are challenged by injury. They are pushing the envelope of what is possible and there is risk associated when one pushes the limits. While Duffy has not been entirely free from issue her coach, Neal Henderson, is wise enough to realize when something seems out of place and will allow Flora to back off and avoid any serious issues.
Surprisingly this is one of the most difficult things for elite athletes to do, be sensible and realize a few days recovery is better than weeks nursing an issue. This has allowed Duffy to steadily improve over the past five years into the dominant athlete she is today.
Duffy is a superb athlete. One can take nothing away from her performance on Sunday or her other 7 World Championships. However, her competitors aren’t doing themselves any favors when they toe the line with probably XTERRA’s best female athlete ever.
Here’s how some of the top women came into the 2017 XTERRA World Championship
- Barbara Riveros – Missed the past two XTERRA World Championships due to injury.
- Lesley Paterson – Perpetually fighting Lyme Disease and currently nursing a stress fractured pelvis
- Suzie Snyder – Nursing an asthma issue which limits her maximal heart rate
- Emma Garrard – Only months from having her second child.
Duffy on the other hand is coming off a stellar ITU season with only rumors of a small bike crash while preparing for XTERRA.
When we consider positions 4-8 were withing 5 minutes of each other and many of those women were not at the top of their game we see that with a couple of years of steady consistent progress Duffy could have a lot more company.
Nothing Motivates Like Dominance
Right now Flora is on top of her game, and that’s a great place to be. Everything is going well, she’s winning, life is good. Of course she will want to maintain that if not improve. Its no secret Duffy is eyeing Tokyo 2020.
However, having the ITU World Champion prove there are gains to be had by racing off-road triathlon will surely tempt other strong women to join Duffy on the trail. Which is great for our sport.
It is entirely possible this time next year we will have a healthier women’s field and some strong new faces. This year Flora was untouchable. Next year it could be a battle. Knowing Flora she would relish the opportunity to go should to should with the best women in the world.