Flora, Flora, Flora. She won the last three XTERRA World titles and had the fastest swim, bike, and run times by far last year in Maui. Heck, she went faster than 25 elite men! She’ll probably do pretty well, but can she go faster than …
The “Scottish Rocket” is the epitome of XTERRA’s Live More spirit. In her last seven Maui attempts she has won it twice and finished second an unprecedented four times, including last year.
“Lesley is a killer and takes no prisoners,” says XTERRA World Tour managing director Dave Nicholas.
“I think it hurt her that she could not compete and win for a few years (while battling Lyme disease and other chaos) and she wants that top step badly. Oh, she will smile and make jokes, but if a war comes I want her on my side.”
The German roadie caught the European Tour by surprise when she showed up at XTERRA France and posted the second-fastest swim, fastest bike and fastest run; and won by eight-minutes over Tour stars Brigitta Poor and Helena Karaskova in her XTERRA debut.
“I’ve only done one XTERRA race so I probably have the least amount of experience for this kind of racing,” said Philipp, who won four IM 70.3 races and finished 3rd at IM 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga. “It will be a real surprise to see what I can achieve in Maui. There is no pressure on me, so I will go out and try to have fun, because that is when I become the best version of myself.”
Philipp is already playing in the dirt in Maui, and “has solid technical skills on the mountain bike and trail from what I saw in Xonrupt,” said Lebrun. “She could be the big surprise, be ready for her!”
“I am feeling great and looking forward to this,” said Philipp. “After Chattanooga I changed my bikes and put the focus 100% on XTERRA training in the woods by my German hometown Heidelberg. We have plenty of challenging trails for biking and running. The last few weeks have been so much fun, I think I prepared as best I could.”
The tiny tiger is back! In each of the last two years she has come to race but got injured before the big day. “No chance of that this year,” she exclaimed. In the three years she did race, she finished 2nd twice (in 2012 to Lesley and in 2014 to Flora) and was fourth in 2013 behind Nicky Samuels, Lesley, and Flora.
“She is one who can fight for the podium and maybe even put a scare into Flora,” said XTERRA European Tour director Nicolas Lebrun.
Finally, she comes to Maui! Brigitta was the strongest woman across the European Tour this season with wins at Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Poland, Germany, and the championship in Denmark. It will be fun to see her race head-to-head against the best from around the world.
“Brigitta made a big step this year,” said Lebrun. “She was really the queen in Europe. She won both the ETU and the XTERRA titles. She is still young and I think will be able to recover from all the travel around Europe this season. And, with some rest after Denmark and a good block of training, she will be able to fight for the podium.”
She’s been hot of late, finishing 2nd at both the ITU Cross Tri World Champs and the XTERRA Pan America Championships. She was 7th last year, and has been in the top 10 each of the last five years.
“I think I’m as fast as I’ve ever been,” said Allen. “The last few years I’ve come to Maui I haven’t been where I’ve wanted to be for a World Championship but this year I’m on a roll and psyched to get out there and give the course another crack. I’ve been in Boulder, Colorado for the last two months. The triathlon community here is second to none, the facilities, training locations, people and food are all so accessible it truly is the mecca of triathlon and the best place to be for XTERRA Worlds prep (despite the 8 inches of snow we had this week).”
The 13-year-veteran of XTERRA has won 10 races and two straight Pan Am Tour titles since the start of 2016, and was the top American and 3rd-place woman in Maui last year.
“I think Flora and Lesley are the strongest two and the rest of the podium is up for grabs,” she said. “My goal for race day is to finish in the top three but for right now, just trying to breathe and stay relaxed!”
Helena won the European Tour for the fourth time in six years this September, and took home race titles from Greece, Spain, Belgium, and Italy.
“She hasn’t always been her best in Maui but this year, for the first time, she’s not coming straight off an adventure race so she might be stronger than ever,” said Lebrun.
She was hurt to start the year but rallied in the end and cannot be overlooked. This will be her fifth time in Maui, so she knows what’s coming.
“Preparation this year has been really different with our four-month adventure in VanElla around the European Tour, and having a coach – Aloha Renata! I’ve been back in New Zealand for the last month which has been great, it helps knowing exactly which locations suit each training session,” said Orchard, who was 5th in Maui two years ago. “I’m looking to continue my improvements this season and see where that will land me in Maui. There is a massively strong field this year and I think it will come down to who can pull it out on the big day.”
The soil-scientist from northern California will escape the fires and the full-time workload to chase the sports ultimate crown. She won the overall amateur world title two years ago, and has been a consistent podium finisher on the pro ranks ever since. She’s a great swimmer, and could surprise some people if they’re not paying attention.
“Excited to race,” exclaimed Baker. “I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but I’ve put in a lot of quality training and preparation this year, and the Michael David Winery team based in Lodi generously offered to help me attend, so I had to go for it and see what I could do!”
It’ll be the first time Baker races in a sponsored kit! (It’s black and hot pink!)
“This will be my third-time racing at worlds, second time in the pro field. I had a tough time with the mud last year so I will be more prepared if that were to happen again. California is very dry most of the year so that’s not something I have a lot of experience with. I’m not getting there until Friday morning because of work, but at least now I’ve seen the course a couple times before. My goals are as always to challenge myself to do my best, and have fun. Clearly Flora is the woman to beat; Lesley will have a lot of ground to make up after the swim, but I think she, Barbara Riveros, and Laura Philipp will all be very fast, but you never know what will happen on race day, especially on a course like this! There are some amazing and accomplished athletes going to Maui, it’s kind of incredible to think that I’m even going to be in the same race!”
Third in Maui two years ago, and a spectator last year while in her third term with baby No. 2, Garrard is back in the mix and getting stronger by the day.
“I am excited to go back to Maui as sat out last year because of pregnancy,” said Garrard. “I love the course and feel like it has been good to me the past three times I have competed there. It is challenging with the conditions and terrain in every discipline, the waves in the swim and I love the climbing on both the bike and the run. I think it is a fair course and in order to be on the podium you have to do well at all three disciplines. I am nine months postpartum feeling like I am getting back to pro-athlete shape, it would be great if my season was just starting but hopefully that means I will be fresh for the race. I do what I can for training with a family, gradually recovering from childbirth, and just starting a full-time job. There is a lot of juggling and I am in awe of a lot of age group athletes who make it to the start line of XTERRAs. I have 10 family members coming so I hope to have one of the biggest cheering squads out there.”
She keeps going and keeps winning. This year the most traveled woman in XTERRA took home titles from Saipan, Reunion, Malaysia, the Philippines, and also won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour title.
“I look forward to coming back to Maui and getting some sun,” said Wasle, who did 16 XTERRA/Cross Tri’s this year. “Since my last race at the European Champs in Denmark I’ve focused on Maui. I had a hard season with lots of races and felt a bit tired at the end, but now I feel great and I’m hungry to race in Maui. I trained at home in Austria/Tyrol for Worlds. It’s just easy, I have everything I need. Mountains, a good pool, trails, and my familiar surroundings. Only the weather wasn’t perfect. Lots of rain and quite cold.”
Or could the big day belong to someone else, someone who wasn’t even mentioned?
“The truth is always the winner is never determined on paper or by the past,” said Nicholas. “You gotta play the game, run the race.”
Elite Women’s Start List
Bib#/Finish pos. in Maui last year – Name (Nationality)
51/1 – Flora Duffy (BER)
52/2 – Lesley Paterson (GBR)
53/3 – Suzie Snyder (USA)
55/5 – Helena Karaskova-Erbenova (CZE)
57/7 – Jacqui Allen (GBR)
58/8 – Lizzie Orchard (NZL)
59/9 – Carina Wasle (AUT)
60/13 – Julie Baker (USA)
61/15 – Kara LaPoint (USA)
62/18 – Isabella Ribeiro (BRA)
63/NA – Holly Henry (CAN)
64/NA – Jessie Koltz (USA)
65/NA – Allison Linnell (USA)
66/NA – Laura Philipp (GER)
67/NA – Brigitta Poor (HUN)
68/NA – Barbara Riveros (CHI)
69/NA – Penny Slater (AUS)
70/NA – Debby Sullivan (USA)
71/NA – Anne Usher (USA)
72/NA – Emma Garrard (USA)
73/NA – Sabina Rzepka (POL)
Note: Michelle Flipo will not race due to injury. Myriam Guillot-Boisset pulled for different commitment.
Follow the action online at www.xterramaui.com, on twitter @xterraoffroad and live on Facebook.com/xterraplanet starting at 9am Hawaii time (12pm PST, 3pm EST, 4pm in Rio, 9pm in Paris, 3am Monday in Shanghai and 6am Monday in Sydney).