After her first-ever XTERRA race last year at the Mountain Championships in Colorado Flora Duffy wasn’t sure she ever wanted to do another one.
“I did really enjoy the vibe at the race and how friendly everyone was though, so that helped keep the door open,” said Duffy, who finished 6th that day. “And, since I qualified for Maui, figured I had to give it a go.”
It’s a good thing she did. Duffy finished third overall at the XTERRA World Championship, just five seconds behind two-time World Champ Lesley Paterson.
“I loved racing in Maui. The course, the place, the people, it was a great event. I think a combination of my performance at Maui and training with Dan Hugo and Brad Weiss inspired me to pursue XTERRA.”
So from “never-again” to “nearly a world champ” Duffy’s pursuit of XTERRA led her to South Africa for some training and racing which ultimately resulted in a second-place finish at XTERRA Buffelspoort, then the XTERRA South Africa Championship on February 23.
“It was awesome to win at Grabouw,” said Duffy. “It is a huge race in South Africa and receives quite a lot of media attention, which made winning it quite attractive.”
Even more impressive was how Duffy did it, overcoming a flat early on the bike with the defending champion Carla Van Huyssteen hot on her heels.
“I had never flatted in a race before and didn't exactly know what to do,” recalled Duffy. “I managed to keep calm though, fix the flat, and not lose too much time.”
Beyond the big win Duffy says her experience in South Africa inspired her to do more.
“My three months in SA was amazing. I was based in Stellenbosch training and living with Dan and Brad. Training with those two everyday inspired me to ride my mountain bike and pursue XTERRA. Stellenbosch is a beautiful little town great for training. The town offers an amazing lifestyle because it is safe, pretty, there are loads of great places to eat, copious amounts of vineyards to visit, and of course there is Jonkershoek - a nature reserve which offers miles of great trails for riding and running. The weather in hot and sunny, and the people are friendly, it is the perfect place to train or visit.”
With the added experience riding a mountain bike, Duffy will most certainly cause trouble for the competition this season.
“You need to be a solid mountain biker for XTERRA, and I am still learning how to handle a mountain bike well,” said Duffy. “I suppose my strong swim helps because it allows me to put a few minutes on the other girls right from the start. That and I think being an all-around athlete that tends to never give up suits the XTERRA format. Ideally though, I'll learn to ride my mountain bike well then I'll be a lot more confident going into an XTERRA.”
In 2014 Duffy plans to race all of the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series events, starting with the West Championship at Lake Las Vegas, Nevada on April 13.
“I’ll do the XTERRA U.S. Series, the Lifetime Fitness Series and a few ITU events, it’s a mix bag of everything to keep it interesting.” said Duffy, who will also race at the Commonwealth Games in July as part of her drive to become a three-time Olympian (she represented her home country of Bermuda at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympic Games).
“Rio 2016 is the big picture goal. I will dedicate all of 2015+2016 to the ITU circuit in order to gain points and qualify for the Olympics.”
Until then, Duffy plans on improving on her 3rd-place showing in Maui and wants to “really enjoy beating most of the men out of the water at XTERRA : ) "