Such has been the focus on Flora’s performances in the ITU World Series this season that you would be forgiven for forgetting that Flora is also the queen of XTerra racing, having won the past three world championships. And this Sunday, 29th October, Flora will once again swap her road bike for a mountain bike as she goes for her 4th win in a row.
Flora has astonished the world of triathlon by the margin of her victories in ITU racing but over the past few years her winning margin in these XTerra championships has been even more astonishing. Last year, for example, she produced the fastest swim, bike and run and in the process beat 25 of the men’s elite field finishing the the 1 mile swim, 20 mile bike and 6.5 mile run in 3 hrs 15 minutes. Former winner Lesley Paterson of Scotland finished 2nd ten minutes back in 3 hrs 25 mins.
Although Flora will start as the favorite XTerra racing is also unpredictable in particular as the bike leg in this format is far more likely to produce mechanical problems or crashes. Touch wood, Flora will avoid those two scenarios on Sunday.
Flora’s focus this year has been on ITU racing and on Sunday she will come up against a host of talented triathletes who have been racing the international triathlon circuit all season and will be race hardened. However, Flora’s absence from the circuit should not affect her performance as she is renowned for her bike handling skills and has had time since Rotterdam to hone those skills before these championships.
Nevertheless this year’s women’s championships has attracted a particularily strong field and two athletes stand out in that field :
Lesley Paterson has been one of the most consistent athletes at these championships having won it twice and finished 2nd four times in her last 7 attempts. Paterson has battled Lyme Disease and other issues over the past years but the Scottish Rocket is known as a tough competitor and wants that crown back.
Laura Philipp of Germany, better known as an Ironman 70.3 racer, has been the surprise package in XTerra racing this year as she appeared at XTerra France, her only XTerra race to date, and took the title with the second fastest swim, fastest bike and fastest run to beat established XTerra Tour stars Brigitta Poor and Helena Karaskova by eight minutes. Philipp finished an impressive 3rd at Ironman 70.3 Worlds this year and won four other 70.3 races so comes into this race with very impressive road credentials and clearly the endurance qualities needed to succeed in this type of racing. Since 70.3 Worlds she had focused solely on her preparation for this race and may pose the biggest challenge yet to Flora.
Others to watch will be Susie Snyder of the USA, 3rd last year, Helen Karaskova, who took the European tour title in September after four wins and Brigitta Poor, who won 6 races in Europe this season including the European Championships in Denmark. This will be her first appearance in Maui.
After alot of rain, the course conditions this year are likely to be especially tough with practice on the bike course being cancelled ealrier this week. Follow the action on Sunday on http://www.xterramaui.com starting at 9AM Hawaii time which is 4PM Bermuda time.