Xterra Off-Road World Championship Triathlon: Training partners triumph

Duffy earns fourth straight title; Weiss takes men’s race

Bradley Weiss celebrates Sunday after being the first to arrive at the Xterra Off-Road World Championship Triathlon finish line at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

KAPALUA — Bradley Weiss and Flora Duffy each wanted to talk about the other after winning Xterra Off-Road World Championship Triathlon titles Sunday.

Weiss, a 28-year-old from South Africa, crossed the finish line at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 9 seconds, beating defending champion Mauricio Mendez by 75 seconds.

The first words Weiss spoke to the media were about Duffy, his training partner in Boulder, Colo., who was still on the course on her way to winning an unprecedented fourth straight women’s title.

“When Flora Duffy is racing, we are just happy to be in front of her,” Weiss said with a smile.

Duffy, a 30-year-old from Bermuda, completed the one-mile swim, 20-mile mountain bicycle leg and 6.5-mile trail run in 2:47:47.

Flora Duffy competes in the mountain-bike leg on the way to claiming a fourth consecutive women’s championship.

“It’s very cool. Brad and I have trained together since 2013, 2014,” she said. “It’s just amazing to watch his progress and how much he’s improved and really worked hard at it, so, yeah, it’s actually very cool that he won.”

Barbara Riveros was the women’s runner-up in 2:56:11.

Weiss trailed three-time world champion Ruben Ruzafa, Sunday’s third-place finisher, by about 20 seconds at the transition to the run after battling back-and-forth for the lead on the bike leg in the West Maui Mountains.

“It’s unbelievable. I just had that day,” Weiss said. “To win here everything has to go right. You can’t make any mistakes. Everything that I expected to go well went well.”

Weiss said the key for him was the swim, his weakest leg. His time of 19:20 was fifth-best among men’s competitors, just 11 seconds behind the first swim finisher, Ben Allen.

Flora Duffy celebrates with fans near the finish line.

“I think my swim won the day,” Weiss said. “I didn’t lose any time in the swim, which was unbelievable. I don’t know how I did it. I just felt so comfortable in the water. I actually caught a wave right at the end.”

Josiah Middaugh — the 2015 world champion and the oldest professional in the race at 39 — also trains in Colorado, and knew Weiss was a world-title contender.

“Absolutely,” Middaugh said after finishing eighth Sunday. “He’s had a couple of great races this year, winning the European Championship. Even in France when I raced over there, he was biking as well as anybody. He was actually putting a lead on people early. Then in Utah, when I caught him on the bike, there was nothing I could do to get rid of him. He was strong.”

Duffy, a three-time Olym­pian, is the second four-time champion in the event’s history — Conrad Stoltz owns four men’s titles.

“That’s really cool, but I’m actually more pumped for Brad,” said Duffy, who has won 16 of her last 17 Xterra series races. “It’s really cool to win four in a row. I’m sure it’ll sink in later today.”

Competitors charge into the surf at D.T. Fleming Beach.

Duffy said Weiss will be the “main guest” at her wedding on Dec. 16 — she is marrying Ben Hugo, an Xterra Hall of Famer.

Mendez, meanwhile, said he will start working today to return to the top.

“He has been working hard for this,” Mendez said of Weiss. “Besides that, we are friends and it’s always nice to see someone like that succeed. But let’s see what happens next year.

“The truth is I have mixed feelings right now. Having a second place is great, but I know from today until October 28th next year, I am going to be thinking of one thing and that’s defending the title and getting it back.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Third-place finisher Ruben Ruzafa nears the end of the bicycle leg.