Olympians Flora Duffy of Bermuda and Richard Murray of South Africa won the Fedhealth XTERRA South African Championship in Grabouw.
After her fabulous 2016 season which included a breakthrough World Championship gold in the ITU WTS series, a third-straight XTERRA World Championship, an ITU Cross Triathlon gold and a $45,000 second place at the Island House Triathlon, Duffy still had opening season jitters. "Being the first race of the season, you don’t really know where you’re at,” Duffy told XTERRA media. "I was a little nervous, but everything went well and I had a lot of fun."
ITU veteran Mari Rabie of South Africa led the women's swim wave in 22:13, five seconds ahead of Duffy. With her superior mountain biking skills, Duffy took the lead early on the mountain bike section and her by-far women's-best 1:18:49 split for the 26km mountain bike leg gave her a 7-minute lead on Rabie and 15 minutes on ITU star and XTERRA novice Rachel Klamer of Netherlands.
“On the bike I worked hard on the climb, and went smoothly on the technical sections,” said Duffy. “I’m currently nursing a hip injury, so on the run I decided to practice more control.”
Playing it cautious while nursing her hip injury, Duffy surrendered a minute to Rabie on the run but still had enough to finish in 2:39:00 with a 6:31 margin of victory. “I’m absolutely delighted to come second today,” said Rabie. “I enjoy XTERRA because it’s tough and rocky.”
Klamer enjoyed her XTERRA debut and 3rd place finish, 15:11 behind the 3-time XTERRA World titlist.
Murray edged defending champion Bradley Weiss by 19 seconds after a race-long back and forth battle in which the decisive factor was a punctured tire.
Murray led the swim in 22:11 split which gave him a 1 second lead on Brad Edwards, 14 seconds on Ironman star James Cunnama, 36 seconds on Theo Blignaut, and 42 seconds on Weiss.
While Murray, not a regular on the rugged mountain bike trails of XTERRA, took it easy, Weiss caught the ITU star after 6km. “Four years ago, [now retired four-time XTERRA World champion] Conrad Stoltz caught me at the 12km mark, so I was very worried,” Murray told XTERRA media. “Bradley then punctured at about 10km, then caught me again at the 18km mark.”
Weiss explained: “I knew Richard was the favorite and that he’d be under pressure to set the pace. I had a good swim and I caught him at the top of the first climb, but then both my tires suffered a slow puncture. I only had one [inflatable cartridge], but managed to sort out both tires. I caught Richard again just before the rock garden.”
Despite his troubles, Weiss recovered to post the day’s fastest mountain bike split of 1:10:15 and led Murray by 51 seconds at T2. “Going into the run I had about a 1 minute lead, but knew that with Richard I needed at least 2 minutes,” said Weiss of his challenge to hold off one of the ITU’s fastest runners. “Going into the run, I thought I’d catch him sooner than I did,” said Murray. “He is really quick on the uphills. I’d catch him, only to have him pull away on the hills. I caught him again on the last climb and pushed really hard on the downhill to get away.”
Murray mastered the run course 70 seconds faster than Weiss to take the victory by 19 seconds over Weiss and 1:12 over 3rd-place Stuart Marais of South Africa.
XTERRA South African Championship
Grabouw, South Africa
February 25, 2017
S 1.5k / MTB 26k / TR 12.5k
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 2:39:00
2. Mari Rabe (RSA) 2:45:31
3. Rachel Klamer (NED) 2:54:11
4. Vicky Van Der Merwe (RSA) 3:02:08
5. Nicolette Griffioen (RSA) 3:04:34
6. Johandri Leicester (RSA) 3:06:16
7. Sylvia Van Tromp (RSA) 3:08:23
8. Kate Munnik (RSA) 3:15:19
9. Megan Skowno (RSA) 3:15:30
10. Colleen De Oliveira (RSA) 3:17:25
1. Richard Murray (RSA) 2:22:46
2. Bradley Weiss (RSA) 2:23:05
3. Stuart Marais (RSA) 2:24:42
4. Kris Coddens (BEL) 2:31:36
5. Theo Blignaut (RSA) 2:31:59
6. James Cunnama (RSA) 2:34:32
7. Francois Carloni (FRA) 2:35:27
8. Michael Lord (RSA) 2:35:30
9. Dominik Wychera (AUT) 2:38:17
10. Antoine Van Heerden (RSA) 2:38:19