Two days out from the 2018 XTERRA World Championship, the air is buzzing with excitement. Without a doubt, the 23rd annual event has some of the most impressive men’s and women’s elite fields ever assembled.
This year, the women’s field is filled with talent from 3-time XTERRA World Champ Melanie McQuaid, two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson, two-time XTERRA European Champion Brigitta Poor, and two-time Pan Am Tour Champ Suzie Snyder.
One name we haven’t heard much about is Michelle Flipo, from Mexico, but she has won four of the five XTERRA races she’s entered. In 2016, she won XTERRA Switzerland and the XTERRA European Championship in Germany and went on to finish sixth in Maui that year in very muddy conditions. The only elite woman who beat Flipo out of the water in that race was Flora Duffy, and after the grueling mountain bike, Flipo had the seventh fastest run split.
In 2017, Flipo won XTERRA Switzerland, and this year, she won the XTERRA European Tour finale in Denmark in September.
Although Flipo loves competing off-road, she chooses her races strategically. Since 2016, Flipo has been competing on the ITU circuit in an effort to make the Mexican Olympic Team to represent her country at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
This year, she was second at the Barranquilla Central American and Caribbean Games where she came out of the water with leader Claudia Rivas, stayed with her on the bike, and was just outpaced on the run in this standard distance event. Earlier this month, she finished ninth at the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Triathlon World Cup, where she clocked a 17:37 5K after the bike.
As precisely as Flipo chooses her competitions, she also races with the same precision and attention to detail whether it’s sighting on a swim, running the tangents, and making sure her transitions are as smooth and fast as possible.
While anything can – and will – happen in Sunday’s race, expect Flipo to be out of the water with or ahead of fast swimmers like Julie Baker and Suzie Snyder. She has already proven her ability to both endure and handle the technical difficulties of riding a mountain bike in challenging conditions, and she certainly has the speed on the run to get the job done. The only question is whether her determination and proven speed and strength will be enough to beat her competition.
But that is why we are here, after all. One of the most exciting aspects of the XTERRA World Championships is that they are so unpredictable, making a title extremely difficult to defend. As Josiah Middaugh said, “There is no resume that works for XTERRA and the race doesn’t happen on paper. It happens out there, where anything can happen.”