It’s the first XTERRA win for Wilde as an elite, however, he captured the XTERRA Worlds 15-19 age group division titles in 2015 and 2016. It’s the unprecedented sixth XTERRA World Championship crown for Duffy, who won four straight from 2014-2017 and her last time here in 2019. Both earned $20,000 for their respective victories, their share of the $100,000 elite purse.
It was a wild day for XTERRA all around, with the swim being cancelled for the first time in 25 years since the inaugural 1996 race on Maui due to massive surf and hazardous rip currents. The race converted to a run-bike-run duathlon that started with a 3K run and followed with a grueling two-lap 31K mountain bike ride and finished with an 11K trail run through forest trails and beach sand.
The weather was cool and calm for the start of the elite race at 8am, but then came the rain for the start of the age group races at 9:15am. The bike and run courses went from being perfectly tacky to a literal slip-and-slide for bike riders. Add nearly 4,000 feet of combined climbing on the increasingly technical bike and run courses, and an already challenging course got even harder.
In the men’s elite race Wilde jumped out to an early lead with the fastest 3K run time, 10:34, followed by Brice Daubord (FRA) 22-seconds later, then shortly after by Mauricio Mendez (MEX), Seth Rider (USA), Arthur Serrieres (FRA), Josiah Middaugh (USA), and Ruben Ruzafa (ESP).
Once on the bike, Wilde continued to push the pace up front.
“Full gas from the go, and once I got on the bike I was riding at threshold to see if anyone wanted to come with me and got a little bit of a lead,” said Wilde. “I just kept the pressure on during the first climb, and then a group got me just as we went into the second set of trail so from there we worked together and were all real competitive.”
The group consisted of Rider, Middaugh, Serrieres, Ruzafa, and not far back were Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen (DEN), Francisco Serrano (MEX), Mendez, and Sebastien Carabin (BEL).
About halfway through the second lap Wilde and Rider were riding together up front, with Serrieres and Ruzafa about seven seconds back. The dynamic changed when the first rain started to falling.
“The last 15 minutes of the ride it started raining and got real slippery for me because the PSI was a bit too high,” said Wilde. “I was slipping everywhere and that’s when Ruben and the boys with all that experience on the islands flew away from us.”
As he always does, Ruzafa worked his way to the lead by the end of the bike.
“I couldn’t take the group until the end of first lap, but then I had to stop to fix my hand lever, but when it started to rain I went very fast and overtook them, and probably got 30 seconds. The mud changed the course a lot,” said Ruzafa, who posted the fastest bike split (1:25:35) and was first off the bike for the eight straight time at XTERRA Worlds.
Serrieres was second out of the bike-to-run transition five seconds behind Ruzafa, then Wilde and Rider another seven seconds later.
“That was awesome,” said Rider, who grew up going to XTERRA races with his Dad who was also racing today. “I was pleasantly surprised to be able to keep up with the group on the bike with Ruben and Josiah and Arthur. Everything was going really well, and on the second lap Hayden and I opened up a bit of a gap on the second climb, and then it started raining and everything changed. Me and Hayden were slipping all over the place, and Ruben and Arthur came right by us and we were just trying to stay up right for the rest of the bike. We managed to keep the gap in control, but at T2 I realized coming off the bike in XTERRA is way different than ITU, my legs were totally smashed and I was just in survival mode trying to get to the finish.”
Wilde passed Serrieres and Ruzafa in the first mile of the run and never looked back.
“I just really applied the pressure as hard as I could in that first 5K and I knew it was downhill from there so just focused on staying on my feet and getting home safely,” said Wilde, who posted the fastest run split (40:11) and took the tape in 2:18:39, 23-seconds ahead of Serrieres in second.
“Feels good, awesome to come here and win it, and I still have unfinished business because I want to race here when it’s a triathlon so that gives me extra incentive to come back,” said Wilde, who won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics triathlon.
Serrieres was thrilled to finish second in Maui for the second straight time.
“I was really impressed with Hayden’s skill on the bike and his power, he pushed all the time, and on the first loop when it was dry he rode really fast,” said the reigning and two-time XTERRA European Champion. “If it rained a little more or sooner more maybe I could’ve won the race, but Hayden was stronger on the run. I’m really happy to battle with him, it was maybe the toughest race I’ve ever done.”
Ruzafa ran strong to hold on to third. He’s now been in the top four at eight XTERRA World Championship races in a row, including two wins, a second, four 3rd’s, and a fourth.
Rider finished about one-minute later in fourth and top American, while Carabin passed Middaugh to come in fifth, and Middaugh in sixth.
“I was really happy to mix it up, I was having a great day, and was looking forward to that second lap on the bike but my legs just kind of gave out a little and I had to back off a bit,” said Middaugh. “I felt like I had a really good day and a really strong run, but it wasn’t strong enough.”
TOP 15 ELITE MEN
Hayden Wilde, NZL
Arthur Serrieres, FRA
Ruben Ruzafa, ESP
Seth Rider, USA
Sebastien Carabin, BEL
Josiah Middaugh, USA
Maxim Chane, FRA
Francisco Serrano, MEX
Xavier Dafflon, SUI
Geert Lauryssen, BEL
Karel Dušek, CZE
Rom Akerson, CRC
Samuel Jud, SUI
Brice Daubord, FRA
Branden Rakita, USA
In the women’s race it was Duffy all day long with the fastest first run, bike, and second run times to take the tape in 2:39:49, more than six minutes ahead of Loanne Duvoisin (SUI). It’s the fourth Maui race in a row that she’s had the fastest splits in each discipline, and she’s now won her last 13 XTERRA races and 18 of 21 since 2013.
“Happy to perform well and win my sixth title,” said Duffy, who won the Tokyo Olympics gold medal. “Racing a duathlon was definitely a surprise, it made it a lot harder out there, but it was definitely the right call (to cancel the swim). It’s incredible to be back here in Maui, I really enjoy finishing my season here, and I want to thank everyone who cheered, it felt really special, a beautiful way to finish this magical year.”
Even though Duffy dominated, she still called it a tough challenge.
“The course is tough, its always tough, but we got lucky it didn’t rain as much as we anticipated early on because the second lap of the bike when it started to rain it got real slick out there real quickly, so that was nerve-wracking. I just told myself to stay smooth, and stay on my bike.”
Now, Duffy says, it’s time for a vacation.
“There was so much pressure and expectations on me going into the Olympics as the gold medal favorite, it was a five-year Olympic build, and that extra covid year really added to the intensity. After I won, I was on the highest cloud I could be on but also everything hit me – the expectations, the pressures I was carrying around on my shoulders. And since then it’s been difficult to balance all the media obligations while still trying to train and wanting to keep my season going because I had some big goals. I wanted to come here and defend my title, wanted to still race on the World Triathlon circuit, so it’s been a lot and I’m just thrilled I managed to pull off a great race day, win my sixth XTERRA, and now I can go on a big holiday.”
In the chase for second, Eleonora Peroncini was solidly in second place on the bike before the rain hit on her second lap and she had a big crash that broke her seat and set her back. Duvoisin and Flipo, who rode much of the bike together, took advantage to move into second and third where they remained to the finish.
“I’m so happy, and to have my family here with me today was really special,” said Duvoisin, who got her redemption in Maui after having to pull in 2019 due to a mechanical.
For Flipo, it’s her second top three in a row (she was 2nd in 2018).
“It was a tough race, it changed everything on the second lap with the rain, and then on the run I was by myself and trying to catch up to Loanne but I started cramping and was just trying to survive after that,” said Flipo.
Peroncini hung on for fourth, and Suzie Snyder came in fifth and as the top American in Maui for the fifth straight time.
Karl is a Sydney based father of 3, a keen home improver and an age group triathlete who races on the M5 Acadamies triathlon team, coached by 'The Croc' Brad Beven. A good life balance is incredibly important! Karl is the co-founder of Trizone, works in the commercial joinery industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.