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Ruzafa, Duffy Win XTERRA USA Championship

Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) and Flora Duffy (BER) captured the 2014 XTERRA USA Championship off-road triathlon on a beautiful blue sky day in Utah.

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Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) and Flora Duffy (BER) captured the 2014 XTERRA USA Championship off-road triathlon on a beautiful blue sky day at Snowbasin Resort today.

Men’s Race
Ruzafa, the current and two-time XTERRA World Champion, finished in 2:21:47, less than one-minute ahead of runner-up and 2012 USA Champ Josiah Middaugh of Colorado who crossed in 2:22:32.

The difference was the bike where Ruzafa, a former national team rider in Spain, posted the fastest split of the day in 1:18:01, two-minutes faster than that of Middaugh who had the second-best bike time at 1:20:00. Even though Middaugh ran one-minute faster, it wasn’t enough to reel in Ruzafa.

“It was tough. I couldn’t stay with him on the bike,” said Middaugh. “I needed to match him but he doesn’t have any weakness on the bike. You give him 10 seconds and it blows up to a minute real fast.”

Middaugh still won the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series for the second-straight year and was the XTERRA National Champ (top American) for the 10th time.

For Ruzafa, it’s his eighth straight win of the 2014 season. He won seven straight in Europe to capture the XTERRA European Tour Championship and also won the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship. The last time he didn’t win was here in Utah last year, when he crossed the line in third place behind Leo Chacon of Costa Rica and Middaugh.

“This race was important to me because last year was really hard,” said Ruzafa. “I wanted to come back and do well here and happy that I did. I came here two weeks early and studied the bike course, memorized all the turns so I could go as fast as I could. I really like Utah, the people and the mountain.”

Eighteen-year-old rookie pro Mauricio Mendez from Mexico City finished in third, with South Africans Bradley Weiss and Dan Hugo taking fourth and fifth, respectively.

“It’s a dream come true, I’m so happy,” said Mendez. “I know there is a lot more work to do but I’m still proving to myself that I can do more than I think.”

The day started with Ben Allen leading the way in the swim with Mendez right behind, but at the four-mile mark after the first big climb through Wheeler Canyon Mendez got gobbled up by Ruzafa and Middaugh and when Brad Weiss and Dan Hugo came by Mendez jumped on board for the ride. By the bike-to-run transition it was Ruzafa, two minutes to Middaugh, then five minutes later Weiss and Mendez 3rd and 4th. The speedy Mendez quickly moved into third and stayed there through the finish.

The six-thru-10 spots were filled with breakthrough performances highlighted by Brad Zoller’s best XTERRA in 6th, then Cody Waite, Craig Eans, Chris Ganter and Alex Modestou.

Women’s Race
In her first full season racing XTERRA, Flora Duffy has been dominant. She won all three regional championships and now the USA Championship.

She posted the fastest swim (coming out of the water third overall behind only Ben Allen and Mauricio Mendez), had the fastest bike split (1:32:36) and the second-best run behind eventual runner-up Barbara Riveros from Chile to take the tape in 2:38:18, more than six-minutes in front of Riveros.

“It was a lot of fun, but it was hard. I never felt particularly stressed with my breathing but my legs were shot,” said Duffy, a two-time Olympian. “I was intimidated by this course, but apparently it suits me. The water was warm, but swimming at altitude is hard. I was redlining the entire swim trying to stay on feet.”

Duffy, who finished third at XTERRA Worlds last year, said the pro series title was just the first part of the plan.

“After Las Vegas in April I made it a goal of mine to win the series, so it’s pretty cool to do that. Now it’s time to get to work and be faster for Maui.”

Riveros, who wasn’t even sure if she’d make the starting line after crashing at the ITU Grand Finale in Edmonton three weeks ago, flatted towards the end of the bike – came into transition in third – but was able to chase down two-time World Champ Lesley Paterson for second.

“I’m pretty happy to finish, especially here. I’m very grateful. Beautiful venue, beautiful people,” said Riveros, who was also second at this race last year. “I heard I was 53 seconds back halfway through the last downhill when I got a flat. I hit a rock but my tire didn’t explode for a while. It was kind of sketchy, I was happy to make it out okay.”

For Paterson, the defending USA Champion who’s been sidelined all season with injury, just getting back into the mix was a win.

“I’m truly back (pointing to blood seeping through the tip of her running shoes),” said Paterson. “My feet were killing me, I’m just not used to it. It all came back to me, like ‘Oh, yeah, this is what it feels like.’ But it feels awesome, so much fun just to be out there with those girls, they’re awesome and we were giving each other shouts out there. I was bummed Barbara got a puncture on the bike but on the run she ran past me like I was standing still so I guess it all worked out.”

“Today it was great to see Lesley back racing and up here on the podium,” said Duffy at the awards ceremony. “She’s an athlete I really respect and someone I think singlehandedly raised the bar for XTERRA racing on the women’s side. It’ll be exciting to watch the comeback and I hope to have many more battles with her in the future.”

Emma Garrard from Park City, Utah finished fourth and the National Champ (top American in the Series) for the second straight year, and Chantell Widney placed fifth.

The race combined a 1.5km swim in the 67-degree waters of Pineview Reservoir with a 28km mountain bike that climbed 3,400-feet up to Sardine Peak and back down to Snowbasin Resort, then finished with a 6.1-mile trail run that had another 600-feet of climbing. Altitude is 4,900-feet at Pineview, 7,300-feet at top of Sardine, and 6,400-feet at T2 and the finish.

XTERRA USA Championships
Ogden, Utah – Sept. 20, 2014
1.5K swim, 28K bike, 6.1-mile run

Men
1. Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) 2:21:47
2. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:22:43
3. Mauricio Mendez (MEX) 2:28:55
4. Bradley Weiss (RSA) 2:29:31
5. Dan Hugo 28 (RSA) 2:32:06

Women
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 2:38:18 100
2. Barbara Riveros (CHI) 2:44:28 90
3. Lesley Paterson (SCO) 2:46:24 82
4. Emma Garrard (USA) 2:48:10 75
5. Chantell Widney (CAN) 2:50:10 69