Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore © ASP/Aquashot

Stephanie Gilmore, the four-time ASP Women’s World Champion and current ASP Women’s World Championship Tour number one, has had a banner year, collecting two elite tour wins and placing in the quarterfinals or better in each event thus far. At the Roxy Pro Biarritz in France this week -- the pentultimate stop on the tour -- Gilmore has a chance to clinch the 2012 ASP title.

Standing in her way is fellow Aussie Sally Fitzgibbons, 21. The current world number two has had a superb run throughout the last several events, posting wins at Bells Beach and Rio de Janeiro.

“A world title would obviously be the dream outcome of any season, but there’s a lot of hard work to be done before looking that far ahead,” said Fitzgibbons, who has twice finished runner-up in ASP Women’s World Tour. “I’m stoked with the way I’ve built throughout the year so far and I’m feeling stronger as the year goes on. Being in the title race for the past few years has definitely given me a lot of confidence in knowing my surfing is on the right track and that I have continued improving, which is what I see as the most important thing.”

As the defending Roxy Pro Biarritz champion from last year, though, Gilmore’s affinity with the French beachbreaks could be a major advantage heading into this week’s competition.

“I adore France and always seem to feel at home there,” Gilmore said. “We had some nice waves in the last year’s event and although the summer in Europe is not the best time for waves, there always seems to be something fun to compete in. I’ve been surfing on some new shapes from DHD, smaller and a bit wider in different points than my usual, to try and suit the waves in France and Huntington.”

With a win in Biarritz, Gilmore can clinch the world title if Fitzgibbons fails to finish second. Otherwise, the championship will be decided at the Nike US Open in Huntington Beach, California, at the end of the month.

Carissa Moore, the reigning ASP Women’s World Champion and current world number three, has not enjoyed the same dominance that saw her roar to victory during last year’s world title race, but the young Hawaiian is still in the hunt and focusing on the positives heading into the business end of the season.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” Moore said. “I’m always going to go into an event fighting for a win and I know that with two events left I’ve got a lot of work to do so I’ll just give it my best shot and see what happens.”

ROXY PRO BIARRITZ ROUND 1 MATCH-UPS:

Heat 1: Courtney Conlogue (USA), Coco Ho (HAW), Sarah Mason (NZL)
Heat 2: Tyler Wright (AUS), Lakey Peterson (USA), Sage Erickson (USA)
Heat 3: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), Rebecca Woods (AUS), TBD
Heat 4: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Paige Hareb (NZL), Jacqueline Silva (BRA)
Heat 5: Carissa Moore (HAW), Sofia Mulanovich (PER), Justine Dupont (FRA)
Heat 6: Laura Enever (AUS), Malia Manuel (HAW), Pauline Ado (FRA)

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