Murray, Van Huyssteen win XTERRA South Africa
Richard Murray and Carla Van Huyssteen won the 10th running of the XTERRA South Africa Championship at the XTERRA World Tour opener in Grabouw, Western Cape today.
It's the first XTERRA championship title for Murray and second straight SA crown for Van Huyssteen.
As expected Murray led out of the water with four-time XTERRA World Champ Conrad Stoltz roughly 30 seconds back. Murray was able to hold the lead though the first third of the bike before Stoltz caught up and pulled away with the lead.
"I was uncertain going into the bike and really expected Conrad to catch me sooner," said Murray. "It was only on the 10km mark that he caught me and then proceeded to pull away. He just has so much power in his legs."
Stoltz took a 40-second lead into the bike-to-run transition but was caught by Murray roughly half-way into the 11-kilometer run.
"From there I just kept it together till the end," said Murray. "It was a big day for me. This is my first South African title. The Totalsports XTERRA is definitely the most contended race in South Africa. I had so much fun and will definitely be back next year," says Murray.
Stoltz ran into the finish in 2nd place, however, course marshals reported that he deviated from the run route and as a result official rules were applied and Stoltz was disqualified. Dan Hugo therefore took second place on the day, with Nico Pfitzenmaier finishing third.
For Van Huyssteen (pictured, courtesy Cherie Vale/Newsport Media) the successful title defense was a-dream-come true.
"I had to work hard the entire race," said Van Huyssteen. "The swim was a bit chaotic in the beginning with me choosing the wrong line. I still had a good swim though, entering transition first. I knew I had to work hard as Shonny Vanlandingham is an amazing mountain biker. I managed to find good rhythm on the bike. Going into the run I knew I had to give my all as my husband wouldn't be impressed with me if it looked like I was taking it easy. Today's race was great. I had a knot in my stomach the whole way as I really wanted this win".
Susan Sloan came in second, while Vanlandingham finished third.
XTERRA Managing Director "Kahuna Dave" Nicholas was on-site for the event and brings us more color on how the day unfolded…
The weather was perfect all weekend. By 7am on Sunday the parking lots were full and literally thousands crowded the compound. Breakfast pizza's, coffee vendors and the always nervous athletes chat permeated the scene.
The very quick swimmers Richard Murray and Theo Blignaut could do no better than 5th and 6th out of the water. SA had some incredible teams entered and had 4 of the top 10 overall finishers. Former World Champ Tim Don was even a swimmer for one of the teams.
Out on the bike Murray quickly asserted his skills and at the 5K mark was leading Conrad by just under a minute and Conrad had Dan Hugo right on his rear wheel. The first 8K or so is wide and allows easy passing and has the majority of the climbing. By the 10K mark Caveman was in front by 30 seconds, Murray looking very strong in 2nd followed by Hugo. Knowing how fast Murray can run - just as fast as Javier Gomez - we all figured Conrad would need 2-3 minutes on Murray off the bike to win.
In the women's race Carla Van Huyssteen burst past Silvia von Trump for the lead with Carina Wasle coming up strong in the initial first kilometers. Shonny Vanlandingham lost a full four minutes to Carla getting out of T1. "I started way to the right of the pack. I went out at the gun and when I took my 2nd breath saw at least 100 people running way to the right of me" Shonny grinned. "I figured best to let them go".
Young Bradley Weiss, who had made an Ali-style prediction of top 3 on YouTube, was riding very well and up to 5th with Stuart Marais in 4th and Nico Pfitzenmaier coming on strong.
By the time I got to the famous Rock Garden, Conrad still held a nice lead, but it was under 2 minutes. Murray actually was grinning and got a bit of air and did a semi table top with his handlebars. What? This is an ITU guy? Dan was comfortable in 3rd and now Pfitzenmaier was up to 4th and his ride through the rocks and switchbacks was poetic.
We had not seen the women for a while and Carla came down and across the rickety bridge in a pack of men with Vanlandingham 2:30 behind.
The Bridge must be as old as I am. Big, thick planks on thicker stringers over a stone gulch about 30-feet across and 10' deep. You do not want to fall off this one. Hendrico Burger, the race director, and I had run up to the top of Rock Garden to get some shots. When Hugo went past, we scrambled down to the bridge knowing how narrow and rocky the trail is and knowing we would never have time once 700+ of our closest friends starting coming down. I crossed first but Hendrico stepped on the wrong board and CRACK - it broke in half. He quickly got his leg out and fortunately the rest of the planks held up and wheels simply rolled over the 5" space. Hendrico is the nicest guy you could ever meet. He was bleeding a bit from his shin and said (with a South African accent) "Gotta have somebody fix that one".
It was Conrad into T2 first but not by enough. Murray went out on the run and was worried. "I took off fine but started cramping a bit and had to slow down. If Conrad had another minute I would never have caught him". He then grinned a bit and said "We don't have hills like this in ITU 10k's."
Hugo was solid in 3rd and Pfitzey was running very well. Last year he lost a position or two on the run, but not this year. Marais had a nice race to 5th but never felt super strong as he was in 2012.
Ultimately, Richard Murray proved his youth skills riding a mountain bike were not wasted and claimed a convincing win at Grabouw.
For the women, Carla had given a lot out on the bike and had to hold herself back on the last few K's into T2. "I was really out of energy and had to catch my breath to have something for the run". She had more than enough and took first by four minutes over Susan Sloan. Vanlandingham was feeling physically good but had not done any speed work this early in the season yet.
"I have one speed - and that's diesel" she said. Sloan made up more than two minutes on the American and passed her on the very last part of the run for second-place.
Post-race it was discovered that Conrad had inadvertently followed last year's run course. Our rules are quite specific and it was a horrible but correct decision to DQ the winningest and arguably the nicest man in XTERRA history. There's more to the story, but the Caveman acknowledged his mistake, testament to a very honorable and honest man.
As for the Yanks, GL Brown won his age group, Lisa Brummond finished 2nd in her age group and all the Americans had a blast.
South Africa, the Cape area is simply gorgeous. Great people, great food, and unbelievable things to see and do. Yes, it is a long way from the U.S. or Europe, but so well worth the trip.
Onward to the Philippines.
Top 5 Pro Men
Top 5 Pro Women
ALL-TIME XTERRA SOUTH AFRICA CHAMPIONS (PRO DIVISION)
XTERRA SOUTH AFRICA ALL-TIME PRO WINNERS
Next on the XTERRA World Tour: The XTERRA South Africa Championship race was the first world tour event to qualify amateur athletes into the XTERRA World Championship to be held in Kapalua, Maui (Hawaii) on October 27, 2013. Next up, the XTERRA Triple Crown in the Western Pacific featuring the XTERRA Philippines, Saipan, and Guam Championship races in March. The first of two Maui qualifying events in New Zealand is also in March, with XTERRA Motatapu taking place on the South Island on the 9th.
Date - Race, Location
Feb 24 - XTERRA South Africa Championship, Western Cape
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