This weekend the organizers at XTERRA South Africa will host the inaugural Sanlam Cape Mile swim at the picturesque Eikenhof Dam at the Grabouw Country Club in Western Cape. Next week, it’s on to the biggest XTERRA weekend in the world with kids races, a sprint race, and the championship event playing host to some 3,000 XTERRA Warriors over three days.
“The bottle neck to XTERRA take up is still the swim,” explained Michael Meyer from Stillwater Sports. “By encouraging a mass swim we hope to make the path to XTERRA easier.”
“The Sanlam Cape Mile is great preparation for the Totalsports XTERRA Grabouw,” agreed XTERRA Philippines Champion Bradley Weiss. “The championship race can often be an intimidating environment if you aren’t used to swimming amongst masses. This is also the ideal opportunity to test out your race gear, while familiarizing yourself with the race venue. I doubt that I will be in the running for a podium position at the Sanlam Cape Mile, but I will be using this event as one final opportunity to fine tune my open water swimming.”
One XTERRA champ who may not need much help with her open water swimming is Flora Duffy, who just returned from Luzon Island where she captured the XTERRA Philippines Championship.
“It was really cool to kick off my 2015 season in the Philippines,” said Duffy. “I’d heard such good things about the race from other pros on the circuit, that I knew I had to race there someday. Luckily, the opportunity arose this year, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The location was beautiful, the volcano is incredibly striking, and the people warm and welcoming.”
Duffy came out of the water third overall behind only men’s pros Ben Allen and Mauricio Mendez in the Philippines.
“The race went well,” Duffy explained. “I find the first race of the season is always a little more nerve racking. You never really know what your form is like- plus being so early in the year, I was unsure I had the fitness to race! I had a solid ride, and survived the run, which went uphill for 4.5kms and downhill the rest of the way. It was challenging.”
The challenge next weekend at XTERRA South Africa will be for everyone else just to keep up with the 27-year-old XTERRA World Champion from Bermuda, who has won eight of the last nine XTERRA majors she has raced.
“XTERRA South Africa is my favorite XTERRA. It is truly a phenomenal race. Plus, South Africa has become my second home so I am really excited to race in my sort of home town race,” said Duffy.
Here’s a look at some of the elites scheduled to take part in next weekend’s XTERRA South Africa Championship:
Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz: The 41-year-old from Stellenbosh is XTERRA’s all-time championship race wins leader with 51 (he has 55 all-told), is the only pro to win four XTERRA World Titles, and has an unprecedented 10 XTERRA U.S. Pro Series titles (2001-03, ‘05 & ‘07-’12). He also won the 2011, 2012, and 2013 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships, and has inspired a whole generation of XTERRA Warriors. Last year he placed 3rd at XTERRA South Africa, won XTERRA New Zealand, was 2nd at the XTERRA East Champs, third at XTERRA Italy, 8th at XTERRA Germany / ITU Cross Tri Worlds, won XTERRA England and XTERRA Denmark on back-to-back weekends in August, and was 7th at XTERRA Worlds (where he missed finishing 5th by two seconds). The two-time Olympian started BMX racing at age seven, running at nine, biathlon at 13, triathlon and cycling at 14, and pro triathlon at 18…“It’s in my blood.” Stoltz burst onto the XTERRA scene and won three races, including the Pro Series and the World Championship, as a rookie in 2001. He won the first four XTERRA South Africa Championship races from 2004-to-2007, then again in 2012.
Brad Weiss: The 25-year-old from Somerset West is now in his fourth year of racing XTERRA and started the 2015 season in style with wins at XTERRA Buffelspoort and the XTERRA Philippines Championship. Last year Weiss placed 4th at XTERRA South Africa, 2nd at XTERRA Philippines and XTERRA Guam, 3rd at XTERRA Saipan, 2nd at the XTERRA West Championship, 4th against a stacked-house at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs, 2nd at XTERRA Malaysia, 3rd at XTERRA Southeast, 4th at XTERRA East Champs, 17th at XTERRA Germany/ITU Cross Tri Worlds, 4th at the USA Championship, and 10th at XTERRA Worlds. He finished the year ranked 2nd in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series. Over the last three years Weiss has nearly 20 top 5 finishes around the world, and won the ITU U23 Cross Triathlon World Championship at Pelham, Alabama in 2012.
Bart Aernouts: The 31-year-old from Belgium did his first-ever XTERRA last year at XTERRA South Africa where he finished 5th behind local legends Dan Hugo, Stuart Marias, Conrad Stoltz, and Bradley Weiss. He placed ninth at the Ironman World Championship in 8:28:28 and sixth in 2:38:56 at the XTERRA World Championship last year to win the Outrigger Resorts double award for having the fastest combined time in the two races.
Jan Pyott: The 33-year-old from Oberageri, Switzerland, started his 2015 season at the TransHajar multi-stage mountain bike race in the Oman desert. He won the fifth and final stage of the event and placed 8th overall. Jan started racing triathlon when he was 16-years-old, but only made the transition to off-road a few years ago. In 2014 he finished 4th at XTERRA Spain, 7th at XTERRA Switzerland, 6th at XTERRA Sweden, 8th at XTERRA Italy, 8th at XTERRA England and 4th at XTERRA Denmark. He tied for fifth in the XTERRA European Tour, and placed 19th at the XTERRA World Championship.
Roger Serrano: The 24-year-old from Barcelona, Spain is in his third-year racing XTERRA. He had a career-best showing at XTERRA Greece last season where he finished 2nd. He was also the runner-up at XTERRA Great Ocean Road in Australia. In other results from 2014 he placed 5th at the XTERRA New Zealand Championship, 13th at ITU Cross Tri Worlds in Germany, 5th at XTERRA England, and 27th at XTERRA Worlds in Maui. In 2012 he captured the Spanish Cross-Triathlon Championship.
Jim Thijs: The 34-year-old from Huldenberg, Belgium (now living in Villacidro, Italy) has been racing XTERRA since 2006. He’s posted dozens of top 10 finishes through the years and his best result was a runner-up performance at XTERRA Denmark in 2007. Last year he placed 6th at XTERRA Italy, 13th at XTERRA Denmark, and 13th at the XTERRA World Championship. Although Jim has been to a few training camps in South Africa this will be his first XTERRA in Grabouw. He said, “I wanted to do this race for several reasons: it’s SA, it’s the biggest XTERRA, it’s a real mountain bike (technical) course, they treat the pros like rock stars, and they always have an amazing video!”
And in the women’s race…
Flora Duffy: The 27-year-old from Devonshire, Bermuda is the reigning XTERRA World Champion and won eight of the last nine XTERRA majors she has raced, including the XTERRA Philippines Championship on February 8 of this year. The two-time Olympian was perfect in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series in 2014, winning the XTERRA West, Southeast, East and USA Championship races. She started her winning streak at XTERRA South Africa in 2014, and also won the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship title. Her lone blemish in 2014 was a runner-up performance to Kathrin Mueller at XTERRA Germany, which doubled as the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships. This is just Duffy’s third season of XTERRA. In her first-ever race she placed 7th at the XTERRA Mountain Championship in 2013 and swore she’d never do another off-road triathlon. Fortunately she did, and in her next race placed 3rd at the XTERRA World Championship. Since spending the off-season training in South Africa with the likes of Dan Hugo and Bradley Weiss in 2014, she has absolutely dominated the sport.
Carla van Huyssteen: The 30-year-old from Pretoria has been racing XTERRA for seven years and won the XTERRA South Africa Championship in back-to-back years in 2012-13. Last year she was third at XTERRA South Africa and placed 15th at XTERRA Germany, which doubled as the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships. In 2012 she was third at the XTERRA Southeast Championship, which doubled as the ITU Cross Tri World Championships that year. In 2011 she placed 3rd at XTERRA Italy, 5th at XTERRA France, 4th at XTERRA Germany, and 7th at XTERRA Switzerland to finished 4th overall in the XTERRA European Tour standings.
Carina Wasle: The 30-year-old from Tirol, Austria has raced XTERRA since 2005 and is one of the most well-traveled pros in the sport. She says XTERRA South Africa is her favorite race, and has won in Grabouw twice, in 2009 and 2011. Wasle has been in the top four in each of the last four XTERRA South Africa Championship races, finishing 2nd last year and in 2012, and fourth in 2013. In other results last year Wasle finished 5th at XTERRA Switzerland, 2nd at XTERRA France, Sweden, and Italy, 4th at XTERRA Czech, 11th at XTERRA Germany, 4th at XTERRA Denmark, 2nd at XTERRA Philippines Championship, 3rd at XTERRA Guam Championship, won XTERRA Saipan Championship, was 4th at XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship, 3rd at XTERRA Malaysia Championship, 7th at the USA Championship, and 10th at XTERRA Worlds. In her career Wasle has collected nine XTERRA championship wins.
Louise Fox: The 34-year-old from Reading, England is in just her second year racing XTERRA, and placed 8th overall in the final XTERRA European Tour standings last year. Her first-ever XTERRA was in Malaysia, where she placed 5th. In other 2014 results Fox finished a career-best 4th at XTERRA Greece, was 5th at XTERRA Sweden, 9th at XTERRA Italy, 10th at XTERRA Czech, 7th at XTERRA England and XTERRA Denmark, and 28th at XTERRA Worlds.
Sandra Koblmueller: The 25-year-old from Rohrbach, Austria finished 10th in her rookie season as a pro on the XTERRA European Tour last year. She placed a career-best 2nd at XTERRA Portugal, was 7th at XTERRA Switzerland, 5th at XTERRA France, 16th at XTERRA Germany, 6th at XTERRA Italy, and was 14th at the XTERRA World Championship. Before turning pro Koblmueller won the 20-24 division at the Kitzbuhel ETU European Championship.
Susan Sloan: The 33-year-old from South Africa finished 4th at XTERRA South Africa last year, was 15th at the XTERRA USA Championship, and 18th at the XTERRA World Championship.
Other elites of note include Italians Simone Calamai and Bartoli Fabrizio, and South African stars Stuart Marais, Nico Sterk, Antoine van Heerden, and Natia van Heerden (who won the 20-24 XTERRA World Championship last year).
Learn more at stillwatersports.com.