2012 marks the ninth year of XTERRA racing in South Africa, and its growth has been nothing short of remarkable.
From a single event in 2004, Michael Meyer, the director of Stillwater Sport & Entertainment, has built XTERRA into a lifestyle sports juggernaut with thousands of competitors, several big events and TV shows, major media coverage, and the sports’ biggest stars (think Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz and Dan Hugo).
“XTERRA is really popular here,” said Meyer. “It’s now the biggest participation triathlon event in South Africa (on-road and off-road). It has really become a South African lifestyle. While we’re not perfect yet, we like to believe our team of race organizers put on great events. Our venues are exciting, the people that compete are great, it’s inexpensive to enter, and doing the event is a great excuse to have a fantastic SA holiday.”
Dan Hugo, the reigning and two-time XTERRA South Africa Champion, agrees. “I am so proud to be a part of the XTERRA community here, and it is amazing to see how it has grown. There were well over 1,000 competitors at each of the races I raced at last year. This year’s first race in Buffelspoort drew 1,500, and it seems every year more and more South Africans are realizing what a fun adventure the sport of XTERRA can be. It is safe, welcoming, social and closely intertwined with nature.”
According to Hugo, the championship race in Grabouw remains his favorite local XTERRA. “Grabouw is 30 minutes from home, which means I get to wake up in my own bed the morning of the race. My training buddies will be taking part, while my family will be out showing support on the day, making it extra special. This will also be the first time that an XTERRA is hosted over a two day period, the XTERRA Lite on the Saturday and the XTERRA Full on the Sunday, making it the largest XTERRA in the world. XTERRA Lite newcomers can relax as the event is catered just for them. It is less demanding and less risky. Participants taking on the XTERRA Full for the first time can expect a fun day. If coming from a road background my advice is to shift your expectation, there are no tar roads and the route includes a lot of single track. The XTERRA spirit is adventurous, being faced with challenges is all part of XTERRA. Just allow the race to awe you. The venue is ideal for family and friends to show support pre and post race. I’ll be racing against the best on Sunday. When Conrad Stoltz races he is always expected to win, that expectation has not yet shifted to me. When in great form the race is his. I however, won’t be the only one to mix it up on the day,” says Hugo.
Stoltz won the first four XTERRA South Africa Championship races from 2004 to 2007, however, Hugo has won three of the last four (Lieuwe Boonstra won in 2009). This Sunday, the XTERRA World will turns its attention to the Western Cape to see which XTERRA star will steal the season opener.
“Grabouw is a legendary venue of great renowned and world-class standard,” said Hugo. “It is undoubtedly the highlight of my local racing season.”
Stoltz concurs, and after a pre-ride of the bike course two days ago he tweeted, ““wow, wow, wow! This xterrasa bike course is really Wow. Got some hair to it. Run is a wooly mammoth in its own right.”
See pre-ride videos from both Stoltz and Hugo via the links below.
While it’ll still be freezing in January/February across much of the continental U.S., it’ll be nice and warm in South Africa, and that’s not the only reason XTERRA athletes should put this race on their to-do list.
“It’s a great time to visit us as it is Summer time,” said Meyer. “Stay in Stellenbosch, the home of XTERRA in South Africa! It is driving distance from the sea, and when you’re not training you can catch some great waves, enjoy the great weather, and have an awesome dinner at one of our many outstanding restaurants. Alternatively you can also go on a tour of the spectacular Winelands, visit Cape Town for a trip up our renowned Table Mountain, stop off at the V&A Waterfront for a magnificent shopping and/or dining experience, the list is endless.”
Austrian multisport sensation Carina Wasle has taken that advice to heart. She started her season with a victory in Grabouw last year, and will try to defend that honor on Sunday.
“Last year I had quite a lot of ups and downs,” said Wasle, who is doing her first mountain bike riding since November 2011 following a freezing European winter. “The highlight was of course my win at XTERRA Grabouw. It is always hard to say how my fitness will be in Grabouw as it is my first race of the year. Austria had a very strong winter this year, it was freezing cold and as a result it was sometimes impossible for me to run outside with -20°C. We had so much snow and such cold weather that I decided to go to Fuerteventura for ten days for training. It is always a pleasure for me to fly down to South Africa. The course features a bit of everything. The Mountainbike starts off very fast, gradually getting harder and harder with lots of steep hills and technical trails. The running course is perfect for me with lots of climbing. XTERRA Grabouw is a fun race with a perfect course and amazing people,” says Wasle.
Both Hugo and Stoltz took to the mountain bike course with GoPro’s and share the scenic and diverse terrain with us in these videos: