In 2006 Carla Van Huyssteen (pictured courtesywww.oakpics.com), a 27-year-old physiotherapist from Johannesburg, South Africa, did her first XTERRA in a ‘flaming red cozzie’ on an old, borrowed mountain bike.
“It was a lifestyle changing experience,” she said. “The XTERRA flame was lit in my heart and mind. I loved the experience so much that I went on to race almost all the local XTERRAs ever since.”
While success came early and often in the South Africa series of events, the biggest win of her XTERRA career to this point happened on Sunday at the SA Championship race in Grabouw.
“I wanted to win XTERRA Grabouw badly since the first year I raced there,” said Van Huyssteen, who had finished 2nd in ’06, 3rd in ’07, 4th in ’08, and 3rd in ’09 and 2011.
The win should serve as a springboard to an action-packed racing season that will take her to the XTERRA European Tour events, the ITU Cross-Tri World Championships in Shelby County, Alabama in May, and ultimately the XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii.
Last year in her first season racing international events Van Huyssteen placed fourth in the XTERRA European Tour, with an impressive 3rd-place showing at XTERRA Italy, a 5th at XTERRA France, 4th at XTERRA Germany, and 7th at XTERRA Switzerland.
“I really loved the Tour. All the courses were so different and very difficult! I met a great bunch of people from the UK and we stayed together for some of the races that made it just so much fun.
XTERRA has not only taken me to amazing European venues like Xonrupt in France, but also local areas in South Africa – so many beautiful venues that I otherwise would not have known of.”
Not surprisingly, one of the big sparks in her developing passion from the sport came from countryman Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz.
“He is an amazing guy! I actually have a very nice story to tell of him (will keep it short). As a novice to XTERRA Grabouw, I arrived in Stellenbosch and asked around if anyone was going to pre-ride the course. Somehow I got hold of Conrad's cell number and sent him a text asking if he'd go show me the course (so naïve, and new, I didn't know at all what a legend he was at the time). He agreed and picked me up with his old wonky car and showed me around the course. Only after the race did I realize what I had done! But, he is so down to earth and kind hearted, taking the time was great of him. Both Dan (Hugo) and Conrad are very inspirational to me, leading the lifestyle I dream of, and proving that it is possible with the right perseverance!”