In 2004 Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz and the Stillwater Sport & Entertainment team introduced XTERRA to South Africa in Grabouw, a mountain paradise situated in the Western Cape atop the Sir Lowry’s Pass.
The sport, and lifestyle, has grown spectacularly ever since.
“I believe that the growth of the sport of XTERRA in South Africa can be attributed to the winning recipe of a great course, great venue, flawless organization and the extensive TV and media coverage that it receives,” said Stoltz, himself the focus of much of that coverage having won five XTERRA SA titles, four XTERRA World Titles, and two ITU Cross Tri World Titles through the years.
Stoltz success, and the quality of his character, has helped usher XTERRA into mainstream media in South Africa as well. Just last year he was featured in Sports Illustrated, and he also worked his way into the Huisgenoot, the “People Magazine” of South Africa that is read by an estimated two million people weekly.
On TV, XTERRA is a regular fixture on SuperSport channel 6, the “ESPN of South Africa” and the country’s primary channel for Olympic coverage.
“The aim of XTERRA TV was to capture the full spirit of XTERRA on film,” said Michael Meyer, the director of Stillwater Sport & Entertainment. “We trust that our goal has been achieved and look forward to welcoming an abundance of new athletes into the XTERRA family.”
The sport also benefits from massive exposure through its title sponsor TOTALSPORTS, the premium sportswear retailer with 175 stores in key locations around South Africa. “Totalsports increases XTERRA SA’s awareness platform dramatically,” said Meyer.
Today, the XTERRA South Africa series draws thousands of racers from all walks of life. This weekend alone they’ll host a kids’ tri on Friday, a half-distance XTERRA and trail runs on Saturday, and the championship on Sunday, accommodating close to 3,000 athletes.
“There is little doubt this is the biggest XTERRA on earth,” said XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas. “Their biggest worry is where to park more than 1,000 cars each day.”
Once parked, what competitors can expect in Grabouw is one of the best courses in all of XTERRA.
“Last year I thought that the course was one of the best I have ever ridden in an XTERRA race, but the course designer Henrico has thrown a couple of new flowy single track trails in and the legendary rock garden with it's nice switchback is part of the route again so I’m enjoying it even more,” said XTERRA veteran and former Warrior award winner Nico Pfitzenmaier.
“The course also has some steep sharp climbs and sandy parts, so the mountain biker is tested on all skill levels. On some part of the trails you have some of the most amazing views down to the lake and the mountains.”
Stoltz is quick to agree, saying the Grabouw course is by far his favorite local XTERRA.
“Grabouw possesses sentimental value as that is where we had our first South African XTERRA in 2004, but of course I love Grabouw the most because of the hard core route. The mountain bike discipline is one of the few in the world that has a good amount of real connoisseurs' single track,” said Stoltz.
Of course, anyone who has been around the sport in the last decade can tell you the tougher the bike course, the better the Caveman. He’ll still be up against several of the finest triathletes in South Africa with the likes of Hugo, Pfitzenmaier, Stuart Marais, Bradley Weiss, Theo Blignaut, Tyronne White – and even SA Olympian Richard Murray will make a cameo appearance on Sunday.
“Dan Hugo will predictably be my toughest competitor on the day, but I'm really excited about the ‘up-and-coming’ athletes who have made big improvements this past season,” said Stoltz. “It will also be interesting to see how Murray does in the dirt.”
Pfitzenmaier thinks the strong mountain bikers will be able to put a good gap on weaker riders, but notes that the “run course has changed and will lead around the lake this year, so fast legs will be needed after the bike.”
“The run will be faster and won’t break up your rhythm as the previous run course did, hence good runners like Richard can come back,” added Pfitzenmaier. “I reckon, like last year, the race will be decided in the last 1-2k before the finish line.”
In the women’s race Carla Van Huyssteen is back to defend her crown while the experienced Austrian Carina Wasle, who won the XTERRA South Africa titles in 2009 and 2011, is hoping to become the first woman to win three SA Championships. They’ll both need to contend with 2010 XTERRA World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham from the U.S., who has been “playing tourist checking out the wild animals...and wineries,” over the past couple weeks.
Indeed, enjoying one’s self seems a common thread at XTERRA South Africa.
“For me XTERRA is a celebration of the South African active lifestyle,” said Pfitzenmaier. “The increase in numbers at this weekend’s race show how contemporary the sport is in this country. People love to do different sports and seek a challenge in such events to test their skills.”
“Taking part in XTERRA is the dream lifestyle,” added Stoltz. “You get to train for three sporting disciplines in the beautiful outdoors, you get to race your buddies on Grabouw's epic trails and afterwards we drink beer and hang out with friends.”
Related videos, courtesy Specialized :
Life of a Farmer, Conrad Stoltz – Episode 1
Life of a Farmer, Conrad Stoltz – Episode 22012
XTERRA South Africa Recap via Conrad Stoltz
2012 XTERRA South Africa Recap via Dan Hugo
Richard Murray pre XTERRA 2013 video
2013 Course Recon with the Caveman
ALL-TIME XTERRA SOUTH AFRICA CHAMPIONS (PRO DIVISION)
|2004||Conrad Stoltz||Megan Hall|
|2005||Conrad Stoltz||Mari Rabie|
|2006||Conrad Stoltz||Michelle Lombardi|
|2007||Conrad Stoltz||Michelle Lombardi|
|2008||Dan Hugo||Eszter Erdelyi|
|2009||Lieuwe Boonstra/Felix Schumann||Carina Wasle|
|2010||Dan Hugo||Mari Rabie|
|2011||Dan Hugo||Carina Wasle|
|2012||Conrad Stoltz||Carla Van Huyssteen|