Nicolas “The Professor” Lebrun, the 2005 XTERRA World Champion who now serves as the director of the XTERRA European Tour, recently took on his former nemesis, 4x XTERRA World Champion Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz, in a battle for the ages.
After the race, Nico caught up with Conrad to "talk story" and shares his chat with the champ here...
Nico: We started XTERRA at the same time, in the same race at the XTERRA East Championship in Richmond, Virginia. You got second and I got third, and for both of us it was the start of something big. Did you realize that right away, this summer day in June 2001?
Conrad: I had no idea XTERRA would become a new life for me. At the time, I was trying to get my motivation back after the four-year build up to the 2000 Olympics. In Richmond, and all the other XTERRA’s that year, I was just living in the moment and enjoying the cool “new” sport I stumbled upon.
Nico: Do you remember our first year, we shared the house in Lake Tahoe with Anke Erlank and Yu Yumoto? You were eating only potatoes and garlic, do you remember, why?
Conrad: During those years, I tried to eat eight medium sized potatoes a day because it worked! I was following a diet which was revolutionary at the time, but now we all know it as something like the Caveman diet … worked fantastically well!
Nico: I think the first years you tried to spend as little money as possible, sleeping on floors and with home stays, so you could bring more money back to your parent’s farm. Is that truth or legend?
Conrad: Truth for sure. It took me 10 years of being a poor professional triathlete before I won a world title and was able to get good sponsorship. So, sleeping on train stations and airport floors, traveling everywhere with half a kilo of mashed potatoes and a few cans of sardines was a normal part of life, and suddenly having money in the bank didn’t change my lifestyle much. Its not until I got married to Liezel that I started traveling somewhat like a “normal” person.
Nico: You won so many races, did Olympics twice, world champ ITU, XTERRA… is there a race or a performance that you wanted but never got?
Conrad: When I won my first XTERRA World title, I put my heart on winning five XTERRA World titles. At first it seemed quite achievable, but despite trying my best for 14 years, I came up short with “only” four. The original Worlds course in Hawaii was covered in sharp lava rock and kiawe thorns which caused mayhem with tyres, and the new course in Kapalua had just too much climbing and humidity (my two big weaknesses) to win another title.
Nico: Your best and worst racing memories?
Conrad: My best memories are of the 2000 Olympics and 2010 XTERRA Worlds. My worst are from losing a few XTERRA World titles due to flat tyres and equipment failures, and also when I broke my back and wrist and lost most of my sponsors in 2007.
Nico: Specialized, a long story from October 2001 to now, you were a racer but more than that, did you help build up or test the first 29er?
Conrad: Only 10 years ago, 29ers were viewed as “clown bikes” but the first time I rode one I fell in love with the way it made me feel invincible as it bashed and rolled over rough terrain. Those bikes were quite rudimentary and were not made for racing – I think the first Specialized Stumpjumper 29er weighed about 13.5kg. I asked the engineers if we could turn it into an XC racing bike. The one engineer said, “Why would you want to race on a clown bike?” Fortunately, we forged ahead and created the first real, full carbon, racing 29er with which I won the 2010 XTERRA Worlds by six minutes. One of my best memories.
Nico: Now, your beautiful daughter Zena, the Caveman café, and Trail building is what Conrad’s life is all about. Can you tell me more about what you are up to these days?
Conrad: Our little family is really booming at the moment! Zena is 21 months old and is very, very energetic, curious and adventurous. She really keeps us on our toes! Also, we’re expecting a boy in June, which we’re very excited about!
After a lifetime of being an athlete, it has been quite an adjustment - doing sport for no other reason than enjoyment. Training for fun comes after family, trail building, and Caveman Café, so at the moment I don’t get to train much.
I found a new passion in life and started a company STOLTZ Trails. I really enjoy trail building – its outside in nature, I’m my own boss and its very creative- almost like sculpture. Being a “Trail snob,” I’d like to think I build trails that will be fun to ride, showcase the owners’ property and are harmonious with the surrounding nature. And for some reason I also really enjoy manual labor. (If digging a 25m swimming pool by hand rings a bell…)
Nico: XTERRA in South Africa, it is huge, do you know why?
Conrad: Great events across the country, XTERRA is on TV all the time, we have some great courses, and I’d like to think a few South Africans left a footprint on global XTERRA- Anke Erlank, Dan Hugo and myself. For now…
Nico: You came to France last year for the Alps Epic with Yannick, XTERRA La Reunion Organizer. Do you think if we push, we can get Conrad back in an XTERRA in Europe one day?
Conrad: Oh, you don’t have to push. I’d love to participate in cool events just for fun and without worrying about the result.
Nico: And forget the video, we all know who is the best ;)
Conrad: Yes, especially if it was the Vertical 1km…
Watch the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51djMIa_66k