Sebastian Kienle, the 2014 Ironman World Champ, is poised to take on Bradley Weiss, the 2017 XTERRA World Champ, at the 15th annual FedHealth XTERRA South Africa off-road triathlon Saturday at the Elgin-Grabouw Country Club in the Western Cape.
Kienle is no stranger to XTERRA, having done his first one in his home country of Germany in 2005. He won that race a year later and has been going off-road ever since. Two years ago, Kienle placed 16th at XTERRA Worlds, and in 2012 he won the “Double” award for posting the fastest combined times at the IM and XTERRA World Championship races.
As for his expectations on Saturday, Kienle joked, “Triathlon is my job, XTERRA is my hobby. I always try to keep things interesting and I would love to do more XTERRAs, but it is difficult to fit everything in. Hopefully I can challenge my good training partner, Bradley Weiss.”
Weiss, who won the XTERRA SA title in 2016 and was second to Richard Murray last year, said “this is by far my favorite race of the year. Being so close to Stellenbosch, it is basically a home town race, one that I hold very close to my heart. Being the World Champion has filled me with confidence, and I cannot wait to pull on the rainbow stripes and have a crack at winning back the XTERRA SA Championship title.”
The main event, the first of 35 majors on the 2018 XTERRA World Tour, combines a 1.5-kilometer swim, 26K mountain bike and 12K trail run.
Other elite men in the mix include Brice Daubord from France, and South Africans Hayley Preen, Michael Ferreira, Ruan Van Zyl, and Michael Lord.
Lord, who won junior XTERRA racers for years before going pro, is expected to give the leaders a chase.
“I enjoy XTERRA because it’s unpredictable, the routes are tough, and the vibe is lekker,” said Lord.
According to Ferreira, skill is required to race competitively at XTERRA. “I enjoy this area of racing where it is not just pure strength, but how well you can handle your bicycle or how you keep composure during the run. XTERRA is definitely not short of technical trails,” he explained.
For Van Zyl, this his first attempt at the championship distance. “XTERRA takes me to places that I’ve never been to before,” he said. “It also allows me to compete against some of the world’s best athletes. I have many XTERRA heroes, but my favorites are Dan Hugo, Bradley Weiss and Conrad Stoltz.”
Speaking of Stoltz, the XTERRA Hall of Famer and winningest XTERRA elite of all-time, will also jump into the mix…but just for fun this time around. His full-time jobs of building trails and being a Dad come first in his life now.
In the women’s race, Flora Duffy’s string of victories at XTERRA South Africa will end at four-in-a-row as the 4x XTERRA World Champ will not toe the line on Saturday.
“I am really sad to miss out, it feels very strange not to start my season with XTERRA South Africa,” said Duffy, who is also the reigning and two-time ITU World Triathlon Series Champion. “February was a little bumpier than I hoped for in terms of training, so I need to focus on my first WTS race of the year the following Friday in Abu Dhabi.”
With that, XTERRA South Africa will crown a new women’s champion, and Duffy is hedging her bet on Vicky Van der Merwe.
“I’d love to see Vicky challenge for the win,” exclaimed Duffy. “She is a friend and training partner of mine, and not to mention a great ambassador for the sport.”
To take the top step Van Der Merwe will need to contend with fellow countrywomen Natia Van Heerden and Haley Preen, as well as XTERRA veteran Carina Wasle, who has won this race twice before in 2009 and 2011.
The weekend gets underway tomorrow, Friday, with kids races for future XTERRA stars ages 6-to-15, continues with the main event and XTERRA 6&12-kilometer trail runs on Saturday, and concludes with the Sprint race on Sunday. Some 3,000 XTERRA Warriors are expected to take part in the weekend events.
“I love the community feel to the Fedhealth XTERRA South African Championship,” said Duffy, whose 2018 plans include defending her ITU and XTERRA World Championship crowns. “No other XTERRA offers such a variety of races throughout the weekend. The event caters for everybody - beginners, serious age groupers and professionals.”
Michael Meyer, the Managing Director of Stillwater Sports, is quick to agree.
"Our plan for 2018 is to host the largest and most exciting Fedhealth XTERRA Grabouw yet,” he said. "Our route building team has been working on a few exciting elements that are guaranteed to be a highlight for entrants and spectators alike. Entrants can look forward to experiencing a world class course that is challenging, yet enjoyable and scenic. All entrants will also stand the chance to quality for the XTERRA World Championship that will take place later in 2018. Although XTERRA Grabouw is known to attract an impressive elite field, the event places a strong focus on family enjoyment. Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages are in for a treat. Together with Fedhealth’s unwavering support we look forward to hosting a memorable experience like no other in 2018.”
Also of note this year at XTERRA South Africa is the water crisis caused by years of drought. As a result, Meyer and the XTERRA organizing team have committed to protecting the municipal drinking water by putting several initiatives in place to ensure they do not use any water from the city grid. Competitors will be required to bring their own water. There will be no free running water, the much-lauded shower trailers will not be available, and neither will the bike wash station. Learn more on the steps XTERRA has taken to be water wise and protect where they play at stillwatersports.com.
All-Time XTERRA South Africa elite champions:
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
2013 Richard Murray/Carla Van Huyssteen
2014 Dan Hugo/Flora Duffy
2015 Stuart Marais/Flora Duffy
2016 Bradley Weiss/Flora Duffy
2017 Richard Murray/Flora Duffy