Conrad Stoltz, the most beloved and successful XTERRA athlete of all-time, is trading his world champion racing stripes for race director responsibilities in order to revitalize the sport in his home country of South Africa.
It’s the most exciting XTERRA news to hit South Africa since Stoltz won his unprecedented fourth XTERRA World Championship in 2010.
As a competitor, the Caveman won seven world titles (4 from XTERRA, 3 from ITU) and more XTERRA races (53) than anyone on earth. As a person, he is highly regarded as the most authentic and genuinely supportive man you’ll ever meet and has inspired an entire generation to get out, go off-road, and be their best. And as a trail builder, Stoltz has quickly become one of the premier designers in the industry.
"Athletes want to have fun and challenge themselves, so build an experience which allows them just that."
Now, he’s bringing the same passion he put on display during his Hall of Fame racing career to his new role as an organizer, and the results will no doubt be just as spectacular.
We caught up with the Caveman shortly after the XTERRA South Africa launch party in Stellenbosch (where, of course, he cried tears of appreciation while talking to the crowd) to find out what he has in store for the XTERRA Family on January 21-22, 2023 at the Elgin Grabouw Country Club which sits about an hour outside Cape Town.
XTERRA: Conrad, you had the Caveman X off-road triathlon rolling and were busy building Stoltz’ Trails and chasing three little ones around the home … Why was it important for you to bring XTERRA back to SA?
Conrad Stoltz: I got involved in event organizing because I'm passionate about XTERRA and want other people to enjoy the sport and its people like I did. We had three years of Caveman X, which was the springboard until we could figure out a way to acquire the XTERRA license.
XT: How satisfying is it for you to be on the other side of the start line as a producer?
CS: I didn't realize it when I started out on this venture, but that amazing feeling of satisfaction I felt when I executed a perfect race and stood at the top of the podium, I felt again when I saw the smiles on athletes' faces when they had a good time at our event.
XT: What can people expect from the Stoltz signature course in Grabouw?
CS: I'm really passionate about the course - from the design elements to the building and marking elements. To summarize, we want everyone to have fun, challenge themselves and experience the warm hearted XTERRA family vibe that made me fall in love with the sport on our first date!
"I got involved in event organizing because I'm passionate about XTERRA and want other people to enjoy the sport and its people like I did."
XT: Tell us about the routes you’ve created for XTERRA South Africa.
CS: A massive amount of thought and planning goes into designing courses to suit the level of participants.
The Kids Race courses and distances are safe, easy and aimed at having fun and encouraging kids to learn skills, love the sport and come back.
The XTERRA Sprint is aimed at newcomers to the sport who typically aren't as fit or skilled and the course is meant to welcome newbies to off-road racing. The bike is mostly flat gravel road with some mild but fun single track in the latter stages. This winter, I built a new piece of flowy single track through dense woods which will be spectacular. The run is meant to be fun - mostly flat with scenic single track, but with a technical "Swamble" section down the mountain stream to keep the adventure real and athletes cool in the summer heat.
The XTERRA Full is the real deal. It features about 80% single track through the unique Grabouw sandstone landscape. This past winter we (Stoltz Trails) built four new trails in the area, funded by local partners. The goal is for everyone to have a good time, so I made the infamous Rock Garden less difficult and more flowy. I know, those who know the Caveman from racing days will find it hard to believe that I made something easier, but it's best for all.
Adding to the spectator value, we're looping the bike course through Race Village at about 20km with some wooden features to keep it spicy.
XT: What did you learn as an athlete that you're using to make a great experience for your racers now?
CS: To quote Kahuna Dave; "We only have two rules, racing should be fair and safe." Athletes want to have fun and challenge themselves, so build an experience which allows them just that. The venue must be stunning - it sets the stage for the race and peoples’ experiences. With that should go great trails. Challenging physically and technically but without obvious safety hazards. A balanced, well-marked course is key. Lastly, you need a cool crew who enjoys what they do - which rubs off on everyone to create a fun vibe.
XTERRA can be seen as a hard core sport, but we're serious about safety, which is why I take responsible trail building seriously and why we go the extra mile with water safety and our medical team.
XT: Tell me about your partners and how everything came together?
CS: Mike Arbuthnot called me out of the blue and said, “Why don't we bring XTERRA back?” He studied at a hallowed institution in Boston where he ran track when he was younger, and more recently raced a number of XTERRAs. He realized the value in XTERRA as a brand and saw me and Princess Hotstuff (my wife Liezel’s nickname on the XTERRA circuit) floating around hosting our own brand of races. So he used his business superpower to marry us all together. Since then, the stars aligned (we have since formed a strong team, which feels more like family, but we all know that is how XTERRA works - you really do become part of the XTERRA family - and we’re hard at work putting XTERRA South Africa on January 21/22 together.
XT: SA was HUGE back in the day when the team from Stillwater Sports produced the event from 2004-2019. It was a force of good for the endurance community for so many years, are you gonna be able to bring it back that big?
CS: Our goal is to bring it back even bigger than it was. Bigger, partly because our Sprint race will be more accessible, partly because we work hard to grow kids racing, and partly because sport in general has grown since Covid. Our challenge, though, is the difficult financial times we live in. Finding sponsorship is hard, but we have a strong brand, a strong team, and a great venue, so success will come. Back in 2004, when Michael Meyer from Stillwater Sports invited me to do the very first XTERRA South Africa, there were 160 entrants, but he said ”we don't mind the small start, we are here to do things the right way,” and that has really stuck with me. Stillwater did do things the right way and XTERRA was huge with thousands of racers, TV shows, and massive media coverage as a result. We, too, are here to do things the right way. The people and sponsorship will come.
XT: In your racing days, you always stuck around after the races to swap stories and spend some time with the crew and your fellow racers and homestays. Is it safe to say you’ll have a community focus to XTERRA South Africa where the new generation can do the same?
CS: Yes. We’re aiming for a festival weekend atmosphere. Music, interesting food trucks, a beer tent, local wine tastings, kids play area and of course - glamping! In my racing days, I was known for being the last one to leave because I love socializing with fellow athletes afterwards. That's why I’m excited about the glamping! Luxury camping right next to the beautiful dam, where you sleep on a cot under white linen with warm showers. We did it ourselves in Grabouw last year and had such an amazing time. We made a bonfire, we had a braai (BBQ), someone brought a guitar and people from all walks of life became friends. And race morning you just roll out of your tent and you’re already there. Come sit around the fire with the Caveman!
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