This has been a race I have wanted to do for a long time, but due to me pursuing the ITU calender for the last few years I have just never got around to travelling out to the Elgin Valley to compete in the world’s biggest Xterra race.After having had some bad luck at Xterra Buffelspoort a few weeks ago, I was determined to have a good race here in Grabouw, to try and redeem myslef. At first I thought I would just need to have a similar performance to Buffelspoort and I would be sure to have a good result. As the race drew nearer I started to become aware of just how strong the pro field was going to be. With Conrad Stoltz, Brad Weiss, Stuart Marais and Roger Serrano all set to fight for the win, I started to doubt myself a bit, as my lead-up to the race was far from ideal with just having started varsity and my training hours being cut in half. From the outset, a top 10 was my goal, but the underlying reason I chose to race this race instead of the ITU sprint cup race the previous weekend, was to qualify for ITU Cross Triathlon World Champs later in the year.So I made the trip from Pretoria through to Grabouw where I stayed 2km from the venue in a quiet, simple, yet ideal garden cottage. I got to pre-ride the route which meant there would be no suprises come race day and on the Saturday before the race I made sure I had a good understanding of the infamous rock-garden nestled in the hills of Grabouw.
On the morning of the race, the nerves really kicked in and I was not feeling ready to race some of the best Xterra athletes in the world and to top it off I did not manage to get in a swim warm-up, so standing in the water I was not happy. Though the wind made the water quite choppy, and being a stronger swimmer in this field, meant it was a bit more to my advantage. I went out hard so that I could try and get my heart-rate up and then settle down before the other guys got going, this seemed to work as I got out the water in 4th and I could see the other guys in front of me.
Grabouw is renowned for its tough bike course and it definitely didn’t dissapoint. I droppd from 4th to 5th on the first climb when Nico Sterk came past me. He was riding a good pace so I just tried to hang onto his wheel to the top. I lost his wheel on the first tech descent and then just tried to keep him within sight on the road. At the back end of the course I was caught by a group of athletes, including a friend from Austria (a swiss athlete), and local powerhouse Antoine Van Heerden. I jumped into the group and we then rode back up to Nico and then the pace picked up some more and we caught the back of Theo Blignaut. At this point I was not sure how my body was going to respond to hard riding and I soon found out when we hit the rock-garden and my quads started to cramp up. This meant I had to back off a bit so that I didn’t cripple myself with cramp going onto the run. I sat up a bit, took in lots of fluid and this seemed to work. Going onto the run I was lying 9th overall.
I started the run pretty conservatively to make sure I had something in the tank for the last few km’s in case I needed it. This was the right choice because I ended up running from aid station to aid station to get fluids to keep my legs from full blown cramp. Luckily I had a big enough gap to the next guy behind me to not be pressured into pushing too hard, though in the last 3km I saw Flora Duffy charging in my direction and I was determined to not get ‘chicked’! Coming onto the final, famous, beach section, I could see 8th just in front of me but I had nothing more to give and I was happy to cross the line in 9th overall and 1st u23.
Stillwater Sports put on an incredible event. Probably one of the best events I have done. Nicola Collins and her team made it a great and memorable trip and us pros were lookd after like kings! I would recommend this race to anyone and I will definitely be back in the years to come, hopefully a few steps closer to the podium.
I now have a few days to chill-out before I head to East London for some fast ‘n furious racing at SA Triathlon Champs, this coming Sunday.