It is the most anticipated event of the year. 3500 Xterra athletes head down to the Cape for one of the toughest offroad triathlons from anywhere in the world. Grabouw country club provides tenants perfect setting, combined with the expert organisational skills by the Stillwater Sports team, our stage was set.
It has been a while since I’d spent time on a mountain bike, but being back on my Trek Superfly made the transition a very happy one. I love riding my bike where there are no cars and no hooters… just you, the trail and nature.
The time post East London has been a daze, as if I haven’t had time for my feet to touch the ground. Mentally I wasn’t prepared to suffer or to attempt to win in Grabouw as I did 2 years ago.
The funny thing with this Xterra in Grabouw, it never makes it easy or allows you to breeze through. It’s tough mentally and physically. You need to earn your stripes before you have the privilege of this podium… I have earned my stripes and I know how hard this specific event can be. I decided to go in quietly confident and play with the toys I had to play with.
A mass start in the swim and no wetsuit allowed, oefff! The Eikehof Dam was warm and calm as some 2000 athletes diced for position.
I headed out wide of the first bouy in search of calmer water for a smooth swim. It was everything but smooth, but just ‘stay positive, stay smooth, follow the bubbles….’ which is what I did and once the madness settled, I enjoyed the swim, losing some 1m30 to Richard Murray who exited first.
Unaware of my position, I pre-decided that I would ride my own race, adamant that I would enjoy this challenging bike. Most of the climbing happens in the first 4km, so I settled into a strong rhythm and set my sights on the top.
I ticked off positions, but Brad Weiss and Rich Murray were moving fast.
I was having an absolute blast, feeling confident and smooth through all the single tracks. Perhaps the light drizzle the night before was playing into our favour, the trails were grippy and more compact than on my training lap just the previous day.
In a race which is so short, there is literally no space for errors. The key is not to chase, but to be in the ‘now’ and limit time losses as far as possible. As I climbed up towards the rock garden, one of the most daunting of obstacles and something of a holy grail in Grabouw, I caught a quick glimpse of Brad and Rich as they dropped in. I was making good time and now they were within reach and in sight.
I again focussed on being smooth and entered T2 some 1m30sec back to Richard and 2min back on Brad. Race on.
The run in Grabouw is a challenging one, plenty single tracks and steep climbs. The heat usually is a factor, but this year it was cool and the Cape was experiencing some reprieve from the heat (for a day)
I made time on the front, then I lost time… so it went. Eventually I conceded to Richard and Brad, both guys laying it out there and deserving of the 2 podium spots ahead of me.
Well done to every Xterra warriors. That was a challenging course and fitting of a national championship.
I am proud to be an Xterra Warrior and look forward to many more duals in the Grabouw hills for years to come.