Stuart Marais
Stuart Marais

Xterra Grabouw. The South African Championship. The biggest Xterra in the world.

It was all about to go down in the small Western Cape town of Grabouw.

I was initially off the startlist until 2 weeks prior, when the hype, build up and FOMO somehow roped me in!  I decided to dust off the mtb and start preparing for one of the highlights on the SA triathlon calendar.

I spent enough time out on course getting to know the lines, singletracks and slowly but surely started naming the rocks who jumped out at me from different directions every time I was out on course. The bike course is tricky and to me it was important to get comfortable and to know what to expect come raceday. It would be the small attention to detail which could make all the difference between winning and losing. Adamant about wanting to win, I made sure I paid attention.

Stuart Marais MTB pic 1Raceday greeted us with a breezy, chilly 10degC morning and the announcement came that the overnight temp had cooled the Eikehof dam to a wetsuit legal 21.5degC. Say What?! I left my wetsuit at home knowing that wetsuits would not be allowed, how wrong I was. Fortunately, my best mate, Niel Swanepoel, was standing alongside me as the announcement was made. He must have noticed the horrified look on my face, and he gave up his suit so that I could stand a chance of mixing it up near the front.

Now, more than ever, I was eager to put the pressure on.

 The likes of Bradley Weiss, Roger Serrano and Theo Blignaut would all be in contention, how was I to beat these seasoned Xterra warriors? In a race where the margin for error is so small, anything could hapup plans too, sometimes things just go better than expected.

Stuart Marais Trail Run pic 2I felt really good out on the swim and exited the water a mere 25sec or so from the front. I felt confident in my biking ability and quickly put the pressure on at the front. As I looked back near the top of the first climb, I noticed I had dislodged all of the chasers in Brad, Roger and Theo.
I again increased my tempo in order to have enough of a time gap as I entered the technical section of the course.
I focused mainly on riding smoothly through the technical sections and pushed harder on the climbs and flats (of which there were very few) and in doing this managed to enter T2 with a comfy 2min gap.

I was confident in my run ability, so I eased off the pressure and decided to enjoy one of the most scenic and challenging trail runs you could imagine.
Single tracks, river crossings and steep climbs would be the order of the day, followed by a flat beach run around the dam to the finish at Elgin Country Club.

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Cheering crowds and an electric atmosphere awaited as I entered the finish chute.
Ecstatic to have won, I took my time to cross the line, high fives and arms raised, I had won Xterra Grabouw!!

Big up to all Xterra warriors, thanks to everyone for the cheers of support along the way and also the countless tweets and messages of congrats, they are all greatly appreciated and in time I will respond to them all.