Xterra South Africa 2015: report
South Africa’s Stuart Marais and Bermuda’s Flora Duffy won the 12th annual Xterra South Africa Champs last weekend, grinding out convincing wins in cold and blustery conditions that sent athletes scrambling for the neoprene early on Sunday.
There was drama before the race got underway with news that four-time Xterra world champion Conrad Stoltz had pulled out of proceedings with a severe cold. With the 2014 champion Dan Hugo retiring recently, this left the men’s race wide open.
An unseasonable cold front and blustery winds rolled in the night before race day and dropped the water temps in the small lake by more than two degrees, turning a non-wetsuit swim into a wetsuit optional affair and sending unprepared elites scrambling to find some rubber to swim in.
After borrowing a wetsuit from a friend racing in the age-group waves earlier in the day, Marais covered the 1.5km swim strongly enough to leave the water just 30secs behind the lead group of Bradley Weiss, Roger Serrano, and Theo Blignaut.
He then biked hard to overtake all three in the first 5km and create an unbeatable lead over the remainder of the 27km bike and 12.5km trail run, crossing the line in 2:32:47. Weiss and Serrano came in second and third respectively.
“I spent a lot of time out here on this course getting to know every little rock and turn and bit of sand and I suppose that makes the difference between winning and losing,” said Marais afterwards. “I did my homework and the plan worked out pretty good.”
In the women’s race, Duffy led everyone – men included – out of the water, then rode and ran impeccably to take the tape in 10th place overall with nearly 20 minutes to spare over her nearest rival Mari Rabie, crossing the line in 2:45:27.