Sebastian Kienle, the 2014 Ironman world champ, is poised to take on Bradley Weiss, the 2017 XTERRA world champ, at the 15th annual FedHealth XTERRA South Africa off-road triathlon Saturday at the Elgin-Grabouw Country Club in the Western Cape. The women’s race will see a new champion as four-time race champion Flora Duffy will sit out in favor of preparing for the World Triathlon Series. The main event, the first of 35 majors on the 2018 XTERRA World Tour, combines a 1.5-kilometer swim, 26K mountain bike, and 12K trail run. Read the previews from XTERRA below.
Kienle is no stranger to XTERRA, having done his first one in his home country of Germany in 2005. He won that race a year later and has been going off-road ever since. Two years ago, Kienle placed 16th at XTERRA Worlds, and in 2012 he won the “Double” award for posting the fastest combined times at the IM and XTERRA World Championship races.
As for his expectations on Saturday, Kienle joked, “Triathlon is my job, XTERRA is my hobby. I always try to keep things interesting and I would love to do more XTERRAs, but it is difficult to fit everything in. Hopefully I can challenge my good training partner, Bradley Weiss.”
Weiss, who won the XTERRA SA title in 2016 and was second to Richard Murray last year, said “this is by far my favorite race of the year. Being so close to Stellenbosch, it is basically a home town race, one that I hold very close to my heart. Being the World Champion has filled me with confidence, and I cannot wait to pull on the rainbow stripes and have a crack at winning back the XTERRA SA Championship title.”
Other elite men in the mix include Brice Daubord from France, and South Africans Hayley Preen, Michael Ferreira, Ruan Van Zyl, and Michael Lord.
XTERRA Hall of Famer and winningest XTERRA elite of all-time Conrad Stoltz will also jump into the mix, but just for fun this time around.
In the women’s race, Flora Duffy’s string of victories at XTERRA South Africa will end at four-in-a-row as the four-time XTERRA World Champ will not toe the line on Saturday.
“I am really sad to miss out, it feels very strange not to start my season with XTERRA South Africa,” said Duffy, who is also the reigning and two-time ITU World Triathlon Series Champion. “February was a little bumpier than I hoped for in terms of training, so I need to focus on my first WTS race of the year the following Friday in Abu Dhabi.”
With that, XTERRA South Africa will crown a new women’s champion, and Duffy is hedging her bet on Vicky Van der Merwe.
“I’d love to see Vicky challenge for the win,” exclaimed Duffy. “She is a friend and training partner of mine, and not to mention a great ambassador for the sport.”
To take the top step Van Der Merwe will need to contend with fellow countrywomen Natia Van Heerden and Haley Preen, as well as XTERRA veteran Carina Wasle, who has won this race twice before in 2009 and 2011.
Some 3,000 athletes are expected to take part in the weekend events that include a kids race, trail runs, the full XTERRA, and a sprint race. The area is struggling with drought conditions and as a result the XTERRA organizing team has committed to protecting the municipal drinking water by putting several initiatives in place to ensure they do not use any water from the city grid. Competitors will be required to bring their own water. There will be no free running water, the much-lauded shower trailers will not be available, and neither will the bike wash station. (Learn more on the steps XTERRA has taken to be water wise at Stillwatersports.com.)