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Triathlon has had its fair share of legends throughout its 43-year history, but when it comes to off-road triathlon, there is only one man worthy of the designation.
Conrad “The Caveman” Stoltz is the most dominant off-road triathlete of all time, winning four XTERRA world titles and three ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships during his legendary career, which also included a 20th-place finish at triathlon’s Olympic debut in 2000.
Perhaps more amazing than winning seven world titles is that his career should have been cut short in 2006, after a gnarly crash broke his back in three places and shattered his wrist. Less than a year after doctors told him he may never compete again, Stoltz won his third XTERRA world title in Maui. His final XTERRA World Championship came in 2010. Racing to honor his dad who had terminal cancer, Stoltz won by a whopping five minutes. It also marked the first time the race was won on a 29er, which helped usher in a new era of off-road rigs. Stoltz continued to race professionally until 2015 and retired with 53 career wins to his name.
Nowadays the 44-year-old is hardly staying still. From competing in the occasional amateur triathlon to building mountain bike trails around his hometown of Stellenbosch, South Africa, to helping with his two-year-old daughter (Zena, a name befitting the daughter of a Caveman), life hasn’t slowed down post-retirement. Stoltz continues to promote and grow the sport throughout South Africa, and it’s to his credit that XTERRA is booming in his home country. XTERRA Grabouw has been the largest off-road triathlon in the world for the past five years and continues to grow each year.
“When I was a young mountain biker I did XTERRA Grabouw and remember seeing him there,” says South African ITU standout Richard Murray. “He was a huge inspiration for me when I was coming up. Of course there was racing in the Olympics and all the world titles, but what always stuck out for me was the person. He’s incredibly humble. That part of the Caveman legacy will live on forever.”
Ask anyone in the tight-knit XTERRA community about Stoltz and chances are they’ll talk about the person before the athlete. His physical imposition is balanced by his gentle disposition, and he’s just as happy volunteering at local children’s hospitals as he is on the trails. “More than his athletic prowess, his humble and caring spirit leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten,” says XTERRA President Janet Clarke.
Stoltz was inducted into the XTERRA Hall of Fame in 2015 and continues to coach and mentor young South African triathletes.