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Lance Armstrong may be the biggest name in the field, yet to win Saturday’s XTERRA USA Championship at Snowbasin Resort he’ll probably have to outlast a Caveman.
That Conrad “Caveman” Stoltz is even a four-time XTERRA world champ is testament to his own perseverance.
Five years ago, the South African broke his back in two places and his left wrist in seven during a training ride for the national championship then held at Lake Tahoe.
“There was a huge blue lake, and beautiful mountains and I never get to look at the view,” Stoltz said of off-road races. “I was riding easy to conserve my legs and said I might as well look.”
His tire hit a divot on the downhill trail and he flew over his handlebars then landed on his head, suffering compression fractures of the T8 and T12 vertebrae. Because he also landed with his wrist pointed backward, doctors would need 12 screws and a piece of steel to hold together the shattered joint.
“I was lucky to come back,” said Stoltz, who already was a two-time Olympian in triathlon and two-time XTERRA world champ.
The next year he won just about everything.
He captured the West, Southeast and East championships, the Pro Series and U.S. title, South African title and his third world crown en route to being named Off-Road Triathlete of the Year.
Entering Saturday’s XTERRA in Utah, he has a record 42 wins. He also is the defending national and world champion and will be headed to Maui next month in his quest for a fifth world title.
“Everybody is buzzing about who’s going to do what, and everybody has an opinion … because of the Lance factor,” said Trey Garman, vice president of XTERRA, which promotes the races.
“Lance has got amazing credentials, but what he doesn’t have on his resume is a shorter race. This is a 2 1/2-hour, all-out sprint.”
Read more: Sportsillustrated.cnn.com