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South African pro triathlete Dan Hugo recently finished second to off-road racing legend and fellow countryman Conrad Stoltz at Xterra Buffelspoort on January 30. Though he races both road and off-road races, Hugo favors off-road racing for its element of adventure. “Xterra racing has a tinge of adventure that makes it unlike its more-predictable road triathlon sibling,” says Hugo. “The feel of an Xterra transition area before and after a race is just as different; there’s far more a surfer’s vibe than a hardcore type-A gathering.”
Still, off-road racing is serious business when it comes to being prepared. His three tips for making a successful transition to the off-road world:
1. Mountain bike with mountain bikers whenever possible. Ride behind a technically advanced rider and note the lines he takes. Learn about tire pressure, play with your suspension and be prepared for a few spills.
2. Trail run wherever possible. It will strengthen your ankles and the stability muscles and improve coordination on tricky footing sections. Trail running is different, and many courses have gradients too steep for the best of runners. Different strength and conditioning is needed, so train as race specifically as is practical.
3. Do a few runs off the mountain bike, perhaps off a longer ride. Your back position is different than in a road tri, and it’s incredible how much one’s body can adapt. It just needs to experience the stimulus a few times.
Don’t miss the April issue of Triathlete magazine, dubbed The Adventure Issue, which is jam-packed with advice and tips for taking your training and racing off-road.