Conrad Stoltz

Proving that the reward for a job well done is more work, Conrad pulls double-duty as both a triathlete and member of the Specialized Factory Racing Team.

A Triathlete since 1988, Conrad's career has spanned the globe in steady pursuit of his dream to become the world's best. Originally from Stellenbosch, South Africa, over the years Conrad has developed both a tremendous work ethic and one of the sport's most impressive resumes.

He's currently based out of Bend, Oregon an area famous for its sporty atmosphere, good weather, altitude, a multitude of excellent training options, and great fly fishing; something Conrad enjoys when he is not training. His current weekly schedule includes 25 km's of swimming, 10 hours in the saddle, 5 hours running, and 2 hours in the gym.

Conrad Stoltz wins Momentum 94.7 Mountain Bike Challenge

November 22, 2010

Thanks to my Specialized team mate, Burry Stander I was able to pull the hare out of the hat and win the 94.7 MTB race.

It was only a 1h42 race (50km), so as per Ian’s recommendation I hooked it right from the gun. The pack strung out right away and on the first high speed bumpy downhill, I let the big 29er wheels and the plush suspension on my Specialized Epic 29er do the talking. Of course, the few extra off season kilos (or “pudding bum”) helped with the momentum and I soon had a little gap. Defending champ and all round ace Burry Stander is just behind me and ready to rumble when my tire started spewing sealant. (we went through a building site- I must have picked up a piece of metal or glass) The true team mate, and gent, Burry threw me his tire plug and CO2, (I know, I was badly prepared) and I was lucky to not loose too much time. I set off at TT pace and was surprised to be back in 2nd after a few kms. Catching Burry took ages and lots of hard work. And once on his wheel I needed some time to lick my wounds and try calm crampy quads.

Burry rode his super light XC race set up: An ultra light 8.2kg Specialized Hard Tail 29er with a single chain ring in the front. With about 20 min to go we crested a long drag over super bumpy grassy surface. I looked at his bike set up again and knew the upcoming down hill was my only real chance. I cant climb with Burry, I certainly cant sprint with Burry and I suspect I cant ride technical single track with Burry, so I knew I had to try take him on the high speed bumpy stuff- where my superior power, (disguised as 80kg + body weight) full suspension and 2×10 XX gearing should give me the edge.

I felt bad attacking my team mate after he gave me his only spares, but hell, the race wasnt going to win itself…

I put it in the Big Dog (40×11 on a 29er) and went with guns blazing. At the bottom of the hill- just before I blew a gasket- I snuck a peek and was ecstatic to see him bouncing over the lumps in the distance.

The last 3 climbs were murder, but its amazing how magically pain disappears when you see the finish tape…

This was a sweet win, and hopefully this proves that XTERRA athletes can ride too, and I didnt get those rainbow stripes from a Lucky Packet…

Yet again, my lovely Specialized 29er Epic was the key to success. Pic by Erik Vermeulen

Quote of the day: “I am the least pathetic!” See previous blog here.

I also won the 2010 Argus MTB race on a 29er in April

Will download Suunto HR file on Movescount.com soon

Caveman wins XTERRA USA Nationals

October 18, 2010

The “professors” at XTERRA University the day before the race. XTU is a 90 min session where a few pros talk about the Art of Xterra, the course, equipment, nutrition and take questions from the audience. Lesley Paterson, Josiah Middaugh and the other guy. Not sure what I was talking about here. (Now that I have 29er wheels, I want tires THIS wide?” Maybe we can have a byline contest?

The last few days before the race was very demanding in terms of press, appearances and meeting and greeting. Not much time for relaxing or yourself. I’m far from famous, but I can just imagine what someone like Lance Armstrong has to deal with on top of trying to win races.

XTERRA.TV interview time. Here is where you are supposed to talk smack/say something profound and recite lines like:”I am xterra”. Then: “I AM xterra” And of course “i am XTERRA.” I’m not the typical back to front baseball cap kind of guy, but the TV crew wont allow sunglasses or shadows in your face. I fact, they fry your eyes and burn even more wrinkles by throwing more sunlight into your face with the silver UFO. I’m not a fan of acting and reciting lines- (as can be seen here) but the XTERRA TV crew is a great bunch, the shows always come out really well (despite the dodgey footage and forgotten lines I dish up) and of course TV is what drives participation and sponsorship.

Specialized “Meet the Pros” time at Binghams Cyclery- the Ogden Specialized dealer. Here Melanie is signing posters and John Harrington and I talked tires and suspension till the cows came home.

Taylor Seavey doing his XTERRA.TV interview. He calls “Amber and Conrad” his “coaches”, but actually Amber does the hard work and I just mentor. (Teaching technical skills, equipment, pacing and mental stuff- which Taylor is really good at- in fact, I learn from him…) Its been great watching him progress and getting a glimpse into this character. I’m slowly learning sign language, but we mostly communicate through his parents Siri And Darian. What an amazing family. Think “live in a self made yurt in Alaska” and “traveling and racing out of an RV for the summer.” Check out his great race report here.

The crew would ask the question to his mom, (Siri, in white tshirt) who would sign to him, Taylor would sign his answer and his mom would translate.

Taylor’s motivational bike decal. He rides a Niner 29er

Speaking of decals, I just had to snap this sticker on the back of a huge, lifted truck…

Finally, race day:

I stole this pic from Taylor Seavey’s site. Taylor is in the orange cap, ready to jump on my wave (Blue cap) when the gun goes…

Photo by Genespix

Not much down hilling on this course, so I had to make every bit of altitude loss count. Fortunately with the Brain suspension on my Specialized Epic 29er, I could stay off the brakes and in a lot of places, put some watts into the ground.

Nice fall colours. Photo my GenesPix

Pic by Eric Wynn

That “Koos Kakebeen” jaw, is me whistling for a 21k runner to get the hell offa the trail. Already bleeding and havent even hit the downhill yet.

When I designed the Avia AVI Stoltz shoe, I had this rocky run course in mind- perfect shoe for this run.

Both run pix by Genespix

My next project is making a good racing visor. I bought a few (in case I screw up) and took a sharp knife and scissors to them. Any company interested in helping make a quality Caveman Racing visor, lemme know. I already have the plan, the knife & the scissors…

As far as the race- my form surprised even me- I had a 5min20 lead off the “anti Conrad” uphill bike, and won by 5min despite very little run training. Obviously my coach, Ian Rodger is great at crisis management. This week he has been coaching me (and managing crisis’s) for a full year. Ian, NEXT year I’ll try cut back on crisis and it’ll be plain sailing- Thanks for the hard work!

TOP 15 PRO MEN

Pl Name Age Hometown Time Pts Purse

1 Conrad Stoltz 36 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:24:03 100 $2,500

2 Nicolas Lebrun 37 Digne, France 2:29:02 90 $2,000

3 Josiah Middaugh 31 Vail, Colorado 2:29:38 82 $1,500

4 Dan Hugo 25 Stellenbosch, South Africa 2:29:44 75 $1,200

5 Felix Schumann 28 Tuebingen, Germany 2:30:03 69 $900

6 Seth Wealing 31 Boulder, Colorado 2:32:17 63 $700

7 Branden Rakita 30 Manitou Springs, Colorado 2:36:41 58 $500

8 Cody Waite 31 Lakewood, Colorado 2:37:29 53 $350

9 Will Kelsay 28 Boulder, Colorado 2:37:40 49 $200

10 Matt Lieto 32 Bend, Oregon 2:40:47 45 $150

Also: Adam Wirth (41), Scott Gall (37), Craig Evans (34), Brad Zoller (31), Justin Hurd (28)

Fastest Swim: Seth Wealing/Branden Rakita (20:44)

Fastest Bike: Conrad Stoltz (1:25:11)

Fastest Run: Scott Gall (35:13)

After a huge breakfast and a look a the papers with the Letendre family, my Ogden home stay of 5 years,

we hit the 8hr drive home. We have 2 days to paint the house and there is lots of paint scraping to do…

With a radar detector, 4×4 decal (fake), and Wal Mart compression socks, we blitz by the Bonnyville Speedway salt flats.

Caveman on Specialized 29er Epic, finishes 2nd at Thrilla Cyclo Cross

September 30, 2010

Conrad Stoltz -my 1st Cyclo Cross experience. On a mountain bike. Ok, a Specialized Epic 29er, but still a mountain bike.

If you were expecting the XTERRA USA write up, its coming. Actually, this is the 1st of a 3 part series of the 10 days leading up into XTERRA Nationals, explaining my interesting preparation, but mostly just mouthing about how amazing my 29er Epic is- which I did all 3 races on.

When I rode my 1st 29er it was love at first sight. I was so impressed with its rock riding ability I put this bad video on youtube in 2008 and it has over 36 000 views already. Wish I was smart enough to put some voice or music over it.

Then I was all fired up for 29ers, I wanted to race them. 1st time I did was at XTERRA South Africa in 2008.

Then I got onto to those poor MTB engineers at Specialized, I started nagging at them for a race 29er for over 4 years, and I bet when they see me coming they quickly duck behind a planter or into the ladies toilet. But finally the bike came, and frankly, it blew the doors offa my expectations and Specialized is yet again, THE leader in the industry.

Back to the story:

I decided to jump into the 3rd leg of the much lauded Thrilla CX Series in Bend, OR. Bend is a bike crazy town- half the community watches these midweek ‘cross (that the cool way of saying it) races and the other half races. And I leanrt that a true ‘cross fan can be a scary thing….

I felt like a bit of a doofus on the start line with my mountain bike with balloon tires, Command Post and water bottle. Suspected I’d be booted into touch, seeing that I have only once ran a barrier before and ended up in ER…. (another sad eggbeater pedal story) Thus I lined up 2nd row- behind Adam Craig sporting a proto Di 2 mech and carbon sew ups on a “$10 000 ‘cross bike”. I was eyed suspiciously, like an escaped leper. Then Ryan Trebon yelled “Hi Conrad” from the front and I felt better.

We took off, and once I found my pedal, I made up places with a mix of “power through the bad line, brake late and cut in last minute” moves. I hung with the 1st group. Trebone took off. I just had to show off my mad skills by losing my front wheel in a loose corner, and with my one foot out moto style, did a wild “tank slapper” move which involved my inner thigh getting burned by the front wheel?! I saved it, (not sure how) but 80% of the field saw it and I thought: “Man, I ruined it for XTERRA athletes world wide”

I also realized bunny hopping the fences (the ones in the pic above) in practice is one thing, but doing it in a race is something completely different. There is a reason no one else does it. After a few laps I got the hang of this cross thing and attacked the pack of 6. Those 1.95 Renegade roll like crazy. (although they dont corner like crazy in loose gravel- so pick your battles)

Soon I caught up to Ryan Trebon, whom I know as (the other tall guy) from mountain biking, but someone told me he is actually the ace at ‘cross. Like National champion and stuff. I thought that way my Specialized team mate Todd Wells. Anyway, the guy is shit hot, 2 inches taller than me and has less fat than a can of Diet Coke . I was surprised how easy it was to keep up with him. In fact I went around and started putting more wood on the fire in front. Then we hit this really steep hill, you have to run every lap (a lap is about 8min and the race is 45min plus 1 lap) I run up this powdery wall, baby steps, huffing and puffing, carrying the bike, good thing I’m a triathlete, I can run. Then Ryan comes FLYING past me, chuckling at me for not “shouldering my bike.” (always thought “shouldering” is an illegal rugby move) When I got to the top Ryan was gone. Even the dust has settled. He probably made 20 seconds on a 30 second run. Thats when I understood why he went so “easy” back there. I got 2nd by 11 seconds, but somehow I think he just played with me…

Thrilla Cyclocross results - Men A

1 Ryan Trebon 51:35

2 Conrad Stoltz 51:46

3 Chris Sheppard 52:00

4 Cody Peterson 52:31

5 Brennan Wodtli 52:34

6 Eric Martin 52:55

7 Adam Craig 53:51

8 Tim Jones 54:05

9 Brig Brandt 54:36

10 Ben Thompson 54:44

Is it Beer O clock yet?

Checking race time and heart rate on my Suunto t6. Been training for a 2h30 event- cant hang out above 160 for too long.

The Caveman’s somewhat-secret XTERRA tips.

July 23, 2010

“Somewhat secret” because I borrowed (and modified) the article from my “All” (previous blog posts) page.

• XTERRA is a strong mans race. An endurance event. Don’t let the seemingly short distances fool you. Forget about 400 repeats on the track and all-out sprints on the trainer. Think sustained power evenly delivered over 2.5 hours or more. Getting from A to B as fast as possible is all about even pacing. In this game, a big aerobic engine and a large strength component will take you places. The good news is, both of these components can be built. The bad news is it takes a lot of hard work!

• Its all about The Base: The most important bike workout during base training is a weekly long ride in the mountains. I usually do 3 rides* a week of 3 to 5hrs at 50-75% of max HR. The key is to try and climb as many vertical feet per hour as possible. For me 1400ft per hour is good going. (That includes the down hills and flats) When climbing I focus on a high cadence, (at least 90rpm) smooth power delivery, and keeping a good, relaxed posture.

* Sorry, can’t tell you about the other rides, otherwise it wouldn’t be “The Caveman’s semi-secret XTERRA tips”.

• Running is much the same, two or three months with a weekly long, easy run of about 1h30 and 2 other aerobic runs should set you up with nice base. Again, the braver I feel the more hills I would tackle, mostly keeping my hear rate below 75%. These long, “easy” sessions are key to a long, successful season. Believe me, if you do them consistently and combine it with swimming and cycling, “easy” becomes a relative term!

• Once you have a good base, you may want to whip yourself into shape with some specialized XTERRA training. Note the pun, as this little gem was handed down from Legend to Caveman. Read: Ned Overend to yours truly.

-Find a climb about 10 minutes long. It should be tough, loose and technical. After a good warm up, do the first climb at about 5-10 beats below threshold (AT). Go straight down, hit no2 at race pace (AT), and yes, you guessed it, no3 you grab by the neck and rip its legs off. Oh yes, downhill like you would in a race- you need to get used to seeing the trail through the black spots and shooting stars, and intimately embrace the feeling of starting the next climb with a pair of shocked and jarred legs, filled to the brim with lactic acid.

• As for whipping the running into shape, I believe hill repeats is the best way to build strength and incorporate quality. Its a long, tough workout, but I learnt to love it and now know its probably my most important workout of the week. Its hard to part with this gem…

Warm up and find a nice hill. Dirt or grass is good. Dirt or grass in the shade is best.

Run 6×2minute hills at AT, jog down.

Run 5minutes at AT on the flat

Run 6×1minute hills at AT, jog down

Run 5minutes at AT on the flat

Limp home.

Despite the scant looks of it, this run will be 1h20 or more, so bring our A game.

• Fat burning. Everyone loves this topic, but this technique works for me. I learnt it racing in France in the 90s, somehow forgot about it (!?) and bumped into it again this year. (Hence all the veins) This works best during base phase, only do it once or twice a week, and not when you are feeling fragile. And definitely not before a big race. (or a big day at the office)

Step 1) Skip breakfast

Step 2) Drink a STRONG coffee. Pass on the sugar.

Step 3) Do a long, slow run. Or a long, hard run! (Welcome to drink as much water as you want)

Step 4) Upon completion of run, have some more coffee and try to delay breakfast for a while.

Step 5) Feast!

Expect some serious fatigue later in the day.

What this does is it depletes your body of glucose, which in turn forces you to burn fat more readily. Not only do you lose fat, (duh) but it also teaches your body to use fat as fuel, crucial during longer races. Apparently the feast that follows your run will accelerate your metabolism, which I can’t tell for sure, but it sure feels good!

Dont do this too often, and consult with your medical practitioner before attempting rigorous physical activity or this caffeine trick.*

*side effects may include dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and other medical issues.

Important technical skills:

1. Look far ahead. The faster you go, the further ahead you should look.

2. Look where you want to go. Know you are going there, and don’t doubt it for a second. Even just a glimpse at that tree on the side will steer you straight into it!

3. Brake early. Fast riders don’t brake in corners. They brake before the corner, let go of the brakes, just flow through the turn, and exit fast. It’s hard to get your mind around that one, but once you get the feel of it, dragging the brakes through a turn will feel as wrong as going to work in pajamas.

4. Easy does it. A smooth pedal stroke and steady balance is key to climbing the loose stuff. Choose your line before you start the climb, then commit. Move your weight to the nose of the saddle, pick a light gear and turn the pedals with loving care, the rear tire will love you for it and grip nicely.

5. Learn to un-weigh your wheels over obstacles. (And eventually bunny hopping) Example: You’re barreling down Tunnel Creek (XTERRA Tahoe) at close to 40mph. The trail is smooth, fast and straight. BUT, every 300yds there is a big water-bar diagonally across the road. If you just slam into that thing it will send you flying over the bars and into the trees. You have 2 choices: 1) slow down drastically and negotiate it in a civilized manner. Lose bags of time. 2) The right choice: Thrash that thing at max speed, jump right over it, and go win the race. How? Just before you actually hit the water bar, do a well timed bunny hop and fly clean over the hump. This technique applies to any smaller obstacle and is a sure fire way of making heaps of time. Also works well for floating over tire eating rocks at speed, jumping up curbs, finessing over muddy roots, hopping over fallen logs, clearing fallen riders etc. Bunny hopping is easy to learn: “load” the bike by pushing it into the ground and crouching with your body (while standing on the pedals). At just the right moment, release the load by quickly shifting your weight upwards (think “pounce”) and pull up on the bars and pedals. Timing is what its all about, so practice, practice, practice.

A few sayings I’ve accumulated:

- “Hesitation, devastation“. Essentially the same as “5,4,3,2,1!” at bungee jumping.

- “It isn’t a ride till there is blood”. Falling happens often and that’s ok. It is very rare to actually get hurt, usually it’s just a scrape or two and brownie points at the office. Relax. Don’t fear crashing.

- “Speed is your friend” Due to the gyroscopic forces of nature, a slow moving cyclist falls over more easily than a fast moving cyclist. But this saying can be used loosely in many situations. Be it the nonchalant way to explain how you just cleared the 5 foot drop, or maybe someone’s approach to the post race party

- “Low air, big gear, no fear.”

Important mechanical skills:

• You should be able to change a tire with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back. Non negotiable.

• You should be able to fix a broken chain. I broke a chain in Milwaukee 2005, fixed it with a Specialized multi tool and a SRAM Golden Link, and still won the race. It wasn’t easy, but a mechanical doesn’t have to mean “game over”.

• You should be able to replace a derailleur hanger. Rear derailleurs get eaten by hungry rear wheels, jumping sticks, and predatory rocks. Its easy replace and shouldn’t take more than 90 seconds.

• You should be able to set your brakes. Rubbing brakes happens from time to time. V brakes rub and disk brakes rub. They are both quick and easy to set. Look and learn.

• You should know what tire pressure you run with which tires on which courses. It sounds complicated and “for the pros”, but the right tire pressure and the right tire choice is probably the most important mechanical aspect of your bike. Get a floor pump with a gauge, and go experimenting.

Some rules of thumb about tires:

- The better your skills, the softer you can run your tires*. And yes, softer is faster 95% of the time. I run 28-30psi (2bar) on most courses. (23- 28 psi on the 29er) A softer tire grips getter, jumps and jutters less over loose stuff, gives a smoother ride, doesn’t get sidewall cuts as easily, and believe it or not- rolls faster over broken terrain. * If you get lots of pinch flats (by slamming into rocks or sidewalks) your skills are lacking. Either improve your bike handling and trail reading, or put more pressure in your tires.

- For most dry courses a 2 inch wide tire with many short knobs works well. (I like the Specialized Fast Trak LK)The muddier the course, the narrower the tire and taller and fewer the knobs. A narrower tire requires higher pressure to prevent snake bite flats.

- Tubeless is undoubtedly king.

- A new tire grips like crazy. If you cant afford a new set of tires before every big race, have a set of “racing tires” and a set of “training tires”.

• I bank heavily on good suspension. Setting your suspension is not all that easy, so if you’re not a mechanically minded person, have someone set it up for you and don’t fiddle. If you are curious to learn, ask someone about the basics, and go fiddle. You cant break it.

• You should be able to pack and unpack your bike from its travel box. Seems obvious, but I heard some funny stories. Go to your bike shop, (or local pro rider) let them show you how to pack your bike safely, then learn how to do it in the dark with one hand tied behind your back.

I always carry:

- A tube wrapped in thick material (funny things happen in a saddle bag)

- CO2 or a reliable pump. Unless you’re trying to win the race, the latter is always safer.

- A good multi tool. Apart from the obvious Allen keys, it should have a chain breaker

- A Golden Link. Enables you to repair a chain quickly. In theory, anyways.

- A spare derailleur hanger

A calm mind is key to fixing trail side problems quickly. Actually, a calm mind is key to most things, including winning races…

Keep it in the big blade

Conrad

Big weekend for Specialized

July 20, 2010

Ned Overend won the Single Speed National title. (the big race, not the old man’s race) And he did it on a Specialized Rockhopper 29er! (mid range aluminium frame)

I took this pic at the Specialized 2011 bike launch in Keystone, CO. Not quite sure how he went up that mountain at that altitude with 1 gear?!? (I needed all 20 gears) Maybe that’s why they a call him “Deadly Nedly” or “The Lung.”

One of my favourite Ned quotes: “I only stretch when I’m injured”

Todd Wells took the Specialized 29er theme further and won US Nationals in Granby CO on the new S-works Epic 29er. WaytogoTodd!!! Follow Todd’s entertaining blog here.

Todd Wells rails a corner on his way to winning the “Stars and Bars” National Champ jersey on the new 29er Epic.

XTERRA Alabama preview

June 11, 2010

epic-29er

Yup, I brought the big dog. This is the perfect 29er course- fast, rocky, rooty and technical.

Specialized Epic 29er.

-Command Post telescopic seat post. (notice dropped seat height for the technical terrain)

-Specialized Fast Trak LK S Works 2.00 tires. 24psi front and 29 psi rear. This course has a super rocky high speed section with some water bar jumps, so I run more psi than I normally would.

-Roval carbon wheels- super stiff and light.

-LOOK Quartz Ti pedals

Blood Rock is famous here on the Oak Mountain, Alabama bike course. On race day, its lined with spectators.

A huge poster of Jamie Whitmore going down Blood Rock. We miss you Jamie…

Lots of log piles. Need to be on top of your bunny hopping to clear these at speed. Otherwise, brake early and just roll over them.

After running the last 3.3km (2mi) of the infamous run course (the hairy part- it took me 18min!) I thought I would take a refreshing dip in the lake. But alas, the water temp is 84F (29C), and it feels like you can boil an egg in the top 2 inches.

Here is a little riding tip for the weekend. If you’re an XTERRA male pro, dont waste your time here, its not important.

Cornering:

Like XTERRA Waco, this course has hundreds of turns. With the BUMP and Grind MTB race here last week, the trails are quite ridden out, which leaves the corners slippery at best.

If you look at the picture below, you’ll notice that the gravel gets ridden out and accumulates in the outside of the turn- where you would normally take the corner.

I would do anything not to touch that gravel with my front wheel. In fact, I wouldnt even touch it with Nico LeBrun’s front wheel!

The inside line seems inviting- nice and smooth, but you would have to slow down quite a bit to get around the corner, and there is a tree on the inside- which limits leaning. When I ribbed Greg Minnaar for a cornering tip, (I rode Sani2C with him in 08 and could not believe his cornering ability) he said: “Its all about the exit speed”

The 5 green leaves indicate the line I would take at speed. Great traction, a nice, banked surface and you get to stay off the brakes and rail the outside of the corner- where the old, wise men go…

Speaking of old, wise men, here is my home stay Casey and Andrea Fannin and their new kitten. Casey is many time XTERRA age group World Champion and IM. (Not sure if racing 14 IMs disqualifies you as a wise man?)

We miss you Amber…

Warming up for Sea Otter short track

April 17, 2010

Amber and I went for a warm up with Todd Wells, Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser along the ocean path in Monterey.

Short Track starts at 3.15. Its a short lap of off road riding- after 25min the bell rings which signals the last lap. This race is all about raw horse power and gallons of lactic acid. Not really an endurance Caveman game. I think the last time I had gallons of battery acid in my veins was…. um, actually the Specialized lunch time ride I did last Wednesday!

Susi and Burry are 29er virgins- today will be their 1st race on the big hoops. Burry’s Specialized 29er Hard Tail is 8.6kg (18.9lbs)

Last year Specialized made a great showing- Todd Wells won the Short Track and Christoph the XC. I was 8th in the XC and hope to blow the cobwebs out for the opening of an exciting season of MTB, XTERRA and 70.3 racing…

Saying good bye to Africa

April 13, 2010

After 3 long months of hard work demolishing my house (while packing away some hard training) I spent a week on my parents farm to say good bye to them and Africa before hitting the US for some serious racing.

Because internet in Africa is slow, expensive and hard to get, this story (and a few to come) are only seeing the interweb now. Also, if you only have a week in paradise with your folks, sitting on the computer is like a prison sentence…

Here are some of the highlights:

My dad would join me on my recovery rides, and let me tell you, I was on the ropes most of the time! Quite something for a 66 year old “ballie” who beat colon cancer 3 years ago. As you can see, he also rides for Specialized Factory Team as he is the one with the REAL genes in the family. My friends calls him “Tarzan”.

My mom and I did some cool stuff too. She is has an acute sense of business, which I try my best to learn, but it somehow doesnt come as easy as carving single track… Finally we got good rains, and here, on our way to town, (Lydenburg) we stopped to take some pictures of the mist on the mountains and the pink Kapokboom… (Dont know the English name)

Of course I had to say good bye to my other girlfriend. (Amber accepts this wild red head into the 3 wife harem, but only just!) Actually, part of my justification is product testing- here I’m testing Oakley Goggles and the Specialized Deviant downhill helmet. As most of the riding I do is low speed, technical riding in hot, humid weather, I love the great ventilation and light weight of the Deviant.

Of course, there was that other, pedally part of training which also had to get done… My coach Ian gave me some big sessions in preparation for this weeks Sea Otter MTB Classic, so I feel much more prepared for the pace changes and hectic start of the Short Track than last year. This is my Africa bike of choice: Specialized Sworks Tricross Carbon.

For the South Africans who dont know what cyclocross is: Its mud, grassy fields, sleet rain, thousands of drunken Belgians… no wait, go Wiki it…

Why this is my fave Africa bike:

- It rides dirt like its smooth road. Thanks to the Zerts dampers built into the frame, a special carbon lay-up and that massive fork- it will eat bumps for hours.

- Mountain gearing. Our farm is in the mountains and with the cyclocross gearing, I can ride up passes as easy as I want- like when recovering from a 10 minute interval.

- Wide tires (which I ride at 50psi for even more comfort) with small knobblies for dirt roads or when that overladen minibus taxi pushes you off the road.

- Its amazingly light- I can not imagine how they make such a sturdy bike so light.

- Good strong V brakes- Like that time the baboons ran in front of me and I had to throw out the anchors to avoid catastrophe.

This day I did a 4 hr ride with 7x 10 minute repeats up a steep mountain. (too bad I dont have the Power Tap anymore…)

Since I’m back with Clif Bar (YAY!) and dont have any product yet, I trained on Caveman energy food: Dried peaches and compressed dates. That block of dates will give me about 6 hrs worth riding and it costs about 80 US cents.

Lastly, before leaving I had to tame the local leopard. No seriously, I was training after dark -like I often do (unintentionally)- this day. It was April 30 and this pic was taken at 10.08- I think I was still training at 8pm. The pic is taken by a game viewing camera we set up to study the wildlife on our farm. There are 3 resident leopards in our part of the valley and this the the male- Called Groot (Big) Gert after my dad. Despite their destruction to my dads herd of cattle (about 15 calves a year) we are happy to have this treasure in our midst.

This one time, at band camp, I rode 300 Watts for 3hrs

February 23, 2010

Since I ate my helmet, (and embraced training technology when we started base training about a month ago.) I have been enjoying training with my Power Tap thoroughly. (Rent your Power Tap today from the folks at Saris/CycleOps, South Africa)

For Valentines’ Day, my coach Ian Rodger gave me 3 hrs at 300 Watts. So romantic. I rode to the top of Franschoek pass, and being new to trying to keep a constant power, I’ll tell you, trying to do 300W downhill through the road works in Pniel or down the main street of Franschoek with tourist drivers, speed bumps and couples on Valentines dates, gave a new meaning to “adrenaline”…

Also, going down the pass I tried to shape myself into a parachute, because the 53×11 was not enough. Fortunately those 28mm Specialized Armadillo tires at 60psi helped slow things down and smooth the road a bit.

I’m really excited about this new way of training, focusing on maintaining a specific wattage and cadence makes for serious concentration. I noted a 15 beat higher heart rate at the same wattage when using Powercranks.

The riding is a lot harder that what I used to do my long rides at and I regularly burn 1000 Calories per hour. Surprised at how quickly I ran out of food. (4 gels and 5 scoops) 2h08 into this particular ride, and things became ugly soon thereafter. I was going to knock out a big sprint at the end, but by the time I got there I could only manage 870W. (As opposed to the 1160W I did at the end of today’s ride…

The task for this ride was: 3h30 with 4 climbs (Hells Hoogte and Franschoek) at 330 W and 75-80 rpm. The flats at 250W and 90rpm. On the flats, include 4 x 10min with Powercranks unlocked. Anyone who knows Powercranks can tell that 90prm at any watts is no joke.

The goal is 450W for 1 hr at 80kg on a 10kg bike. 11.2kg if its a 29er…

Product testing, Caveman style

February 11, 2010

Not content with just testing MTB gloves by riding bikes, I took it a step further and tested these (older) Specialized BG gloves while renovating my house.

We're building with bricks, which are very abrasive on the hands, (and gloves) and after hours and hours of testing on single track and on the build site, the only shortcoming I found was a slight lack of material strength in the forefinger. But then, there is nothing some Duct Tape wont fix!

Mr XTERRA is in town!

February 4, 2010

Er, make that “was”…

Will Kelsay and his lovely lady, Shelby, visited South Africa for a few weeks. They spend a few days in Cape Town, then a few days in my house in Stellenbosch before tackling the Garden Route.

I’m busy renovating my house and of course,they got roped into some manual labour:

Will was super excited and went at the double brick wall like a maniac. Go to his blog to learn more about this colourful character.

Shelby can swing a hammer too!

We got to do fun stuff too, like visit Dan Hugos farm for Sunday lunch, and here we went wine tasting at Ernie Els’s wine estate. Yes the golfer Ernie Els

Yes the golfer Ernie Els…

Caveman’s Month of Mopane Worm Cleansing Diet

January 5, 2010

The pros are into pre season fad diets!

Macca urged the Twitter community to join him in his pre season cleansing diet comprising of juices for a week. Matt Lieto just started his Month of Salad…

Now I urge you to join me in my Month Of Mopane Worm Cleansing Diet! Mopane worms are a delicacy in Southern Africa, and feeds millions of people every year. Usually they are harvested by hitting Mopane worm laden trees with long branches, and then harvesting them off the ground, much like one would harvest strawberries…

On day 1 of my cleansing diet I was lucky- they came marching down the Marula tree next to our house…

I hope they are WADA legal. (World Anti Doping Agency)

The Mario Cipollini board room at Specialized HQ

December 16, 2009

The Lion King “Super Mario” Cipollini was a delight to follow- on the road and in public. His flair for fashion, clothing and glamour bordered on preposterous. It was delicious. But he was a remarkable sprinter who hated climbing and was quoted “If I wasnt a professional cyclist, I would be a porn star.”

But Mario was an amazing marketing vehicle and his sponsors’ ad campaigns still come up in cyclobablle. His pro career spanned 20 years, he had 42 Giro stage wins, World Champs in 2002, the list is too long, go read it on Wiki.

This is one of my favourite Cipollini photos where he won the 2002 World Champs. Of course he had to wear his Colnago branded Italian team kit, but a clever bit of ambush marketing by Specialized stole the moment and made some waves- but then what was expected of Mario. Just imagine the impact this North Wave shoe ad made on me as a teenage triathlete, fresh out of sheltered South Africa…

My only personal experience with Cipo was when I was training in Stellenbosch around 2002. I saw a Smart car (a rare thing back then) coming down the road from the opposite direction, and being an observant guy, I noticed a bicycle wheel and two feet in the gap between the road and the underside of the car. OK, someone was motor pacing behind a Smartcar. I was dying to see who it was, and when they swooped by, there was Mario in his full glory- working on his tan. No helmet, no shirt, no socks- Just Mario in his chamois (rolled up high), shoes, glasses and his beautiful mane of greased back hair. Now that was class.

“Ciao Mario!”

Open floor questions for Conrad.

December 15, 2009

Open floor questions for Conrad.

(Copied from the Specialized Facebook Fanpage, facebook.com/specializedbicycles

iamspecialized.com: It seems like Conrad Stoltz (http://www.conradstoltz.com) is swinging by the office next week. Does anyone have any questions for him?

Conrad Stoltz is a three time Xterra triathlon world champion

Robert Driskell

Yes I do. How does he compare his fit on his mt bike to relation to on a road bike in multisport activity. How much of a change in his hip flexor angle is there in this relation.

Conrad Stoltz

@RobertDriskell- I have my road bike set up exactly the same as my MTB. Nowadays I only use my road bike for XTERRA training, so I dont have the road time trail position dilemma you mention. I was told by Scott Holtz at Specialized BG Fit that training at least 60% of your base rides in your TT position would actually benefit you MTB riding. (more glute workout)

Harrison Conyers IV

how can I become a pro. I train hard and i have dreamed of either doing xc racing or xterra.

Conrad Stoltz

@HarrisonConyers. To become a pro:

1)You need the right genes.

2)You need to be physically and especially mentally tough.

3) You need to love living out of a bag and spending time at airports.

4)You need patience.... See More

5)You need luck.

To get there, make sure:

1) You learn the skills while you are young

2) Have a mentor to guide you

3) have fun

4) have fun

5) have fun

Heather McNamara

How many hours a week is Conrad logging on his Specialized right now?

Conrad Stoltz

@HeatherMcNamara. Last week, I logged 0 hrs on my Specialized. I DID log about 6 hrs behind the snow shovel!

Brent Jablonski no questions, just give the man a high five for me! way to go!

Conrad Stoltz

@BrentJablonski. High five! (Is that a quote from Borat?_

Harrison Conyers IV how do you get your parents to support you financially

Conrad Stoltz

@HarrisonConyers IV. When I turned 14, my mom bought me half a road bike for my birthday. I had to buy the other half myself. They supported me like that for the 1st 2-3 years. (where I had to contribute, mow the lawn and show respect and commitment to training)

Then they encouraged me to make my own money to support my triathlon- I cut and sold bamboo and collected stone artifacts from our farm to afford purple LOOK shoes.

But when I turned pro I had to make a living for myself. (my dad reminded me often) It was really hard those 1st 10 years, but then I won World Champs and it got a lot easier to make a living!... See More

Matt Dussartre According to you, what is behind the word "Pro Triathlete"?

Conrad Stoltz

@MattDussartre. "Pro Triathlete" can mean 2 things: 1) You race in the pro category because you are really fast, but you need a part time job, because you arent quite fast enough to pay the bills. (or your bills are huge) 2) "Pro" means you make a living from sports- which is my definition.

In the perfect world, all "Pros" sould make enough money to cover their expenses, but then this aint golf...

Victor C Guido Rivas

Tremenda nave.

Conrad Stoltz

@Victor C Guido Rivas. If you tell me what language "Tremenda nave." is, I can answer you. In Spanish it means "tremendous ship"- in which case- thanks for the compliment

Alex Ziemianski

Tubeless or Tubed? Tubeless for weight savings? Or Tubed to get back on the trail after a flat?

Conrad Stoltz

@AlexZiemianski. Definitely tubeless. You'll save about 100g, but the real benefits are lower tire pressure- which greatly increases traction and ride quality- and greater puncture resistance to just about all thorns, smaller cuts and most snake bite punctures.

If you do get a flat with tubeless, take out the tubeless valve and save it, put in a normal tube, and you're good to go...

Getting tubeless tires to seat can be tough but since 2009 Specialized tires seat so easily you can do it by floor pump while sitting on the couch...

Being a novice again. 2009 Wilseyville Hare Scramble

November 30, 2009

The entry form says AMA championship series, so maybe it was a big race? All I know is I was as green as it gets. The newness of this unfamiliar sport opened my eyes to what athletes new to triathlon and XTERRA experience. Nervous, excited, clueless, scared of the unknown, scared of being last, scared of the mass start, and yes, just plain scared.

I grew up riding a little Yamaha PW 80 on our farm in South Africa, later a YZ 100, but when I got really serious about triathlon, (age 15) I sold the dirt bike in order to fund this new triathlon passion thing. I always promised myself, “the day I retire from triathlon I’m buying a dirt bike.” After winning XTERRA Worlds in 07 I thought “screw that, its been 18 years, I cant wait anymore”, so bought a used Honda CRF450 in South Africa. Visit http://www.conradstoltz.com/a-fun-weekends-dirt-bike-riding/ This summer I bought a new KTM 450 EXC in the US. (my 1st new motorized vehicle ever) Could someone please explain to me how a new top end dirt bike costs the same as a top end mountain bike? How does a huge, knobbly, 30 pound dirt bike rear tire cost the same as a 500g mountain bike tire?

Anyway, Wilseyville is in the scenic Sierra Nevada mountains. Yellow trees everywhere and beautiful country side made for an amazing course on private land. No pre riding allowed, which was quite intimidating.

The C and Ladies class was HUGE. I guess 350+ riders in 7 starts 1 min apart. Apparently in this sport I’m an old dude, (Vet plus) so I was in the 6th row. I thought the C class is the hack class, but I didnt see a single jean pant! Shiny pimped bikes, custom what what, new tires. - I was the only guy with indicators and a cute license plate. At least I could honk the horn to overtake. Mostly people on the ground, and a fat guy cramping.

Our line (30 years and over) was completely full -the biggest class. Maybe 80+ bikes, so I stood behind 2 fast looking guys- half in the Ladies row. Most of the girls were so small they needed a box next to the bike to get on…

I nicely stuffed up the start. Learnt what a “Dead engine shotgun start” was. When the gun shot went and the bikes fired up, the noise was so loud I couldnt tell if my bike was running or not. I think I opened the throttle while pushing the start button- then it wont start. So I panicked, for some reason popped 1st - you’re supposed to start in 2nd- and got off a few seconds late, but at the 1st corner there was a pile up- was quite funny (now) to see a guy rolling on the ground trying to get away with guys riding over him and his bike. Even in the C race these guys will eat you alive. Its a 7 mile lap and you see how many laps you can do in 90mins- funny concept to a triathlete. Imagine doing a triathlon where seeing who can cover the most ground in a fixed time wins…

It had been raining on and off the last few days before the race, so it was slick and muddy. Greasy mud, not sloppy. There was a 400m rocky river section (the only part I was fast at- no whoops or ruts!)) and the exits were super slick, muddy, rocky with more and more roots showing up every lap. And then there was the whoops and ruts. I’ve seen a few whoops on the trails around Reno before, and usually dont really know what to do with them- but these ones were slippery, so if you dont hit them straight, you were knotted. I often went round, but short, not too big sections I could handle.

I have never ridden a single rut before. Before our race, the course was still in good shape, but our race (C Class) was huge so the whoops and ruts got deeper every lap. I did 4 laps (23mi total) in 1h33. If I was 3min quicker I could have done another lap. Was caught in 2 slow bottle necks where a fat old (but fast) dude couldnt start his 2 stroke. Also lost time whenever I heard a screaming 2 stroke come up, I’d pull over or stop to let the fast guys through. (was lapped by about 15 guys. I think 1 may have been a chick)

On the 1st lap rode behind a guy who should have been wearing a jean pant- kind of all over the show, but at least I could see where the slippery parts were, in the river bed I moved up to 2nd last but by then the others were gone.

Just like cycling, I’d learn a lot by following a better rider, but I was completely dropped- so I just putzed away, staying in control and smooth, not knowing the limits or the techniques used for this 40 horse power mountain bike with tires the size of my thigh. I had a mental block on the whoops - some were 3 feet deep, slippery, with open roots and surrounded by trees in places. If that 14 year old girl on the small wheel 80cc could float over the top at high speed it cant be TOO hard? If only I knew the right technique and had the confidence to ride it once, I’d practice and master them. - A mantra I teach new mountain bikers all the time- only I couldnt get myself to do it. For once I was in their shoes and realized the importance of a mentor/coach/ helping friend to hold your hand and guide you up the first few steps of that big, huge technique pyramid.

The scenery is amazing and of course there was no dust. Drove 5hrs there through the snow, so didnt spend much time at the venue, but wish I could to see a bit more. Amber had to work, so no pics or video of me driving Miss Daisy.

I didnt crash, but my hands were covered in blisters, my quads were sore already and on the drive home it felt like my right forearm was broken. Must be from all that hard work keeping the throttle closed…

Being a beginner at a challenging sport was quite an eye opener and it made me appreciate anew novice triathletes’ fears, excitement and enthusiasm. After racing 15 to 35 triathlons a year for 21 years, I could do one in my sleep. I passionate about triathlon, but it took me a muddy day at the dirt bike races to relive and appreciate that special fuzzy feeling beginner triathletes are blessed with. Enjoy it while it lasts. Soon you too could blitz through T1 in your sleep.

09 WILSEYVILLE C SPORTSMEN

RESULTS FOR THE C VET PLUS CLASS. 11/22/2009

| LAP 1 | LAP 2 | LAP 3 | LAP 4 | LAP 5

PLACE RIDER LAPS FINISH DIFFERENCE NAME MPH MFG | POS/ TIME / DIFF | POS/ TIME / DIFF | POS/ TIME / DIFF |

001 475D 5 16:10:13.52 —– JONES, CHRISTIAN 25.97 KTM | 1 / 21:25 / 1 / 20:10 / 1 / 20:19 / —–| 1 / 20:53 / —–| 1 / 21:10 / —–

002 397X 5 16:14:45.31 04:32 JACOBS, DAVE 24.89 KTM | 21:46 /0:21|3 / 20:51 / 0:14| 3 / 20:51 / 0:45| 2 / 21:09 / 1:50| 2 / 23:52 / 4:32

003 618S 4 15:51:13.59 —– TOTH, PAUL 25.43 KTM | 7 / 22:23 / 0:04| 2 / 20:00 / 0:48| 2 / 20:20 / 0:49| 3 / 22:14 / 0:20|

004 322H 4 15:52:23.69 01:10 CHURBY, ALBERT 25.08 YAM | 5 / 22:11 / 0:02| 4 / 20:42 / 0:16| 4 / 21:25 / 0:50| 4 / 21:49 / 1:10|

005 35X 4 15:52:44.20 00:21 DOWD, JOE 24.98 KAW | 8 / 22:34 / 0:11| 8 / 21:46 / 0:06| 6 / 21:26 / 0:04| 5 / 20:42 / 0:21|

006 155D 4 15:53:49.23 01:05 BLASQUEZ, DAVID 24.67 KTM | 3 / 21:52 / 0:06| 6 / 22:19 / 0:02| 7 / 21:44 / 0:09| 6 / 21:38 / 1:05|

007 714E 4 15:53:52.31 00:03 JESBERG, CHRIS 24.66 HON | 4 / 22:09 / 0:17| 5 / 22:00 / 1:16| 5 / 21:33 / 1:24| 7 / 21:54 / 0:03|

008 271G 4 15:54:46.27 00:54 COGLIANDRO, KEVIN 24.41 HON | 9 / 22:44 / 0:10| 10 / 21:54 / 0:12| 8 / 22:12 / 0:55| 8 / 21:40 / 0:54|

009 778A 4 15:54:51.20 00:05 GOMEZ, ART 24.38 SUZ | 14 / 23:44 / 0:09| 11 / 21:44 / 0:50| 9 / 21:32 / 0:10| 9 / 21:35 / 0:05|

010 375A 4 15:56:06.80 01:15 RABBAT, RALPH 24.04 YAM | 6 / 22:19 / 0:08| 9 / 22:07 / 0:06| 10 / 22:53 / 0:19| 10 / 22:31 / 1:15|

011 442H 4 15:56:32.52 00:26 TEHANEY, PAUL 23.93 HON | 16 / 24:01 / 0:02| 14 / 22:15 / 0:15| 11 / 21:47 / 0:44| 11 / 22:13 / 0:26|

012 575X 4 15:57:00.83 00:28 GLASS, JOHN 23.81 YAM | 11 / 22:57 / 0:02| 12 / 23:00 / 0:29| 12 / 22:21 / 0:15| 12 / 22:26 / 0:28|

013 137C 4 15:57:41.41 00:41 DAMELE, JD 23.63 KTM | 12 / 23:11 / 0:14| 13 / 22:50 / 0:04| 13 / 22:19 / 0:02| 13 / 23:05 / 0:41|

014 105Q 4 15:59:26.31 01:45 GIBBS, WILLIAM 23.18 KTM | 17 / 24:12 / 0:11| 16 / 22:50 / 0:03| 14 / 22:39 / 1:21| 14 / 23:29 / 1:45|

015 778 4 16:00:15. 00:49 STOLTZ, CONRAD 22.98 KTM | 20 / 25:12 / 0:34| 17 / 22:53 / 1:03| 16 / 22:17 / 0:21| 15 / 23:37

016 300V 4 16:02:14.39 01:59 CHAMPE, DARRIN 22.51 YAM | 19 / 24:38 / 0:13| 15 / 22:21 / 0:43| 15 / 23:02 / 0:20| 16 / 25:57 / 1:59|

017 385V 4 16:05:23.70 03:09 CARLIN, JEREMY 21.79 YAM | 15 / 23:59 / 0:15| 18 / 25:26 / 1:20| 17 / 23:30 / 2:33| 17 / 26:12 / 3:09|

018 772 4 16:05:55.13 00:32 BRYAN, SHERIDAN 21.68 HON | 18 / 24:25 / 0:13| 20 / 25:56 / 0:29| 19 / 24:56 / 0:18| 18 / 24:22 / 0:32|

019 624G 4 16:06:07.47 00:12 BERNA, MICHAEL 21.63 KTM | 22 / 25:57 / 0:20| 21 / 24:27 / 0:03| 18 / 24:35 / 2:04| 19 / 24:52 / 0:12|

020 272A 4 16:07:22.08 01:15 WHIGHAM, KEVIN 21.36 HON | 21 / 25:37 / 0:25| 19 / 24:15 / 0:27| 20 / 25:54 / 0:29| 20 / 25:20 / 1:15|

021 631 3 15:49:45.27 —– LIMJOCO, ANTHONY 19.41 KTM | 23 / 26:44 / 0:47| 22 / 24:50 / 1:10| 21 / 31:55 / 7:43|

022 138R 3 15:52:26.13 02:41 SANDOVAL, CESAR 18.80 KTM | 24 / 27:41 / 0:57| 23 / 28:48 / 4:55| 22 / 29:41 / 2:41|

023 223X 3 16:02:07.31 09:41 MCGABIN, BRENDAN 16.90 HON | 25 / 28:11 / 0:30| 25 / 30:34 / 0:24| 23 / 37:06 / 9:41|

024 605E 2 15:10:30.83 —– FUHRMAN, MIKE 24.42 HON | 10 / 22:55 / 0:11| 7 / 21:19 / 0:03|

025 761 2 15:24:37.38 14:07 KIRKEBY, DAN 18.51 KTM | 13 / 23:35 / 0:24| 24 / 34:46 / 1:52|

Have some work to do before I can get out of Sport C Class, the guy who won Class B did 7 laps in 90 mins- that’s about 10 min a lap quicker then me!

| LAP 1 | LAP 2 | LAP 3 | LAP 4 | LAP 5 | LAP 6 | LAP 7

PLACE NAME MPH

001 ANDERSON, 25.74 YAMAHA | 14:06 14:11 13:31 13:48 13:20 15:07 13:50

The Off season - fun toy time.

November 30, 2009

After 10 months of focussed training where every session and equipment choice was geared towards winning XTERRAs, it is fun to to try some of the other bikes in the garage.

I've had this S-works Enduro for 2 years now, but until a few weeks ago, it had less than 5 hrs on it. Most of them my friend Mark DeJohn put on it.

Finally it was my turn to ride for no other reason than having fun. And trying fun bikes and toys!

I pimped my 27 lbs, 6' travel carbon Enduro with one of my favourite Specialized products- the Command Post telescopic seat post. A must for any trail bike. In fact, I use it on my XC bikes too- With the push of a lever I can lower my centre of gravity by 2 or 4 inches and rail corners, hit water bars at high speed or do steep drop offs which would usually send me cart wheeling over the bars. At 6ft3 with long legs and a short body, the steep down stuff used to be my achilles' heel.

Another product I have been trying are these Specialized Body Geometry grips. Usually these flared grips come on touring bikes, and I was a little apprehensive about putting them on a trail bike. My dad taught me never to judge a sausage by its skin, and was I wrong about these Winged Wonders as I call them now.

Before I go into why I like them, some background: A few days ago I did my first Hare Scramble dirt bike race. (I was 128th in the Sportsman Class C race. My lap times were almost 10 mins slower than the fast Class B riders! I rode 24min laps and they 16 mins a lap. At

last, a sport I really suck at!) My KTM 450 and I were covered in mud and my hands were covered in blisters. The next 2 days I had to cut a tree and move a vast amount of dirt from our new homes' back yard. Swinging the pick axe and wielding the shovel and chain saw put more blisters in the few places I didnt have blisters already. So when I went on this ride my hands were raw as 2 filet steaks.

I picked Renos new Halo Trail. Its 2 hrs of low speed rock and chop. And this was my first ride with these grips and immediately I noticed:

- Comfort. The "wings" fit nicely in the palms of your hands, distributing the weight over a larger surface. I can see this being a great benefit during long rides and stage races. Or when your hands are covered in blisters...

-Control. This one I didnt expect at all. Once I started rocking and rolling the big travel bike over rock jumps and through loose corners I was amazed at the increased amount of control I had on the bike. Not only does your palms have much more contact with the grip, but your fingers have a lot more contact and leverage underneath the bar. Very handy for lifting the back end of the bike like bunny hopping, jumping and

cornering.

Word is the Specialized engineers are working on a light XC race version....

When giving everything is not enough

November 10, 2009

Yes, I am disappointed. (Thanks for the nice e-mails. True friends are the ones who cares no matter the result) I did everything in my power to get to this race in top form and win a 4th World title. My equipment was faultless. But I was 5th best that day. I gave 100% in preparation and execution. I am content with that knowledge.

Winners look great and when you win a race it feels easy.(ok, relatively easy) Winning means you’re in control, within your limits. Losing is hard, physically. It means you gave 110%, played all your cards and lost. I gave it all, as can be seen here in my rare “Rocky Balboa on the ropes” look…

Too much:

The 2nd half of this season was just too much.

That cut in my foot was too deep, too long and too dirty.

Yes that cut: (Late June at XTERRA Richmond- read race report and surgery report) Dr Moose Herring in Richmond, VA is the coolest surgeon/triathlete you’ll ever come across- have your next surgery with Moose Herring…

Too much hospital time.

Too hard nosed to not race 2.5 weeks later: (with hardly any training, but it helped me win my 7th USA Series title)

- Too many injuries. When I resumed training early August, the injuries started. Typical Caveman, I thought “once the hole closes, I can carry on as if nothing happened”. This time I was wrong. It feels like I spent more time (and a small fortune) getting massage/ rehab/acupuncture than I spent training. I would fear running sessions, not knowing what was going to hurt next. I havent had a training related injury in ages, and I was reminded about the head games injury plays with an athlete on a deadline.

- Too little time. 3 weeks before USA Champs (7 weeks before Worlds) I realized I was in trouble. I was self coached this year, and knew how to get to Worlds in the right shape if everything went right. But everything was going wrong. I started panicking and needed someone to help me with a quick fix. Like anyone else would, I reached for Facebook. Ian Rodger was a sport scientist at the Sport Science Institute in Cape Town where he did lab tests on my preparation for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I didnt know him well and it took me a while to track him down on Facebook. (I knew I had the right Ian Rodger when I saw the Ian with the profile pic of a cyclist riding a slimy cobblestone “road” somewhere in Belguim) I havent seen him in over 5 years, but I remember being impressed at how he combined the science of sport with the practical aspect of sport, especially cycling, and how he could look at wattage numbers and get a ton of information form it. First thing he did was to put me on 180mm cranks. A 6ft 3 guy with a 33inch saddle height warrants long levers. The 2nd thing was to lower my saddle to alleviate the lower back pain that has been bothering me for many years. (Was great in training, but in the race it showed up again- so if you see me riding sitting up, with no hands, bouncing through loose lava- its to relieve my QL pain.)

He very much liked the numbers he saw in those tests back in 2000 which instilled confidence in me. (512W Peak power and 430W for 20km) His knowledge of numbers also meant we could to some extent overcome the 12 000mi geographical coach/athlete problem. Ian did damage control during a really tough time for him personally- his mom was dying from cancer.

We only had a handful of sessions “to count” between racing USA Champs and traveling to Kona where I trained in the heat and did some appearances for Specialized and Avia. I knocked out a few good sessions- the last recorded one being 5x 10min hill climbs at an average of 451W. Of course I did too much faffing around at Ironman and subsequently missed a few days fighting a cold. Not much fun spending 3 days in a hotel bed on a tropical island.

I know its a cliche amongst athletes, but I really needed at least 4 more weeks of prep…

Too much of a road race. I dont mean to whine, but this course technically, gets easier every year. Apart from a few patches of loose pebbles, 2 turns and a few steep climbs, its really a road ride with 3000ft of climbing. What happened to laying awake the night before the race, trying to remember which gnarly root section came after the 3ft drop off? Its cool to have 500 people in the same race at the same time, but if the course gets any easier we’ll have to start calling it “Ironman.”

Too bad bad luck strikes all too often: 2 Days before Worlds Ruben Ruzafa (last years champion) crashed on the practice course and got 40 stitches, Brent McMahon was injured last minute and DNSed. Dan Hugo’s season was similar to mine- got hit by an apple truck in the spring, struggled with subsequent injuries and then finally H1N1 finished his season off- bad things happen to great athletes- its the nature of the game. Especially this one.

I fought them on the landings, I fought them in the trenches and I fought them on the beaches, but I was seeing so many stars, I cant even remember on which beach Olivier Marceau passed me for 4th.

Hindsight. After a long, hard and stressful season with seemingly more time on the massage table than in training, a $45k hospital bill (thankfully USAT took care of that), it was nice to wash away the dirt, stress and bad memories of a good season turned bad. And temporary respite from the heavy burden of being the guy who has to win.

XTERRA World Champs machine

November 2, 2009

Here is a run down of my Specialized Epic S-works for XTERRA World Champs in Maui

My Specialized Epic S-works worked like a dream, and this course is infamously tough on equipment. A lot of work has gone into the preparation of the bike for this race in particular.

- Tires. Specialized has been amazingly helpful in helping me find a tire that is truly Caveman proof. Over the past year we have had 2 extensive tire testing camps. (read more about testing on www.conradstoltz.com ) We tried numerous prototypes and found a casing that works exceptionally well. It weighs roughly 630g, rolls well at low pressures, the casing is cleverly assembled to make it supple, but most importantly it is very, very strong. In 8 months of testing I have had 2 flats: One at XTERRA Idaho where a 5 inch nail went through both sides and once when I rode over a broken bottle bottom. The tire will be called the GRID and will come in Fast Track LK, The Captain and some of the free ride tire tread patterns. Importantly, the GRID will also be available in 29"...

Because these sidewalls are so strong, you have to run really low pressure to provide a good, comfey ride. I rolled 23.5psi in the front and 27.5psi in the rear. (on "normal" courses I would go 23 and 26.5psi)

-Wheels: The Roval Controle wheels are light and strong, I can mount my tubeless tires by floor pump (YAY!!) but the coolest feature is the crumple zone. (thats what I call it anyway) If you hit a rock at high speed and low pressure, the rim dents slightly, which saves the tire from a rim cut. I have a set of "tire testing wheels" that has a few dents, but the wheels stay true, strong, and best of all, the air stays in the tire...

-Suspension. 2 weeks before Worlds I got the new Brain shock made by Specialized and Fox. It works really well, and is very reliable. Instead of the usual 180 psi I put in the "old" 2007-2009 shock, I put 210 psi in the new Fox shock. (To achieve 1cm sag for my 180lbs. (80kg))

- 180mm Cranks. My saddle height is 84cm or 33inches, (I'm 6ft3) and with legs as long as that, my new coach, Ian Rodger urged me to switch to 180mm cranks to make the most of the leverage benefit they provide. (We did some power testing at 175, 177.5 and 180mm) The conversion wasnt plain sailing though, and Garth from Specialized HQ had to do some serious squeezing to fit the Truvativ 180s into the Specialized BB.

I recently did an interview and photo session with Jamie from Singletrack.com.

September 21, 2009

I recently did an interview and photo session with Jamie from Singletrack.com.

Jamie: Just to confirm, how many Xterra race have you done on the Epic 29er?

Conrad: None this year. I raced Sea Otter (Short Track and XC) and Sierra 100. Last year I raced XTERRA Snow Valley on the 29er Stumpy. Because of my accident and surgery on my foot I havent had any "fun XTERRAs" where I could experiment with equipment- every race was a battle for points.

It sounded like you go with the 29er on “less” important Xterra races (which races did you run the 29er?). Instead, you are using the 26-inch, carbon dually for the big events.

Thats right. The main reason for that is the tires. I'm 180 and have a point and shoot riding style, (which favours the 29er) but last year I had a lot of flats in races. Over the off season we did a lot of tire testing with Specialized and worked on a tire with a stronger "Caveman proof" casing. I have been racing those protoypes (only available in 26") all summer and my only flat was a 5 inch nail which went through both sides of the tire. This strong casing tire is in manufacturing right now and it will be available a number of the Specialized XC tread patterns, in 26" and 29". That would allow me to race the 29er with more confidence.

The 29er Epic is alu and still a bit on the porky side- 26lbs compared to my 23.8lbs 26' carbon 26" Epic- However I 'm not much of a weight weenie and I think those few pounds would only be a disadvantage on a seriously climbing course.

Also, is the 29er more of your off-road training rig and the one you pick for technical rides (either race/training/fun?)

I ride the 29er whenever I can. Especially on technical and loose/rocky rides we have here. I ride the 2.20 Captain tires, and have a Command Post on it, so by lowering the saddle 2 or 4 inches, that bike will go just about anywhere.

I use the 26" bike only when I have to test equipment or make sure the bike is race ready.

Without going into specifics, what is the likelihood of you racing a carbon dually 29er in the near future? Or how practical would be to actually race such a rig compared to a 26er?

Chances are pretty good. I'd race a light dual suspension 29er with good suspension and strong tires at 90% of the races.

Specialized riders, like Todd Wells, are racing XC on 29 hardtails. Why haven’t you gone that direction in the big Xterra events?

The last time I rode a hard tail is 2001. Maybe I should give the 29er HT a whirl. Its such a beautiful bike. There are 2 fast and smooth XTERRA courses in the Midwest where I would consider the HT. The reason I favour the dual sus is the fact that I can ride a "relaxed" steady, TT effort which saves energy for the run. ( ie I just stay seated and plow ahead) Of course your body doesnt get a banged up on the full sus as much and you start the run fresher.

You and Ned Overend mixed it up quite a bit on the Xterra circuit in the early 2000s; physically, you two are quite different. What did you learn from him as far as the bike?

In my 1st XTERRA season 2001 I raced on borrowed bikes like this sweet Softride below- I travelled with my own 2nd hand shoes, cheap pedals and new yellow Python tires and tubes. (and speedo and running camel back!) Then I would just borrow a bike for the race. Ned was hot stuff on the XTERRA circuit then (He won Worlds in 98 and 99) obviously we raced each other throughout the season and he watched with amazement my assortment of borrowed bikes. I won most of the races, and the USA Series. Ned then asked me if I wanted to ride for Specialized. I said "sure" , knowing that usually that kind of talk leads to nothing. A week before XTERRA Worlds in Maui there was a brand new Specialized M5 with tubeless tires AND a new helmet AND new shoes on my doorstep. It was like Xmas!

I took the bike to the shop to have it built and when the guys heard the story they said "then you have to read Neds book. "Mountain bike like a Champion" " They gave me the book, and I only started reading it 4 days before Worlds. Realizing it was full of gems, reading the book was a race against the clock. (I had a lot to learn back then)

I took the book to race briefing for Ned to sign and he wrote: "Conrad, dont read this book, you are already too fast." Surely a prized possession.

I won 2001 Worlds by 10minutes. That new bike felt like a motor bike. Obviously we wanted to ink a sponsorship deal, I had no idea what to ask for, so I asked Ned. He said "ask for X", I asked for X and thats what I got.

For a guy with no sponsorship (expect for Oakley) that was a dream come true. Specialized has been a great sponsor since, and I sometimes feel sorry for the other guys who have to ride other brands.

Ned gave me 2 workouts when I asked him how to become a better climber, he said: 3x10' technical hill climbs. Start #1at about race effort and build #2 and 3 even harder. Downhill as fast as you can back to the start. The other was: find a gradual hill of 45 min and alternate between 5 min at AT and 7 min at medium pace- to simulate the varying pitches at Maui XTERRA

I see Ned at some of the events and sometimes at product testing with Specialized (we tested the current Epic in the spring of 08)- what an awesome guy. Also, he has great stories. When he was young he drove to Vegas to become a blackjack dealer, but hated Vegas so much, he drove back to CO the next day.

He is an incredibly down to earth and approachable guy- fans love Ned.

And considering Ned’s living-legend status even then, what was your strategy against him?

Make 3 minutes in the swim, (it may not be enough) and try to not give him more than 2 minutes off the run...

Especially: Whatever you do, dont race Ned at altitude or in the high mountains.

The Best Bike Shop In Bend

August 31, 2009

During our recent training camp in Bend, OR, I had some bike trouble. I took my bike to Hutch's Bicycles in Bend's West side. Despite their wild skills, they couldnt save my ride. I did something Caveman-esque to my mountain bike, (which, this time, not even duct tape or a tightly wound tube could fix) and had to resort to road riding that day.

The next day I borrowed a friends' 5' trail bike and Amber and I were going to ride the epic Flagline. Straight out the driveway Ambers cranks on her S-works Era almost fell off. Turns out her mechanic (also happens to be a certain "Caveman") didnt install ALL the parts required for BB assembly. I towed her to Hutch's. As usaul, he guys were great. They didnt even make too much fun of my wild wrenching skills! They fixed her BB pronto, and when we picked the bike up a little later, I noticed they even replaced the cables and housing. Seems like the Caveman also neglected to install those plastic end cap things that goes at the ends of cable housing...

We had a phenomenal ride, thanks to the cool crew at Hutch's.

When riding the trails in Central Oregon, be sure to visit them. They also rent all kind of Specialized bikes. www.hutchsbicycles.com

Training and visiting in Bend, Oregon.

August 31, 2009

I trained in my old home town of Bend, Oregon for about 2 weeks. Back in 2004, as it was the Olympic year, (back then I raced triathlon at the Olympics) I was asked not train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs anymore. From 2000 -2003 I was the US resident teams' "whipping boy" on the bike. Point taken.

My XTERRA rival Steve Larsen persuaded me to move to Bend. I packed all my belongings in the Red Rocket (1987 2 door Nissan Sentra), threw my 3 bikes on the bike rack, and drove the 3 days to Bend. (Back then my "cutting edge" Specialized bike were: Bright red 1st generation S Works Epic with very basic Brain, a very Red S works E5 alu road bike with oval tubing, and 1st generation black S-works alu Transition TT bike I called "the Black Mamba")

Steve let me stay in their guest room for a week, before passing me on to his best friend Michael Nyberg. Who worked for Marketing Sales at Rodale Press before joining Steve under Steve Larsen Commercial Real Estate.

I fell in love with Bend right away. The amazing scenery, the active, laid back people, the training and the smell of Junipers and sight of distant snow capped volcanos when you walk across the tarmac to the terminal. Which was the size of a small house then.

Since then Michael has become family. Whenever I visit Bend, I stay with him. These visits has become especially poignant since Steve's tragic death this summer.

It may be a cliche, but "Live life 100% every day."

Steve did.

Ultraman Canada

August 21, 2009

Amber Monforte (my girlfriend) won Ultraman Canada this past weekend: Day 1: 10km swim 90mi bike . Day 2: 180mi bike, Day 3: 55mi run.

After taking off work and racing pro XTERRA last year, Amber went back to work and decided to try something new. Ultraman

She didnt train like crazy, but did a few 8 hr rides, a 180 mi road race in the Sierras with 20 000ft of climbing, and the Death ride (130mi). Oh yes, and a couple of 4hr trail runs. And two 2h30 swims in Lake Tahoe. And some stuff in between...

Anyway, to make a long story short, she absolutely killed it. Amber broke the swim record, (but 2 girls in front of her did too) she broke the Day 1 bike record, the Day 2 bike record, and the run record by about 45min. In total, she lopped 3h55 off the old record, which includes Worlds in Kona.

About 3 weeks before Ultraman she got a brand new Specialized Ruby Pro and Women's Specialized BG Pro shoes. She loved it, as the old Giant TCR didnt cut it anymore. Ultraman had tons of climbing and some serious headwinds- 65km at a stretch. So it was a real test for the bike. (and rider!) She especially likes the compact cranks for the big climbs, the shock absorbing Zerts and the comfey fit. As you can see in the photo, she gets really low and aero and can comfortably stay there for 8 hrs. (!?!)

Read more about Amber's Ultraman on her blog: http://ambermonforte.blogspot.com/2009/08/ultraman-canada-day-1.html

Graham and I were the support crew. Quite a process supporting someone for 3 days. (We could run with her on Day 3) Had lots of fun, and leanrt some serious respect, these athletes are amazing.

XTERRA North East Cup in Vermont

July 21, 2009

After the horrific cut and infection to my foot at XTERRA Richmond 3 weeks ago, I decided to race XTERRA North East Cup in Vermont. See graphic pics here and

My Secret Weapon, The Command Post.

July 8, 2009

A remote controlled seat post that offers a 10cm (4 inch) drop. There are 3 fixed positions: Fully extended, 2 inch drop and 4 inch drop. The 3 settings are really easy to find - hold in the bar mounted lever and the post pneumatically extends, or put some weight on the

saddle to lower. I use all 3 settings in races and training. The Command Post is about 200g heavier than my "normal" seat post. Before each race I'll asses the technical aspects of the course vs the amount of climbing and decide which post to use. I went with the Command Post about 75% of the time. It takes about 3 or 4 hrs to get used to the system. Actually, it takes you 10 minutes to get used to the system, but it takes 2h50 to 3h50 to get to know what you can DO with such a low seat position!

Some of the XTERRA courses are quite technical, with drops and lots of cornering. Dropping your seat makes intimidating trail pretty easy (and fast) to ride.

Also, I'm 6ft 2 on an XL bike - which means my center of gravity is really high- bad for cornering. So even if the trail is good, I may drop the seat through some corners so I can get lower and lean the bike over more.

I think this is a "must have" for beginners and people who are intimidated by ugly trail and gravity.

I will make it tubeless again...

June 12, 2009

Dan Hugo and I  pre rode the XTERRA Richmond course shortly after our arrival from XTERRA Northwest Cup in Coeur D'Alene, where I had a 4 inch nail puncture my tubeless tire in 2 places.

My replacement tire was in the mail, so I rode the tire with the 2 nail holes, and just put in a tube. Of course it flatted. I changed the tube. It deflated faster than I could pump. Before putting our last tube in I carefully inspected for sharp objects.

It also deflated faster than what I could pump. We still had a lot of riding to do and I wasnt going to call it quits. I was going to make that tire tubeless again. 

First I used a bottle cap to scoop the sealant from the healthy front tire and put it in the rear. With the 2 huge holes.

To make sure the front tire seals, I poured Gu2O from my drink bottle in the tire.

Dan had one Genuine Innovations tire plug.  We cut the plug in half and hoped the 2 small plugs would seal 2 big holes. Of course they didnt. So I took left over electrical tape, wound it into rope and plugged the hole. Like so:

You may also wonder what I did to get a tubeless valve. Thats easy, I used my Caveman teeth and chewed the valve stem out of a tube.

Sidewall plugs are notoriously hard to seal and despite the 1/2 tire plug, rolled up electrical tape and Gu2O mixed with Slime and Stans it still kept leaking.

That is where the Boer* came out of the Caveman.  "a Boer makes a plan" so I wound a tube tightly around the tire, covering the 2 holes.

* "Boer" is an Afrikaaner or farmer from South Africa. 

To anchor the loose end, I tied it around the hub and got immense pleasure from cutting the left over tube off with the razor sharp brake rotor. Instead of using my teeth again... (it leaves a funny taste in your mouth) With this clever trick, the more pressure you put in, the better the system works.

In fact it worked so well, we finished our 5hr ride, which included a coffee and cake stop at The Crossroads cafe, right on the course.

The soft rubber offers such great traction on these wet, rooty surfaces at the next tire testing I'll suggest we cover the tire with a layer of tube. 

In fact, I think I should apply for a position at engineering...

XTERRA Midwest

May 19, 2009

Apart from competing in the Chicago Triathlon a few times (which I won in 2001) I have never been to the Midwest. Proper Midwest- small towns, green farmland and flat expanse.

The welcome in Battle Creek, Michigan- home of Kelloggs cereals- was warm and hearty. Its not often they get pro athletes from all over the world. As usual, we were set up with home stays. Partly to save on expenses, but also the best way to get to know the local people and their culture.

My home stay Jim is an avid mountain biker and he really enjoyed showing a few of us the race course. A huge tract of forest, which the military donated to the city- flat as a pancake with so many turns it makes your head spin. Left by ourselves, we would have been lost till monday.

The trails were the most perfect consistency imaginable. Like velcro in the corners and like tar road on the straights. I brought tires for what I though was all occasions: my pantzer* Fast Tracks, panzer* Captains and some Sauserwinds for sticky mud. *The panzer refers to the durable Armadillo like prototype casings I'm riding this year. Its a heavier, slower casing, but its Caveman proof. Should be for sale later this year. But when I saw this high speed, low risk course, I called the tire guys at Specialized, asking for the Renegade- our lightest, fastest tire. I called it "the Condom" the 1st time I saw it. Normally I wouldnt consider such a light tire, but this is a once in a lifetime course. There are about 2 rocks and 3 roots out there. Somehow Bobby (our Team Manager) got word of my request and my phone went nuts. 1st a text that said “NO!” “Call me”, then some more threats and by the time I finally got to argue my case, I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I’d say “Bobby, this course is safe, (punctures) I need the fast tires” and he would say “Ride what you have. Just pedal harder- you can win on any tires, as long as there is air in them!” Not much sympathy.

Race morning was cold with frost. The water was only 60 deg F, but much warmer than the air, which made a warm up ride an unpleasant affair.

I had a good swim- 2nd out the water. Once on the bike I took off hard trying to get out of sight as quickly as possible. It was a 2 lap course with a nice balance between pedaling sections and technical sections where you can recover. I have been doing quite a bit of dirt biking, which has really trained my concentration, and helped me stay focussed no matter what. I rode the forest sections almost without fault- maybe a little over braking a few times.

Dan Hugo was riding really well, staying just a few turns behind me up to about 10km where he promptly lost a contact lens! He picked it up off the ground, and put it back in record time, losing only 30 seconds, but it must be unnerving at least.

We had 4 water crossings, 2 of them axle deep and at high speed- I plowed through the icy water so fast, the spray went over my head. Of course your shoes, gloves etc would be wet and freezing- causing numb feet and fingers - making for some interesting transitions.

At the end of the bike, my dumb fingers and feelingless feet somehow got running shoes on, and for a while it felt like I was running on stumps. At 5km I felt the back half of my feet and I only felt my toes by 8km. I had a relatively comfortable lead and unlike Las Vegas, didnt have to dig too deep. (we are racing again this coming weekend, so "saving some for later" seemed like a good idea.) Little did I know of the frenzied racing going on behind me. A minute after I finished, they sprinted across the line in quick succession, number 2 - 6 finished within 2 minutes! Not sure if its a good or a bad thing I didnt get splits...

The XTERRA Series consists of 8 races, from which your 5 best placings count. I have 2 wins, with my 2 favourite courses coming up. Richmond and Alabama. 2 courses are unknown and 2 will be climbing races.

This Sunday we are racing in steamy Birmingham, Alabama. The run is murderous. Steep hills through the forest- in some places there is no trail, they just mark a course through the trees- straight up and down forested hills. Some of the downhills are so steep, you have to grab on to trees to slow down.

There has also been 21 inches of rain in the last 2 days and apparently the bike course is a mess- or heaven- depending how you like your rocks and roots...

XTERRA Las Vegas

May 18, 2009

After a good performance at Sea Otter, I went into my 1st XTERRA of the season knowing that the form is there. The 09 XTERRA season is heavily loaded with 7 races between may 2 and mid July. Lots and lots of traveling...

The course in Las Vegas was like a moon landscape- loose, dusty rubble with super steep hills and some dry riverbed. Not much single track unfortunately.

Despite the heat the water was cool and we had a wet suit legal swim. Usually I try to hang with the leaders, but I kept up surprisingly comfortably, and after weighing my options I decided to go to the front and push the pace. Even though we were in the lead in the (mens') swim, (a girl lead the swim!) there were great cyclist/runners who needed to be kept at a distance in the swim. Steve Larsen, Brian Smith, Josiah Middaugh and Nico Lebrun.

After a quick transition I had a small lead over Dan Hugo and 3 other guys from our swim group. (I'm quick through transition thanks to my customized Specialized Transition shoes and years on the ITU circuit.)

I felt pretty strong, rode well, would have liked to have known the course better (only had 1 look at it) but I was gapping the riders behind. On top of a climb I dropped the chain and somehow managed to bend it 90deg. It took me a second to figure out what was wrong- I have never seen a chain bend like that- I thought my race was over. Fortunately the bend was in 1 link only and with hope I bent the chain as straight as I could. I thought, "this chain will never hold" and I promised myself to stay in the big blade the whole way. Impossible, of course...

After that I was quite rattled and then saw Josiah coming up from behind. Either he swam amazingly or his riding like a demon. Turned out it was both! I became annoyed because I coudlnt focus and kept braking too much through a long twisty section. The last turn I told myself, "screw it I'm not braking here" Of course my front wheel washed out and I went down in front of the TV camera (www.xterra.tv) and my girlfriend!

Halfway through the 30km bike Josiah caught up and a little later hit me hard on one of the steep climbs. I had to let him go, and as one of the most feared runners, I thought the race was his. I tried to limit my losses, clawing time back on the technical stuff and losing time on the climbs. By the end of the bike I was 1.15 down.

Once my Avia Stoltz's were laced up, I took off into the moon landscape and tackled the very hilly run course determined to stay solid- with the strong winds, steep climbs and bad surface, one could lose a lot of time. I could see Josiah slowly crawling up a near vertical climb. For a while I savored the satisfaction of the comfy ride of the trail racing shoes I personally designed, and next thing noticed the gap was shrinking. I poured on the "powder" a bit more, making sure to stay under the red line, calculating every footstep: continually weighing the shortest route vs good footing.

On the downhills, I let go of the brakes, letting gravity pull my 80kg forward seemingly out of control. I caught up next to Josiah just before the start of the 2nd lap. Considering I just made up 1.15 in 5km I thought pulling away would be pretty easy. But Josiah is tough as nails and obviously savours tooth and nail racing. He picked up the pace, politely elbowed me into the bad lines and sprinted to take the shortest route and aid stations. Real racing!

I picked our battlefield on my terms- 2km from the finish- all either down or flat. I hit him as hard as I could and readied myself for a agonizing 2km drag race. I dared not look behind- a sure sign of fear. After what felt like ages, I couldnt take the suspense anymore and stole a quick peek: He was a small speck far in the distance- compared to what I expected. Phew! I could zip up the jersey, wipe off my face (in case of snot and/or mud) and go down the finish at a civilized pace.

The 1st race of the season is usually a good indicator of the rest of the seasons' racing, so I was happy with a solid race. Behind us the gaps were huge- Dan Hugo, in 3rd, was 5min back, and had 3 minutes on Mike Vine in 4th.

Bike set-up:

Specialized S-Works Epic.

Fork 65psi

Shock 190psi

Tires: Fast Track Prototype #5.

28 psi rear

26psi front

Shoes: Custom Trivent with MTB sole.

The making of a video.

May 11, 2009

This video was made for the “triathlon” part of the i-am-specialized website.

The i-am-specialized website is aimed at being the public’s way of following Specialized riders’ racing and stories online. It is a new site and will mostly aim at internet video content. Internet video is the new TV.

I am honoured to be the 1st triathlete to have a video on the site. Terrenzo and Macca will have videos soon…

The shoot started with swimming. Bobby Behan- our Marketing Manager (and a few other things) used to be a pro triathlete himself, (we lived and trained together in Stellenbosch in 2000) so he knew exactly what needed to go into this movie. He sat in the director chair for 2 days.

Aaron Vogel just realized his dream job by becoming Specialized’s first in-house videographer. He says it wasnt really his dream job- he couldnt dream of a job where he could ride bikes and make movies AND get paid for it!

Anyway, Bobby decided we’ll kick off with swimming. And posing. Lots and lots of posing. I hate posing, but it was one of the many things I learnt about acting that fateful day….

After an interview about training and swimming (to use a voice over video) Aaron, Bobby and myself had lunch and set off to Henry Bear park. A beautiful place in the hills near the Specialized head quarters in Morgan Hill, CA.

Aaron had this huge equipment bag- at least 40lbs- and was trying to climb these really steep hills on an Enduro bike. (ie not a climbing bike!) I remembered seeing a really pretty place on top of the hills and made them ride up there instead of shooting at the bottom of the hills- which is less scenic. Aaron was wearing a full face helmet with a camera mounted - so he was really suffering. So I helped and rode the bag to the top.

Of course we still had to do the run pictures. The light was getting really good, but it was a race against sunset. We still had to shoot 3 locations running and an interview. You’ll notice in the last interview on the video where the light is fading fast. And I look hungry, tired and broken from a full days’ acting. Acting is not glamorous, its definitely hard work and real actors are really gifted. I just rode my bike, swam and ran, (many takes) and mumbled a

few lines. No use scripting those- when I repeated scripted lines it sounded like and old gramophone that got stuck.

Sea Otter Classic

April 22, 2009

Christoph won comfortably. Todd had a flat, I gave him my CO2 and he finished 6th- which allowed him to win the Omnium-(Short Track and XC combined) Great for Todd, Specialized and the 29er. Lene finished 2nd in the XC and won the ladies’ Omnium. A great start for the season. Burry had a head cold from the previous day and saved it for this coming weeks World Cup in Germany.

I had a close sprint finish with Jeremiah Bishop for 7th. A lot of fun. Quite surprised at my results. (16th in short track and 8th in XC)

I was stoked to be “randomly selected” for UCI drug testing. The 180bs triathlete tearing it up at XC? Of course he needs testing!

More stories shortly.

Looking forward to a good XTERRA season.

"Riding with champions", Northern California High School league & Specialized.

April 14, 2009

Northern California has a booming High School racing programme. It is run a by a non profit organization and Specialized enthusiastically pitched in with a huge truckload of demo bikes for the kids to try out, and 3 World Champions on loan. Hence “Riding with the Champions.” Ned Overend, Rebecca Rusch and myself.

The kids could choose between the Specialized Epic, Stumpjumper, Stumpjumper 29er and the Enduro.  The Specialized mechanic set the kids up on bikes, adjusted the suspension for each one, then we had a safety briefing before setting off into the beautiful Paolo Alto Redwood hills. Great riding. Was really cool to see the excited kids, their enthusiasm brings back fond memories of my days a rabid bike geek teenager.

Sani2C Mountain bike race

March 4, 2009

Specialized Factory rider Burry Stander and I was lucky enough to get an entry into the 3 day Sani2C MTB race. (The race has a 3 year waiting list)

Burry used this race as training for the Cape Epic next month, where he will race for nothing but 1st with World Champ Christoph Sauser, before they tackle the UCI World cup series, where Burry finished 5th and Christoph 2nd last year .

I used this race as base training for my upcoming XTERRA triathlon season which kicks off May 1 in Las Vegas. Fresh out of the off season, I lacked the miles but didnt lack the off season weight. (about 5kg of it) A deadly combination considering I was trying to hang onto a little kid they call “Dart”!

Typically the 1st hour or so of a stage (stages were between 75 and 100km) would be open dirt road and it would basically be a road race. Sprinting up the climbs and soft pedalling the rest. Or thats what it felt like for my diesel engine. I saw heart rates I havent seen in 10 years!

Next thing there was a buzz of wheels overlapping and riders went down in front of me. No time to brake I swerved into the steep camber of the side of the road and barely recovered a 2 wheel slide. About 5 riders were down, including Burry, who was holding his “bad knee.” Ben Melt looked really hurt and later had his elbow wired together. (in a hospital) With great effort Burry and I paced back to the lead pack. I had to do all the down hill pacing as he only had a 40×11 top gear. (I had 44×11) As we caught the pack they took off like mad on a long climb and thats where I blew my gasket.

Eventually delicious single track started, and crossing a large dam on floating pallets was great fun too. We came in 7th, and was treated like royalty at the Specialized support tent. They took our haggard, muddy bikes off us and make them brand new again. In fact, any rider on a Specialized bike got the same treatment! Quite a perk considering the abuse bikes take on this kind of racing.

The afternoon was spent watching Off Road to Athens, eating, waiting for a shipment of fresh legs and watching the rain pour down. Oh yes, and eating!

It rained so much that afternoon, I thought the tent was going to float away. I said “I wish I has some Specialized Sauserwinds.” (smooth rolling mud/all round tire) I found it funny that Burry likes slick tires in the mud: “Ek laaik nogal die Specialized Fast Track SLK in die modder” he said. (he likes the Fast Trak SLK in the mud) The SLK stands for Super Low Knob. To me that translates to “Slippery Like Krazy” in mud. Amazingly he makes it work. On dry singletrack I can keep up with him, but when it gets really slippery, he magically slips out of sight.

Stage 2 was 100km with magical single track and life time memory views of the Umkumaas valley. Despite losing about 800m in altitude, there is 3000m of vert gain. The slippery conditions were all fun and games till we hit the bottom part of Nicks Pass, where the mud was just insane. Your tires turned to fat sausages, when you turned you went straight, when you went straight, you turned, and braking actually made you go faster! In fact, it was lot of fun. After that there were about 5 river crossings, about thigh deep, (waist deep for Burry!) where you could submerge your bike and wash off some mud. One guy washed away his Garmin GPS…

At the 50k point there was a 10 minute compulsory stop, supposedly for the heat, but since we started at the ridiculous hour of 5.30am, had been riding in mud and fording raging rivers, we were not hot. Washed bikes, lubed chains (Squirt lube- or White Gold) and filled bottles. (I really got to test the new Gu2O) The Nandos burgers werent even ready yet, but thats a good thing, because the climbing was about to really start and Burry was out the start gate like, well, a dart. On the climbs he made me feel like I was in reverse, but on the flats we rolled nicely, and I had to pull on the open down hills. Supposedly due to my superior gearing and wattage, but I suspect it has something to do with my 25kg superior backside!

The training from Day 1 must have helped, because I felt fitter already! This is one of the the most fun (technical) and scenic stage races you can do. The riding was so idyllic, I lost track of our progress, because, just when I thought we only had 10 minutes to go, the 10km to go sign came up. I was already on the ropes, as I had been out of water for 10km and had burned through the big hand full of Gu Roctane gels I stuffed in my pocket at 3.30 that morning. (or maybe I should have had the Nandos Burger!) The last 10km was mostly uphill and very bumpy/sandy/everything a bonked rider doesnt need. Burry was hovering 50m up the road like a lure, as we were catching a fast fading Team Jeep.

Then the ants started crawling over my scalp. (ie seemingly life threatening bonk/sugar low) I lost all self respect and started yelling “Burry!” “Burry!” This time I wasnt going to ride over to him, he had to wait for me. “You need chain lube?” he asked when I caught up. If I had a few more whits about me, I would have punched him, but instead I said slowly and clearly: “EK-IS-HONGER”. I AM HUNGRY.

He gave me a gel and I emptied his water bottle and then continued to pedal squares all the way to the finish. Team Jeep completely out of sight… We finished 6th.

When I came out of my coma, we talked tires and Burry said something like: “You pedal through the rocks.” He said it like it was a bad thing, but I took it as a compliment. Thats where I win races. The 30km bike leg of XTERRA is a constant, time trail effort, as opposed to the sprints and accelerating of World Cup MTB racing. Thats why the World Cup guys like light, fast tires. They sprint off the start, up the short climbs and into single track. Once on single track, there is no overtaking (much) and you get to freewheel and recover. With XTERRA racing, I run the diesel engine at threshold everywhere on the course. As long as I have pedal clearance and have the rear wheel on the ground I want to be pedalling. Thats why we are developing the more robust casing Specialized Armadillo Elite tires I tested here.(and earlier at Tire testing) With the superiour suspension on my Specialized S-works Epic- why not?

Stage 3 was a bit like a road race, we averaged 30km/h, rode fun floating pallets again, and I do recall mumbling to Burry “if I see another hill, I’m going to cry” but we finally reached the ocean and finished with dirty smiles. After a half hearted wash of bike and me, (not together) I collapsed in the shade. Burry filled his bottles and rode the 70km home. In the rain…

End result 5th. Not bad. Thanks to Farmer Glen and Max from Sani2C. Also Rob, Stuart, Adrian and the rest of the Specialized crew.

My first knobby tire bike...

February 18, 2009

I was a rabid cyclist at the age of 5. It was the year 1979 and it was Christmas.

Santa (my dad minus the Santa costume) wheeled in the most amazing bike I had ever laid eyes upon- in fact, it was a little motorbike. Minus the engine!

It was black with yellow plastics: Mud guards, a number plate, (#1) even a little bottomless petrol tank. The suspension was HUGE. (ok, I was 5) Double coil springs in the rear. It had a long banana seat and a cutting edge back pedal brake. Most important- it had knobbly tires. At last, the “knoppe bande fiets” I had been dreaming about.

Of course the bike was way too big. The frame had some ridiculous guarantee, so my parents bought the bike too big as it “would last forever” and I would “grow into it”.

I remember not really being able to ride it properly for a while. (even though I was a little Greg Minnaar on my little purple 12” tire bike) Soon I had built jumps in the back yard and went “skidding” with the other kids on an open piece of dirt behind George the Greeks Café.

I loved that bike and went everywhere on it. After years of faithful service and many a scuffed knee or elbow it got stolen. (like most bikes in Africa) By then the BMX mania was in full swing, after a respectable mourning period, a birthday became a peek at heaven with a shiny Kamikaze racing BMX with a Cro mo frame, bear trap pedals and a big red racing plate “88”.

My XTERRA start

February 18, 2009

After racing professional road triathlons for 10 years, and really focusing on the Sydney Olympics in 2000, I decided to try XTERRA triathlons for fun, so in 2001 I came over to the US mainly to race road tris. I was completely unprepared for mountain biking. So for XTERRAs I traveled with my helmet, a 2nd hand pair of MTB shoes, old MTB pedals and a pair of yellow Michelin Python tires. The rest of the bike I would borrow at the race venue. Or sometimes a week before. Like this 35lbs Softride beauty with cutting edge suspension....

That year I won the USA Series and most of the XTERRAs I did. Also 6 of my 8 road triathlons. Including the legendary Mrs. Ts Chicago with its record setting 8000 participants.

Back to XTERRA:

Unfortunately (actually, fortunately) Ned Overend was my biggest competition that year. So great was my surprise (and pleasure) when just a weeks before XTERRA World Championships Ned gave me a brand new Specialized M5 dual suspension, a brand new Specialized helmet AND brand new Specialized shoes! It was like Christmas. (By then my old Sidis needed screws to keep the uppers and the lowers together) What he also gave me was a Specialized cycling jersey his wife cut the sleeves from. He shrugged and said I could wear it if I wanted. Of course I wanted! Ned is such a great person, the bike rode like an off road motor bike, I immediately fell in love with the product and the Specialized brand. I won the 2001 World Champs by 10 minutes.

I wore the Specialized jersey proudly.

Like every XTERRA World Championship, the 1hr TV show was aired on CBS on Super bowl Sunday. Right before the game.

Ned guided me through the pitfalls of negotiating a sponsorship contract for 2002. Up till that year, I have never made money from the sport- always living from hand to mouth, sometimes selling some of my cattle my dad keeps on his farm when I had to buy expensive air tickets. I had no idea how much to ask, Ned said "ask for X". That’s exactly what I got. The future was bright and rosy. I was over the moon to be part of the best bike company in the world.

I have been with Specialized since 2001. I have won 3 XTERRA World Championships, 6 XTERRA USA Series titles, and more than 30 individual XTERRAs on Specialized. I raced my Specialized road bike at the Athens Olympics, have won many big road triathlons (ITU and non drafting) from Japan to Chicago. Nicknames that stuck were "Caveman" and "King of XTERRA".

At every XTERRA there is an XTERRA University where I teach "The Art of XTERRA" to amateur athletes. I get dozens of emails on my website from fans asking about tire selections, equipment and bike choices. (I'm known as the dual suspension prophet that down hills like crazy)

Last year a fan admired my Carbon Epic at a race and commented about the unpainted raw carbon frame. I told him "It saves 180g". He said "Well, why didn’t they just leave the Specialized stickers off and save more weight?" I replied "Of course Specialized wants to have its name on my bike" And he said "But that’s unnecessary, EVERYONE knows Conrad Stoltz rides Specialized!"

Stats for Conrad Stoltz are coming soon.