weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Tough course awaits triathletes

Kids ride bicycles, love to swim and run for no apparent reason.

Conrad Stoltz did, too, but he took it to extremes. And still does.

On Sunday, the South African will attempt to defend his title in the XTERRA West Championship off-road triathlon at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson.

Stoltz, a two-time Olympian for his homeland in traditional triathlons, will be challenged by 30 other professionals when the event begins at 8:30 a.m. About 400 amateur competitors also will compete in the triathlon or various off-road running and cycling races Sunday.

If competing in an Olympic triathlon — 1.5-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride, 6.2-mile run — isn’t challenging enough, try adding hills, rocks and rutted desert paths.

Unpaved triathlons begin with a 1-mile swim before contestants face a 20-mile mountain bike ride and a concluding
6-mile trail run.

“This is a pretty tough course with all the hills for the run,” said Stoltz, who has lived in Reno six months a year since 2007. “It’s one of our tougher courses.”

Stoltz, 26, began racing bicycle motocross at age 7, competed in his first biathlon at 13 and added cycling to his repertoire a year later when he entered his first triathlon.

He became a professional triathlete and bike road racer in 1992, but limited funding forced him to often sleep in train stations and, for a time, in a friend’s basement while racing on European circuits.

In 2000 in Sydney, Australia, Stoltz led much of the Olympic triathlon before finishing 20th.

But funding wasn’t adequate outside of an Olympic year.

That changed for him in 2001 when Stoltz was visiting the United States and entered his first XTERRA event for fun. He won the race and then the first of seven pro series season championships, including the last three. Along with the success came prize money and sponsorship endorsements.

Stoltz qualified to represent South Africa in the 2004 Olympics, where he failed to finish after his bicycle broke.

The 6-foot-3-inch athlete prefers the challenges of off-road racing — and not just for monetary gain.

“XTERRA has a lot more technical aspects to it than (regular) triathlons and you need more skills than on-road races,” he said. “Our (race) distances are shorter, but because of the technical aspects the races are slower and more strength-oriented.”

This is the 15th season for XTERRA, which this year will stage 100 events in 15 countries, including 67 on its America Tour. Stoltz plans to enter 12.

“It’s in my blood,” he said of the sport to which he also has given plenty of his blood.

Stoltz crashed in a 2006 race and broke his back and wrist in seven places. He suffered a deep cut minutes before starting his swim last year in Richmond, Va., but finished fourth in the swim and won the event title. The wound required two surgeries over the next two weeks.

There have been too many cuts, bruises and road rashes for him to remember, he said.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Sports on TV in Las Vegas

Here’s today’s local and national sports schedule, including television and radio listings.