South Africans take XTERRA Réunion by storm

Start of the swim at XTERRA Réunion with South Africa’s Adriaan Myburgh, Aidan Nugent and Vicky Van Der Merwe. Photo: Michka Photography

You’re probably hearing about XTERRA quite a bit this year, especially with the way South African athletes are putting our name on the map.

Not too sure what XTERRA is exactly? Let’s start from the top. Imagine a race created for both the triathlete and adventurer. While a 1.5km swim, 30km mountain bike and 10km trail run may sound like a relatively tame distance, that’s not so much the case.

XTERRA is intent on their purpose to “give endurance athletes around the world a chance to race in some of the most diverse, spectacular, and challenging natural environments on the planet – from tropical jungles to snow-covered alps.”

And now for the low-down on some recent XTERRA action:

XTERRA Réunion Réunion 2017 swimming triathlon triathletes

The crystal waters of Saline les Bains (Trou d’eau) lagoon, filled with so many fish and coral that triathletes described it like “swimming in an aquarium.” Photo: Michka Photography

XTERRA Réunion Island

Réunion Island is a little bit of France in the Indian Ocean, and is known for its volcanoes, rainforests, coral reefs and beaches. On Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017, the XTERRA event showcased some of the young bloods from the South African triathlon scene.

More than 500 participants took part in the weekend event, of which 11 were pro athletes (six of them South African). There was a lot at stake for competitors as the race provided an opportunity to qualify for the XTERRA World Championship, which takes place in Maui, Hawaii, in October this year.

Ruben Ruzafa from Spain and Carina Wasle of Austria successfully defended their XTERRA Reunion 2016 titles, but South Africans were hot on their heels! Bradley Weiss finished third in the men’s event, Nico Sterk fourth, Aidan Nugent seventh and Darryn Purtell eighth.

Vicky Van Der Merwe was the only South African pro woman competing. She came second in the women’s event despite a really nasty fall on her bike that left her with a fractured wrist. This forced her to run the final 5km of the cycle route on mental strength and pure adrenalin!

XTERRA Réunion Réunion 2017 Vicky Van Der Merwe swimming triathlon triathletes

Vicky Van Der Merwe on the cycle leg of the race before her fall. Photo: Michka Photography

Tackling the rugged terrain

The course included two 750m loops in the crystal waters of Saline les Bains (Trou d’eau) lagoon;  a mountain bike route combining single track, and a highly technical section that finished down the famous Ravine Tabac, and a challenging run with boulders, waist-deep river crossings, forest sections, a volcano climb, a run along the beach to the finish line.

XTERRA Réunion Réunion 2017 Adriaan Myburgh trail running triathlon triathletes

Adriaan Myburgh felt the burning on his arm during the run and told Go Multi that he thought to himself, “Adriaan, jy moet nou hardloop want jy’s besig om te braai!” Photo: Michka Photography

Spain’s Ruben Ruzafa had the winning time of 2:18:50, which was four minutes in front of South Africa’s Bradley Weiss, who won XTERRA Réunion in 2015.

Not to be forgotten amongst the male competitors is Adriaan Myburgh. At 19-years old he had moved up from competing in junior duathlons last year, and decided to compete in the 20-24 year old category.

You might be wondering about these battered photos of him during the race. He came off with a nasty fall at the end of the mountain bike course after slipping out around a concrete road corner at about 40km/h!

This is what comes with the rugged terrain of XTERRA. Adriaan knew there was no time for mid-race tears: “Easily the hardest fall I’ve ever had. While I was sliding on my right-hand side over the concrete had time to say a quick prayer for my collar bone to not break. Being terribly bruised and bleeding, I just encouraged myself to run faster so that my legs would burn more than the road rashes!”

Other exciting XTERRA news

XTERRA Réunion Réunion 2017 Nico Sterk trail running triathlon triathletes

Nico Sterk (who is also the coach of Adriaan Mybrugh) as he tackles the rugged terrain on the run. Photo: Mickha Photography

Bradley Weiss brought the XTERRA Philippines Championship title home on Sunday, 23 April. He described the race as the “longest XTERRA he has ever remembered doing.”

This might be thanks to extremely hot and humid conditions he had to endure.

He’s also signed up for XTERRA Malaysia which kicks off from 28-30 April.

“I really enjoy XTERRA because of the outdoor appeal and vast array of skills required to win a race,” he said.

With his sights sets on a world championship  title he added, “While I plan to focus on a few European based XTERRA races, the main goal is preparing for XTERRA World Champs in Maui, Hawaii.”

XTERRA Réunion report by Sarah Kingdom – Mountaineer, mountain guide, trail runner, yoga teacher, travel writer, and mother of two, Sarah grew up in Sydney, Australia. Travelling through Africa at the age of 21, she somehow got sidetracked and now lives on a cattle ranch in the middle of Zambia.

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