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Catching Up With Conrad Stolz

Conrad StoltzThere aren’t many sports that South African Conrad Stoltz hasn’t tried — and even fewer at which he hasn’t succeeded. A BMX and motocross racer, runner and rugby player as a kid, Stoltz went on to become a world-ranked triathlete, finishing 20th at the sport’s debut in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It wasn’t until he began racing in the U.S. that he found his true niche — off-road triathlon. Stoltz will be aiming for his third straight Xterra World Championship crown in Maui this October. For the past three years, the 29-year-old has been “commuting” between South Africa (where he recently sold some cattle to buy a house) and Colorado Springs, where he trains with South African coach Libby Burrell (now with the U.S. national triathlon team).

ASM: What’s your biggest goal at the moment?
CS: “Winning my third Xterra world title in three years, and qualifying for the Athens Olympics in 2004.”

ASM: How do you manage the dual lifestyle between the U.S. and South Africa?
CS: “On one side it is a great privilege to be able to have the best of both worlds. Summer all year-round, friends from many different cultures, a very exciting life, and differences like the extreme luxury in the U.S. contrasted to the basic lifestyle you can get in South Africa. The flip side is the near impossibility to secure good sponsorship, and the economic hardships we have, where everything in the U.S. costs about 10 times more than in South Africa.”

ASM: After years of struggling, do you feel like you’ve finally established yourself?
CS: “My first year in the U.S. (2000) was very tough, as I borrowed money from my family to be able to race in the States. Fortunately I did well right away, winning some prize money, which enabled me to return for 2001, where I had a truly great season. By the beginning of 2002, with the help of my agent (Scott Fairchild), I signed long-term contracts with great sponsors. After many years of riding second-hand bikes and sleeping at train stations in my bike bag, I feel like royalty every time a fancy new bike or shoes arrive at my door. After 15 years of struggling it is like icing on the cake.”

ASM: Any plans to pursue other avenues of multi-sport, such as Ironmans or adventure racing?
CS: “I have dabbled a little in adventure racing in South Africa. But as long as Xterra is my first priority, I won’t do any long-distance adventure races during racing season and the crucial training months of January to May. As for Ironman, it is really tough for the pros. You can only do two or three good Ironmans a year — in an eight-hour race, the chances of something going wrong are great. One day when I slow down — and I will — I’ll do an Ironman.”

ASM: What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in a race?
CS: “I recently forgot my racing briefs and borrowed my friend’s suit at the last minute. His last name was printed on the back, and people were wondering, “Where is Stoltz — and who is Mackie?”

ASM: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you about racing?
CS: From my coach, Libby Burrell: “Get the basics right, and the rest is a little fine-tuning.”

— Jill Redding

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