Multi-talented, multi-discipline athlete Stuart Marais aims to defend his XTERRA title this Sunday in Grabouw. Tipped as race favourite to win the calendar’s biggest off-road triathlon, Stuart visited our showroom in Cape Town to collect his weapon of choice – the SwiftCarbon Evil Twin. We had a chance to chat to him about the upcoming race, and his season.
How has your season been so far? The highs and lows?
The season started off with a bang. I battled to find form early on in January and feel like I just managed to scrape enough together to hold my own in East London 70.3 and XTERRA PE. Both these races I am content with early season form and obviously I hope to build on a solid foundation.
My 4th place in 70.3 SA was a decent result and credit to the 3 SA guys ahead of me who managed to hold off a really strong European contingent.
How are the bikes working out? What’s the main thing you notice about the Uvox / NGen / DVore / ETwin?
I love my Neurogen. It feels so comfy and smooth. The geometry means I have a lot of different setups and adjustability options.
My DVore has also been a treat. From really technical mountain bike racing (W2W) and smoother less technical (XTERRA PE) the bike is awesome. She is light and a super ride.
Describe how the bikes help you in racing.
It isn’t always about the bike, but it plays a major role. It’s hard to say how much, but with the compliance of the frames, and of course the lightness and stiffness, has to help – where they helped me to many a podium and championship wins!
Now you have a transition – from 70.3 to off road, how hard is that – to change disciplines? What skills do you transfer and what is mutually exclusive?
Both sports require their own set of unique skills. Fortunately I am a pretty versatile triathlete and am able to perform well in both.
The biggest difference in 70.3 to XTERRA is the variation in power and HR numbers. MTB causes continuous spikes while 70.3, although harder in many ways, has a much greater consistency in effort from start to finish. Being able to recover from an Ironman and adjust to this is quite a challenge.
Any specific training for off road – in the last couple weeks?
No, I have spent very little time on my MTB in the last few weeks as 70.3 is my primary goal again as I head into 2016.
I will however spend some time in Grabouw, becoming familiar with some of the more tricky sections. Hopefully this will be enough come next weekend! 🙂
Name your rivals in XTERRA?
Bradley Weiss is a super competitor. We spend plenty of time training together and is a really good mate of mine. He is possibly one of the toughest competitors I have raced. Theo Blignaut is also solid across the board and will definitely make a hit for the podium as too will Antoine van Heerden, who has been training really consistently over the last couple of months. Then there is a big European contingent and a couple of strong SA road triathletes who will always be strong on race day. All in all, it should be a spectacular event.
Your race bike: Evil Twin
Fork: RockSHox RS-1
Spec: SRAM XX1 – I love the 1×11 set up
Saddle: fizik Tundra
Tyre pressure: Racing Ralph 1.7 bar
Which way do you have the brakes? Right for back
What spares do you carry? Plugs and bombs
What’s the course like? How will the ETwin suit it?
This race has never been won on a hard tail and I am not sure it ever will be. The surface is very rocky and loose and a dual suspension will be very smooth over the tougher sections and give better traction than a hardtail. The course has a bit of everything: rocks, sand, steep climbs, long drags… The ETwin is very adaptable and will definitely perform well under these conditions. I have raced on a lot of courses and this is super tough. I have been told it was developed in the region for these rugged conditions. Doing well here means it can do well on any terrain.
Number 1 aim is to defend my title. Feeling confident!
Season going forward – ambitions?
I race 70.3 Taiwan 3 weeks after XTERRA. Then I will defend my title at 70.3 Durban and 70.3 Italy in June.
From this point there are no plans as of yet.