An exclusive interview with Xterra Danao champion Bradley Weiss reveals that speed is pretty much irrelevant in off-road triathlon
Photo by Anthony Yu courtesy of Sunrise Events Inc.
On Apr. 23, 2017, South African off-road triathlete Bradley Weiss defeated a competitive field—and the scorching heat—to win Xterra Danao, his third win in the Philippines. It’s an achievement that marks how he’s relatively comfortable on Philippine soil.
While Weiss’ win was impressive, it’s how he did it that made it even more inspirational—fending off Sam Osborne and Ben Allen, a slow swim start, and a couple of errors that nearly cost him the title.
“Starting the second lap, I just put the hammer down because I know how much of a strong runner Sam is so I just went for it and gain as much gap as I could get,” he said in an interview with Inquirer.net.
As it turns out, sometimes staring down the barrel of one of the hottest races ever can be good because you end up finding ways to fight the fatigue. In this exclusive interview, we talk to Weiss about how to focus in an off-road race, which part of the race he loves, and why speed isn’t everything.
Did you feel any pressure to do well at Xterra Danao considering you previously won Xterra Albay?
Due to the restructuring of the points series I will not be in contention for the overall Asia Pacific Series because I will not have done enough races to collect points. My goals have therefore shifted and my aim this year is to prepare correctly and make sure I am in the best possible shape for each and every race. There is always a little pressure leading into every world tour event but I did not feel too much pressure and was quietly confident in my form.
How do you stay focused and motivated in a race like Xterra Danao?
The race in the Philippines this year was very long so it required a slightly different mental approach. A usual Xterra winning time is roughy 2:20 but I won this year’s event in 3:15, which is nearly a full hour longer. Most of the field and I to be honest started pretty conservatively and built throughout the race. I just made sure I was never digging too deep and stayed focused on the job at hand. A longer race generally suits me very well so I was happy to be out there a little longer than normal.
Is there a specific part of the Danao course that you love?
My favorite part of the course was definitely the longer bike route and the steep climb. Being a smaller athlete, this type of course is well suited to my strengths.
What’s the appeal for you of racing in the Philippines?
The Philippines is definitely one of my favorite race destinations. The local community, regardless of where we race, always supports the event and embrace having a race sometimes passing through their backyards. We are treated like celebrities, which is a pretty cool experience as this is not the case elsewhere in the world. I always love returning to the Philippines and it was special having the opportunity to explore somewhere new this year.
Compared to road triathlons, what other important factors should newbies consider when racing off-road?
Racing an off-road triathlon is almost a completely different sport to road triathlon. The swim is roughly the same format but from there it changes completely. There is a very big focus on the MTB leg so a good tip is to change your training slightly and have a program more heavily weighted on the cycling discipline.
The aim should be gaining strength either through gym work or hill intervals on the bike. The run is also not a pure speed test but will always have plenty of challenging technical sections and lots of climbing so it’s important to do a few of your training runs in the mountains to get your body accustomed to running off-road. But mostly just embrace being outdoors and off the beaten track and enjoy the experience of a new adventure.
How would you compare the Danao course to the races you’ve competed in abroad?
The race in Danao definitely ranks as one of the most challenging races I have ever competed in. The climate was brutally hot touching 40 degrees Celsius and the race course was extremely long with an estimated winning time of 3:30, more than an hour longer than traditional Xterra races. Add to this the impossibly steep climbs and treacherously loose descent and you have an incredibly challenging race course. Everyone who made it to that finishing line is a champion in my books.
What’s the biggest takeaway of competing at Xterra Danao?
The biggest takeaway for me is witnessing the athletes embracing this challenge and taking it head on. It would have been easy for many to either opt out or downgrade themselves to the shorter course event but most people stood up to the challenge and came out victorious. It was very special to witness firsthand.