New Off-Road Triathlon At Buffelspoort Shows What’s Possible

by | Sep 27, 2022 | TRIATHLON

The first ever Woolworths X TRI Powered by Imperial (off-road triathlon) outside of the Western Cape provided a great day out at Buffelspoort for all competitors and is poised to grow into a huge event.

The famed Woolworths X TRI Powered by Imperial made its inland debut on Sunday 25 September at Buffelspoort. After more than a decade as an annual event in the Western Cape to raise funds for the Woolworths Trust, this festival of fitness and fun has gone national in 2022. The aim of the X TRI is to not only enable access to these types of events to more people in the country, but also to provide something that has fallen off the calendar in recent years — an off-road mass participation swim, bike, run (and walk) platform for athletes of all fitness and skill levels.

South African Off Road Triathlon In Gauteng At Buffelspoort Swimmers Get Ready
Swimmers at the Buffelspoort triathlon get ready to take on the 1000m course of the Full X TRI. Racing favourites Nico Sterk and Jaryd Browne chat before the start of the action.

The inaugural Buffelspoort event ticked all the necessary boxes and offered an exceptional day out for everyone. The X TRI LITE (comprising of a 400m Open Water Swim, 12Km Jeep Track Mountain Bike and 5 km off-road run) provided the ideal stepping stone for those weekend warriors taking their first strokes (and strides in triathlon), while the 5km RUN FOR FUN and the 3km WALK FOR GOOD saw families spend some special time together being active in the outdoors. The race village on the banks of the beautiful Buffelspoort was well stocked and comfortable with athletes and spectators alike enjoying everything from much-loved Woolworths coffee to fare from local vendors.

The main feature of the day (and the event which attracted the most entrants) however, was the X TRI Full. With the dry and hot conditions, the 1000m Open Water Swim, 27Km Mountain Bike and 12Km Trail Run proved tough and technical, but the enthusiasm of the athletes, the level of racing and the praise for the venue and course proved that there is a big need for off-road multi-sport events such as this and that the Woolworths X TRI Powered by Imperial will go from strength to strength in the future.

South African Off Road Triathlon In Gauteng At Buffelspoort Cyclist Climbs A Hill
The bike leg of the Buffelspoort off-road triathlon had riders working hard for elevation. The reward: an exquisite view of the dam and surrounds!

The men’s event was won by Nico Sterk who used his knowledge of the area to pace himself perfectly through the three disciplines. “I started kind of well within myself,” he said, explaining how he knew that there was a really steep climb to contend with early on the bike course. “I didn’t want to swim on my limit, because I knew that the moment we hit that climb I was going to need the proverbial extra gear,” he said, explaining how he swam with Sylvia Van Tromp (who would go on to convincingly win the women’s race).

“She is a very good swimmer, the moment I was with her I knew I was on a good pace. Then out of the transition, I was second and then caught the leader up that big climb.” From there Sterk led to the next transition and pushed hard through the run to take the win.

“The event was really good value for money and very well organized — everything from the registration to the goodie bags and the course layout –– I really enjoyed it,” he said, adding how much he loves swimming at Buffelspoort. (The water in the dam had been tested the day before and had a zero E-coli count).

“The bike course was tough but that is what you expect at Buffelspoort. The run leg was hot but going down next to the dam wall is scenic and under the canopy of trees is awesome. There were a few challenging climbs on the run but we were rewarded with well-stocked water points –– I think there were around five (one every two or three kays) which was super refreshing to see on the day. The race village was well stocked and well supported by the local community as well as the sponsors. All in all, it was a fantastic day out and I can see it growing into a big race in the future.”

South African Off Road Triathlon In Gauteng At Buffelspoort Trail Runner In The Trees
The shade of Buffelspoort’s trees offered reprieve for sections of the 12km trail run on the full triathlon. Johandri Leicester on her way to finishing strong behind winner Sylvia van Tromp

“The race village was well thought out with lots to do for spectators and a special entertainment area for the little ones,” women’s winner Sylvia Van Tromp said afterwards.

“The clean, clear water of the dam made for a magnificent start to a great event. The bike leg started with a few very steep and technical climbs followed by fast, technical descents. The area is renowned for its loose rocks. The rest of the route took us through flat orchards and a few more bumps.”

According to Van Tromp, part of the fun for her was to go as fast as she could while conserving as much as she knew she needed for the run.

“One cannot help but count one’s blessings as you run on the trails through farms, orchards and along the dam,” she concluded.

The next Woolworths X TRI Powered by Imperial event in the series takes place at Karkloof in KwaZulu-Natal on 30 October, with Paul Cluver in the Western Cape scheduled for 4 December.

South African Off Road Triathlon In Gauteng At Buffelspoort Winners Podium
The Full X TRI winners podium from left: Scott Fisher (3rd man); Sylvia van Tromp (1st lady); Nico Sterk (1st man); Johandri Leicester (2nd lady); Sean Henderson (2nd man).

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