In the last few weeks, it has been very exciting to see athletes from different cycling backgrounds signing up for The Pikes Peak APEX. We recently shared 15 time Cyclo-Cross National Champion Katie Compton will be joining us, its rumored Enduro star Mitch Ropelato will be on the start line and last week it was announced that two-time XTERRA World Champion Bradley Weiss will also be joining us in September!
We sat down with Bradley to learn a bit about his background as an XTERRA athlete and find out why he’s excited be branching out and joining us at The Pikes Peak APEX.
APEX: Bradley, we’re very excited to have you joining us in September for The Pikes Peak APEX. You’re quite an accomplished athlete with several championships to your name; including winning the XTERRA World Championships twice! Congrats on all your success. Tell us a bit about yourself and where you come from.
Bradley: Wow, thanks for the compliment’s guys, I appreciate the welcome!
Yeah, so I actually come from a rugby and team sport background in my school days and only came across the sport of triathlon in my first year of university. I did my first triathlon race at the age of 19, a late start to any endurance sport, so I certainly didn’t expect to achieve all that I have in the sport. I started as an age grouper in non-drafting Olympic Distance on-road racing, but thanks to a couple successful South African XTERRA athletes, I soon found a love for off-road triathlon racing and focused solely on XTERRA racing – where, as you mentioned, managed to win 2 XTERRA World Championship titles, achieving more than I ever set out to achieve that’s for sure! As somewhat of a natural progression, I have since shifted my focus back to on-road triathlon racing with a bigger focus on 70.3 racing and a long-term goal in full distance long-course racing and I’m really excited about the future within the sport of long-course racing.
APEX: We understand you were in Boulder for a training camp and due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, you are not able to currently return to your home in South Africa. What has that been like for you?
Bradley: Yeah, we arrived in Boulder in early March, intending to come for a training camp to prepare for IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside (California) and then move on to Europe for a couple of early season races. But clearly 2020 had different plans for us and along with the rest of the world, there was a series of curveballs thrown at us. Pretty soon after arriving in the USA, COVID became a reality in the States and it didn’t take long before our entire race calendar was postponed and then cancelled. Our home country, South Africa went into a full lock-down with strict orders not to leave your home unless for essential purposes and training (for professional athletes) was not one of them! So, my fiancé and I decided to not be ‘reactive’ and rush home to SA as our set-up in Boulder lent really well to providing a good training environment for me, something that I would not have been able to do with ease if we went back home. Because we decided not to ‘rush’ home, the borders for international travel to SA closed during lockdown and we missed our opportunity to get home before these closures, leaving us with repatriation and mandatory government quarantine as our only option to get home. The effort and expense are not worth it for us, and the truth is that we’ve really enjoyed our time here in the USA. Despite the cancelled race season, I’ve still managed to get in some consistent and valuable training blocks here at altitude and let’s be honest, being ‘stuck’ in Boulder, Colorado is hardly anything to complain about! So, despite bouts of homesickness, we are grateful for the opportunity to be here!
APEX: While pure mountain bike racing and XTERRA racing do have similarities, it’s also an entirely different discipline. Have you done much pure mountain bike racing in your career?
Bradley: Absolutely, pure mountain bike racing is vastly different to multisport off-road racing! Although the mountain bike quality has certainly improved over the years within XTERRA racing, it is still not nearly at the same level that professional mountain bike racing is at!
Luckily back home in SA, home of the ABSA Cape Epic, we are fortunate to have world class mountain biking right on our doorstep, and my hometown,
Stellenbosch, has become known for its incredible mountain biking trails. Thus, we are fortunate enough to have multiple options of mountain bike racing, from 1 day marathon style racing, XCO racing and multi-day stage racing. I actually lived with a professional mountain bike racer for a couple years and he got me involved with the MTB racing scene to up my level of riding for XTERRA, so yes, I have had some exposure to what REAL mountain bike racing is like and the level of riders it brings. I’ve had mediocre success with pure mountain bike racing - there will always be a group of professional riders who are at a higher level than myself, because they are specifically focused on one discipline. I’d like to believe I’ve slowly closed that gap quite considerably, but I still think that there are a couple chinks in my amour when it comes to pure mountain biking. Despite this, I’m still excited for the challenge and to mix it up with some professional riders, who knows, maybe I’ll even surprise myself and hopefully surprise the rest of the field at The APEX with my ability to race on the MTB!
APEX: XTERRA races feature swimming and trail running in addition to mountain biking. Will your preparation for the Pikes Peak APEX look any different than how you might prepare for an XTERRA event?
Bradley: It goes without saying that I am first and foremost a triathlete and that will always be my main focus, so I cannot put the other two disciplines of swimming and running to bed – unfortunately! So, my prep for The Pikes Peak APEX will look very similar to that of an XTERRA build-up. However, it’s not unusual for triathletes to focus in on one disciple from time to time and do ‘one sport specific blocks’, so whether that be swim, bike or run, reducing the volume of training in the other disciplines to really try and maximize the training adaptations to improve in that specific sporting code. So my bike coach, Mike Posthumus, who coaches some world class mountain bikers, and I have come up with a plan to utilize the next 6 weeks the best that we can building up to the Pikes Peak APEX, focusing more on a bike specific block, reducing the volume of running and swimming while increasing the intensity on the riding side.
APEX: What has you the most excited about lining up for the APEX this September?
Bradley: I’ve been coming out to Boulder for training camps since 2012 and I have never made it out to Colorado Springs. I even have good friends who live in Colorado Springs who have tried their best to twist my arm and get me out there and who have told me all about the amazing trails that Colorado Springs have to offer. So, I’m really excited to finally have an opportunity to experience the trails and the mountain biking on the slopes of Pikes Peak! I also think The Pikes Peak APEX came at the perfect time for me, as most professional athletes during this time, I’ve been struggling with motivation to keep training and The APEX lends itself as the perfect opportunity for me to turn over a new leaf and get back into shape building towards a new goal. Simply just having a race on the calendar is so exciting for me, I’ve truly missed racing this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic so honestly, it’s great to just have a goal to focus on and work towards again! I also just received my new Specialized S-Works Epic and I couldn’t be more excited to have an opportunity to put it to the test!
APEX: We couldn’t help but notice you’re riding the all new 2021 RockShox Sid Ultimate SL! Tell us a little bit about this fork. Any setup tips you want to share?
Bradley: Gosh, I only have good things to say! I get multiple questions from people asking me if I can ‘truly’ tell the difference from the previous model (MY2020), and the honest answer is absolutely! I believe this is due to the fact that our friends at RockShox have completely redesigned the MY2020 fork to recreate the MY2021 with new stanchions, steerer and crown, even a new bottom chassis and the damper is more sensitive but has a much firmer lockout than the previous MY. If all the ‘tech talk’ is too much to follow, to simplify, the new MY2021 SID SL fork has been cleverly redesigned to be more functional as an XC race fork, being far more responsive and reliant, having a much stiffer lockout and the best part – the optimized new remodel has saved a bunch of weight making it the lightest modern 29er XC fork currently on the market! As a Specialized rider, we are lucky that RockShox have added the awesome brain technology taking much of the decision making process out of the hands of the rider and allowing me to focus on the race at hand knowing my suspension is always functioning at its optimal performance level regardless of the terrain we are racing on.
APEX: The APEX has a little bit of everything in terms of difficulty and different courses will suit different riders. Day 1 is a relatively short stage in one of our city Parks, but is arguably the most technical day. Day 2 features a lot of gravel sandwiched with an amazing singletrack loop around Rampart Reservoir. Day 3 features a long climb followed by a long challenging descent back into town. Of all these stages, which one do you think will suit you best?
Bradley: Definitely day 3, if I can make it there with fresh enough legs to utilize my climbing potential ;)
It’s no secret that my strength as an athlete is climbing – the more climbing in a course, the better for me! My recent focus on 70.3 on-road triathlon racing has sadly taken me off the trails, so my technical skills may be lacking!
APEX: What’s next for you?
Bradley: Good question!... Does anyone know the answer to this in 2020?...
I’ve tried my best to stay focused and plan for the long term but not get too caught up with the lack of smaller goals (races) in 2020 as most seem to be cancelled as we get nearer to the race! However, with that being said, the Professional Triathletes Organization currently have their first World Championship Race scheduled for December 6th I Daytona, Florida. If all goes according to plan, this will be my next big goal to end off 2020, and then we can only hope for a smoother 2021, right?
APEX: Thank you Bradley, we look forward to having you on the start line of the Pikes Peak APEX! See you in September!
Bradley: Looking forward to racing and seeing what the trails of Colorado Springs has to offer!