Basson Engelbrecht against the rest of the world. This is what Saturday’s African Triathlon Cup race at the Troutbeck Resort in Zimbabwe will probably boil down to. As far as Engelbrecht knows he might be the only South African competing in the men’s pro-elite race. To top it all he is a man on a mission.
Last year his mate, Wian Sullwald, won the race and Engelbrecht feels obliged to do defend Sullwald’s title. It will be a case of keeping the title in the ‘HPC family’. However, Engelbrecht fully realizes that he will have his work cut out if he wants to win. He says: ‘Apparently triathletes from 14 countries will be in action. I guess it is because everybody is trying to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio. The event is considered as an easy race to obtain a few international ranking points, but now it seems as if things might not be so easy after all. I think it might even be a full-on war. The Troutbeck course will not make things any easier for the participants because it is one of the toughest I have ever competed on. Two years ago during the African Championships it was so tough that I felt as if I was even swimming ‘uphill.’
In January Engelbrecht proved that he is in good form when he finished second in the FedHealth Xterra’s 1.5km swim, 26km mountain bike leg and 12km run held at Buffelspoort. According to Engelbrecht, running was his weakness last year. He therefore worked hard during his base training in December to become a stronger runner.
Engelbrecht says: ‘Saturday’s race will be a good indicator of whether my training is on track. It will be an opportunity to take stock of where I am and what I need to do to improve.’ The Tuks/HPC triathlete hopes that he will be able to compete at the World Triathlon Series Event in Abu Dhabi (4- 5 March). The current South African champion says: ‘I am quite high up on the waiting list, so hopefully enough athletes will withdraw so that I will get my chance. It will be great if I can compete because I think all top triathletes will be there. I can really learn a lot from them before as well as during the race. If I don’t qualify to compete in Abu Dhabi my next focus will be the African and South African Championships in East London. I am planning to race as often as I possibly can during the early part of the season in an effort to improve my international rankings. My main goal will be to podium in the under-23 race at the World Championships. I will also target one of the World Cup races for a possible victory.’
Lindsey Parry (Tuks/HPC), who coaches Engelbrecht, reckons he is capable of achieving both goals.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott