By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Hayley Smith seemingly came out of nowhere to win the Cordwalles Mudman women’s race at Midmar Dam on Sunday.
Smith travelled to Orient Park to support her cousin Darryn Purtell, who she will be teaming up with in the joBerg2c in April, but decided at the last minute to use the off-road multi-sport event as training.
Known for her mountain biking prowess, the Uvongo athlete faced a fresh challenge in her triathlon debut, which consisted of a 700-metre open water swim, a 20-kilometre cycle and a five-kilometre trail run.
An arduous swim proved to be a baptism of fire for Smith, however, she shook it off and blitzed the field in the mountain biking leg to make up the time she had lost in the water.
The race-ending run was a test of character for the greenhorn and she rose to the occasion to trump defending champion Sarah Gray and win her triathlon debut.
The result surprised many, but no-one was more surprised than Smith herself.
“I’m very happy with my win. It is certainly a surprise as I don’t swim very well,” she told eHowzit.
“Triathlons are pretty tough and because swimming is not my strong point, I had to work really hard on the mountain bike leg and the run to get my win.
“The swim was definitely the hardest as I did not do any training for it and decided to just wing things and hope for the best.
“I loved the mountain bike event and did not mind the run because running is part of my training.
“I really enjoyed the race; it was a well organised event and well attended, hats off to the organisers.”
Smith said Purtell, who placed second in the men’s race, gave her eleventh-hour advice that played a key role in her win.
“Darryn was a great help to me. There were a few rules that I had to remember, so Darryn’s advice was most valuable.”
The Bell Equipment athlete added she’d be up for more triathlons but noted she’d need better preparation.
“I would like to participate in a few more of these events during the year and see how it goes, but for now, it was a fun event for me.
“I need to work on my swimming skills if I want to do more of these races.”
Making her debut victory even more impressive is the fact that Smith competed in the second round of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Cross-Country Mountain Biking Series at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg the previous day.
Having missed the series opener, the two-time defending Under-23 champion continued where she left off last year and reminded the rest of the division why she’s at the top of the heap with a dominant win.
“I am happy with my result as my last cross-country event was the SA Champs last July. Cross-country always tests the fitness, skills and nerves to the utmost.
“I would really like to keep my Under-23 title, so I will race my best this year.”
Purtell also participated in Saturday’s provincial event, as did fellow South Coast mountain bikers Megan Bircher, Nicholas de Bruin and Cale Lindecke.
Purtell placed eight in the elite men’s race, Bircher won the sub junior girls race, De Bruin won the sprog boys division and Lindecke landed third place in the sub junior boys division.
Photos by Andrew Mc Fadden/BOOGS Photography