Johannesburg - Olympic triathlete Richard Murray surprised himself when he won his first Xterra South African Championships in Grabouw on Sunday.
Murray won the 1.5 kilometre swim, 27km mountain bike and 11km trail run in two hours, 23 minutes and two seconds (2:23.02), with Dan Hugo and Nico Pfitzenmaier joining him on the podium.
"Today is a special day: my first South African title," Murray said.
"I was planning to do my little jump of happiness at the finish line, but the girl was holding the banner really tight and I couldn’t."
Murray said it was only in the final metres that he finally believed he would win.
"I tend to be a prophet of doom. In sport anything can happen.
"I was chasing the four-time world champion Conrad Stoltz on the downhills.
"I realised that I needed to go at my own pace, because crashing won’t only mean the end of my title contention, but it also might have ruined my season."
He was the first individual out of the water and onto his mountain bike.
"Conrad only passed me in the last 17km or so.
"I really thought he would have opened a gap of five minutes on me by then."
He passed Stoltz again with four kilometres to go on the trail run.
"I was cramping really bad by then, but I just put my head down and kept going."
This was Murray’s biggest victory on South African soil.
"I think that in Xterra it is the strongest athlete that wins," said Murray, who finished 17th in the triathlon at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
"It is fun and risky and I really wanted to be part of it.
"This mountain bike course is one of the most challenging in the world, adding the class of the field of competitors, this is one of the most challenging events in the world."
Murray leaves for the United States on Tuesday for the Pan American Sprint Cup.