Despite the South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships taking place in Paarl this coming Saturday (1 May) being her first marathon race of the season, six-time South African marathon champion and team dormakaba cyclist Robyn de Groot is hugely motivated to add to her impressive collection of titles.
“With last year’s event cancelled due to the pandemic and very few events so far in this season, preparations for the SA champs have been quite different. I have worked closely with my coach who has been a great guide in dealing with the lack of racing and I have been fully committed to being in good shape when the racing season opens,” she says.
Even though she lost her national title in 2019 while recovering from surgery, it has made her only hungrier to perform at both local and international levels. De Groot admits this was a huge motivation for her to secure a bronze medal at the World Championships in Switzerland in that same year.
“I will most certainly race my heart out for the title in Paarl. It would be an honour to be able to race with the national flag on my chest again. But with so little racing so far this year, we all need to expect the unexpected,” she says.
She admits that because all the competitors have had so little racing, their form, strength, and fitness levels are completely unknown factors. For her, it is about respecting all the racers and treating this as the first event of the season while still expecting the best from each person who will compete for the national title.
“I believe it is a gruelling course in Paarl this year. The trail builders and locals have worked extremely hard on the trails and route. Having said that, it is an extremely good course for a national title that will test the mountain bikers in so many ways. It has everything you want in a proper marathon course.”
She says that the lockdown has seen many strengths emerge she did not know she had.
“It is not always easy to let go of things and realise you can only really focus on the things you have control over. I have learnt to do this really well and to recognise moments of stress and uncertainty too. The pandemic has taught me to become far more adaptable and accepting and has certainly improved my resilience.”
She says that this has certainly been an interesting journey.
“Having no events and races have been the toughest to deal with as an athlete. I would like to thank my sponsors and partners who have stood by me and supported me. Also, my coach (Barry Austin), family, and friends who have been pillars of support during these tough times.”