South African mountain bike marathon champion, Robyn de Groot and Sweden’s national marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag, combined forces as team Biogen Toyota Cape Brewing Company and dominated the Isuzu Trucks PE-Plett stage race that ended on Tuesday.
The pair won the women’s division in all four stages and the overall title. But while the results show they were dominant, it wasn’t an event that they were able to take lightly.
The PE-Plett took place over four days, taking riders almost 400km from Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. There were more than 7000 meters of vertical ascent during the event that proved to be a true test of endurance, power, skill and equipment.
“Jennie and I are riding next month’s Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek as a team and we wanted to use PE-Plett as a test for that. And boy what a test it was!” said De Groot.
“None of the stages were easy. In fact each was tough in its own way. The terrain was unpredictable and constantly changing. The event’s pay-off line is “The Tough One” and it certainly lived up to that,” said De Groot.
After winning the 125km Stage 1 on Saturday with an impressive fifth overall, Stage 2, a 91km haul was the pair’s biggest challenge. Stenerhag was suffering from a stomach bug, which saw her struggle to maintain the team’s regular race pace. But she managed to reach the finish with the team still claiming a strong sixth overall.
Stage 3, a 73km leg from Hankey to Woodridge included over 2000 meters of ascent, largely through the Longmore Forest. Stenerhag was almost fully recovered from her stomach trouble and the pair were able to increase their lead with another fifth-place finish in the overall placings.
The final stage from Woodridge to Port Elizabeth on Tuesday was only 68km, but it offered the greatest variety of terrain, gradient and trail type of any of the stages. Many riders found the last 15km through the Baakens Valley’s steep, shale-surfaced single-track to be one of the toughest segments of the event. De Groot and Stenerhag held a solid lead at that stage and decided to be somewhat cautious.
Their strategy paid off and they finished a remarkable fourth overall on the day without any incidents.
“We were fortunate not to have any mechanicals as the route claimed a few unfortunate victims over the four days. We made it through that stage quite well and that will stand us in good stead for the Cape Pioneer Trek,” said De Groot.