Exactly one year after her first foray into mountain biking, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) returned to her maiden three-day stage race, the Bridgestone Route 66 in Gauteng this past weekend – and won it convincingly.
But victory in the Route 66 women’s Solo category wasn’t De Groot’s primary focus. With a full sponsorship behind her now, following a self-funded 2013 season, she’s out to make 2014 an even greater success.
Last year De Groot found her way into mountain biking as way to stay fit after having retired from road racing following the 2012 London Olympics, where she competed in the road race. She missed riding, but was keen to put her road-racing chapter behind her and soon discovered an affection for mountain bike racing.
The 31-year-old Johannesburg resident ended the year winning, among others, the South African marathon and the MTN National Marathon Series titles. Biogen, Toyota, Cycle Lab and Trek decided those actions spoke volumes for the humble De Groot and arranged to have their logos replace the large ‘To Let’ sign on her 2013 race jersey…
She works full time (but with flexi-time arrangement) as a biokinecist and is intent on doing her best to retain two of the most prestigious titles in South African mountain bike racing this year.
“I was actually trying to go for a top 10 finish overall,” said De Groot. “Although it attracted quite a big entry, the depth among the women’s field was limited and so I needed to set myself a goal that would push me hard. I have some big races coming up in the next few weeks and so I wanted to race with some pressure at the Route 66,” explained De Groot.
De Groot eventually finished ninth overall (teams and solo combined) and third among the solo category racers (men and women).
“It was good preparation for this weekend’s MTN Sabie, which is a Marathon World Cup event and one of the toughest marathon races around,” said De Groot. There will be a very strong women’s field there and no place to hide, which is why I pushed as hard as possible at this weekend’s event, which includes some very rough terrain.”
For De Groot, an overall improvement in her time (6 minutes in total 20 minutes just on Day 1) at the same event last year, as well as having to dismount and push her bike a lot less, was encouraging.
“I’m still improving my technical skills, but I’m getting there. This is by far one of the most technical stage races I’ve done. There are no manicured routes, which makes it very challenging, but rewarding. The Route 66 is a great Cape Epic preparation event and I think it could have a big future as Gauteng’s premier three-day stage race,” added De Groot.