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Olympian De Groot swops road for dirt and strikes gold
- Updated: June 6, 2013
Even in the modern era, fairy tales still come true and the achievements of Robyn de Groot as a mountain biker are enough to convince any unbeliever.
ÔÇ¿Within the space of just six months, the former Olympic road cyclist has managed to reinvent herself to become, from being a ‘wannabe’ mountain biker to being crowned South Africa’s women marathon champion.
As a road cyclist, De Groot was never able to win a title at the South African Road Championship with her best results being two second-place finishes.
But last weekend she won the SA Marathon Championship at the Induna mountain-bike event in Hazyview, this despite not having an official sponsor to back her.
Her winning time for the 70-kilometre race was 3hr 33min 56sec. Samantha Sanders (Valencia) was second in 3:38:25 and Candice Neethling (BMC) third in 3:38:57.
ÔÇ£To be the South African champion is a dream come true. A year ago, I had absolutely no idea that I’d even be riding a mountain bike,” says De Groot who was part of Team South Africa at the London Olympics. ÔÇ£And now, 12 months later, I have the champion’s jersey on my shoulders. This is something I only dreamt of,ÔÇØ an ecstatic De Groot said.
ÔÇ£It was even more special because the people who have encouraged me throughout my life and who knew about my dream, were there to see me take the title. I love this sport. It takes me to beautiful places all over our country and I’ve met some incredible people along the way. I’m glad I made the switch from road racing to dirt racing.ÔÇØ
De Groot, who got lost on the route at one stage, had to keep her wits about her during the race, says ZCMC Media. ÔÇ£Candice Neethling, Samantha Saunders and I had a one and a half minute lead on the chasing riders when we missed a right turn. We ended up riding totally off course and eventually found ourselves in the driveway of a farm,ÔÇØ said De Groot.
ÔÇ£Once we realised that we were off-track we had to ride up a gradual climb to get back to the corner we had taken incorrectly. We caught up with Yolandi du Toit (Bizhub) who had also taken the incorrect turn. We went through some single track as a group of four and caught up to Nicki Grobler (Bizhub).
ÔÇ£At the second water point we were a minute behind the leaders. Rolling through at a decent speed, I looked back and saw that I had opened a gap between myself and the other four riders.
ÔÇ£I decided not to ease up and continued to ride at the same speed. I was determined to catch the ladies who were now ahead and by the time we got to the Tech zone I was finally leading overall.
ÔÇ£Convinced that the chasing riders would be hot on my tail, I maintained my pace and never let up. When my brain told me that it was time to slow down, I just kept reminding myself that we were racing for the national title.ÔÇØ
Because of her second-place finish in Barberton, and third-place finishes at Sabie, Wellington and Tulbagh, De Groot is currently the overall leader in the MTN National Women’s Marathon series as well.