De Groot is top-placed SA finisher at World Championships | SASCOC - SASCOC

De Groot is top-placed SA finisher at World Championships

By Mark Etheridge

Newly crowned national marathon champion Robyn de Groot was South Africa’s best-placed finisher at the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Austria at the weekend.

De Groot was one of a team of eight who represented Team South Africa in the gruelling route, over 94 kilometres (women raced 85km) at an altitude of 4,400m. The route is also the ultra-marathon loop for the annual KitzAlpBike-Marathon and features highly technical trail, high-speed ascents, killer climbs and fast, steep corners.

De Groot ended 19th in a field of 56 in the elite women’s race, with a time of 5hr 14min 29sec as the race was won by Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa in 4:35:30. De Groot, who just a year ago was representing South Africa on the road at the London Olympics, was one of only two women in the SA line-up. The other was Samantha Sanders who was 26th in 5:20:31.

Max Knox was South Africa’s best finisher in the men’s elite race, ending up 31st in a field of 115 in a time of 5:00:22. The men’s race was won by Cape Epic winner and former world champion Christophe Sauser, the Swiss rider clocking 4:30:13.

De Groot’s dream transition from tar to turf continues and the 31-year-old travelled back to South Africa on Wednesday with a smile that stretched all the way back to the Alps.

“I’m very happy with a top 20 considering just when I started MTB XCM and the amount of time given to prepare. I somehow don’t think there is any terrain in SA that can prepare a person for racing in the Alps. That said, it was an absolutely mind blowing experience,” she told Road to Rio 2016.

“The cumulative effect of the climbing up to three different peaks on the route gave us a total ascent of 3700m ÔÇô substantial elevation in 85km. As a national team we had a great week leading into the race, we were based five minutes from the start-finish area and managed to get some riding in on the course in the days before the event.

“We had ridden two of the three climbs before the race and had done their respective descents. The most testing of the lot for the women’s race was the final descent. I was extremely grateful to have ridden sections of the course, it helped with knowing what to expect and what lay ahead .

“On race day we had fantastic weather and the rain we had trained in most of the week beforehand stayed away until we had all finished. It was one of those races where survival to the finish-line was my biggest goal, and also to ride to the best of my capabilities.

“The moment we hit the first climb the bunch became very scattered and pretty much remained that way for the majority of the race. Based on what my goals were for the race, I can honestly say they were all ticked, and I was pleasantly surprised to have finished in the position that I did.

“There’s still always room for improvement, and I’m willing to put in the necessary work to keep getting better. It was an honour to have been a part of team SA, and I appreciate what Cycling South Africa put in to make it possible to be at this world class event,” concluded De Groot.

Results of the other SA men’s competitors in Austria: 39 Erik Kleinhans 5:03:43, 53 Darren Lill 5:11:36, 61 Lourens Luus 6:13:28, 62 Nico Bell 5:13:34, 74 Charles Keey 5:23:00.