De Groot on the hunt for Marathon Champs title number four

Current three-time Mountain Bike Marathon National Champion Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health) is looking to defend her title at the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens – from 16-17 April. Photo credit: Craig Dutton

Current three-time Mountain Bike Marathon National Champion Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health) is looking to defend her title at the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens – from 16-17 April. Photo credit: Craig Dutton

Current three-time Mountain Bike Marathon National Champion Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health) is looking to defend her title at the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens – from 16-17 April.

De Groot retired from road racing at the end of 2012 of competing in the London Olympic Games that year, wanting to settle down and embark on a lifestyle change. But the lure of cycling was too strong to leave behind and she pursued cycle racing once again, this time it was off-road and with a balance to her lifestyle.

The Olympian very soon went on to claim three consecutive Marathon National Championship titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

In terms of her endurance racing, De Groot was looking strong during this year’s Absa Cape Epic when disaster struck her partner, Swede Jennie Stenerhag, who withdrew from the race after the third stage. Despite her partner’s withdrawal, De Groot continued in the “Outcast” jersey.

“I had prepared pretty well for the Cape Epic and things were looking good,” said De Groot. “Jen’s health was not her fault – it was no negligence on her part and was just one of those things. Continuing as an Outcast provided me with a different experience of the race, and I enjoyed it for what it was. I was a bit disappointed to be out of contention, but I just kept going.”

De Groot feels optimistic about her form ahead of the National Championships, despite not having taken a break from racing yet this year. “I felt broken after last year’s Epic, but this year I am feeling good. My training is going well and I remained focused and followed my training goals on each stage. I was concerned that National Champs had moved so soon after the Epic as I wasn't sure if I would come out okay or not. I’m looking forward to a break after Nationals,” she said.

Speaking of the importance of the National Championship jersey, the George resident said: “It’s one of those big goals for me each year. It is such a privilege to wear that jersey and have that title. I cherish the moment each time I race in the jersey. It is an important goal on my race calendar and a title that I’d like to hang on to.”

The route in Clarens is one that De Groot calls “unique” and different to the previous National Champs events. “It’s a very different route because the trails go over the slickrock and the scenery is so unique. I guess that’s the challenge of racing in the marathons – it is how you are able to adapt to different terrains. The past four years of the Marathon Champs’ venues have all been so different from each other.”

While the 2016 SA National MTB Marathon Championships is targeted at the Elite Men (Ultra Marathon) Elite Women (Marathon) and Junior and Youth Men and Women (Half Marathon) for National Championship status, the race event is the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series, which caters for all age groups and fitness abilities.

Not only does the picturesque Free State village boast exquisitely breath-taking mountain views, but also offers a range of activities such as golf, horse riding and hiking, a selection of coffee shops, cafes, art galleries and pubs. The event also offers child minding facilities, hospitality, bike wash and complete medical centre with a doctor on site.

For more information and to enter, visit: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-marathon-champs/.