Multiple champion Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) and endurance stage racer Gert Heyns (DSV Pro Cycling) both emerged the victors in the Elite class at the recent 2018 SA Mountain Bike Marathon Championships on 14 July, winning the epic battle over the 90-kilometre ultra-marathon course in a time of 03:58:47 and 03:29:30 respectively. The fabulous Oak Valley was the venue for the third round of the Nissan TrailSeeker Mountain Bike Series, which also played host to the Marathon Championships.
Hailing from George in the Western Cape, De Groot’s emotional victory came about after months of struggling with setbacks from injury during 2017 and most of this season, and this year’s win makes it her sixth national consecutive title since switching to mountain biking in 2013. Amy Beth McDougall (04:00:05) and Samantha Sanders (04:20:23) rounded out the podium.
“It’s always a special title to have, to be the South African representative with the national flag on one’s shoulders – I always wear my jersey with pride,” she said.
After a fair amount of rain in the Western Cape, the course was wet and muddy and cold and provided its fair share of challenges over the 90km ultra marathon distance, a first for the women’s race.
From early, the field was split with five riders out in the front – Samantha Sanders, Amy Beth McDougall, Sarah Hill, Bianca Haw and Robyn – with Bianca dropping off the back on the first climb due to her form since injury. Sticking to her game plan, Robyn rejoined the other three women, who had created a gap of 30 seconds at the 28km mark.
The group stayed together until the next major climb, where Robyn and Amy broke away. At the 40km mark, Robyn made her break and held a gap until the end of the race, holding her own steady pace.
“I had no mechanicals or issues and my national champs ride went as smoothly as I could have ever dreamt it to,” she said.
With his focus on marathon racing over the past three years, Gert made it his main goal for this season to contest the marathon championships title. Rounding out the Elite Men’s podium was Matt Beers (03:33:25) in second place and Gawie Combrinck (03:34:09) third.
“I'm very thankful that it turned out like it did on the day. The race was definitely not easy but after a few wins in the lead up to the champs I was confident throughout the race but to really be able to deliver in the end was very rewarding,” he said.
Gert is also from George but studying in Stellenbosch, and he has a strong cross-country racing background during his time as an under-23 racer, having won national championships titles twice in the U23 class and competing in some UCI World Cups and UCI World Championships as well.
He finished third at the marathon champs last year and has notched up some notable wins in the endurance side of the sport, like a Cape Epic Stage win in 2014, as well as African Jersey winner, Cape Pioneer Trek, sani2c, EP Herald MTB and Knysna Oysterfest. But this was his first Elite title.
Shaun-Nick Bester was the early leader within the first 10km as the rain poured down and made the trail even more muddy and slippery after the previous night’s rain. Matt Beers caught up with the leaders and soon after Gert attacked along with the rest of the batch where they took over the lead. Matt Beers put up a strong challenge throughout the race, but everything went well for Gert who only had to stop once to remove a branch from his rear wheel.
“I liked the conditions and the route and I believe it definitely played in my favour,” he said.
Looking ahead, Gert hasn't yet established his next racing goal although he has his sights set on the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships in September.
For Robyn, she has just landed in Europe thanks to the support of her sponsors Ascendis Health and South Industries who have contributed to a European racing block. “I’m super motivated to do some new races I’ve never done and aim to build towards World Champs, which takes place in the Dolomites. I’ll then come back and continue with my local racing schedule in South Africa.”
Summary of Results – 2018 SA MTB Marathon Championships – Western Cape
Elite Men – 90km Ultra
1.Gert Heyns 03:29:30
2.Matt Beers 03:33:25
3.Gawie Combrinck 03:34:09
Elite Women – 90km Ultra
1.Robyn de Groot 03:58:47
2.Amy Beth McDougall 04:00:05
3.Samantha Sanders 04:20:23
Junior Men – 40km Half marathon
1.Tristan Nortje 01:40:53
2.Wicus Breytenbach 01:42:37
3.Jamie Penfold 01:44:12
Junior Women – 40km Half marathon
1.Tiffany Keep 01:58:44
2.Frances Janse van Rensburg 02:06:39
3.Monique du Toit 02:16:03
Youth Men – 40km Half marathon
1.Luke Moir 01:40:08
2.Matthew Lochner 01:43:22
3.Matthew Leppan 01:48:50
Youth Women – 40km Half marathon
1.Chante Olivier 02:08:53
2.Chloe Bateson 02:09:43
3.Stèfke Tolmay 02:18:51
Sub Veteran Men – 70km Marathon
1.Ignus Oosthuizen 03:33:25
2.Lawrence von Gunten 03:34:09
3.Neill Ungerer 03:35:49
Sub Veteran Women – 70km Marathon
1.Siska Van der Bijl 04:00:51
2.Kylie Hanekom 04:28:25
3.Sarita Louw 04:36:59
Veteran Men – 70km Marathon
1.Brett Chilcott 03:29:30
2.Craig Gerber 03:36:10
3.Nico Pfitzenmaier 03:37:14
Veteran Women – 70km Marathon
1.Theresa Ralph 03:59:33
2.Marisa van der Linde 04:21:09
3.Tessa Keers 04:31:04
Master Men – 70km Marathon
1.Andrew Mclean 03:38:33
2.Shane Daniel 03:43:22
3.David DeLima 03:46:19
Master Women – 40km Half marathon
1.Christelle Le Roux 02:45:20
2.Mari Kleynhans 02:49:14
3.Irma Theron 03:10:06
Grand Master Men – 40km Half marathon
1.Kevin Record 02:12:25
2.Anthony Priday 02:24:50
3.Alan Snelling 02:28:58
Grand Master Women – 40km Half marathon
1.Lesley Morillion 03:15:25