Source: FullStop Communications
Nico Pfitzenmaier and Robyn de Groot demonstrated their technical skills on the wet and slippery trails through the Harkerville forest on Monday en route to the overall solo titles in the three-day RECM Knysna 200.
Former masters world cross-country champion Pfitzenmaier (Dorma) also showed his sportsmanship when runner-up Dylan Rebello (Jeep) slipped in the finishing straight of the 58km final stage at Thesen Harbour Town.
The Cape Town-based rider waited for his local rival to right himself before the two crossed the line together to give Pfitzenmaier his second stage win.
The German-born champ, who won the team category last year with Renay Groustra, said he was delighted to have followed it up with the solo title.
“Each of the three routes have been changed and improved from last year, so it’s good that the organisers keep things interesting and different,” he said.
“There’s so much single-track that you can link up, which makes the riding so exciting out here.”
Despite puncturing in the closing kilometres, Hanco Kachelhoffer and Colin Noel (Altech Autopage) took their third consecutive stage for a dominant overall victory in the team category.
Kachelhoffer, who recently relocated to George, said the trails and atmosphere had been top notch.
“I think a lot more pro riders will come to race this one after seeing James Reid and I fight it out for king of the mountains yesterday. It’s exciting racing.”
Despite lingering health concerns, three-time South African marathon champion De Groot (Ascendis Health) kept it together to secure an uncontested win in the women’s category.
“It’s the first time I’ve done this race but it’s definitely one to add to the calendar,” said De Groot, who divides her time between Johannesburg and the Garden Route town of George.
“It was harder than I expected but a real treat. You just can’t compare the forest trails to anywhere else in the country.”
The Merrell Ladies’ pairing of Nicola Giliomee and Marleen Lourens won the women’s team category, while their mixed teammates Andrea and Steven Shirley were not quite so lucky.
After two stage wins, the husband-and-wife team lost their overall lead on the final day, gifting SasolRacing’s Yolande and Henties de Villiers the mixed race title.
“We were just here to enjoy ourselves, so this win is fantastic,” said Yolande, who also won the Ultimate Queen hill climb up to Krisjan se Nek on stage two.
“It was a privilege to be able to share it with my husband, who is usually behind the scenes. This is payback for everything he does.”
Guillamme Liebenberg won the R50 000 worth of unit trusts sponsored by RECM, R20 000 of which will be donated to the Knysna Sport School.
Follow @recmknysna200, go to Garden Route Events on Facebook or visit www.recmknysna200.co.za.
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Blog: Robyn de Groot
Before I start with anything I would like to first thank the many people who have been a part of the “rocky road” over the last few months. I’ll keep it general - but to my family and friends who have stood by me through some testing times I would like to thank you for your unconditional support. To my Dr, homeopath and people who have been a part of my holistic approach to my health the last few months… for your advice, your time, and patience when I had so many questions searching for solutions to get healthy again.
To my sponsors, Lange Sports, Team Ascendis Health and co-sponsors thank you for the way you have also supported me over the last few months. Thanks for allowing me the time to get healthy & to focus on returning to racing again. I appreciate your patience and support more than you will ever know.
To my coach - Bosseau (Infinita racing) - I know its been frustrating for you too, with very little structured training we somehow pulled through ;) Thank you for being patient, understanding, flexible and always believing in me.
Thanks to all the people in the MTB community who have been so supportive, each message that was sent made a difference and kept me going.
So many things have kept me determined when the easiest thing would have been to give in. This one has somehow become the most special win of my career. To be perfectly honest I was uncertain that it would be realistically possible to defend the national championship title…yet something within me wouldn’t let me give up on a dream…
Compiled by Nick Tatham
6 June 2015
In what were two contrasting races, Gawie Combrinck (Team EAI Cycling) and Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) walked away with the National Marathon MTB titles on Saturday in chilly conditions at the 2015 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series Van Gaalen, which doubled up as the South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships powered by Stihl on Saturday.
Although both enjoyed healthy leads, Combrinck did not have the race sewn up until a few kilometres from the finish whilst in contrast De Groot was far too strong for the women’s field.
The women’s race was a one horse race as two-time defending champion Robyn de Groot annihilated the rest of the women’s field to cruise to her third consecutive National Championship title. It has been a tough few months for the Ascendis Health rider who has been battling with illness but on Saturday she was in a league of her own and was understandably happy with her performance.
“I am just really happy with the way everything went today considering what has happened in the past few months,” an elated De Groot said. “It went really well and after Yolandi de Villiers set such a fast early pace I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to hold on but the downhills came at the perfect times for me after suffering a bit on the uphills so it all just worked out for me.”
The cold conditions was another factor that she had to conquer and it did not seem to be too much of an issue as she got further and further into the race and once she was clear just maintaining her advantage and taking in the moment was at the forefront of her mind heading into the finish.
“Winter arrived in Johannesburg on Thursday and it was bitterly cold earlier this morning which added a different dimension to the race but I managed it well.
“When I got into the last 10km I knew that it was going to get a bit technical so I couldn’t put a wheel wrong there but once I was through there I just tried to enjoy the moment and take in the victory.
“I didn’t want to give up my stripes today and I made sure that I put in all the effort early so that it paid off at the end,” she mentioned.
The podium in the women’s race was completed by the early leader and Sasol Racing star Yolande de Villiers and rounding out the podium was the young Specialized/Freewheel Cycology rider Candice Neethling.
There were a number of national championship titles awarded on the day from the junior categories right through to the masters. One of the stand out performances was Frances du Toit who won the Junior Girls title and with that her third national title of the year.
For more information visit http://www.cyclingsa.com/2015-sa-mtb-marathon-champs and http://www.nationalmtbseries.com/theseries/races/vangaalen.
Saturday 6 June 2015.
Robyn de Groot became the first female rider to win the South African marathon mountain bike title three years in succession, when she put on a dominant display at Round 4 of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series at Van Gaalen Cheese Farm, in the North West province on Saturday.
Wearing the colours of Ascendis Health, De Groot raced to a dominant victory over a strong field to retain the national title in a time of 3 hours 36 minutes 08 seconds. She was more than four minutes faster than runner-up Yolande de Villiers (Sasol Racing) with Candice Neethling (Freewheel Cycology Pam Golding) completing the podium a further minute-and-a-half later.
Photo credit: Zoon Cronje
After the frantic pace of the early kilometres, a lead group of five developed on the first major climb at 15km. The group comprised De Groot, De Villiers, Neethling, Cherise Stander (RECM) and Bianca Haw (Red Bull). Once they began to climb in the Segwati Game Reserve, Haw and Neethling dropped off.
“On the technical, loose climb ‘Apollo’, Yolande rode away from Cherise and I. We both lost traction and had to dismount and run. Once back on my bike, I realised that Yolande had a decent gap and I set off to try and catch her. I looked back and realised Cherise was no longer with me. Yolande was incredibly strong and I only caught her on the Satellite climbs,” explained De Groot.
“She started the tricky, steep descent just ahead of me, but had some difficulty on it. Knowing the route, I was able to pass her and ride the rest of the descent at a comfortable pace. From then on I was on my own in the lead. I felt pretty good, not my strongest, but not bad. I really wanted to win this race badly and am very pleased that I did,” smiled De Groot.
De Villiers, a 42-year-old mother of three, has had one of her best racing years in 2015, including a third (with Janka Stevkova) at the ABSA Cape Epic and first (with Catherine Williamson) at the Old Mutual joBerg2c.
Despite being the podium battle early on, Stander withdrew from the race.
“I was fine up until 30km and then I just felt awful. Everything felt like it was shutting down. I think I experienced internal loadshedding! I decided to pull out. I just struggled so much to stay up with the leaders and couldn’t see myself making it to the finish so I stopped. No excuses, just not my day,” explained Stander, the 2012 national champion, who went into Saturday’s race as one of the favourites.
De Groot joins Kevin Evans as the only riders to win the coveted title in three consecutive years. Evans won the men’s title a total of four times, but consecutively in 2006/7/8.
De Groot concluded her professional road-racing career when she represented South Africa at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and then switched to mountain biking late in 2013, winning the national title at her first attempt in White River and repeating the feat twice – in Pietermaritzburg in 2014 and Van Gaalen in 2015.
The top three riders in the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series are now Neethling (13516 points), Theresa Ralph (12594) and Ariane Kleinhans (11831). Round 5 of the seven-event series will take place in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal on 26 July.
2015 Ashburton Investments National MTB Series Round 4, Van Gaalen Cheese Farm, Saturday 6 June 2015
Elite women – 74km marathon:
I thought it may be fitting to update where things are right now, and what has been going on in my life over the last few months. The last article I uploaded was a recap of the ABSA Cape Epic where myself and my team-mate Jennie Stenerhag conquered as one in March earlier this year. The last sentence of that article read as follows: “For now it's time to rest & recover.... To mend injuries....and recharge for some exciting races to come…”
Well things haven’t gone according to plan, which may explain the picture of the hurdles above. Straight after the Epic I started investigations along with Dr’s to pinpoint what it was that was going on with my health, particularly during the Epic. At the same time also seeing to the shoulder I hurt when it took direct impact from a tree while riding through the fun forest section on the 2nd last day of the Epic. To cut a long story short - I fractured my clavicle at the AC joint - which took 6 weeks to heal. The good news is my shoulder is 100%. My health however has not been quite so clear cut. After many blood tests and investigations by a very thorough Sports Physician we finally found the answers to the way I had been feeling on the bike. I would like to thank my Dr for the time he invested in finding the problem and for putting up with constant questions, despite me pushing him to let me race, for making me rest and looking out for my health.
As an athlete… it is never easy to “sit on the sideline” … I had planned to race over the last few weeks - which I haven’t been able to do, and as I type this…my bags are packed for the Sani2c - but I will have to unpack them tomorrow sometime. It’s been a very frustrating time, time off the bike, time on the bike but just pedalling really easy, and time investigating my health. A stressful time and visit to the Cardiologist to check that my heart hadn’t been affected by an active Virus that got picked up in my bloodstream. It has been a huge relief to get the thumbs up that my heart is 100%. So for now its time to start preparing slowly…taking each day as it comes, to get stronger and fitter day by day.
I would like to thank my sponsors and all involved at Lange Sports - for their patience, understanding and support during the last few weeks. To my teammate Jen, for your support and understanding, I am sorry I won’t be beside you defending our Sani2c title. You have really shown your true colours with your concern for my health and the support you have given me. To my family and close friends who have been there at these difficult times.
So finally I have been given the go ahead to start building up… and I can’t wait to be back racing again.
Over the next few months I will be supporting a Campaign that is all about GIVING BACK. Along with MELLINS-I-STYLE & my eyewear sponsor NIKEVISION. This campaign boasts the opportunity for me to give back to my chosen charity - QHUBEKA - a charity in conjunction with World bicycle relief…mobilising people with bicycles.
Out in the country when on my mountain bike…I have seen amazing things, but I’ve also seen things that have opened my eyes to hardships people face on a daily basis. SEE BETTER…SEE REALITY. So if I can contribute in some little way… and you can contribute in some little way… we can all make a difference to the life of others.
The campaign will run over three months. In April and May, the ambassador with the most public votes in that month will win R10,000 to be awarded to their nominated charity with a further R100,000 awarded for the overall winner’s nominated charity at the end of June.
Should Mellins i-Style twitter followers exceed 100,000 by the end of June they will add a further R100,000 to the grand prize.
I encourage you to vote by clicking the button above & also to follow Mellins i-Style on twitter @melinsistyle
VOTING OPENS FROM THE 1ST OF APRIL 2015
Three voting Fan’s also stand a chance of winning prizes: A pair of prescription frames with Zeiss i.Scription lenses up to the value of R10,000 OR a pair of luxury sunglasses to the value of R5 000 should they not need prescription lenses.
It's 5am, 2 days after the ABSA Cape Epic... I'm wide awake and my body is ready to pedal a bicycle as I sit in my hotel room at Southern Sun Waterfront - Cape Town, trying to convince it that its allowed to sleep in. So here we go, I've decided to put a little something together about my experience of the worlds toughest MTB stage race.
The 2015 Sasol women's category saw the most competitive and well decorated female mountain bikers take to the start of the ABSA Cape Epic to date. As much as one dreams about podiums and leaders Jerseys, we (Jennie and I) had to keep things realistic seeing that we came in to the race ranked 6th. With it being my first Epic I came in feeling very nervous, no idea what this race really had in store for us.
A prologue starting and finishing at U.C.T - a place I graduated at some 11years ago - and here I was racing Mountain bikes of all things. The route was tough with 600m of ascent in only 20km's which took us up, and along one of the natural wonders of the world....Table Mountain. We hit the finish-line having to wait for all of the higher ranked teams to come in, and to our surprise finished 2nd to RE:CM's Ariane Kleihans and Annika Langvad. A sweet taste of my very first Epic podium finish. We were truly surprised.... And extremely happy.
Podium presentations at the ABSA Cape Epic are so professional. 15 minutes after the 3rd team crosses the finishline, the ceremony begins. So it's quite a rush to get cleaned up and presentable. The music starts... We line up in order of the podium, and walk up proudly onto the stage. As an outsider, it may not have been visible, but this little ceremony made my heart beat faster and created a feeling of pride. I took everything in each time we stepped up there. Special moments. Special memories.
Stage 1 and Stage 2 replicating our 2nd place on each stage once again. With a little confusion on stage 2 and a very unfortunate wrong route taken by the leaders team Re:cm.... They were given a time penalty which relegated them to 4th place ... And much to our surprise landed us in the leaders Jersey. I'd never thought about wearing the leaders Jersey....and here we were in Orange. I really did feel sorry for the ladies who had taken the wrong route by accident, but was certain they were strong enough to pull back their deficit to take the Jerseys back. Being lined up as the first people on the start-line the next morning, dressed in Orange....It was a special moment. Hard to describe.
A Bright day starting in Orange with 128km's to cycle turned into one THE darkest days I've experienced by bicycle. From the first km, all I could think about was "how will I ever cycle 128km off-road” “ ‘ not going to make it to the finish” … I felt like I had never pedaled a bicycle before. My legs ached and felt like I could not even turn the pedals. There was no place to hide....Coming up to the first water point I told Jennie she was welcome to continue without me and that I was going to throw in the towel. Every pedal stroke was a mission, and we were moving incredibly slowly. It's a terrible feeling to be going so very slow on a bicycle, holding your partner back. She was very patient and became my nurse for the day... And true to her word she crossed the finish-line beside me, after 6.5 cruel hours haunted me. We finished in 6th place.
Above: A photo can say a thousand words…. This photo taken by Jenni Green depicts the darkest day I have had on a bicycle.
I couldn't think of climbing on my bike the next day for stage 4 of the 8 day stage race... But... I did, still not feeling 100% my usual self, all I focused on was moving forwards.... Ticking off meter by meter….kilometre by kilometre....water point by water point. We finished 2nd that day, which was special to us, after the nightmare we had had the day before. Stage 5,6 & 7 we also managed to finish 2nd on the respective stages.
We were fortunate with few mechanical problems out there. We only had to stop twice or 3 times to see to mechanicals and were able to recover lost time and positions on those days. But my body was not playing the game, tendonitis in my left forearm started creeping in during stage 5, which eventually became an excruciating sensation I just had to ride through. As I type this my forearm squeaks like a door hinge...
I am ever so grateful for the patience, persistence, and support Jen gave me. She was the ultimate teammate and I respect her so much for that. This race also leaves me respecting the Cape Epic, my opposition, and all people who finish such a tough race. It was no joke. As a team we truly did "conquer as one". Thanks Jen. A huge thank you to all who supported Jennie and I...My friends and family who kept in close contact, those who travelled to Come and support, those of you who supported us along the route, those that made contact via Twitter, our wonderful sponsors & Ascendis Health team who looked after us day in and day out. I also have to thank a guy who I often don’t thank enough….Bosseau…Thank you for working with me and preparing me for this race.
For now it's time to rest & recover.... To mend injuries....and recharge for some exciting races to come.....
Above: Jennie and I “CONQUER AS ONE”
Until next time...
Official press release, February 2015.
Photo credit: www.oakpics.com
Author: Sean Badenhorst (TREAD MAGAZINE)
The women’s race was ding-dong-battle between the combination of Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot (Ascendis) and Ariane Kleinhans and Cherise Stander (RECM). On the climb after the last water point De Groot and Stenerhag got a gap and won the stage in 3:52.17. “We had such a battle today. On the climbs we got away and then they would catch up on the down hills. We were worried that it might be a sprint finish so we really wanted to get away,” said De Groot.
Stander and Kleinhans finished in 3:55.07 and the last spot on the winners’ podium went to Yolandi de Villiers and Bianca Haw (Sasol, 4:02.01).
Stage 2 entailed 89km’s with 2240m ascent in the Ceres valley. An easy start through the orchards of the Bokkeveld that took riders towards the Ceres valley via a new single track adjacent the Gydo pass. Riders then tackled a few more old trails cleaned up by local farmer Mauritz Walters…a tough but very rewarding day out. The approach to the climb of all climbs was through undulating farm roads until the water point marked the start of the solid-surfaced jeep track that took riders up and up towards the mast, known as the Merino Monster – the climb was then well rewarded by a mind blowing, technical descent down to Kaleo.
In the ladies race, Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis) was the first woman to the top, thus claiming the QOM. This climb – from the bottom of the valley to the top – is 24km with some 2000m of vertical ascent.
De Groot and Jennie Stenerhag were also victorious again. Winning the stage in 4:30.13. Last year’s champions Cherise Stander and Ariane Kleinhans (RECM, 4:31.32) came in second. Stenerhag and De Groot increased their overall lead by another minute. Yolande de Villiers and Bianca Haw (Sasol) were third. “We rode together for most of the day and when we reached Merino Monster, Robyn and I put the hammer down. Even though we were in the lead we know how good Cherise and Ariane are on the downhill so we just did not let up,” said Stenerhag.
Single track here we come (Stage 3), Koue Bokkeveld style… The last day of the third Tankwa Trek starts with a 26 km neutral zone as farm roads and a bit of jeep track will take riders towards Morester, a farm owned by Charl van der Merwe, who has recently spent time cutting in single-track around the harsh and incredible rock formations that the area is so well known for. The Tankwa Trek will be the first to unleash around 30km of virgin single-track to riders. Riding never experienced before, tracks through rock formations, narrow water crossing bridges and a route flowing back towards the finish of a ride never to be forgotten.
In the women’s race RECM’s Arianne Kleinhans and Cherise Stander managed to get into the first section of singletrack in front of De Groot and Stenerhag, but as the race moved onto a gravel road climb, the Ascendis Health pair took the lead, which they maintained until the finish. They clocked a time 2:31:05, two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Kleinhans and Stander, the latter finishing with a lacerated knee sustained in a crash.
Ascendis Health’s Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag secured a third consecutive stage victory and the overall Tankwa Trek title. In the process, they confirmed their status as genuine podium contenders at next month’s Cape Epic.
“Being a shorter stage, the pace was really fast today. But the pressure was the same as the other days and we’re happy to have been able to win the stage and the overall title,” said De Groot. “It was a great team event for Jennie and I in terms of our stage-racing partnership and the terrain offered some really testing riding , which is similar to what we will experience at the Cape Epic.”
Official press release, February 2015.
Photo credit: www.oakpics.com
Author: Sean Badenhorst (TREAD MAGAZINE)
South African marathon champions, James Reid and Robyn de Groot showed impressive form on Friday when they each won the men and women’s categories with their respective teammates on Stage 1 of the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek in South Africa’s Western Cape province.
Reid and Erik Kleinhans (Team RECM) displayed a blend of endurance and skill to capture the men’s title, clocking a winning time of 03 hours 20 minutes 21 seconds for the challenging 83km stage. They were four minutes faster than runners up Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill (Red-E Blend), with Adriaan Louw and Lourens Luus (Contego) rounding out the podium places.
Germany’s three-time ABSA Cape Epic winner, Stefan Sahm (Team Bulls), was the first rider home in the Solo category in 03:20:26.
In the women’s race, De Groot and her Swedish teammate Jennie Stenerhag (Team Ascendis Health) crossed the finish line in 03:52:17 almost three minutes quicker than defending champions, Ariane Kleinhans and Cherise Stander (Team RECM), with Sasol Racing’s Yolande de Villiers and Bianca Haw claiming the final podium spot.
Britain’s Catherine Williamson (Asrin Cycling) won the Solo women’s category.
In the men’s race, a 20-strong lead pack formed early on, but Reid’s pace in the first long section of rocky singletrack split the group up substantially, with only Kleinhans and Sahm able to stay with him. Because the event is primarily a team-focussed event, the rules state that Solo riders may not assist with or interfere with teams. So Sahm tagged along behind the in-form RECM pair.
“I was pushing the pace on the singletrack because it’s technical singletrack that doesn’t really suit the strong riders that have come to mountain biking from road cycling. Both Erik and I are pure mountain bikers and we relished the rocky trails and used them to our advantage,” explained Reid.
“Erik is in great form and I think he’s super confident after almost winning the Ashburton Series Ultra-marathon at Meerendal last weekend. He was so strong on the flats and slight climbs on the gravel roads today, so I just hung onto his wheel and it worked out well for us,” added Reid.
The women’s race was a much closer contest with De Groot and Stenerhag swapping the lead a number of times with Stander and Kleinhans.
“It was really exciting to have two women’s teams so closely matched. It put both of us under pressure and made for good racing,” smiled De Groot.
“Jennie crashed once and it looks like Ariane also crashed. That’s what pressure can do. But they weren’t serious crashes, more like tumbles. The terrain was very technical in places, which makes this event a true allround mountain biking challenge. Coming from a road cycling background it was good for us to be able to hold our own and come away with a stage win today. Tomorrow we won’t be riding defensively, we’ll be out to increase our lead if possible,” added De Groot.
In the Mixed division, Candice Neethling and Craig Boyes (Asrin Cycling) secured a dominant win over Yolandi du Toit and Michael Posthumus, with Carmen Buchacher and Allan Cox (VSL Mixed) taking third.
Saturday’s Stage 2 is the Tankwa Trek’s Queen Stage. At 89km it’s the longest of the three stages. It’s also got the most climbing. There’s a total of 2 240m of ascent with more than 1000 metres of that on just one climb, the Merino Monster.
The 20km ascent starts just after 45km at around 700 metres above sea level and ends at 65km at 1750m above sea level. If the weather is clear, the views across the surrounding valleys are spectacular. The top riders are unlikely to have time to notice though and the Merino Monster is expected to shake up the general classification in most categories.
2015 is well underway... With February already 2 weeks in! Its been a busy and exciting time. Its never easy to change sponsors, especially when they have provided such incredible support. I have to make a special mention to Biogen Toyota and Cyclelab who gave me the opportunity in 2014 to pursue this "mountain biking thing" and for believing in my dreams.
Malcolm Lange the owner of Lange Sports had always promised me that should any opportunity arise for me to ride for him as a professional mountain biker he would let me know. True to his word, after securing sponsorship with Ascendis Health, Malcolm put an offer on the table which allowed me to focus entirely on riding my bike. Midway through 2014, I found myself much like a jester - juggling life, work, riding, racing... And rushing through life without being able to focus 100%. I briefly paused and realised that this isn't how I function best - I like to live a slower, simpler life… attending to things and people around me in a meaningful way. Some people thrive in hustle & bustle, and I respect that... But thats not me...
I've been extremely fortunate to be able to continue with sponsors who don't clash with my team sponsors, and if anything are now fitting into the structure very well. These being Nike Vision, Tsogo Sun, CycleOps/Powertap, Squirt, Powasol and I can only thank them for sticking by me. There are also so many people - you know who you are - who really go out of their way to take great care of me… your support means so much! Thank you!
Beaver creek has come on board in a big way, not only do they provide me with my coffee fix...Which seems to be an addiction I’m not willing to give up...but they have just announced that they will see me through the ABSA Cape Epic by providing us with top quality coffee! If thats not a carrot to dangle in-front of my nose to get to the finish each day I'd be crazy.
Talking about EPIC - well they say "If your dreams don't scare you...then they aren't BIG enough". If I said I wasn't scared I'd be lying, but with the support I have from my amazing team "Team Ascendis Health", my super strong partner Jennie, the most superb equipment & coach, my friends and family I feel ready to take on this big event I've been watching from the sidelines for the past 2 years. We are ranked 6th in the ladies category, so we need to keep everything realistic... But one thing is for certain we are going to give everything we have from the 15th to the 22nd of March! To those of you who have shown such wonderful interest and support... Thank you, it makes a difference and we appreciate it!
Last..but not least a very BIG thanks to StraTech who do my website! Thanks for your time and energy that you invest no matter what time of day!
I guess thats a little recap, I hope it made for interesting reading. Till next time, keep well & keep smiling.
Official press release, 21st January 2015.
Photo credit: Zoon Cronje
Ascendis Health is a successful and fast growing JSE listed pharma company focusing on Health and Care brands for humans, animals and plants. Besides its local pharma and medical business Ascendis holds leading market positions with its own range of brands including: Solal, Nimue, PharmaNatura, Marltons and Efekto as well as its sought after sports nutrition brands Evox, SSN and Supashape. As a company focusing on Health and Wellness, Ascendis embraces and promotes the benefits of regular healthy exercise and nutritional regimes, with many “Ascendites” making it a habit to live this way daily. Ascendis and its major shareholder Coast2Coast, also readily invest in structured Social Corporate Responsibility programs including sports initiatives such as Ubuntu Soccer. Additional co-sponsors include: Dis-Chem Pharmacies, Compendium Risk Managers, SCOTT, UTI, CRAFT and Bene.
The idea to sponsor a professional cycling team and especially a mountain bike team was ostensibly created during a unique “brainstorming session” that involved the Ascendis executive team of COO Richard Crouse, CFO Robbie Taylor, CEO Dr Karsten Wellner, their mountain bikes and a few steep hills. Mountain biking is a rapidly growing sport in SA and is widely acknowledged as the “new golf” from a networking point of view. Dr Karsten Wellner comments: “Ascendis is a fast growing South African health and care company with leading health brands and increasing international business, so it made perfect sense that we align ourselves with a fast growing sport that embodies the essence of healthy living and the outdoor enjoyment of our scenic country”.
Ascendis engaged into a partnership agreement with Lange Sports owned and run by Malcolm Lange, a South African cycling icon. Malcolm signed up for Team Ascendis Health arguably the most promising and strongest female professional MTB riders currently in SA: Jennie Stenerhag, Sweden’s national marathon champion and South African marathon mountain-bike champion Robyn de Groot. Robyn was part of the National Women’s Road Cyclying team for 6 years before she converted to mountain biking in 2013 and is currently South African marathon mountain-bike champion. Jennie is originally from Sweden but currently resides and trains in Stellenbosch. She started her cycling career as a road cyclist winning the Swedish National Championship and The Cape Argus Pick / Pay cycle Tour in 2009. In 2012 Jennie converted to mountain biking and is currently Swedish MTB marathon champion, for the second consecutive year, and placed 3rd in the ladies category at the Cape Epic in 2014.
Karsten Wellner concludes: “With this exciting initiative forming Team Ascendis Health we will bring our brands even closer to many of our product users and stakeholders, as well as offering an insight into the Ascendis corporate culture of excellence, delivery and the ongoing pursuit of success.“Ascendites”
Follow Team Ascendis Health on the following social media platforms for race updates:www.teamascendis.co.za
Source: Release Centre
South African marathon mountain bike champion, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) and Britain’s Catherine Williamson (Asrin Cycling), teamed up to secure one last title for the 2014 racing year when they won the women’s category at the FNB Wines2Whales three-day stage race at the weekend.
Traditionally the final major stage race for the year, the 2014 Wines2Whales Race, attracted a strong women’s field, setting the scene for three days of close racing.
Friday’s Stage 1, a 74km leg from Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West to Oak Valley, Grabouw, took place in searing heat, with a top temperature of 45 degrees Celcius recorded on the route.
London Olympian Candice Neethling (Time Freight VeloLife) and Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Co.) secured the first stage win ahead of De Groot and Williamson with Theresa Ralph (Tribe Suunto) and Jeannie Dreyer (USN HiTec) rounding out the podium.
“Unfortunately Catherine was feeling a bit ill today and wasn’t able to race at 100%. But she still gave what ever she had and we were able to at least stay within sight of the race lead,” said De Groot on Friday evening.
Saturday’s Stage 2 was held over a circular 64km route that started and finished at Oak Valley. With slightly cooler temperatures and a shorter stage, the racing was on from the start.
De Groot and Williamson managed to win the stage and secured a big enough lead over second placed stage finishers, Neethling and Stenerhag, to move into a 48-second lead with one stage remaining.
“Catherine was a lot better today and we were eager to take the stage win. The racing was close though which is great for women’s racing where there isn’t always this much depth. Fortunately we got enough time to get the overall lead and will be defending that with everything we have on the final stage,” said De Groot after Saturday’s leg.
The final stage, a 73.5km haul from Oak Valley to Onrus, near Hermanus at the coast, saw a thrilling battle in the women’s race. With most of the stage’s 1300 metres of vertical ascent coming in the second half, the event holds a surprising sting in its tail.
De Groot and Williamson managed to win the stage ahead of Neethling and Stenerhag, but the winning margin was only 68 seconds as the latter pair exhausted themselves pursuing their rivals over the final 12km.
“It was a great contest today! Apparently Candice and Jennie saw us on the last long climb, which motivated them. We actually weren’t aware that they were that close and we decided to take no risks on the last section of singletrack. That’s where they closed the gap on us and for the last couple of kilometres it was an all out effort to get the stage win,” said De Groot.
De Groot and Williamson’s final overall time was 10 hours 08 minutes 03 seconds. Neethling and Stenerhag finished second in 10:10:09 with Anriette Schoeman (Africa Silks) and Yolandi du Toit (Garmin) claiming the final podium spot in 11:03:21.
“It was good to race with Catherine. She is very experienced and we certainly seem to connect well on the bike and off it, which is important in mountain bike stage racing,” said De Groot.
“I must thank TREK, my bike sponsor. I found a crack in my frame last week and they went out of their way to build up a brand new bike so that I had a racing machine for Wines2Whales. I flew to Cape Town without a bike, collected it two days before the race and it all ran smoothly,” smiled De Groot.
“It’s great to finish off the year with a win. Without my sponsors, Biogen, Toyota and Cycle Lab, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue racing mountain bikes professionally as I have this year. I’ve learned so much; especially in the races I didn’t win and will take that experience into 2015 with new goals. But first a proper break!”
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South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) wrapped up the 2014 Nissan Trailseeker mountain bike series with a fifth consecutive win in the five-event series in Irene at the weekend.
The Johannesburg-based rider clocked a time of 02 hours 32 minutes 44 seconds for the 68km event, which took place in breezy, overcast conditions and took riders on a relatively flat route to the south east of Pretoria.
For De Groot, it was the perfect way to end off the popular regional series in her home province. Over 200 women contested the marathon distance during the series, which is focused on hosting events in close proximity to the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The best four results in the series count towards the final overall rankings. With four wins already, De Groot didn’t even have to contest the final round, but she wasn’t going to miss out on the race.
“This series is so popular and attracts not only a lot of new women to marathon racing, but also gets very good media coverage. I owed it to my sponsors to be here today. I’ve had an amazing year in mountain bike racing thanks to the support of companies like Biogen, Toyota and Cycle Lab, my primary sponsors,” said De Groot.
“I raced on my own for much of the race today, but there were some bunches I encountered and I was able to take some shelter from the wind in along the way. The course wasn’t very hilly with lots of open sections of gravel road and jeep track, which also ensured there were no bottlenecks and good rider flow,” added De Groot.
This the first year that De Groot has won the Nissan Trailseeker Series title which offers some consolation after having finished as runner-up in the 2014 MTN National Marathon Series, which she won in 2013.
“This was my first year as a full-time mountain bike racer and I’ve had a very good year in terms of results. Winning the national marathon title for a second time and wearing the national champion’s jersey adds a bit of pressure in every marathon or stage race I contest. But I’m okay with that. I perform well under pressure,” smiled De Groot.
The final race for De Groot in 2014 is the FNB Wines2Whales three-day stage race, which starts on Friday in Somerset West. De Groot will team up with Britain’s Catherine Williamson for the event, which requires riders to compete in two-up teams.
Sitting on the plane reflecting on a 7 day journey of one of SA's most grueling MTB Races. What fascinates me most about mountain biking is how many variables there are, and how they need to all stay pretty aligned for the duration of the race in order to stay in control. Writing from our perspective of the race where Jennie Stenerhag and I teamed up under the umbrella of cape Brewing Co (CBC)& Biogen Toyota. We had 4 days of absolute bliss - the stages went smoothly, things were effortless and we were in pink....then the tables turned... And man did they turn - a journey through the shadows - where it became a huge effort just to cross the finish-line on day 7....that's sport...
We started off better than we anticipated by winning the prologue on day 1. Day 2... A day we just wanted to cruise safely to the finish as the following day was the big one... Swartberg showdown - dash for cash where Bridge (title sponsor of the pioneer) had equalled men's and women's prize money for the first team to the top of the hilltop finish. Day 2 went incredibly well, and we managed to make more time on GC as we finished first and stay in pink. Day 3 was a day I don't think either of us will forget easily. Despite getting away from the other ladies teams earlier on in the race, and me not having a rear brake from 10 Km's into the stage, we put the hammer down leading into the base of the rather big Swartberg pass. We had a 4 minute lead as we started the long climb...up...up...up. As if the elevation wasn't enough of a challenge, we had some serious winds to contend with...at times, it really felt as if we were going nowhere. The motivation not to be caught after the effort we had put in, made us double our time gap by the time we reached the top. We saw the flags... A few more corners and we would have done it.... We had unbelievable support out on the pass, encouragement from supporters on the side as well as fellow riders ahead of us and behind us. I actually think that they started celebrating before us.... We knew, we needed to get over the line before we could start celebrating. We couldn't believe it once we summited.
I remember leaving home saying goodbye to my family, my last words as I got into the car for the airport were.... "IMAGINE" ... And here I am flying back home, having imagined & dreamed.
The following day we had another good day, felt pretty good out there and really had fun on the tracks - particularly into Meiringspoort. We surfed the single track where everything flowed and felt good. That day we had some good company from the Asrin ladies Cath Williamson and Alice Prirard. Stage 4 ended in an exciting sprint finish which we once again managed to take - and stay in pink.
.....and then as the weather changed, so too did our bright days ;) rain in the early hours of the morning on one of the epic stages. With that our last day in pink as I had a nightmare of a day as we rode the monster stage to George. We lost majority of our time on a mechanical - a sidewall cut ... On the rocky Louvain descent. A plug wouldn't do, and we needed to tube it... But as I loosened my through axle... It came apart leaving the outer casing in the frame and the inner ... Out. So before we could attend to the initial problem the through axle needed to be fixed before we could get the wheel out. We just got passed by teams, initially only men's teams... But then... meerendal ladies passed us.... And a little while after Cherise and Candice also came past. Fixing mechanicals in muddy conditions while having sugar lows is not easy. We lost our lead, and with that...on arrival in the pouring rain, we lost touch of our pink jerseys.
With 2 days remaining and a 21 minute deficit behind the new leaders (ASRIN) It was going to be a tall order to make up the time. Particularly because stage 6 got shortened by 20km making it a mere 51km. That's sport - it tests you in so many ways, and in other ways it is a great character builder. The last 2 days of the race became even more of a challenge when Jennie woke up sick on day 6 ... Thank goodness it was a short stage, but for poor Jen... It was long enough. Riding a bike when you are not feeling well is the last thing you want to be doing... It was hot... It was dusty... And Jen really had to push through limits that day to get to the end. During the stage she mentioned to me that her body had switched off... She was battling to keep the pace and the Meerendal team of Esther Suss and Theresa Ralph opened up a gap in a short space of time.... But Jen hung on... Determined to get to the finish and meet the criteria we had to meet in order to win our Swartbergshowdown bonus. We limited our losses and worked well as a team as we rode a steady pace to the finishline.... And that was where Jen collapsed, she was not well at all. It's times like these that you often realize what teamwork really is. It's not really about the times it only runs smoothly, but rather that teams get tested when the going gets tough. I learnt a lot about Jennie's dedication and commitment to me and our team for the Pioneer. We had to be very careful not to jeopardize her health in the long run just for a short term payout. That being said... We only had one day remaining until we could get to the finishline which seemed to be becoming more of a challenge than we had anticipated.
Jen slept all afternoon, not sounding well, or looking well at all.... Yet she focused on her recovery just so that she could start the next day. In the morning Jen woke up even worse, we decided our priority would be to watch her health...even if it meant we loose,our 2nd position on GC. Life has funny ways of working things out... On determining which path you take.... We started up front and within the first few hundred meters Jennie's front wheel became entangled with a long piece of wire. We pulled off to the side... Overtaken by what seemed to be a sea of people on two wheels. Was that someone's way of slowing us down? ... Telling us... "Girls take it slow" ... Well in my mind, that was the sign I got, take it slow and just get to the finish...and that is what we did that day. Jennie was taking strain feeling totally off colour, and thankfully I was feeling strong enough to be able to make small differences to take up the load where I could. We managed to keep our 2nd GC position, and crossed the line together, as team CApe Brewing Co/BiogenToyota.
I think considering the hurdles we found in the last 3 days of racing, we had a great journey together, we rode well when we rode well, and possibly lost the race...not because we ran out of talent...but more because that's just the way luck had it. The Asrin girls rode extremely well, and it paid off... So congrats to them on their Pioneer win... As well as to all the other ladies teams who competed. Cherise and Candice had a solid stage win which is also great to see. Thank you to all involved who make events of this caliber happen.... This is my oxygen... My passion...my sport!
The 2014 Pennypinchers Origin Of Trails, Stellenbosch’s only 2-Day Mountain Bike Stage Race, has attracted the interest of a number of top female riders including the likes of Ariane Kleinhans, Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot. Celebrating its second anniversary, the Pennypinchers Origin Of Trails will take place on Friday, 28 November and Saturday, 29 November 2014.
“I am looking forward to seeing all my South African mountain biking friends, while having a great time riding the nicest trails around Stellenbosch,” says Kleinhans. “The event is about raising funds to build and maintain trails in and around Stellenbosch. The great trails are a huge attraction for the best mountain bikers in the world. It’s really great for the sport that Stillwater Sports hosts this event in this very special town to further develop the trail network”.
According to Stenerhag, hosting a 2-Day MTB stage race in Stellenbosch is a great idea. “We have so many nice trails. It is awesome that mountain bikers from outside of Stellenbosch can come and ride them. It is also nice for all the mountain bikers in Stellenbosch to have a stage race at home. I support the event because of its Stellenbosch trail developing initiative. It is the last race of the year so I will probably be riding more than racing”.
“A 2-Day MTB stage race in Stellenbosch can only be absolute bliss,” says De Groot. “I am looking for a new adventure and I’ve heard that the Pennypinchers Origin Of Trails features awesome single-track and trails. This will be the first time that I ride in Stellenbosch. I've only heard good things so to experience it firsthand will be great”.
The Pennypinchers Origin Of Trails is an individual two day mountain bike stage race that combines a vast network of world class trails with beauty and exclusivity. Riders are given the unique opportunity to experience a spectacular combination of single-tracks that have been previously unknown to the mountain biking community of Stellenbosch. The goal behind the Pennypinchers Origin Of Trails is to offer participants an unbelievable cycling experience, while raising funds to further trail building in Stellenbosch.
Be part of the action at this end of year mountain bike season celebration. Choose between three entry options: Long (70km and 70km), Medium (70km and 40km) or Short (40km and 40km).
Stage One: Friday, 28 November 2014
Distance: +- 70km or +- 40km
Start & Finish: Stellenbosch
Stage Two: Saturday, 29 November 2014
Distance: +- 70km or +- 40km
Start & Finish: Stellenbosch
Option 1: Long / 70km and 70km / R900.00 per rider
Option 2: Medium / 70km and 40km / R800.00 per rider
Option 3: Short / 40km and 40km / R700.00 per rider
Follow us on Twitter: @OriginOfTrails / @Stillwater_MTB
Like our Facebook page: Stillwater MTB Events
For more information on the Pennypinchers Origin Of Trails please contact Stillwater Sport & Entertainment on 086 138 3591, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stillwatersports.com
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TUESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2014
South African mountain bike marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) continued with her impressive debut season as a full-time mountain bike racer when she won the iconic Pennypinchers Karoo-to-Coast race title in Knysna on Sunday.
De Groot clocked a time of three hours 29 minutes 18 seconds, just over a minute ahead of Swedish national marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Company). Former South African marathon champion, Cherise Stander (RECM), rounded out the podium places.
It’s the first time De Groot has won one of the country’s oldest mountain bike marathons, which starts at Uniondale in the Karoo region and ends at the coastal town of Knynsa. The 100km race route gradually descends from a height of 700 metres above sea level with 1525 metres of total ascent and is known for its stunning scenery as it connects the two eco-regions.
After finishing second in her first attempt at the event last year, De Groot used the experience she gained to her benefit in the popular point-to-point race, clocking a time five minutes faster than she did in 2013 – in similar conditions.
“Last year I did too much work on my own and was rather empty in the finale. This year, I rode a lot more tactically and used the bunches that form along the route to save my energy for the finale,” explained De Groot.
“I actually got away from the other women on the very first climb, which has quite a loose, tricky surface, but Jennie caught me on the descent and it was then that I realised I need to use the shelter of the bunches as best I can. I reached the last climb with a bit of something left in the tank this year and I put in a surge, which allowed me to get a gap on Jennie.
“For the final eight kilometres it was a pursuit situation. Jennie was fighting really hard and when I looked back, there were times where I thought she might catch me. But there was a bit of a head wind on the last exposed section into Knysna and I managed to maintain my advantage to the finish,” smiled De Groot.
De Groot and Stenerhag won the PE-Plett stage race last Tuesday and are preparing to team up again for next month’s UCI-graded Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek seven-day stage race.
“The Cape Pioneer Trek is a big goal for us. The UCI points are attractive, the prize money is good and the event is very challenging. We’ll be up against a strong international field there so races like PE-Plett and Karoo-to-Coast are good preparation events for that,” said De Groot.
De Groot adds the Karoo-to-Coast title to MTN Dullstroom Marathon, three Nissan Trailseeker Marathons and the South African Marathon Championships to her list of significant one-day race wins for 2014. She’s also won PE-Plett and Sani2c stage races with Stenerhag this year and placed sixth overall at the Marathon World Championships.
“It’s been a really good year for me so far. I wouldn’t be able to put in the kind of commitment and time required were it not for my primary sponsors Biogen, Toyota and Cycle Lab. They’ve believed in me and helped me achieve more than I could have imagined at the start of this year. Hopefully I can end the year on a high note,” smiled De Groot.
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TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 2014
South African mountain bike marathon champion, Robyn de Groot and Sweden’s national marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag, combined forces as team Biogen Toyota Cape Brewing Company and dominated the Isuzu Trucks PE-Plett stage race that ended on Tuesday.
The pair won the women’s division in all four stages and the overall title, but while the results show they were dominant, it wasn’t an event that they were able to take lightly.
The PE-Plett took place over four days, taking riders almost 400km from Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. There were more than 7000 metres of vertical ascent during the event that proved to be a true test of endurance, power, skill and equipment.
“Jennie and I are riding next month’s Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek as a team and we wanted to use PE-Plett as a test for that. And boy what a test it was!” said De Groot.
“None of the stages were easy. In fact each was tough in its own way. The terrain was unpredictable and constantly changing. The event’s pay-off line is “The Tough One” and it certainly lived up to that,” said De Groot.
After winning the 125km stage 1 on Saturday with an impressive fifth overall, Stage 2, a 91km haul was the pair’s biggest challenge. Stenerhag was suffering from a stomach bug, which saw her struggle to maintain the team’s regular race pace. But she managed to reach the finish with the team still claiming a strong sixth overall.
Stage 3, a 73km leg from Hankey to Woodridge included over 2000 metres of ascent, largely through the Longmore Forest. Stenerhag was almost fully recovered from her stomach problem and the pair were able to increase their lead with another fifth-place finish in the overall placings.
The final stage from Woodridge to Port Elizabeth on Tuesday was also only 68km, but it offered the greatest variety of terrain, gradient and trail type of any of the stages. Many riders found the last 15km through the Baakens Valley’s steep, shale-surfaced singletrack to be one of the toughest segments of the event. De Groot and Stenerhag held a solid lead at that stage and decided to be somewhat cautious.
Their strategy paid off and they finished a remarkable fourth overall on the day without any incidents.
“We were fortunate not to have any mechanicals as the route claimed a few unfortunate victims over the four days. We did confirm, especially when Jennie had her stomach problem, that we team up well together. We made it through that stage quite well and that will stand us in good stead for the Cape Pioneer Trek,” said De Groot.
The penultimate round of the MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan that took place in Hilton this weekend was hailed as perfectly timed to prime for World Marathon MTB Champsthat will take place in the same area this weekend.
Darren Lill (CannondaleBlend) put his knowledge from his win at Hilton the previous season to good useand put in a sterling ride to take the win and put up his hand as an overallseries contender with just one event remaining. “I knew the area and decided torace from the front and keep the pressure on” Lill added. Making the most ofthe hills Lill climbed his way to victory and a solid shot at the series title.Lill said afterwards: "I was quite happy to take the KOM on the way”.
His win shot him into fourthplace in the National MTB Series standings putting him within striking distanceof a series win. Lill is the only rider in the top5 who has completed only fourof the five events that count towards the series standings. This means Lillonly has to finish ahead of Bell and in the top5 at the final round of theseries at MTN Crater Cruise to claim the overall title.
Advendurance theorganising team behind the series was widely hailed for providing riders withthe perfect preparation for World Marathon Championships. ABSA Cape Epic winnerRobert Mennen (Topeak Ergon) heard about the event and decided to take part inthe marathon rather than the ultra to fine tune his preparation. “Idecided to only do the marathon because a 110 so close to world champs mighthave been a bit much. The course was great prep for World Marathon Champs to beheld here next week. It was my second event in the National MTB Series and I’mvery impressed, I wish we had a series like this in Europe but I guess this isanother reason to come to South Africa” Mennen commented after the event.
Runner up and currentseries leader Nico Bell (Team RE:CM) said: “The international riders made ithard right from the gun and kept the tempo high. Darren really climbed well andGawie and I had to very work hard to claw him back. I cramped towards the endand just could not match Darren in the final stretch to the line.”
Gawie Combrinck roundedthe podium in third and commented: “My race was very up and down but managed topull it together towards the end but legs just weren’t there towards thefinish”.
The women’s race was hotlycontested and saw three reigning national champions battle it out for the topstep. The early tempo was set by Swedish champ Jennie Stenerhag riding for CapeBrewing Company but it was the Swiss champ Ariane Kleinhans (Team RE:CM) whocrossed the line in first followed by newly crowned SA champ Robyn de Groot(Biogen Toyota).
Kleinhans said: “It wasreally an amazing race and credit has to go to the organisers for giving us theopportunity to fine tune so close to World Marathon Champs. It was really agreat fight! Jennie Stenerhag (CBC) made it hard from the start and I had toput in a good effort to get away. Robyn nearly caught me right at the end and Ihad to push really hard to stay away. It is really a confidence boost ahead ofnext week’s world champs and could not have come at a better time.”
Just one week aftersuccessfully defending her national title de Groot commented: “I’m reallygrateful to be able to prepare here for world’s and Ariane really made me workhard to try and hang on to the overall series lead. I tried limiting my lossesand came close enough to see her close to the end but she saw me after my tyreslid and made a noise and she just accelerated away when she saw me coming.”
Swede Jennie Stenerhagsaid: ‘I really had a great start to the race and put in some good efforts onthe climbs. My energy just faded towards the end and couldn’t hold Ariane,Robyn also passed me before the finish”.
MTN Ultra Marathon
MTN Marathon Women
MTN Marathon Overall Male
Marathon u23 Male
Marathon u23 Female
Published: Thursday, 04 September 2014 14:36
Nico Bell from Team RECM and Robyn de Groot from Biogen Toyota both managed their hat trick wins at the third leg of the Nissan TrailSeeker Series. The event took place at the Curro Hazeldean school in the East of Pretoria on Saturday and drew a capacity field of 3000 riders.
Bell and de Groot were flawless in their execution of their third consecutive wins. Bell claimed the Dunlop Hot Spot early in the race and soon after broke clear with Brand du Plessis. Bell’s race nearly ended in disaster when a stray piece of rusted barbed wire got entangled in his rear wheel forcing him to stop.
Impressively Bell refused to give up and managed to claw back du Plessis eventually passing him just 500m from the finish line to take his hat trick win. Bell now has a commanding lead in the overall series standings followed by Brand du Plessis and Thinus Redelinghuys in the same order they finished the third event.
Reigning South African marathon champion Robyn de Groot commented before the start of the race “I’m not 100% sure of my form after a bit of a rest” but she had nothing to worry about if you look at the result. De Groot also claimed the Dunlop Hot Spot and was first to crest the surprise Donkerhoek climb that was added to this year's event.
De Groot pushed home and crossed the line in first with a solid lead. She commented afterwards that the course was fast and fun and that it is great to see so many people ride their bikes on such a cold morning. “What I love about the Nissan TrailSeeker events is that they are right on our doorstep that makes it a lot cheaper to participate and of course the trails are incredible” she added.
Yolandi du Toit (Garmin) finished in second place followed by Lise Olivier from Velo Life Time Freight. The fourth event in the series, TrailSeeker Bundu Bash, will take riders to a brand new venue just North of Pretoria at the Roodeplaat Agriculture Research Council where they will be spoilt with brand new trails in and around the Buffelsdrift nature reserve.
Published: Sunday, 22nd June 2014
This weekend the penultimate round of the MTN National MTB Series driven by Nissan takes place in Hilton Kwazulu Natal on a route that's tipped to favour climbers. The route showcases the diversity that defines the National MTB Series, taking riders through sugar cane, savanna, plantations, indegenious forest and bushveld terrain.
Team dynamics within the professional ranks have seen a significant shake up of late that will see nearly all of the top contenders without the support of fellow team mates. The hilly route will play to the strength of the remaining riders who all happen to be prolific climbers.
Last year's MTN Hilton winner Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend) said "The longer climbs suit me, where the previous weekends' rough rocky terrain counted against me". Lill will be looking to prove his form one week out from the World Marathon champs, that will take place only kilometers away.
It remains to be seen if last week's winner Lourens Luus (Team RECM) will sacrifice points to boost team mate Nico Bell's Series lead or snatch them for himself. The only other team combination is that of Kevin Evans and Max Knox (Fedgroup Itec). Knox who is out of contention of the overall series might play a pivotal role in deciding Evans' result.
All rounders Bell and Luus will be under severe pressure from the specialist climbers Evans, Knox and Lill. The upset might come from dark horses Hanco Kachelhoffer (Altech) and Gawie Combrinck (EAI Cycling).
Swiss marathon specialist Ariane Kleinhans (Team RECM) has set her sights on usurping current series leader Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota). Kleinhans could sew up the series with a single win in the last two rounds. She has been honing her skills in the midlands for a while now escaping the severe Cape Winter weather in preparation for Marathon World Champs.
De Groot's feat leading the series while juggling a full time job could be prevented from being undone by beating Kleinhans at both of the remaining rounds of the series. The two riders are separated by only 100 points which could see this coming down to the wire at the final event of the series.
Published: 8 June 2014
Source: Release Centre
Photo: Mylene Paynter
Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) outclassed a strong field and conquered a tough course to retain the South African Women’s Marathon Mountain Bike title in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.
De Groot clocked a winning time of 04 hours 04 minutes 32 seconds for the 70km course, which took the riders out of Pietermaritzburg, up to Hilton and back down to Pietermaritzburg for a total of 2400 metres of vertical ascent.
London Olympian, Candice Neethling (VeloLife Time Freight) claimed second place, over nine minutes back, with Samantha Sanders (Valencia) a further seven minutes down, securing third place. Incidentally, it was the same podium placement as the 2013 national championships.
“That was a hectic course!” said a weary De Groot afterwards. “There was so much climbing and there were technical sections throughout, not just in the final 20km as we’d been expecting.”
De Groot took the lead early on as the race reached the first climb not far from the start. Only Yolande de Villiers (Sasol Racing) was able to match her early pace, but soon fell back into the group behind.
“When I realised I was on my own in the front on the first climb I started wondering why. I thought maybe the others were saving themselves for later in the race. I felt quite good so decided to just ride at my pace and see if I could maintain the lead for as long as possible,” explained De Groot.
But the 31-year-old Biokineticist from Johannesburg extended her lead, holding a four-minute margin over Neethling at 47km, which she more than doubled in the final 23km.
“I must be honest, I felt like I was actually going backwards in the last 10 kilometres, I wouldn’t want to have tackled that race undertrained. We knew by the course profile beforehand that there would be a lot of climbing, but actually riding those climbs was another thing! I have done a lot of hard racing over the past few weeks which has been the best way to prepare for this event I feel,” added De Groot.
Retaining the national title was a big objective for De Groot for 2014.
“I realised yesterday that my year of wearing the national champion’s jersey was up. It was quite a serious reality check. I’m so pleased to be able to keep it for another year. It’s one thing winning it for the first time, but there’s quite a lot of pressure that comes with defending the title. It really means a lot to me,” smiled De Groot.
For De Groot, the next two weekends see her competing in Rounds 6 and 7 of the MTN National Marathon Series, which she is leading, before tackling the 2014 UCI Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, on what will essentially be the same course as the national championships were held on.
2014 South African Marathon Championships, presented by Stihl
Source: Release Centre
South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot, teamed up with Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag, to secure a dominant win in the women’s category at the 2014 Nedbank Sani2c mountain bike stage race at the weekend.
Attracting 4500 participants, the three-day 265km race from Underberg to Scottburgh in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province is the biggest mountain bike stage race in the world.
The event was celebrating its 10th anniversary and was held in perfect weather conditions, in contrast to cold and rainy conditions in 2013 when De Groot claimed her first win the high profile race along with teammate, Ischen Stopforth. The event is contested by teams of two.
De Groot and Stenerhag, racing as the Biogen Toyota Cape Brewing Co. team were up against a strong field in this year’s race. They won Stage 1 comfortably, a full 12 minutes ahead of second-placed Garmin ASG’s Yolande Speedy and Yolandi du Toit. The first stage is always a tense affair because all the teams are eager to get a good start. Unfortunately one of the teams that looked likely to be a strong contender for the women’s title, Hi-Tec USN, had to withdraw during the stage. Theresa Ralph, who was teamed up with Jeannie Dreyer, crashed and broke her wrist.
“With that kind of lead going into Day 2, the toughest and longest of the three days, Jennie and I were able to ride with a decent level of caution and avoided any mechanicals and crashes. The pressure was on the other women to see if they could close that gap and that suited us,” said De Groot.
Speedy, a multiple South African cross-country and marathon champion and Beijing Olympian crashed on Stage 2 and ended up having to get a gash on her chin stitched up after the stage. The incident saw De Groot and Stenerhag extend their lead going into the final day to more than 40 minutes.
“Even with a big lead, you can never ever feel secure. Mountain bike racing can throw up some big surprises and a mechanical, crash or even wrong turn, can cause major time loss or even end your race. We had to once again keep our risk-taking to a minimum. Having no big pressure on us helped, but you can only really relax once you’ve crossed the finish line,” smiled De Groot.
Stenerhag and De Groot won the final stage and extended their final winning margin in the process to over 52 minutes, securing a dominant victory in South Africa’s most popular mountain bike stage race.
“It’s quite an honour to win the Sani2c. So many have ridden it and can relate to it, which makes it quite special. It’s a truly great event in every aspect, not only for us top contenders, but for every competitor. It was the first time Jennie and I have teamed up for a race and we quickly developed a good understanding of each other, which certainly helped us race as smoothly as we did,” added De Groot
Du Toit and Speedy finished second, with Team Baeti’s Natalie Bergstrom and Tammy Visagie rounding out the final overall podium.
The 31-year-old biokineticist will now focus on the MTN Rooiberg marathon in Limpopo Province on Saturday. It doubles as Round 5 of the MTN National Marathon Series, which De Groot is leading.
“Having won the national series last year, it’s one of my goals to try and defend that title this year. I love that each event in the series this year offers such varied terrain. It keeps things very interesting and unpredictable,” said De Groot, who switched to mountain bike racing after having represented South Africa in the London Olympic Games road race.
Published: June 2014
Source: Gameplan Media
Photo: Jetline Action Photo
Pietermaritzburg – On-form South African women’s MTB Marathon Champion Robyn de Groot has her sights set on the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships in her own backyard later this month, having finished in the top 20 of the 2013 edition but the Gauteng star is remaining on the conservative side when predicting her chances for this year’s event at the Cascades MTB Park on Sunday, 29 June.
The Team Biogen Toyota star has been in red hot form in recent months with a number of top performances under her belt with the most recent being a win at the Nissan Trailseeker this last weekend. The national championships are coming up this weekend and De Groot has her eyes focused on defending her national champion’s jersey.
“It has been a good few weeks for me,” the 2014 Nedbank sani2c winner said. “It is always good to race as much as possible and although managing my work and my training can be difficult my focus is doing the best I can to retain my national champs jersey!”The national marathon showpiece will give the riders a better idea of what to expect when the World championships come around and De Groot believes that this sort of advantage is something that the local riders must embrace.
“We are going to have a really strong field at the SA Champs which means that it is going to be a good gauge as to which riders to look out for but also to get a feel of the conditions. It is the perfect dress rehearsal for us before Worlds.
“With the national champs and the world champs at the same venue it is a great opportunity for South African riders to do well,” she added.
Having come 19th at the World Championships in 2013 De Groot feels that she can go better but is a little wary when comparing herself to the international riders considering she rarely competes against them besides for the international events.
“It is quite hard to set goals for events like the World champs when you have no one to compare yourself to because I never get overseas to race against these other girls. I know that the field is going to be really strong and it is hard to judge but if I could get myself into the top 15 at the end of the race that would be great for me!” a cautious De Groot commented.
There are a number of races in the remaining three weeks before the World Championships with the MTN MTB Series race in Hilton just a week before the World champs. De Groot thinks that a number of the international riders will use the Hilton race as an opportunity to become accustomed to the terrain and conditions a week before the main event.
De Groot believes that this will give her the opportunity to suss out the international competition but she does not feel that it will be a fair reflection on the competition that she will face during the World championships seven days later.
“We have got a lot of races following the SA Champs before the Worlds and I think the Hilton race will be a good one in terms of getting used to the conditions as well as seeing the other international riders taking part.
“Although it is going to be good seeing the other girl’s ride I don’t think that we can read too much into the race because with such a big race a week later I think everyone will ride the race a little more conservatively,” De Groot concluded.
The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on 29 June 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldchamps.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media
Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon
Current South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota), claimed a morale-boosting win at the opening round of the MTN National Marathon Mountain Bike Series in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga on Saturday.
De Groot was involved in a two-rider battle for supremacy with current Swiss marathon champion, Ariane Kleinhans (Team RE:CM) for the first half of the race, but their duel ended abruptly when Kleinhans sustained a torn tyre sidewall and lost more than 30 minutes.
De Groot, who was less than half a minute behind at the time of Kleinhans’ misfortune, offered to assist the Swiss, who told her to continue. De Groot then charged on alone through the muddy conditions to claim the victory. Second went to Jeannie Dreyer (USN) with Samantha Saunders (Valencia) rounding out the first three places. Kleinhans limped home in sixth.
The 31-year-old London road race Olympian has made her presence felt on the women’s mountain biking scene after making the switch from the tar last year. Besides winning the 2013 national marathon title, De Groot also won the overall title in the 2013 MTN National Marathon Series.
“It was a nice way to start off this year’s MTN Series with a win. It’s a pity Ariane had a problem with her tyre as I felt we were really having a solid battle, which would have been great to continue until the end,” said De Groot.
The pair moved clear of the other women on the first major climb at around 25km into the 77km race. They then rode together until the first water point at 34km whereafter Kleinhans managed to edge clear of De Groot on the subsequent descent.
“I found the climbs easier than I’d expected today. But the mud made the going tough. Ariane got away from me on that descent because I really did struggle a bit to negotiate the mud. I just don’t have the same experience as she does,” explained De Groot.
“I could see her ahead of me and she was probably half a minute ahead when I noticed her stop and examine her tyre. I offered to help her, but she said it looked bad and might take a while and that I should continue, which I did,” added De Groot.
The Johannesburg-based biokenicist then claimed the Queen of the Mountain title at 57km and continued to set a steady tempo to the finish.
“I expected Arian to have repaired her tyre a lot quicker and to be chasing me. I wasn’t getting any information about the riders behind me so I really had to keep my pace consistent and avoid any mechanicals or crashes. In the end it all worked out well for me,” smiled De Groot.
After struggling to find sponsors in 2013, De Groot began 2014 with full support with Biogen and Toyota her main backers and Cycle Lab, Trek bikes, Craft clothing and Nike eyewear her support sponsors.
“It’s said so often, but it’s so important to thank one’s sponsors. Today’s race was my first race with all my new gear and if it wasn’t for those companies putting their trust in me, I wouldn’t even be on a bike this year,” said De Groot.