GEORGE NEWS - Robyn de Groot is one of the best in her field in South Africa. But a podium place and a bronze medal at the recent UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Grächen, Switzerland, has elevated her to one of the best in the world.
This is South Africa's first XCM World Championships medal and a remarkable achievement by someone who had undergone major vascular surgery earlier this year.
Despite her outstanding achievement, Robyn remains her usual composed and humble self. Says Robyn,"I'm super proud to be bringing home South Africa's first XCM World Championships medal to the Garden Route I call home. I'm really proud to have podium'd at the world championships as it's a solid result for me, as well as for all who walked the journey with me, for South Africa, and of course, for all the incredible support from people on the Garden Route."
The elite women's race saw 73 starters take to the course in Grächen where they faced a distance of 70km and more than 3 500m of climbing.
The event was won by France's Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, with Slovenia's Blaza Pintaric second.
In an interview with the George Herald Robyn said the course was gruelling. "It was a long race and it was super hard, which turned out to work in my favour and suited me. I just gave everything and I'm so happy I could make it.
"The pace was high at the start and after that I managed to settle into my rhythm and work my way forward on the course. My strategy going into the race was to push my body and see where my limits are after coming back from vascular surgery earlier this year. I knew I was in good shape and that I could push for my best result."
She said she rode most of the race alongside two German riders, Adelheid Morath and Elizabeth Brandau, both top quality bike racers with ample cross country experience.
"I knew I needed to race smart as they were able to work against me as a nation, and I feel I really applied myself well to the race. I would have marked Pauline as the possible race winner. She has also just returned from very similar vascular surgery as mine earlier this year. Pauline won the cross country world championships the week before, so for sure she was the firm favourite. My toughest competitor on the day, though, was Germany's Morath, because in the end the battle for the medal came down to a sprint between us."
Robyn said most of her preparation was done in Europe some three months prior to the event, although she built her training up from April this year, with the major goal being the world championships after her surgery.
"I missed a large chunk of the races in South Africa earlier this year due to the surgery and the recovery phase, so I was really motivated for my European race block. My coach, Barry Austin, played a big role in this result. It was also great to secure a sponsorship from dormakaba ahead of my trip to Europe. It just seemed like everything came together perfectly at the right time. I've also had an amazing support structure, people who have stood by me and never stopped believing in my ability, people who helped me recover from surgery and supported me no matter what."
Her next race is the Wines2Whales near Hermanus where she will be racing alongside her dormakaba teammate, Amy McDougall. And believe me, the wheels won't come off.
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