/ master /
acquire complete knowledge or skill in a subject, technique, or art.
South Africa is home to a very strong, healthy and growing cycling community. And with more and more events popping up every year, this wave seems to show no signs of slowing down or breaking. Most notably on the events calendar, are the multitude of marathon and stage races. From single-day, to three-day, to the flagship stage race that is the Absa Cape Epic, the past 10+ years have put South Africa on the map as marathon central. Huge overseas names have come to compete here, and early each year, plenty of them migrate down to sunny South Africa to acclimatise, train and prepare for these events. The combination of amazing marathon events, top-level international competition and big-brand sponsorships has lead to the development of a number of extremely talented South African marathon masters.
One such master is Robyn de Groot. With achievements ranging from 5 times SA marathon champion, to multiple stage wins at the Absa Cape, and two top tens at the Marathon World Championships, she’s undoubtably one of SA’s finest. After hanging up her road shoes in 2012, Robyn aimed at settling down with a stable job, but soon realised that mountain biking will trump everything else and become her new fulltime job. We catch up with the 35 year old in her hometown of George to see what happens behind the scenes and get some inside information about life, training and how she balances everything in-between.
Who is Robyn de Groot?
Robyn de Groot is a very normal human being who explores much of her days on 2 knobbly wheels, works hard at achieving goals, always growing and striving to learn more in all aspects of life.
How did you get into professional cycling and what/who are influences in your decisions.
I had no intention to make Mountain biking a career, I had just finished my road cycling career and settled into a stable job in Biokinetics. My dad had asked me to do Sani2c with him some day - it was one of his dreams to go and experience that together - so in a way I guess it was that commitment which then moved me in the direction of mountain biking and eventually we actually did Jo’burg2c together as my first stage race. We had such fun and still laugh a lot about our journey back in 2013. I fell in love with this incredible sport all over again, I performed at events, and realized that I have this passion for mountain biking. That’s when I started to push towards a career in Mountain biking. Sponsors weren’t easy to find, my first fully professional contract came from Lange Sports with Ascendis Health as the title sponsor, and I still ride for them now. They have nurtured me and supported me really well.
Talk us through some of your training plan and schedule.
I generally train 6 days of the week... I have a coach and follow a training plan. I generally sit with the race schedule at the end of each year and choose a basic outline of races that I/we would like to do as well as setting goals for the season and prioritizing them. The best is to break the year into quarters and re-evaluate as the year goes... it is dynamic so one needs to realize that a degree of flexibility is also required.
What makes you happy?
Simple things make me happy... time with people I care about, being in nature, barefoot... really its these small things which mean the most to me. All the things that money can’t buy.
What is your greatest fear?
I live life in the most fulfilling and positive way possible... I don’t really give much thought to my fears, but to answer your question I suppose then my biggest fear is: ever giving fear the power to control or limit me.
How do you relax and get away from it all?
One would be surprised to see how full our days as athletes actually are... I always make time for good company, good coffee and focusing on the important people in my life. When I get the opportunity to spend time with my dog on the beach I always jump at that. I absolutely love looking for pansy shells... there is just something about the majestical way of finding such a perfect & beautiful shell in some of the most turbulent waters on the shore.
What advice would you give the 10 year old version of yourself?
Dare to be different & do what you love! Passion carries you a long way, and the path less travelled is worthwhile.
What’s your local/favorite training ride location and why?
I love training in George, it’s something I really appreciate on a daily basis... But I have also learned that no matter where I am in South Africa on a bicycle I always enjoy it. I love the diversity each part of the country offers. The Garden route trail park is a hidden gem - if you are ever in the garden route area… treat yourself ;)
What is your greatest achievement in the world of mountain biking?
There have been some great achievements which are based on performance, selections, podiums, top steps and titles for sure… but sitting here today… I guess ones that have been closest to my heart have been those in life that you sometimes leave without the gold medal. There have been many of these kinds of experiences along my road and MTB career, I cant pinpoint one as my greatest. So far 6th place at World champs has been my best international achievement on the MTB, my National XCM titles have all been very special - the 5th one as special as the 1st one :)
You got injured in 2017 which affected your racing. Tell us a bit more about that.
Yeah I’ve just come through a very rough patch…a true test of patience. I can’t really tell you what happened. It was an injury that developed over time and became a chronic problem. Initially it was something I was able to train and race through but as the year went on it just got worse and worse. I got diagnosed with Piriformis syndrome after an MRI and Nerve Conduction study after Wines2Whales. They found damage to my Sciatic nerve. Unfortunately nerves heal very slowly... so I have had to lay off riding for quite a long time and focus on rehabilitation, and other forms of exercise in the meantime. I’m finally back on the bike again, and very grateful to be where I am at right now.
What does 2018 have in store for you.
It has some exciting stage racing, marathon races and also I hope to get to Europe and do more XCM races there which I have never really had the opportunity to do in the past.