The smiles of Robyn de Groot and Pieter du Toit lit up the grey skies of the north of Johannesburg after they took top honours in the 55km category at the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg MTB Ride held at Steyn City on Sunday morning.
De Groot powered away to claim a magnificent solo win under what she described as “near perfect conditions” atthe new venue for the race. Overnight rain had cooled temperatures and helped pack down the dust on the tracks through and around Steyn City, ensuring fast times.
“I really enjoyed the trails,” said De Groot, who defended the title she won last year, coming home in two hours 10minutes and two seconds. “The organisers just keep improving the route. The rain helped with the grip.”
De Groot (Team Dormakaba) broke away on the first climb, opening a gap between herself, and the Team Galileo Risk duo of Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph that she never relinquished. Hill was second, seven-and-a-half minutes behind De Groot, with Ralph finishing third some six minutes later.
“I got away up the first drag with a good bunch of guys who rode really good lines through the single track,” said DeGroot, who said that this victory was the perfect end to what was a “short” year, but her “best season yet”.
De Groot won bronze at the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships in Switzerland in September and believes she has been in the best form of her career having recovered from surgery to repair a vascular problem that restricted blood flow in her left leg. The issue caused her pain and a loss of power in her left leg for two years, but having taken the brave and necessary decision to have the surgery in The Netherlands in January, she has had a new lease of life in her racing career.
It’s been a dream season, I’m riding pain free, things have gone so smoothly. This means everything to me. I haven’t had any of the symptoms again. I have my old personality back and am in such a good space.Robyn de Groot, Discovery 947 Ride Joburg MTB Ride 55km women's winner
While De Groot could take the time to celebrate her victory, Du Toit (Team Pyga Eurosteel) had to fend off WesselBotha (Team NAD) in a two-man sprint to the line. He won by two hundredths of a second, ending Botha’s dream of winning his third MTB Ride title in a row. Wicus Breytenbach was third, beating Travis Barrett, a road rider, by 0.3seconds in another tight sprint finish.
“It was a really fast start,” said Du Toit, who came home in one hour 59 minutes and 33 seconds. “Wessel was really strong, but 10km in he got a puncture. I tried to get away from him but he managed to catch me again. I managed to stick with him at the finish. I gave everything in the sprint.
I never checked the finish before the race, and the sprint started when we saw the finish line. It was all in. My legs were sore, but I told them to shut up and went hard. The course was brilliant. The rain gave it so much grip, the single track was immaculate. You couldn’t want for better conditions.Pieter du Toit, Discovery 947 Ride Joburg MTB Ride 55km men's winner
Natasha Roets (1:04;40) and 15-year-old Bertie Anderson (52:55) won their categories in the 25km event.
Winners of both men and women's 55km Discovery 947 Ride Joburg MTB Ride share a laugh while on stage.