Local marathon champion, Robyn de Groot, teamed up with Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag, to claim a dominant victory in the women’s category at this year’s Nedbank sani2c mountain bike stage race at the weekend.
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 one 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 two, 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 two 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.