After ending the highest-placed South African woman in Italy, where she came 23rd, De Groot took a few days’ break from training and enjoyed some travelling.
“Since being back it’s been a matter of getting on the bike again and becoming comfy on a dual suspension.
“My preparation and form is good, so it’s just about how the body responds on the day,” said De Groot, who beat Nicki Giliomee and Catherine Colyn to the line last year.
She added that the Western Cape event was a nice home-based race. “I enjoy the event, route and organisation and I’m definitely planning on going for the title again. It’s always the goal for a professional athlete.”
De Groot, 35, felt the 87km race was a proper mountain-bike event with a “nice and tough route”.
“The terrain is pretty rugged and it’s not an easy-rolling race, but I always expect a hard event with a great route.
“The competition is also pretty good as the final phase of racing is coming up for the rest of the season, so a lot of people use it as a prep race for bigger events.”
The Ascendis Health rider said she felt she knew what she was in for when it came to the route, although some changes were always likely.
“Something that has always attracted my attention and drawn me to the sport is that you can ride the same route and it would still have changed depending on how it has eroded from the rain or wind. There’s a whole variety of factors that determine how it ends up being.
“A thing that changes the dynamic of the race is competition, such as who arrives and how the race pans out. I guess that’s what makes it exciting, keeps me stimulated and makes me come back to the same event.”
De Groot said she always went into a race with a specific strategy to perform at a certain level. “It’s something I need to consider and manage throughout the race.”
When it came to obstacles or challenges, she felt it could be a physical element that was route-related or factors linked to the human body.
“I’ve been struggling with an injury, but have found my answers and I know where I’m at and what I need to do in order to manage myself really well.
“The challenging part depends on the race, how it unfolds, what competitors are around, the weather situation and how that pans out on the day. You need to be able to adapt, move forward and do the best you can with the circumstances you’re given.”
De Groot said she enjoyed supporting local racing when she was in the area as she did not always have the opportunity to do so.
“I always get fantastic support from here, so just to be able to give back means a lot to me.”
The last South African race she competed in was the cross-country championship in Grabouw in July, which she won.
“I look forward to pushing my body again, seeing how it responds and getting the best out of it that I can. I certainly look forward to finishing on the beach. That’s definitely a drawcard.”