The 36-year-old, who was diagnosed with the condition at the end of last year and underwent complicated vascular surgery in the Netherlands on January 17, recently signed with dormakaba.
“I landed up joining Samantha Sanders at the last minute for sani2c earlier this year. It went well and I guess potentially from that the team saw that I was going to make a comeback after my surgery.
“Through that they were keen to make it something more permanent,” said De Groot, who ended up winning the women’s team race alongside Sanders in May.
De Groot said she felt excited to be joining the outfit as she found them to be very professional. They paid great attention to the sort of details that made a difference.
“It’s really got a family feeling to it and I’ve been made to feel welcome from day one by their riders, staff, managers and performance directors. It’s an environment that creates happiness, which in turn will create success. I feel super grateful for the opportunity.”
The 2017 Cape Epic podium finisher hoped to deliver top results and add value to the brand through her personal followers and supporters.
“I hope to bring a character that never gives up and always arrives with a positive attitude. I guess I have a wealth of experience from many perspectives when it comes to being a professional athlete and I hope to bring this to the team, to share what I know.
“That being said, I also have so much to learn. I believe that under this umbrella I can learn a lot from many people within the team’s structure too.
“I mean Sam and Amy [McDougall] are incredible mountain bikers who have strengths far beyond mine when it comes to the technical side. I can only grow by learning from them and, with that, it will also just keep on strengthening the team.”
De Groot felt she was in a good space physically, emotionally and mentally after the hardships she had had to overcome.
“I’m honestly feeling 100% after my surgery and I’m able to push harder than I have been in a long while.
“I’m motivated and enjoying mountain biking again. Obviously with the security and belief from the team it gives me a lot of confidence, a huge financial relief and an amazing support structure.”
She also described the transition as part of her comeback, saying it would not have been possible without the support of sponsors.
“It has given me a huge opportunity that I will forever be grateful for.
“I still have a few things I need to work on, but in general yes I can’t feel the ‘old symptoms’ – both my right and left legs feel the same, so there’s no limitation, which feels incredible.
“I’d say in general I’m back to where I used to be, with the possibility of growth beyond what I’ve been limited to in the past, and that excites me.
“I just need to work on those things for the remainder of the year and see what the new limits are.”
De Groot, who was runner-up in June’s SA XCM Champs, lost out in her bid to claim a seventh successive title to teammate Sanders.
She said Sanders rode an “incredibly strong nationals” and was “definitely faster” than her on the day.
“I really feel that it was a well-deserved win for her and I have no doubt she will wear the national jersey with pride and do it justice for sure.
“She has worked really hard and has been super committed, so it’s wonderful to see someone’s hard work having paid off.”
De Groot will be racing in Europe until October as she awaits a clear-cut schedule from her team regarding the final racing of 2019 in South Africa.
“I’m excited about that, as well as racing all the major events in 2020.
“I always break seasons into quarters; it’s just more realistic and easier to control.
“The good news is that I’ll be racing here in Europe for my team, the remainder of 2019 in SA with them and then for a full year in 2020.”