Country Collaborator: Robyn de Groot

Robyn de Groot is an Olympian, the 2013 SA MTB marathon champ and veteran of four world championships as a road cyclist. She’s also a fellow member of Cycle Lab, currently training for her second joBerg2C. I thought I’d pick her brain for advice ahead of my debut.

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#CC: You started cycling late but rocketed to success fairly quickly…
RDG: I only started cycling competitively after university.  I was an avid sportswoman growing up, but due to a back injury in 1999 I was advised to cycle and play golf. I joined a cycling club and before I knew it I had stopped working to pursue a career as a road cyclist.

I retired from road cycling at the end of 2012, with the aim of getting back into the field of biokinetics and a more stable way of life.  It didn’t take long for me to realise that my passion for cycling was still there and I couldn’t just stop. The mountain bike I had bought for fun soon became a competitive tool. I haven’t looked back.

#CC: So these days you balance work with an intense training schedule?
RDG: Yes, I studied at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa at UCT, completed my internship and am now practicing as a biokineticist again. I work 6 hours a day, which adds an extra challenge to training.

photo2#CC: What prompted the change from road racing?
RDG: I guess I felt I had achieved all the goals I had set myself as a roadie. I needed something new and mountain biking seemed to spark my passion for cycling again. I promised my dad that I’d do joBerg2C with him, and we did just that in 2013. It turned out to be such a memorable 10 days, especially after spending so little time at home when I was racing on the road.

#CC: What sort of rider are you? How does that suit (or not) the joBerg2C?
RDG: I do prefer one day races, but I like to do a few multi-day events a year – I really enjoy the challenge. Doing last year’s JoBerg2C was just an incredible journey and I guess that’s why I’m back this year.

This time round my goals will be a little different.  My partner is very organised and has great experience in stage racing.  I think navigation being a key component for the 2014 event [when GPS navigation will be used for the first time].

#CC: I’m personally forecasting roughly seven-hour days in the saddle, aiming at nothing more than finishing strong. How specifically do you plan for a race like this? Can you tell me about your strategies for the race?
RDG: For any multi-day stage race, training specifically for consecutive days of riding is vital. J2C is one of the longer multi-day events and some of the stages are pretty arduous. You need to be comfortable you can take on hard day after hard day – several times over!

Recovery is one of the keys here. Ensure you have a good lunch to refuel after every stage, get a massage where you can and rest lots.  You’ll also need to eat on the bike. That is not just for fuel to keep you going then and there, it definitely influences the way you feel the following day.   Never run on an empty tank!

photo3#CC: Any hot tips or special advice you can offer a newbie to MTB stage racing?
RDG: Remember that you need to carry your bag to and from your tent each day. When body and mind are exhausted, that’s relevant. Pack as lightly as you can. That said, there are essentials you can’t compromise one, like a carefully planned medical kit. You can also never have enough plastic bags.

Lastly, be ready to have fun! I’m sure this won’t be your last J2C!

I wish you an awesome 9 days of racing. See you in the race villages! [Errm, yes, eventually. But don’t hold your breath 😉 – #CC]

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Many thanks to Robyn for chatting. You can follow her on Twitter @robyndegroot

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