Robyn de Groot and Wessel Botha showed imperious form to blow away their rivals and win the Telkom 947 Mountain Bike Challenge at the Riversands complex.
For De Groot, the victory was an emotional return to the city of her birth. The race will be her last for some time while she is forced to take time off for the early part of next season to recover from surgery to correct a long-term medical condition.
“I’ve been diagnosed with a blood flow and vascular issue,” said De Groot, who was born and bred in Johannesburg and now lives in George. “There is a kink in one of the Iliac arteries and there are two areas of narrowing, which is called endofibrosis. I’m busy working with my medical aid to see if they can cover my surgery in Europe. I’ve got a surgery date provisionally booked for January.
“It’s going to be a long recovery and I don’t have sponsors for next year, but I do believe I will be back and will be looking for sponsors for the second half of next year.”
De Groot won the 55km race in a time of two hours, nine minutes and 15 seconds, just over two minutes ahead of Sarah Hill and three minutes in front of Theresa Ralph.
The men’s elite 55km race was an exact repeat of the 2017 event, with Botha beating Jan Withaar and Pieter du Toit, who were second and third respectively. Botha had predicted that the winning time would be 1:57 and he stayed true to his word, coming home in 1:56;43.
“I’m so happy to have defended my title,” said Botha. “It was a hard race. I knew it was going to come down to the last few hills towards the end. I just tried to keep the pace high to tire the guys out a bit. I attacked flat out on the Steyn City climb, I got a small gap and then went full gas from there on until the end.
“There was a group of about 10 guys until the last climb. Jan just stuck on my wheel. I managed to get the jump on him towards the top of the climb and I think he blew a bit. The hardest thing for me was to stay calm and not go flat out from the start. I used pretty much the same tactics as last year, maybe putting some more pressure on the guys in the single track. It was a bit harder to get away than last year, but I still managed to do it.”
Botha echoed De Groot’s sentiments about the high standard of the route and organisation of the Telkom 947 Mountain Bike Challenge. “It is definitely one of the most prestigious races in the country,” said Botha. “It is a must-do on my calendar, one of the biggest titles to win.”
The men’s 25km event was again a tightly contested affair, with Jaedon Terlouw pipping Kyle Swanepoel in a sprint finish, both finishing in 50:09. Jarrod Havenga was third, just eight seconds behind them. Jane van Eeden won the women’s 25km class in 56:34, with Natasha Roets (59:03) second and Natalie Long (1:00;03).