Behind the Pro : Robyn de Groot
South Africa’s most decorated female MTB cyclist. This home-grown talent began her cycling journey on the road and then moved over to the dirt to become a household name on the marathon circuit. Robyn de Groot needs little introduction and her roll of honor runs longer than any other South African female marathon mountain biker. From the ABSA Cape Epic, five time winner of the South African XCM Championship , to competing in World Championships, Robyn has achieved the best in her field. She is the darling of South African mountain biking and embodies all that a female rider would want to be. She is killer on the bike and a fun loving, free spirited woman when she climbs off. We were lucky enough to spend some time looking beyond the cycling accolades and get to see the woman behind the sunglasses and helmet. Robyn shares some personal thoughts and how she spends her time when she is not leading the pack and we were nothing short of inspired…
Short & sweet - Give us your cycling history
Ex roadie turned Mountain biker in 2013 and never looked back since. Enjoying the privilege of riding trails all over South Africa as a career and I am fortunate enough to have some amazing sponsors who provide opportunities to pursue a MTB marathon career.
Anything that involves a braai ;) but yeah in general, healthy clean food. I don't particularly follow a strict diet, but rather eat a well balanced diet based on how the food makes me feel.
Where and when was your last holiday?
Proper holiday... I took one in April 2016 - I went to visit family and friends in Holland :) In 2016 I took a break at the end of the MTB season, but i just explored the western Cape.
If your house was burning down and you could save three things (apart from your family) what would they be?
I spent a long while pondering this question. If I were guaranteed my family was safe, I would be certain to save my dogs along with some mementos and photographs I have collected. Lastly, I have a little watch fetish, so I would probably grab those. Each one has come from a special place and has memories attached to it, so yeah, definitely my watch collection.
What TV programmes are you watching at the moment?
I actually don't watch much TV. If anything, I'll watch a good movie and I always enjoy a good documentary. I also enjoy a good book . I'm always up for the series "How I Met your Mother" or "Modern Family"
Who, outside of cycling, inspires you?
I love watching tennis and follow the tour. Novak Djokovic has inspired me over the last couple of years that I have watched him. He is professional, calm and has great sportsmanship. It always seems to draw my attention and I enjoy watching him handle himself on and off the court.
What's you favourite type of music?
I listen to a range of music. It's hard to say what genre exactly as it can really depend on what I'm doing and where I'm at. Jack Johnson "Enemy" is playing as I type this...
What was the last film you went to see and was it any good?
If a movie isn't any good, I usually leave :) but yes, my last movie was LION and I found it absolutely moving - I can highly recommend it.
Have you ever been star struck?
Oh yes! I have role models, heroes and people who inspire me. I've been fortunate enough to meet, interact and get to know some of them. What always blows me away, is how down to earth and human they have all been. We often build people up to be untouchable and when it comes down to it, they have emotions and are for the most part human after all. At the end of the day no matter what an individual's fame or fortune, we are inevitably the same.
Can you sing?
Only to myself :)
Tell us something not many people know about you.
I am actually a very quiet person, I live a very simple life and reflect a lot.
What was your favourite toy as a child?
A very very basic Pink Panther made of wire so I could mold its form. Anything to do with crayons and a piece of paper, I guess I loved to express myself. A piece of sports equipment was also a toy for me. I enjoyed most sports and was often found outside.
Would you say you have your dream job right now?
Yes, most definitely. I appreciate the privilege my job affords me every single day.
What is the best thing about what you do?
I love mountain biking. I love being in nature and I love the places it has taken me. I love the lessons it teaches me. It has introduced me to incredible people. I have freedom and the ability to stop and appreciate the small things in life. It is something I cherish while I am able to follow this path.
If you were not cycling, what would you be doing right now?
I would probably be practicing as a Biokineticist. I could imagine working abroad for a cycling team of sorts in the field of sports science, biokinetics or a soigneur of sorts...
Besides cycling, what piques your interests?
Nature, outdoors, photography... being in the moment...
How do you spend your downtime?
One would be surprised to see how full our days as athletes actually are. I always make time for good coffee, good company and focusing on the important people in my life. When I get the opportunity I spend time with my dog on the beach - I always jump at the chance to do that.
If you had children, would you encourage them to cycle?
Absolutely! Learning to ride a bicycle was the best thing I ever did. I have no doubt it would be something that I would promote. Although I say that, I watched some friend's kids riding bikes the other day and I had to close my eyes because of their fearlessness. As adults we tend to see the risks, but yes, it's a wonderful sport. I know how it has enriched my life, so I would always encourage children to experience this beautiful sport. Through sport children get to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually.
There have been some great achievements which are based on performances, selections, titles, top steps etc... but sitting here today, I guess ones that have been closest to my heart have been those in life you sometimes leave without the gold medal. There have been many of these experiences along the road and it's tough to pinpoint one as my greatest, but they sure do make you you grow and become better. That's always a great achievement.
What is your biggest fear?
I live life in the most fulfilling and positive way possible. I don't give too much thought to my fears, but to answer your question I suppose my biggest fear is: giving fear the power to control or limit me.
I have so many dreams in various aspects of my life, it's really hard to pinpoint one. In a cycling context it would be: to be one of the best mountain bikers in the world.
What is your greatest regret?
** laughs** Not carrying a spare set of handlebars in my pocket at the EPIC this year...Fortunately... I have no regrets.
If you had time to do something other than cycle, what would you do?
I would scuba dive for sure. I recently went through a bag with all my diving gear and it really brought back some beautiful memories and made me miss it. I would love to do some diving trips again. Anyone have a boat?? I also enjoy golf, tennis, squash and surfing. I would spend more time doing those things.
To all the young female cyclists out there and perhaps some aspiring amateur riders... any advice?
Just ride your bike and have fun... enjoy every moment and keep learning. Passion carries you a long way :)