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  • Writer's picturedirtyheart

Who Will Take The Jersey? - South African XC Marathon Women's Championships 2019

The National XCM Championships will be hosted yet again by the Nissan Trailseeker series, brought to you by Advendurance. ARC Roodeplaat in Pretoria will be the venue for the second round of the Nissan Trailseeker MTB Series and will also play host to the 2019 SA MTB Marathon National Championships on Saturday 29 June.

The Nissan Trailseeker race series caters for kids and adults, beginners and pros, with varying distances and routes that are top notch and guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping. Just north of Pretoria close to Roodeplaat Dam, lies a bushveld haven filled with trails made up of farm roads, cattle paths, dual tracks and strategically designed single track for mountain bikers and the Nissan Trailseeker event. The routes form part of the popular Buffelsdrift Trail Park.

While the MTB Marathon Champs will attract South Africa’s dedicated endurance athletes, the event is guaranteed to be family-friendly and caters for all levels of skill and fitness, as is the case with all Nissan Trailseeker events. To meet the expectations of our top riders and to crown a worthy Marathon Champion, the longer routes in the UCI categories will be challenging to say the least.

Elite men and women will be required to compete over the 87km Ultra Marathon distance, while Marathon competitors will race the 70km distance. The Half Marathon is 40km, and there will be a fun race (20km) and Fun Ride (10km) to cater for a wide variety of riding skills and fitness. The MTB Marathon Championships will crown National Champions in the age categories from Youth through all the age categories.

For spectators and supporters of the Elite Championships, the route offers ample spectator points and feed zones.

A packed field will line up on Saturday north of Pretoria to tackle the beautiful bushveld terrain of the region. We should see all the familiar faces lining up to go shoulder to shoulder for this year's title of South African XC Marathon Ladies Elite Champion.

Who Could Take The Jersey This Year?

Robyn de Groot

The defending champion, Robyn de Groot, will be on the start line and is hoping to add to her already impressive six marathon titles.

"The National Championships is a special title to have for sure, It's been a title I've worn with pride for the past 6 years. It is a title that lasts for a "year" so yeah, it is one that is held with high prestige."

Robyn was doubtful to be on the start line after being diagnosed with severe blood-flow problems in her left leg at the end of last year. She underwent surgery on January 17th to correct the problem and began the long road to recovery. Robyn decided to race the Sani2c in May when Samantha Sanders asked her to partner up, and despite not racing for 6 months the pair went on to win the title. Robyn realised her recovery was well ahead of schedule.

"Obviously my whole year has been somewhat different and I had set out to start racing again as of July. Sani went well and I was surprised how I raced there, after my vascular surgery with a short period of structured training; I felt pretty good on the bike....then as the weeks went I chatted to my coach and we figured that I may as well race nationals... it's a title I’ve been proud to have for 6 years...I think it's always good to arrive to defend a national title. It would be worse sitting on the sidelines not racing so I am super excited and grateful that my recovery has allowed me to line up at the start-line to race it."

As for Robyn's goals she plans to qualify for the World XC Marathon Championships in September.

"It's basically going to be the start of a block of racing I have planned. I’ll be heading to Europe in July where I have also planned to do some marathons, ultra marathons and stage races. With that hopefully also qualify for XCM Worlds as I have missed the selection races that were in SA during the time of my surgery and recovery."

Having not had the perfect preparation for the race on Saturday Robyn explains her feelings around race day.

"I always keep it in perspective.... it's a one day race with a lot at stake and a title any professional athlete strives towards for sure. That being said, it's got to all run smoothly on the day - it's also just a race."

Samantha Sanders

Lining up next to Robyn is a strong performing Samantha Sanders from team Dormakaba, who has had a solid year so far.

On her preparation Sam says, "My preparation... well let’s say training in winter is hard! In all honesty, it’s been a steady progression. I am injury free and healthy which can be challenging at the best of times."

"My goals for any race are to always show up in the best possible form that I can be, race as hard as I can and be a great competitor and ambassador to my sponsors. I think winning the National Jersey is a grand title so hopefully I have a great day."

When asked about the course, Sam explains, "I don’t particularly place too much emphasis on the route description when it comes to one day events. It’s SA Champs, you have to turn yourself inside out regardless. But I do enjoy the riding at Buffelsdrift, it’s quite technical and lots of fun."

Sarah Hill

Joining the elite ladies field is the young gun, Sarah Hill racing for Galileo Risk. Sarah has been competitive in the elite ladies field, taking some Trailseeker marathon wins already. She has performed in her racing season and has a few stage race podiums, with her experienced partner Theresa Ralph, including the overall ladies win at the 2019 Joberg2c and a strong 2nd place at the Sani2C. Sarah has delivered some strong racing performances and is one to watch in the field despite her age.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world! Especially after such an "endurance race" focused year. We're also lucky to have it hosted at Buffelsdrift ... which is a 45 minute drive away from my house! How awesome is that?! My build up to SA Marathon champs has been a little bit interesting this year. I have had a couple of personal barriers that I've needed to get through. With this being such an incredible learning year, I have discovered what is important to me and how I can live in an environment that constantly supports my dream. I needed to make some tough decisions which may influence my performance this weekend. But what I am most relieved about, is that my head is in the right place. I love to ride, I live to race, and I can't wait to be out there with all the strongest ladies performing to the best of our abilities. I've learned that it really takes a team to grow as an athlete, and the people I am surrounded by right now all positively influence my direction in this sport! With a very colourful build up, let's see what blooms!"

Sarah is looking forward to being on the start line alongside the best elite lades in South Africa.

"It's always nice to race for the chance to wear our South African colours. I love the kind of drive this race brings to the table. Each woman on the start lines knows they have a shot at earning that title, and we are all there trying to put our best performance together."

As for the Buffelsdrift course, Sarah seems confident on her "home ground" advantage. "I know the terrain well and am really looking forward to racing on somewhat "home ground". I wouldn't say the course is really suited to my strength judging by the initial profile of the course. The flat sections are going to be really tough, but the more single track there is, the better the chance of me hanging in there! One thing I know, is that if I am having fun, I will push harder and go further, and Buffelsdrift, is definitely an amazing playground!"

Amy Mcdougall

The pocket rocket, Amy Beth McDougall also hopes to make the most of the race and hopefully steal the jersey away this year. Amy has battled with a medical condition which forced her to have surgery last month. Following a successful procedure, she has returned quickly to training and so these Championships may just be a test to see how her form is coming along following her recovery. We have no doubt that she will definitely give it a full go.

Theresa Ralph

Theresa, a regular to the elite ladies start line, will be racing the SA XCM Champs in her age category rather than in the elite race. Theresa has won the SA Champion stripes in her age group for the past 4 years and this year is no different. She aims to take the striped jersey yet again in 2019.

"I won't be racing the champs in the elite category. I have raced in my age category and claimed the SA Marathon Title for the past 4 years and this year is no different."

"My build up has been good and ended with a strong Sani2c with Sarah for team Galileo Risk. After a short rest, training has been building up to the champs and I'm looking forward to it. The main goal is to defend my title and get the stripes. The Buffelsdrift course suits me. There are some flat sections before we hit the technical stuff and I am hoping to get the gap on these drags."

"I just wish it was a little warmer..." she chuckles.


Candice Lill, another strong marathon racer will not be taking part as she is focusing on XC World Cup events for the 2019 racing season and the SA Marathon Champs falls between some important races in Europe. "It’s the week before a 3 week stint of XC racing overseas so it doesn’t make sense for me to race." Candice explained.

Mariske Strauss is also focusing on the XC World Cup Series this year and so she will also miss the Marathon Champs. "My focus is on the cross country circuit this season. I wish everyone the best of luck for the race. Maybe next year I can make a plan to race."

Another youngster to watch is Danielle Strydom. She has been riding consistently and has had some wins in the longer distances this season. Danielle dominated the junior racing category and her step up will be followed by many. She has also featured on the podium at the Trailseeker marathons last year and we would love to see her realise her potential to be up near the front in a championship race.

The start list is filled with some great names and it is great to see a solid number of ladies taking on the National Jersey race. With a stacked ladies elite field,we look forward to an exciting race on Saturday. Best of luck ladies.

2018 SA MTB Marathon Championships categories and distances:

87km Elite Ultra Marathon

Elite Men 19+ (UCI Category) Elite Women 19+ (UCI Category)

70km Marathon

Sub Vet Women (30-39) Sub Vet Men (30-39) Vet Women (40-49) Vet Men (40-49) Master Men (50-59)

40km Half Marathon

Junior Men (17-18 yrs) (UCI Category) Junior Women (17-18 yrs) (UCI Category) Youth Men (15-16 yrs) Youth Women (15-16 yrs) Master Women (50-59) Grand Master Women (60+) Grand Master Men (60+)

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