Five out of five for De Groot, Bell takes first title at MTB Marathon Champs

Marathon enthusiasts endured extreme race conditions in the Pietermaritzburg autumn sun at the 2017 SA MTB Marathon Championship at Cascades MTB Park on Sunday 21 May. NAD’s Nico Bell and Ascendis Health’s Robyn De Groot took the Elite Men and Women’s victories respectively on the day.

De Groot raced to her fifth National Marathon Championship victory in a time of two hours 51 minutes 59 seconds when she beat Amy Beth McDougall and Christie-Leigh Hearder to the winning position in the 60-kilometre race.

“The race was pretty tough,” said De Groot. She had been nursing a cold for the past week and had finally felt okay on the day of the race. “I wasn’t feeling so well at the first water point and thought about calling it a day. Amy was racing very hard and had me under pressure. I pushed on and put some pressure on Amy and got a nice gap and just maintained that until the end. It’s really nice to make it five of five,” she said.

Defending Men’s Champion Max Knox struggled with a puncture close to 20 kilometres into the race and had to pull out. Strong contender Gawie Combrinck was also forced to withdraw from the race due to an injury at the sani2c a week prior.

Going up the concrete climb towards water point three, Pyga Eurosteel’s Philip Buys could feel an onset of cramp beginning to hit him after a week of being unwell, forcing him to stop for close to two minutes while the rest of the riders caught up, falling into fourth place. On the last 20-kilometre loop, Buys fought a tough battle to get back to second place, and Ascendis Health’s Gert Heyns finished in third.

When chatting about his race, Elite Men’s winner, Nico Bell said: “It was a hard route today. There was a lot of climbing and at 35 kilometres in there was a very steep climb. When we hit the concrete section, Philip (Buys) upped the pace and I was on his wheel. As he sat up I went past him and I kept going harder and harder. I tried hard to open it up even more.”

Bell opened up a gap of over two minutes and forty seconds then kept it safe and risk-free to claim the victory in 3:33:11 over the 80-kilometre distance. “I realised that I was quite a gap ahead and knew that they wouldn’t catch me on the downhill. I’m just really happy to walk away with the win today,” he said.

In the 50-kilometre Junior race, Pieter du Toit took the top honours for the Men and Tiffany Keep won it for the Women in a time of 2:31.08 and 3:09.31 respectively.

Du Toit said: “We were all together for the first 15 kilometres and then there were four of us who broke away. Somewhere in the big climb Rossouw Bekker and I broke away and soon after that I broke away from him. I’m very happy with today’s win.”

Keep said: “Today’s Marathon was probably the toughest I have ever done. The course is very different to most of the marathons across the country. It was very hot today and the climbing was insane. Hydration was absolutely key to staying on top.

“I tried hard to catch a few people in front of me and kept pacing myself until the very end. The last bit of single track was my favourite part of the whole race.”

Tiffany’s father, Tim Keep was in charge of the Cross-country Eliminator Series for the younger age groups, as well as anyone who was willing to give it a try. The Series was an absolute entertainment for those on the ground waiting for friends and family to return from the marathon racing.


Elite Men – 80km
1.Nico Bell 3:33.11
2.Philip Buys 3:36.06
3.Gert Heyns 3:36.16

Elite Women – 60km
1.Robyn de Groot 2:51.59
2.Amy Beth McDougall 2:54.03
3.Christie-Leigh Hearder 3:12.47

Junior Men – 50km
1.Pieter du Toit 2:31.08
2.Rossouw Bekker 2:33.08
3.Mark Oliver Pritzen 2:33.48

Junior Women – 50km
1.Tiffany Keep 3:09.31
2.Azulde Britz 3:17.00
3.Thana Groenewald 3:26.18

Youth Men – 50km
1.Jamie Penfold 2:35.22
2.Joshua Laughton 2:36.23
3.Tristan Nortje 2:45.28

Youth Women – 50km
1.Kelsey van Schoor 3:16.40
2.Zandri Strydom 3:31.54
3.Natalie Strydom 3:34.03

Sub Vet Men (30-34)
1.Leeroy Emslie 2:43.44
2.Mitchell Ginsberg 2:50.24
3.Andrew Stockwell 2:53.16

Sub Vet Men (35-39)
1.Sean Merridew 2:39.08
2.Andrew Johnson 2:40.09
3.David Louw 2:45.13

Sub Vet Women (30-34)
1.Jeanie Dreyer 3:12.47
2.Mandy Human 3:32.09
3.Riana Niehuis 3:34.32

Vets Men (40-44)
1.Grant Usher 2:45.42
2.Warren Price 2:57.28
3.Hendrick Bester 2:59.33

Vet Men (45-49)
1.Andrew Westaway 3:05.24
2.Sean O’Flynn-Madden 3:10.17
3.Ewan Cochran 3:10.34

Vet Women (40-44)
1.Natalie Bergstrom 3:22.31
2.Belinda Mason 3:44.35
3.Charmaine McCullum 4:02.20

Master Men (50-54)
1.Jeremy Thomson 2:55.46
2.Shane Daniel 2:58.30
3.Alan Martin 3:16.36

Master Men (55-59)
1.Charles Nienaber 3:19.00
2.Greg Anderson 3:05.01
3.Martin Buck 3:19.26

Master Women (50-54)
1.Bonny Swanepoel 3:34.39
2.Rentia Dennissen 3:54.26
3.Ilsa van Niekerk 4:05.34

Grand Master Men
1.Colin Gibbings 3:46.38
2.James van den Berg 4:05.19