Robyn de Groot held onto the Elite womens title in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday. Photo: Michael Sheehan

Johannesburg – Defending champions James Reid and Robyn de Groot claimed the Elite men and women’s national titles at the South African National MTB Marathon Championships, at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

The Elite men departed from Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg and began their climbing in the 95km ultra-marathon course, which incorporated some monster climbs, and a cross-country style track in the final 25km.

Reid (Trek South Africa) snapped his chain within the first 7km, and chased the front group of riders up to the first feed zone at 14km.

I went in with the same tactics, wait for the last third of the race and then exploit the singletrack as much as possible. It worked out again” Reid said.

“The national title is always special, you can’t get a chance to win it at every race and it is the one that counts.

“I managed to do it last year, and I’ve managed it again this year.

Rourke Croeser (Kargo Pro MTB Team) finished in second place less than four minutes off the pace, while Kevin Evans (Fedgroup ITEC) crossed the finish line third in a time of 04:48:38.

The Elite women departed 15 minutes after the men along the 70km route, which incorporated the same start section as the men’s race but omitted the section through Hilton College estate.

They tackled the final 25km cross-country section near Cascades MTB Park to bring them home.

De Groot made her intentions clear from the start where she capitalised on the hill climbs and opened a gap from the get-go, looking in superb form throughout the race as she powered up the numerous climbs.

Her advantage ensured that she was not in any danger along the cross-country sections, crossing the finish line in four hours, four minutes and 32 seconds.

“I went in a little more nervous than last year, I had a lot to lose but everything to gain,” De Groot said.

“I certainly wanted to maintain the jersey on my shoulders. It’s a great honour and I always wear it proudly.

“It was my dream and it is awesome when dreams come true. I’ve learnt in mountain biking that when you haven’t crossed the finish line you can’t count it as ticked anything can happen.

“I’ve been doing some interval training, and this race was my main focus, more so than worlds.”

Candice Neethling (Time Freight VELOlife) finished in second place, just over nine minutes behind while Samantha Sanders (Valencia) claimed third place in a time of 04:21:20. – Sapa