George’s MTN Series champion Ischen Stopforth (Team bizhub) was met with resistance from an unexpected quarter before she could seal the defence of her title at the 65-kilometre Eight Bells Enduro mountain bike race just outside Mossel Bay on Saturday.
A “hard training ride” before this weekend’s Karoo to Coast turned into a battle par excellence when Oudtshoorn’s Yolandé de Villiers (Toyota Cycle Lab), a former MTN Series champion, made a surprising return from injury.
“From the very beginning it was a ding-dong battle with Yolandé. I couldn’t get rid of her in the early parts and decided to wait until closer to the finish where I’m usually at my strongest,” said Stopforth, who also just recently returned to competitive racing after a serious early-season crash.
She decided to use the downhill jeep track that led to the final climb as the springboard for her final attack.
“I pushed the pace on the downhill and when we hit the climb I dug as deep as possible. The finish was on top and I managed to pull out an advantage of 30 seconds.”
Stopforth said although it wasn’t one of the biggest races, it was the hardest one that she had contested in a long time. “There was lots of steep climbing and that turned it into a race of attrition.
“I’m very glad Yolandé is back and in good form. It’s always good to be able to race against lots of classy girls. She will definitely be a force to be reckoned with this weekend.”
Nicolene van der Sandt, also from George, finished third.
Plettenberg Bay’s Kevin Evans (MTN-Energade) won the men’s race with Matthys Beukes (Scott) and Marcel Deacon securing the minor podium positions.
Meanwhile, Stopforth’s team-mates Yolandi du Toit and Victoria Myburgh had successful races in other parts of the country over the weekend.
Du Toit, who hails from Heidelberg, placed second behind Samantha Oosthuizen (Karsten Cycles) in the 40-kilometre Silverstar MTB Classic that took place from the Silverstar Casino in Muldersdrift, Johannesburg, on Saturday.
After initially lying in third, a hard chase saw Du Toit ride up to Oosthuizen’s back wheel five kilometres from the finish. Du Toit was however unable to respond when Oosthuizen surged again and had to settle for second.
Myburgh, a 22-year-old part-time law student from Randburg, shone at the Complete Cyclist Memorial Track Cycling Cup at Hector Norris Park in Johannesburg.
The former Youth Olympian placed third in the 1 500m and second in the keirin and won the 5km scratch and 7.5km points races.
“We raced the 5km and points races with the veteran men, which is a lot more attacking and similar to racing against international women, against whom I want to measure myself.”
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