The words of the chorus of a song made famous by the British rock group, Queen, ‘Another one bites the dust’ could easily be made applicable to Yolandé de Villiers (Cyclelab) and Ischen Stopforth (Bizhub) every time they mounted their mountain bikes for a race during 2010.
They will both remember 2010 for the painful crashes in which they were involved and for the hours they had to spend in doctors’ consulting rooms as well as in operating theatres. This is the reason why only Stopforth will compete in the MTN Attakwas ultra-marathon (Oudtshoorn to Mosselbay) on Saturday (15 January).
The ‘Year of the Big Fall’ kicked off with De Villiers breaking her shoulder in a crash during the MTN Attakwas ultra-marathon. A few weeks later Stopforth was involved in a bad crash in which she broke her pelvic bone, as well as a collar bone. But this was not the end of their troubles. In September, during the first stage of the DCM Cape Pioneer (which is in effect the MTN Attakwas ultra- marathon), Stopforth crashed again, this time breaking three ribs.
‘Lady Luck’ waited until the very last day of 2010 before she decided to desert De Villiers again. She was competing in a fun ride at Groot Brak when the chain of the rider in front of her broke. When he crashed, De Villiers rode into him and went down hard, breaking two of her ribs when she hit the ground.
Right now the only cycling she is capable of doing is to practice on an indoor trainer in front of the television, but she hopes that she will have recovered sufficiently to be able to compete in the MTN Barberton marathon on 29 January.
“I suppose I could go for walks to keep fit, but to me that would be really frustrating. I would much rather run than walk, but unfortunately that is not possible because of the pain.”
Stopforth admits that she is not in the same physical condition that she was in 2009 when she won the MTN Attakwas ultra-marathon for women and finished 15th overall.
“Actually I have been wondering lately how many times I have raced through the Attakwas and also why I put myself through eight hours of ‘hell’ again and again. In my opinion the MTN Attakwas is one the toughest races. It is not just the gradient of the climbs that makes for tough going. The loose rocks on the route make the Attakwas the hard race that it is. Sometimes it is better just to get off your bike and walk because if you keep riding you will certainly crash.
“That is what happened to me during the first stage of the DCM Cape Pioneer (Attakwas). When I got to the top of the very steep climb just before Bonnievale, I realized that I was in serious trouble.
“It was a bastard of a descent that awaited me and, even though I knew that I was going to crash, I kept on riding. Needless to say, I did go down. In the final moments before I crashed I tried to keep to the left, hoping that there would be a cameraman on the route who could help me to soften the impact of hitting the ground. As luck would have it, there was no one around and I had to bear the full brunt of the crash by myself.”
According to Stopforth the secret of enjoying the MTN Attakwas is to pace yourself.
“It is a long race. Therefore the last thing any rider should do is to go out too fast. The energy that you waste when you do that, will certainly come back to haunt you during the second part of the race.”
De Villiers said that, before her crash, she often trained on the MTN Attakwas route during December.
“It was raining every time I went there, which made the riding very tricky.
“I just want to warn the riders that there is a new loop just before Bonnievale. It starts off with a very tricky technical descent, followed by a really tough climb. Even though the distance is just a few kilometres, it will be one of the toughest sections because of the loose rocks. I don’t think many riders will be able to ride there. The safer option will certainly be to get off your bike and push.”
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