During the past few months these questions continued to crop up at mountain-bike races.
Well, the doctor from George let her legs do the talking on Saturday (28 August) when she won the MTN women’s marathon in Cullinan.
Yolandi du Toit (Bizhub) finished second with Karien van Jaarsveld (USN) third, Sanet Smal (Ghost) fourth and Caitlin de Wet (Specialized/Mr Price) fifth.
After this weekend there will be no need any longer to wonder about Stopforth’s whereabouts. Just watch the winners’ podium after every MTN mountain bike race. There is a strong possibility that you will find her standing on one of the steps.
Stopforth’s problems began just after the MTN Attakwas marathon in January, when she crashed quite heavily during a training ride. Being a doctor herself, she immediately realized that her collarbone was broken. What she did not realize, was that she had also fractured her pelvic bone.
During her recovery period, Stopforth committed the cardinal sin of ignoring a piece of wisdom that she would have advised her patients to keep in mind if they were in the same situation, namely to take things easy and to give the body ample opportunity to heal itself. In short, it boils down to the well-known proverb which says that ‘patience is a virtue’.
“It was very frustrating. Every time I began to feel better, I started to do too much too soon and ended up paying the price. Therefore, it took me much longer than it should have to be back on my mountain bike and to do some real training.
“Cullinan is my first serious race in nearly six months and my first major victory since winning the MTN Clarence Marathon last year.”
Listening to Stopforth when she talks about her experiences during the race, one comes to the conclusion that she was lucky not to get injured again.
Apparently there was a sharp corner in one of the very sandy sections at an early stage of the race. Going into the corner, Stopforth was boxed in by Du Toit and De Wet with a quad bike just behind her. As luck would have it, she lost control over her bike for a brief second and this was all she needed to crash. The quad driver had to keep his wits about him to avoid riding into Stopforth.
According to Stopforth, she had to chase very hard to catch up with De Wet and Du Toit when she was back on her mountain bike.
“To me it felt like an eternity before I could join up with them again.”
Shortly afterwards De Wet punctured and this effectively put an end to her chances of winning. During the the rest of the race she had to battle to ensure that there was enough air in her tyres. She arrived at the finish with a plug that looked like a miniature antenna sticking out her rear tyre.
Du Toit managed to outride Stopforth in a very technical rocky section in one of the game reserves. However, it was not her day either. About 10 kilometers from the finish, Du Toit’s body decided that it had had enough fun for one day and went on ‘strike’.
Du Toit said: “I just had nothing left in my legs. This meant that, when Ischen caught up with me again, I simply could not stay with her. I had to watch as she became a mere speck, way ahead of me, and then finally disappeared from sight.”
Still, it was not all plain sailing for Stopforth. Near the end of the race, she lost her way for a while. Luckily she managed to find the right track again.
Du Toit said afterwards that she had ‘a rude awakening’ during the race.
“I expected the MTN Cullinan race to be a nice cycling experience like the Nissan Diamond Rush in Cullinan was, but it certainly was not. The MTN race was much tougher. At times I had the feeling that we were riding where no other mountain bike has ever gone before.”