Bizhub dominate Hill2Hill

The Sunday Tribune Jeep Hill 2 Hill MTB Marathon is the only one-day mountain bike marathon between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The race took place on September 16, starting at Hilton and finishing at hillcrest 105kms later.

Three riders from Team bizhub made the journey down to Hilton. Ischen Stopforth and Yolandi Du Toit who had finished 1st and 2nd in the 2011 event together with bizhub’s ‘rising star’ Nicci Grobler.
“I raced it for the first time in 2011, pulling off a win and this year I was back to defend my title” said Ischen.

Where the 2011 race was remembered for its brutal heat, 2012 will be remembered as a mud fest! After plenty of rain the week leading up to the race and even more predicted for the weekend, the race turned out to be a tough event for all the competitors.

Some of the big names in SA ladies mtb'ing had opted to save their legs for next weekends’ Hilton 50 miler. But bizhub’s 3 riders lined up next to fresh new SA Marathon Champion, Cherise Stander and Olympian Cross Country rider Candice Neethling.

“The start had to be changed somewhat due to the conditions, but ended up being a singletrack slip-a-slide through the forest plantation down to Pietermaritzburg” continued Ischen. “Most of us ended up losing control over our bikes and were sliding everywhere, except Candice who showed us her XC skills and sped off in front. Soon after we got to the tar road we caught up with her though. A small group formed, Candice, myself, Nicci Grobler and Brenda from KZN. Cherise had taken a tumble or two in the single track and was off the pace, as was poor Yolandi, who had gotten a porcupine dart through her tyre costing her lots of time and trouble, making the day even longer for her.

Nicci & I drove hard, hoping to open the gap on the chasers. Soon we had dropped Candice with only 2 girls that we couldn't shake.

I was surprised and impressed by Nicci's form. I had heard that she had improved tremendously over the year and she has had some excellent races recently. It was such a pleasure having a team mate alongside me and we worked together well. The climb up to the King of the Mountain starts at around 20km but is more a drag of a climb than a real steep climb. We managed to get rid of the other 2 girls on the final section of the climb and I went over KOM in first place with Nicci just behind me.

From here on we rode together until I had a mechanical. On a rocky slippery single track section I almost lost control so jumped off my bike and threw it to one side, resulting in my back brake lever getting damaged. This was about 70 km into the race and the prospect of 30 km without a back brake in those conditions and plenty of single-track was a little scary. I shouted to Nicci that I had a problem and tried to jerk the lever back, but let her chase on, as we had no idea how far behind us the chasing girls were. Eventually I decided riding without brakes would be my only options and raced on, managed to reel Nicci in again just before the final waterpoint. Here our team mechanic, Conrad, could luckily help me quickly fix the brake lever and I was good to go again.

The two of us worked well together until the finish. It was great to successfully defend my title and even better because we could pull off a 1&2 for Team bizhub
I think Nicci has shown that she is turning into a real top class mountain biker, beating some really good riders in extremely tough conditions and this after only two years of cycling. At only 22 years of age she is a big name to look out for in the future.”

Nadine Cahill finished 3rd overall with SA National Marathon MTB Champion Cherise Stander in 4th and Brenda Potts in 5th position. Unfortunately Candice who was lying 3rd with 10kms to go took a wrong turn costing her a possible podium finish.