Says Booyens: “Yesterday was a very challenging day for us all. To see a great friend in agony and heartbroken is never easy. Sharon had a horrible crash nearing the finish line of the Argus. She was out there having a brilliant ride, breaking away on Suikerbossie. She was in front, riding aggressively and unfortunately this meant she was the first in line when one of the guys went down, sending her rocketing over him and crashing badly.

VILLIERSDORP, SOUTH AFRICA - Ladies leaders and Stage winners Sharon Laws and Hanlie Booyens during stage two, of the Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race held in Villiersdorp on the 23 March 2009 in the Western Cape, South Africa. Photo by Sven Martin /SPORTZPICS

“She was left with a broken collarbone, cracked ribs and a compressed fracture in her back. A great setback at the start of her European season and the end of our Absa Cape Epic dream to ride the 10th together. Yes, she’ll need some time but she’ll be back!

“With regards to the Cape Epic, I discussed it with Sharon and we agreed that the best suitable replacement would be top South African rider, Ischen Stopforth. I’m so grateful to her for agreeing on very short notice to step in! We’ll make the best of the race - it’s the only way,” Booyens concluded.

From 17 March to 24 March, all eyes will be on the Western Cape as the world’s top riders compete for position in what is billed to be the most competitive event in the race’s history. Covering a distance of 698km with 15 650m of climbing, the race will finish eight days later at Lourensford Wine Estate.