Wellington - The 10th Absa Cape Epic was thrown into confusion on Thursday when three teams lodged an appeal, saying confusing signposting sent them off course on the fourth stage from Tulbach to Wellington.
After a lengthy managers’ meeting the teams, including the front-running Bulls 1 team of Karl Platt and Urs Huber, were credited with 10 minutes to make the race competitive again.
The teams had been six minutes behind the pace-setting Burry Stander Songo team of Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy when they took a wrong turn. The error cost them a massive 15 minutes.
Sauser, the defending champion, had turned an eight minutes, 49 seconds deficit into a lead of over 13 minutes going into the fifth stage when the provisional results were announced.
With just three stages remaining, it would have taken a catastrophic mechanical failure to prevent Sauser winning his fourth Epic.
However, the Bulls 1 team, along with Bulls 2 of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme, and the Multivan Merida team of Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts, who had been chasing in a pack, immediately protested.
The appeal hearing decided that the results from Thursday’s stage will stand, but the extra 10 minutes will be credited to the overall general classification.
Sauser and Kulhavy now hold a 3:04 minute lead with three days’ racing remaining until the finish at Lourensford Wine Estate, in Somerset West.
According to observers, the Bulls and Merida team followed signs left over from the recent "Grape Escape" race and they then picked up signs relating to Friday’s stage, sowing further confusion. Motorcycle cameramen also spoke of the confusing signs.
Ironically, Sauser and Kulhavy had been the victims of a similar incident on Wednesday, which cost them about three minutes.
Although not as damaging as Thursday’s incident, it had been particularly disappointing for them as they had lost 10 minutes on Tuesday when Kulhavy’s chain had snapped and they had been fighting hard to claw back some time.
The only comment from Sauser came in a rather enigmatic tweet to his followers.
"We also made a mistake yest. ..! Bulls teams and Multivan Merida will get 10 minutes back for the mistake today. The Bulls will be 3:04 behind".
Hermida was not entirely appeased and also used his Twitter account to comment.
"I don’t agree to get 10 min back when we lost 15min 21 sec. We follow the right arrows: RED!!" he said on the social network.
"And if someone makes a good explanation of the situation from today will be good for all of us!"
Results and overall standings after the 120km fourth stage of the Cape Epic mountain bike race from Tulbach to Wellington on Thursday:
Men: 1, C Sauser & J Kulhavy (Burry Stander Songo) 4h 32m 49.3s; 2, M Fontana & M Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) +18-07.6; 3, P Buys & M Beukes (Scott Factory) +19-28.1; 4, S Sahm & S Stiebjahn (Bulls 3) +19-59.9; 5, M Knox & K Yamamoto (Burry Stander Songo 2) +20-30.9; 6, J Hermida & R van Houts (Multivan Merida) +21-53.2; 7, K Platt & U Huber (Bulls 1) +21-54.0; 8, T Dietsch & T Boehme (Bulls 2) +221-55.0; 9, H Becking & J Novak (Superior Brentjens) +22-49.7; 10, N Bell & G Combrink (Westvaal-Bells) +28-22.4
Overall: 1, Sauser & J Kulhavy 19h 40m 04.9s; 2, K Platt & U Huber +13-04; 3, T Dietsch & T Boehme +25-20; 4, J Hermida & R van Houts +37-49; 5, M Fontana & M Fumic +47-57; 6, D Lill & C Keey (Cannondale Blend) +52.48; 7, P Buys & M Beukes +56.19; 8, S Sahm & S Stiebjahn +1-08-19; 9, H Becking & J Novak +1-10-01; 10, M Knox & K Yamamoto +1-18-59.
Women: 1, Y Speedy & C Williamson (Energas) 5h 49m 59.2s; 2, S Mertens & L Turpijn (C-Bear) +26-03.5; 3, H Booyens & I Stopforth (Pragma Volcan Ladies) +33-46.2; 4, S Van Heerden & J Church ( Aspin) +51-42.1; 5, A Harrison & M Lourens (Dawn Wing) +54-35.1.
Overall: 1, Y Speedy & C Williamson 24h 50m 06.2s; 2, H Booyens & I Stopforth +1-40-31; 3, S Mertens & L Turpijn +2-39-22; 4.