Cape Town - The second prologue in the seven year history of the Absa Cape Epic on Sunday set the seeding order for Stage 1 of the magical, untamed African mountain bike stage race.
The event saw 1 200 excited riders from 54 countries enjoy sunny weather with the first group of riders starting their 8 day journey at 07:00.
The showcase of a fast 27km circuit took place in Tokai Forest, part of Table Mountain National Park. Regarded as the Eden of mountain biking in Cape Town, this revered network of trails represents all of what makes this sport so great, with tough climbs, fast descents and flowing single-track forming the 27km route.
This time trial was a race against the clock to decide the seeding in the field and which teams will wear the coveted zebra-striped leaders' jerseys at the start of Stage 1 in Tulbagh.
The Men's Category for the prologue was won by the South African / Swiss team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (team 36ONE Songo Specialized) in a time of 1:02.40,7. They were followed by Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss of the Multivan Merida Biking team (1:04.22,9) with the Bulls team and three-times winners of the Epic, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in third place (1:04.35,6). In fourth place was the South African 360LIFE team Kevin Evans and David George (1:04.50,5) with José Hermida and Ralph Näf in fifth place (1:04.53,0).
"This course definitely suited us. It's the best stage we've ever had -we're cross country riders," said Stander.
"It also suited our bikes. We were riding full suspension 29'ers which helped us close time on the flat section. Susi (his teammate Christoph Sauser's nickname) was hurting me today and I had to slow him down a few times.
"Usually I lead at the start, but as soon as we hit the first climb he was leading and did so for about 80% of the way."
Sauser said winning the prologue was incredible.
"We've never been as well-balanced and strong as a team. To date I suffered through every time trial, but today went really well. We're obviously using the right equipment which helped."
Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter (team Colnago Arreghini Südtirol) won the Ladies Category in a time of 1:20.20,1, ahead of Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (team USN) in a time of 1:26.37,6. Australian team adidas Naomi Hansen and Jodie Willett werethird place in 1:26.56,9.
'The prologue was so much fun," said Bigham.
" The course was nice and technical and kept us on our toes, with some really nice single trail, drops, rocks, roots and sand – my partner also rode really well. Apart from one little crash and problems with a chain, we really had fun. I felt fine power wise and am really looking forward to the next 7 days."
Stage 1's distance (from Saronsberg/Tulbagh back to Saronsberg/Tulbagh) is a shade under 90km with 2 050m of climbing, which may sound short but is not to be underestimated. The flat roads out of town leave few clues as to what is to come. Very soon the short but incredibly steep, rough and loose climbs appear, and on the treacherous descents, volleyball-sized rocks and sand patches pock the little-used dual tracks. While the pros make short work of it, the first 50km may take backmarkers over five hours. The stage's last climb on some rough roads brings riders to the top of one of most precariously difficult downhills seen at the Epic. With large rocks, deep ruts and a sheer drop on the left, riders should be sure to take it slow.