Sauser - Stander on top again
Tulbagh - The Men’s Category for Stage 1 was won for the second consecutive day by the South African / Swiss team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (team 36ONE Songo Specialized) in a time of 3:52.13,9 (overall time 4:54.54,6).
With a distance of 89km, stage 1 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic saw riders take the flat roads out of Tulbagh with no idea of what was to come. Soon after leaving town, short but incredibly steep, rough and loose climbs appeared, and on the treacherous descents, volleyball-sized rocks and sand patches pocked the little-used dual tracks. While the pro-riders made short work of it, the first 50km took backmarkers over 5 hours.
The stage’s last climb on some rough roads brought riders to the top of one of most precariously difficult downhills ever on this legendary mountain bike stage race. With large rocks, deep ruts and a sheer drop on the left, riders needed to slow down.
Stander – Sauser were followed by Urs Huber and Konny Looser of the Stöckli Pro team in 3:53.15,5 (overall time 4:58.17,3) with the Bulls 2 team Tim Böhme and Thomas Dietsch in third place in 3:54.25,1 (overall time 4:59.49,4).
In fourth place was the Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm (3:56.02,4; overall time 5:00.38,0) with Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss of Multivan Merida Biking in fifth place (3:56.02,8; overall time 5:00.25,7).
Last year’s winners Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm are now in fifth position overall, with Sauser and Stander leading them by 5 minutes and 43 seconds.
The big news of the day was that one of the favourite contenders for this year’s title, Kevin Evans (of team 360LIFE), unfortunately had to withdraw after breaking his collar bone.
Burry Stander (team 36ONE Songo Specialized) said: “We rode well today, had good legs and felt comfortable. It wasn’t a day for tactics, just really tough up and down, up and down. Our full suspension bikes definitely worked - we could see the other guys were all over the place. We rode at our pace, but had problems with a chain and also a flat near the end, but went full force after that again. I’m really sorry about what happened to Kevin. The course was hard and one could lose this race on the downhills as well as your career. We took it steady and luckily didn’t have any big problems.”
His team mate Christoph Sauser added: “I had a crash early on in the race in one of the downhill sections. One needed to be conservative in the downhills today. I prefer to go full out and not ride on my brakes too much, but you need to bear the next day in mind. I’m also feeling very sorry for Kevin - it’s the worst thing that can happen to you. This is the most important race of the year and for this to happen on the second day is really bad luck.”
Urs Huber and Konny Looser of the Stöckli Pro team finished in second place. Huber has won over 50 races in his career to date and Looser’s impressive achievements include winning the U23 Marathon European Championships in 2010. Huber said: “We were the first team to arrive at the Telkom Hotspot, which felt great and after the second water point we felt even better and pushed to the front. The last hour Konny wasn’t as strong as me, but a podium finish at the Absa Cape Epic is a great feeling. With regards to our chances for the race, we still have 6 days to go. We’ll take it day by day.”
Thomas Dietsch of the Bulls 2 team was not feeling so great at the beginning of today’s stage. “But mid-race my legs started feeling really good. It was really hard today with Susi (Christoph Sauser) and Burry pushing so hard. I struggled the last 10km of the race and just wanted to survive and get to the finish line. It was really hot and we come from the European winter, so need to first become acclimatised to the heat.”
For Stefan Sahm of the Bulls team, today was: “A horrible stage. The course was challenging, the other riders were going very fast and I can’t feel my arms. I want to lie down now. I saw Kevin walking down a section of the route, but only heard later what happened. It was hard with all the dust - you couldn’t see the riders in front of you. I also almost crashed. It’s almost unfair what happened to him as they were definitely a team for the podium. It’s a shame it ended this way.” Karl Platt added that: “We’re happy one of our teams finished on the podium.”
Hannes Genze of Multivan Merida Biking reckons it was a tough stage. “We missed the track and lost about a minute. We were in the leading group of 4 teams. That’s when the two Bulls teams caught up with us.”
For David George (of team 360LIFE), riding with Kevin Evans, Stage 1 was heartbreaking. “But you have to roll with the punches. We’ll be back - this is how the game works. There was massive preparation for the Absa Cape Epic and I guess I feel disappointed for everyone contributing to the huge effort. Don’t close the book on us yet, though - Kev and I will be back for more.”
In the Ladies Category Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter (team Colnago Arreghini Südtirol) won for the second day in a row in a time of 5:11.16,6 (overall time 6:31.36,7), ahead of Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (team USN) in a time of 5:13.11,5 (overall 6:39.49,1). Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth of team Absa aBreast finished in third place in 5:19.13,0 (6:46.48,7). Lechner and Schneitter lead by 8 minutes and 12 seconds.
The Masters Category was again won by the Juwi team made up of Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts. Their winning time was 4:18.10,8 (overall time 5:30.43,0). They were followed by Robert Sim and Doug Brown of the Robert Daniel team in 4:33.05,2 (overall time 5:46.34,5) with the Nandos team of Adrian Enthoven and Gerrie Beukes in third place in 4:37.16,2 (overall time 5:54.10,5). The Juwi team lead by 15 minutes and 52 seconds.
In the Mixed Category the Wheeler – BIXS team, Bärti Bucher and Esther Süss won again in 4:37.15,6 (overall 5:53.01,6), followed by Erika Kleinhans and Ariane Lüthi in 4:47.26,1 (overall 6:07.33,7). The Swiss team of Daniel Annaheim and Renata Bucher (Baumat / zaboobikes.com) finished in third place in 5:02.38,1 (overall 6:23.08,9).
For Stage 2 (Tulbagh to Tulbagh, 104km and 2 300m of climbing) a 12km steady upward drag will take riders to a 6km climb on an ancient Voortrekker wagon trail, specially opened for the race. At the top, the 18km mark, riders will have already ascended almost 1 000m. With this stage’s major obstacle out of the way, the valley opens up ahead, with the route looping clockwise, following the buffer zone between orchards and mountainside. A look at the profile shows that the tracks are far from flat and a short section of single - track will compensate the labours of the first 50km.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is that it will be a hot day in the valley (37°) and riders will be tempted to take a dip in one of the several dams dotted along the route as they begin to head home. After a 1.5km rise to the highpoint of the day’s outing will come the reward of the hard work invested in the first climb. On a clear day, the unmistakable silhouette of Table Mountain will be visible from the crest. Riders then descend the wagon trail towards town for a good night’s rest.