Cape Town - Stage 2 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, the 100th stage in the history of the event, was held in another hot, windless day in Tulbagh. The racing was fiery too, with the Team Bulls pair of Karl Platt and Urs Huber determined to scorch a path through the Witzenberg Valley.
For most of the day, everything went according to plan, but on a technical descent just 10km from the finish Huber punctured, allowing the unheralded newbies Nicola Rohrbach and Matthias Pfrommer of Team Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 to take the stage win in a time of 4:16.48,3.
Third place for the stage went to the young Italian pair of Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro (Trek-Selle San Marco A).
The winners on the day only came together as a team about a week before the event started, and even then they are participating here in support of Team Centurion Vaude by Meerendal’s Hermann Pernsteiner and Daniel Geismayr. Pernsteiner, though, had a fall on Stage 1, which opened the door for Pfommer and Rohrbach to win a highly-coveted stage at the Absa Cape Epic.
“Hermann had a crash yesterday,” said Pfommer, “so the plan was for him to start and then tell us that they would go on or if we must go on.”
At the stage’s first serious climb, a near 20km trek up an old wagon trail over the Witzenberg mountain range, Pernsteiner realised he was in trouble, and so instructed the “back-up” team to race on. “Hermann and Daniel told us to go, so we did and we hit it full gas,” said Pfommer.
For much of the race there were four teams in the lead bunch, with South African pair Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (USN Purefit) mixing it up in the front for a while too, until a broken chain for Lill halted their momentum.
“All day it was very tough and very technical, especially the middle part,” said Rohrbach. “But eventually we caught the Bulls and the lead bunch. I think we were about 10 seconds behind the Bulls, but the plan was always to then push hard because Matthias and I are both very fast on the downhill. We passed them on the last descent, but also because they had a flat.”
Crossing the line first, Pfommer and Rohrbach were ecstatic, punching the air and whooping with delight. “We are totally destroyed after that ride. But very happy.”
For the overall leaders, it was another successful, if slightly irritating day. “It was another hot stage, the weather and the racing,” said Huber. “The long climb after 10km definitely woke us up, but then we were on to the trails that we knew quite well after riding in the Tankwa Trek recently. We were riding along very comfortably all day. Even though the puncture was annoying, it was a good day. But like always in racing, it could be better.”
One of the pre-race favourites, Team Topeak Ergon Racing, endured another bout of bad luck, something of a recurring theme for Alban Lakata. After a good Stage 1, Lakata and Hynek would have expected to put more pressure on Team Bulls today.
Unfortunately for them, Hynek’s shoe broke early in the racing. After trying, and failing, to fix it, they eventually had to wait for their back up team so Hynek could take Erik Kleinhans’ shoe. Finishing in one red and one black shoe, the replacement also too small, Hynek said: “My foot is on fire, it’s burning. When these things happen you always think the race is over, but we have to get over it because we don’t know what will happen from here.”
In the race for the red Absa African special jersey, Lill and Woolcock remain in front, approximately five minutes ahead of Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (Team NAD Pro MTB). Bell and Combrinck finished eighth overall on Stage 2, with Lill and Woolcock finishing 12th.