Cape Town - Twelve years after claiming his first Absa Cape Epic title Karl Platt today became only the second person to win the event five times when he and Urs Huber (Team Bulls) calmly sealed a dominant victory.
German Manuel Fumic and Brazilian Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) claimed Stage 7 - the prestigious Grand Finale win - but it was Team Bulls who took overall glory in front of thousands of spectators at the Meerendal Wine Estate finish.
German Platt and Swiss team-mate Huber of Switzerland rolled comfortably across the line at Meerendal in fifth place after the fast 86km stage, with Fumic and Avancini still joyously celebrating their stage win.
“We’ve wanted this all week,” said Fumic. “We targeted the Prologue, then Stage 4 and today. This was our last chance at a stage win after the other two didn’t work out, so we were really determined to take this one. There is nothing better than winning the final stage of the Cape Epic. There are always a lot of people here, but when we came over the bridge I couldn’t believe how many people were at the finish. It’s such a special feeling.”
Avancini, the 2015 Brazilian cross-country champion, was equally thrilled with a stage victory in his debut Cape Epic. “This is very special,” said Avancini. “We were chasing this stage win today so to get it in front of so many fans was incredible. We wanted Stage 4, but Manny had a few issues, so this was it for us.”
Fumic and Avancini crossed the line in 3:13.38,2, lightning fast riding on a stage without much climbing, quite a few district roads and in fairly cool conditions.
Second and third on the stage was wrapped up by the two Centurion Vaude by Meerendal teams. At one stage, on the last climb before the final 2016 Cape Epic descent, it looked as though they had positioned themselves for a one-two stage finish, but Cannondale Factory Racing snuck in front. “We are not the strongest team in the field,” said Avancini, “so today we had to be the smartest.” The biggest smiles on the day, though, belonged to Platt and Huber. Their preparation for the 2016 race has been superb, with both riders spending weeks in South Africa, racing and riding in local conditions.
This is the 10th year that Team Bulls have competed in the Cape Epic, and that experience was in full display throughout the week. The Cape Epic also holds a special place in the heart of the Bulls team, as this was the first event they raced as a pro outfit. To commemorate the 10 years, the Bulls came into the event under the banner of Project Zebra – their mission to claim a fifth Cape Epic victory. Their kit and bikes were created to reflect the theme and to show their affinity for their adopted country. The hard work and enthusiasm for riding in South Africa paid off.
“This is unbelievable… unbelievable,” said Platt seconds after crossing the line as the 2016 champion. I have no words to say now.” Platt, who won the very first Absa Cape Epic in 2004, has had to wait six years for his fifth win. “I must be getting better with age! I’ve been waiting a long time for this fifth win, so to actually have it now… I still can’t believe it.”
The race strategy on the day was a case of no heroics. With a 15-minute overall race lead over Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2, Platt and Huber just had to enjoy the ride. “Everyone was racing hard again, but we did what we could to control it,” said Platt. “Then a bunch made a break, but Urs and I decided to take it easy and just enjoy the last 20km.”
This was Huber’s first Cape Epic victory, in his seventh event. “I was a bit nervous at the start,” said Huber, “but once the race began and we could control the pace for a while, I calmed down. We could see that lots of teams were going for the stage win, but we decided that was not for us. Today we said, no suffering!"
Huber says Team Bulls will be back in 2016 to race for a sixth title for Platt, but first he’s looking forward to a week off. “We are definitely coming back next year. But first I’m going to relax for a while. I fly home tomorrow. I can’t wait for my own bed.”
Meanwhile, the South African and African challenge was wrapped up comfortably by Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (USN Purefit). They claimed sixth on the day and sixth overall in the race. It was a highly impressive performance from the former road riders who, apart from the Prologue, were in complete control of the Absa African Special Jersey. “We’re happy and relieved,” said Woolcock. “It was another day of fast racing, so to make it into the finish in the red jersey, and to win the category overall, is a great result.”
Stage 7 results
1. Cannondale Factory Racing 14-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 14-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 3:13.38,2
2. Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 17-1 Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland) 17-2 Matthias Pfrommer (Germany) 3:14.06,6 +28,4
3. Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 4-1 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 4-2 Hermann Pernsteiner (Austria) 3:14.06,8 +28,6
1. Bulls 3-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 3-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 28:13.28,4
2. Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 17-1 Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland) 17-2 Matthias Pfrommer (Germany) 28:26.36,7 +13.08,3
3. Trek-Selle San Marco A 13-1 Samuele Porro (Italy) 13-2 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 28:38.32,9 +25.04,5
4. Cannondale Factory Racing 14-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 14-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 28:39.12,3 +25.43,9
5. Dolomiti Superbike 11-1 Periklis Ilias (Greece) 11-2 Tiago Jorge Ferreira Oliveira (Portugal) 28:52.33,4 +39.05,0
6. USN Purefit 7-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 7-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 29:03.22,9 +49.54,5
7. Bulls 2 10-1 Simon Stiebjahn (Germany) 10-2 Tim Boehme (Germany) 29:08.49,4 +55.21,0
8. Trek-Selle San Marco B 18-1 Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Spain) 18-2 Fabian Rabensteiner (Italy) 29:13.39,5 +1:00.11,1
9. Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 4-1 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 4-2 Hermann Pernsteiner (Austria) 29:16.16,9 +1:02.48,5
10. Topeak Ergon Racing 2 16-1 Jeremiah Bishop (United States of America) 16-2 Erik Kleinhans (South Africa) 29:20.44,8 +1:07.16,4