Cape Town - Karl Platt, who has spent the past three days chasing the dominant team of defending champion Christoph Sauser and his Olympic team-mate Jaroslav Kulhavy, all but conceded defeat in this year's Absa Cape Epic in Stellenbosch on Saturday.
Platt and his Bulls 1 team-mate, Urs Huber, trailed the Burry Stander-SONGO team by two minutes and 37 seconds (00:02:37) in the 99km sixth stage from Wellington to Stellenbosch and now face the final run of 56km to the finish at Lourensford Wine Estate with a massive six minute, 21 second overall deficit.
Asked if he could possibly make up the time, Platt admitted that the race for first place was over, but added that he would not be giving up just yet.
"This was the stage where we had to ride really well," Platt said.
"We tried really hard but then we had a bad moment and it was over. We just could not find our rhythm.
"We will go for it. We have nothing to lose. We will make it as hard for them as they have made it for us."
Sauser and Kulhavy broke away from Platt and Huber just after the second water point, when the Songo team made their move and the Bulls failed to stay with them.
The ride from Wellington to Stellenbosch had turned into a straightforward fight between the two leading contenders.
Sauser and Kulhavy made their move on the final major climb up the Simonsberg and left the Bulls team behind.
Ten kilometres later and the Songo team were leading by more than two minutes.
"It was a good day for us," said Kulhavy, who is set to add a major stage race to his Olympic gold medal.
"We never felt pushed and we rode at our own pace, so we feel we have some power left for tomorrow (Sunday)."
It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Burry Stander-Songo team, riding in memory of Sauser’s previous team-mate, who was killed in a training accident in January.
From almost nine minutes down after a series of mishaps on stages two and three, they turned the race on its head, inspired by the memory of Stander.
"He has always been in our thoughts," said Sauser.
"It is very special. Winning this race was a goal for my season."
Behind the leaders, another tight race developed between the Bulls support teams and South Africa’s Scott Factory team of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes.
The pair came in fourth, behind the Bulls 2 team (Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme), securing the red Absa African jersey.
Results and overall standings after the sixth stage of the Cape Epic mountain bike race in Stellenbosch on Saturday:
1 C Sauser & J Kulhavy (Burry Stander-SONGO) 4:13:17; 2 K Platt
& U Huber (Bulls 1) +2:37; 3 T Dietsch & T Boehme (Bulls 2)
+5:27; 4 P Buys & M Beukes (Scott Factory) +6:25; 5 S Sahm & S
Stiebjahn (Bulls 3) +6:42; 6 H Becking & J Novak (Superior
Brentjens) +11:07; 7 J Hermida & R van Houts (Multivan Merida)
+11:08; 8 M Fontana & M Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) +11:53; 9 R
Paulisson & Y Zoli (Torpado Surfingshop) +15:06; 10 N Bell & G
Combrink (Westvaal - Bells Cycling) +15:56
Overall: 1, C Sauser
& J Kulhavy 27:13:26; 2 K Platt & U Huber +6:21; 3 T Dietsch
& T Boehme +26:01; 4 J Hermida & R van Houts +44:08; 5 M Fontana
& M Fumic +1:05:56; 6 P Buys & M Beukes +1:11:55; 7 S Sahm
& S Stiebjahn +1:25:36; 8 H Becking & J Novak +1:38:09;9 D Lill
& C Keey (Cannondale Blend) +1:50:56
Women: 1 S Mertens
& L Turpijn (C-Bear) 6:05:45; 2 H Booyens & I Stopforth (Pragma
Volcan Ladies) +5:30; 3 Y Speedy & C Williamson (Energas) +8:20; 4 S
Van Heerden & J Church (Aspen) +17:26
Overall: 1 Y Speedy & C Williamson 35:11:08; 2 H Booyens & I Stopforth +2:00:11; 3 S Mertens & L Turpijn +2:41:07
Leading men's team, Christoph Sauser and
Joroslav Kulhavy, make their way through the vineyards at Thelema Wine
Estare during stage six of the 2013 Absa
Cape Epic Mountain Bike race from Wellington to Stellenbosch. (Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/Cape