Johannesburg - South African mountainbiker Burry Stander and Swiss partner Christoph Sauser finished stage four of the Cape Epic in pole position once again on Thursday.
Stander and Sauser finished in a time of 4:42.29 in Caledon, closely followed by the South African pair of Kevin Evans and David George in 4:43.13, to extend their overall lead in the race.
In third place were Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler, in a time of 4:45.10, while Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme again finished in fourth in 4:47.49.
Stander said the conditions on the course were a test of character, with both himself and Sauser having to work hard to achieve the victory.
"It was unrelenting out there. It was sandy, rocky big climbs and the wind made it even harder," said Stander.
"All the teams shared in the work and even with the wind, nobody tried to hide or miss their turn in front."
Sauser said the leading duo felt confident of their chances heading into the last three stages of the eight-day race.
"The stage was shorter than yesterday, but I think the 'wattage' was higher," he said.
"I don't like this wind, but I liked the climbs.
"I feel comfortable though with three days to go. We're getting closer to the routes I know pretty well, because it's so close to Stellenbosch.
"That will also help, as it's very difficult to plan if you don't know the route."
In the women's category, Sally Bigham and Esther Süss won their fifth consecutive stage in a time of 5:50.11, ahead of Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler, who finished in 5:56.31.
Bigham and Süss led Ralph and Gässler by 41 minutes and seven seconds, while Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nuessli settled in third place overall.
For the third consecutive day, the masters category was won by Robert Sim and Nico Pfitzenmaier in 5:22.16, followed by Bart Brentjens and Jan Weevers in 5:31.24.
In the mixed category, Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won the fourth day in a row in 5:40.24, followed by first-time podium finishers Klaas Vanmoortel and Inne Gantois in 6:02.23.
For the second day in a row, the African Leader special jersey was won by Kevin Evans and David George.
Friday's fifth stage will cover 119km, with 2350m of climbing en route to Oak Valley.
The race leaves Caledon during stage 4 of the Cape Epic (Gary Perkin/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS)