Cape Town - Strong and cold winds have turned Tuesday’s Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic into an exceptionally tough one and all the talk afterwards was of how Czech strongman Jaroslav Kulhavy powered through it.
This is day three of the world’s leading mountain bike stage race, which takes riders from a prologue on Table Mountain and around the Western Cape to the Elgin Valley, Worcester, Wellington and Durbanville over eight days. It covers 739km in total.
Kulhavy and four-times Absa Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser of Switzerland (Investec-Songo-Specialized) won their second stage in a row Tuesday, extending their overall lead to more than six minutes.
“Jaro was super, super strong and did a lot of work,” said Sauser about Kulhavy’s riding in front and taking the brunt of the wind.
Second-placed Czech Kristian Hynek, riding with Austian Alban Lakata (Topeak Ergon) also paid tribute to Kulhavy: “Jaro is a machine … it was amazing how he was working on the front,” said the defending champion.
He added though that he had not given up hope: “Jaro’s engine is unbelievable, but even he can have a bad day.”
Kulhavy was typically reserved, saying only that “that wind was crazy, but it was good stage and there were some really nice trails over the last 20kms”.
The 92km stage started and finished at the Oak Valley Wine Estate in Durbanville and took riders through the area’s extensive network of mountain bike trails.
In a day of thrilling racing, Hynek and Lakata managed to break away with Sauser and Kulhavy at the top of the tough Nuweberg climb about 20km into the ride. For the rest of the day they were chased by the Bulls’s German/Swiss combination of Karl Platt and Urs Huber and Mutivan Merida’s Jose Hermida of Spain and Dutchman Rudi van Houts.
The latter two teams had closed the gap to a few seconds by 45km but their effort appeared to take it out of them and Kulhavy pulled the leading two teams away across the second half of the 92km stage. About 12km from the finish Hynek and Lakata could not hold on and dropped back, eventually finishing two minutes and 18 seconds behind the rampant Sauser and Kulhavy.
The Bulls finished fourth on Tuesday but still lie second overall – only 11 seconds ahead of Hynek and Lakata. Hermida and van Houts are 35 seconds further back, and the fight for the second and third podium places is sure to be fierce in the remaining five stages.
Platt said “conditions were unbelievable … the wind was very hard”. He had a “bad day” and could not contribute much to the chase.
Fifth place yesterday went to Swiss pair Martin Gujan and Fabian Giger (Novus OMX Pro), who also lie fifth overall.
Next home was the first South African pair, Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill, who put a poor Stage 1 behind them to finish strongly. USN’s Rourke Croeser and Travis Walker were ninth yesterday, but retain the red Absa African special jersey, with Scott factory Racing’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes behind them.
Wednesday’s Stage 3 is the longest of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic and takes the riders from Oak Valley to Worcester – some 128km and 2 200m of climbing. Riders will be relieved to hear that the wind is expected to drop from early morning, but temperatures might get up to the 30ºC mark in Worcester.
Stage 2 results
1. Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy(Czech Republic) 4:06.50,8
2. Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 4:09.09,1 +2.18,3
3. Multivan Merida 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 6-2 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) 4:12.49,0 +5.58,2
Overall after Stage 2
1. Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 9:41.12,6 +6.44,6
2. Bulls 4-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 4-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 9:47.57,2
3. Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 9:48.08,7 +6.56,1
4. Multivan Merida 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 6-2 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) 9:48.43,8 +7.31,2
5. Novus OMX Pro 23-1 Martin Gujan (Switzerland) 23-2 Fabian Giger (Switzerland) 10:01.53,2 +20.40,6
6. Meerendal Centurion Vaude 5-1 Jochen Kaess (Germany) 5-2 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 10:09.53,2 +28.40,6
7. USN #111-1 Rourke Croeser (South Africa) 11-2 Travis Walker (South Africa)10:12.55,0 +31.42,4
8. Scott Factory Racing 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 10:14.27,1 +33.14,5
9. RED-E Blend 36-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 36-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 10:15.02,4 +33.49,8
10. EAI South Africa 33-1 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 33-2 Johann Rabie (South Africa)10:18.10,9 +36.58,3