Cape Town - With just over five minutes
separating the top three men’s teams on the general classification it was full
gas from the gun on Stage 5’s 39km time-trial in Wellington.
With a brutal 39km/1 430m to
negotiate, there was no rest for Investec Songo Specialized, Cannondale Factory
Racing and Canyon Topeak as the hunt for the yellow jersey intensified on Stage
5 in Wellington.
On paper the course looked to favour the cross-country
specialists - more specifically the Cannondale Factory Racing boys and Prologue
winners, Centurion Vaude, but as it turned out that was not the case…
Cannondale Factory Racing were the
biggest losers of the day, a direct result of yesterday’s heroic efforts having
caught up with them.
Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini looked out of sorts for
most of the route, the latter of whom was taking tremendous strain on the
“We rode really hard and took some
risks,” said Avancini.
“We gave it a shot but had no legs - it is what it is.”
Cannondale Factory Racing would
eventually finish in fifth place, and with that result, drop one place below
Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek (Canyon Topeak) on the general classification
According to Hynek, Lakata
was making him “suffer” for a large part of the time-trial but eventually
“found his legs”.
“Pacing is key on a stage like this
but on the other hand, like the Prologue, you have to go flat out. I wasn’t
feeling good at the beginning but Alban still pushed the tempo and made me
suffer,” laughed Hynek.
“I eventually started to feel better and like to think
Alban was also on the limit at some point - we rode well in the end.”
Although Canyon Topeak trail Jaroslav Kulhavy
and Howard Grotts by over seven minutes, the reigning marathon world champion believes
he and Hynek are still in with a shot of winning the Absa Cape Epic.
“We did not expect to have such a
good day after yesterday’s suffering,” said Lakata.
“We rode to our strategy
and it worked well. We are still in it to win it and the next two stages suit
us - more climbing, less flats.”
After winning yesterday’s Queen
Stage, Centurion Vaude’s Daniel Geismayr and Nicola Rohrbach would finish in a
disappointing seventh place - 3.39,9 off the pace.
“Nicola (Rohrbach) wasn’t feeling
well today,” said Geismayr after the stage.
“We had to go at a steady and slow
pace. We will see what happens in the next two days.”
The day however, belonged to
Investec Songo Specialized who are showing no signs of weakness. It was a
flawless display in which Kulhavy and Grotts asserted their dominance closing
down Cannondale Factory Racing, who started three minutes ahead of them, within
the first 20km.
“It was amazing for us. We are
really happy because we went at our own tempo and when we caught Cannondale we
felt confident,” said Kulhavy.
“It felt like the hardest stage because of the
elevation and steep climbs.”
“I knew today’s course would suit us
a little better,” said Grotts.
“I really felt more comfortable today and Jaro
(Kulhavy) was setting a perfect pace. It was just us against the clock and we
didn’t have to worry about anyone else.”
Investec Songo Specialized now carry
a 7.15,8 lead going into Stage 6 - a tough 76km/2 000m day out in Wellington.
They’ll be well aware of the threat Lakata and Hynek present to
their position at the top of the general classification and will need a
mechanical-free day to keep the charging Canyon Topeak pairing at bay.
In the Absa African Men’s special
jersey race it was NAD MTB that posted the fastest time of the day, a solid
result considering just a few days ago Matthew Beers was nursing a stomach bug.
For current red jersey wearers of PYGA Euro Steel it was a day of
“It was a really nice route and we
started fast and tried to gain on the flats with me on the front and Julian
(Jessop) in my slip,” said Matthys Beukes.
“We raced hard on flats and backed off on
the climbs. That was our strategy.”
The PYGA Euro Steel pairing still
managed to secure the second step of the podium with Marco Joubert and Dylan
Rebello (Imbuko Momsen) registering third place for a second day in a row. The
young duo now find themselves in third place overall - just under a minute and
a half ahead of Timothy Hammond and Arno du Toit (SPOT Africa) who trail in
“We came into the Absa Cape Epic
looking to finish top 20 and possibly grab a podium in the Absa African Men’s
special jersey race,” said Joubert.
“We have not had a smooth race as we’ve
suffered with mechanicals but we will just keep going and keep it consistent.
Today was the first time we attacked and with Matt (Beers) starting to come
right we will have to watch out for them (NAD MTB).”
Meanwhile, Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney
collected their sixth win from six days of racing at the Absa Cape Epic.
It was just another day of Absa Cape
Epic racing and another win for Langvad and Courtney as they
snatched a surprisingly tight victory.
It was the sixth win from six stages
for the Investec Songo Specialized pair, but for the first time at the 2018
event there was some doubt about the result in the Women’s category for most of
A resurgent Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) led by
31 seconds through halfway and ended up just 12.5 seconds down at the end of
While the margin of victory was
small, the Danish multiple world champion and her young American partner
extended their lead by two minutes 52 seconds over Annie Last and Mariske
Strauss (Silverback-KMC) who are currently lying second overall and who were
third on the stage.
The gap from Investec Songo Specialized
to Silverback on general classification has now grown to just over 35 minutes
and even the two leaders are being forced to cautiously admit that their
victory is looking like a certainty.
“We are counting down the days a
little bit now,” admitted Langvad after the finish, the first time she has
publicly hinted that it will be tough for their chasers to claim the overall
However Langvad, who has never been
beaten in her three previous attempts at the Absa Cape Epic, is still cautious
about the two remaining stages.
“One of the proper challenges of this race is
to concentrate all the time. Eight days is a long, long time and just the
tiniest little mishap and everything can be gone in the blink of an eye.
“We wanted to keep it nice and steady
in the time-trial. Today we could ride at our own pace and we did that.
“But what was quite helpful
was that we could see Mariske and Annie on some of the climbs ahead of us and
so we kind of figured we were getting closer to them, but we had no idea about
Sabine and Robin.”
Courtney said their tactic was to
ride a controlled stage.
“The time-trial is a different
challenge. Everything is tough in its own way out here at the Absa Cape Epic. I
think today was hard after a long day yesterday but we were able to ride in
control and especially on the descents, where there were a lot of rocky and
sandy corners, and we were able to pull back and avoid having any big mishaps.”
The American was also cautiously
optimistic about the remaining two stages: “Honestly, anything can happen. We
are just trying to stay focused and stay on top of it and maximise our recovery
for the last two days.”
Despite nearly becoming the first
team to get the better of the potent Investec Songo Specialized duo this week,
Spitz and De Groot seemed surprised at the result.
“I did not realise we had done so
well,” said the South African.
“I felt better than I expected. After four days
of over 100km we expected it to be really tough but we rode nicely together
and paced ourselves well, which worked out well for us I think.”
Spitz seemed pleased that their
tactics had worked so well: “Today the goal was to ride smart - smooth
pedalling. The time-trial can be killing and I was sure that if we went too hard
in the beginning we would not ride well when we got to the technical parts -
the technical climbs where you get the rises and the kickers and power peaks.
It was the right decision to ride smart and we were second, so it shows we made
the right decision.”
“The goal for us is to make time
back. We are still battling and fighting for the second place in the overall.
So there are still two more days to go and we will see how it turns out.”
With the temperature climbing the pro
riders enjoyed the best of the weather, but Englishwoman Last said it was still
“On the first climb you could feel
the heat was already there. On the start line it was very pretty because you
could see the sunrise, but on the climbs it was hot. It was a 39km time-trial
with 1 400 metres of climbing and (on Thursday) we did 113km with 1 800 metres,
so there was a lot of climbing for a lot less distance.”