The battle for the top African team at the 2013 ABSA Cape Epic intensified on Friday when the SCOTT Factory Racing team of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes finished seventh overall on Stage 5 and reclaimed the lead, which they lost on Stage 1 to fellow South Africans Darren Lill and Charles Keey (Cannondale Blend).
Buys and Beukes closed the 16-minute gap down to just 3min 30sec on Wednesday’s Stage 4, which saw an ill Lill struggle to the finish. On Friday, Lill was still suffering from a stomach ailment, while Buys and Beukes resumed their now customary place in the top 10 early on in the 75km stage around Wellington.
Keey and Lill finished 9min 27sec behind Buys and Beukes, not only losing their red African Leader’s Jerseys, but also one place on the General Classification. Buys and Beukes were seventh overnight, but leapfrogged over Lill and Keey on Friday to into sixth place overall.
“Those were such fun trails today. Some of the best singletrack we’ve ridden,” said Buys. “Matthys kept wanting to push it hard and I reminded him that we still have two more days to go. With about 15 kilometres to go we decided to open up a bit and that got rid of the Bulls 3 team that was riding with us for much of the stage.”
“It was a bit strange restraining ourselves on the singletrack descents,” said Beukes. “We’re both fast descenders and those trails around Wellington are made to have fun on. We’re still being cautious and that meant that we didn’t attack that singletrack and increase the risk of a problem occurring,” said Beukes.
There was another reason to celebrate on Friday in the SCOTT bikes stable. Current Cross-country World Champion and multiple Olympic medallist, Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel (SCOTT Swisspower) finished second overall on the stage, 2min 14sec behind stage winners and overall leaders, Burry Stander-Songo’s Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) and Christoph Sauser (SUI).
It was the first ever Cape Epic podium finish for the Swiss pair, who have been hampered by a knee injury Vogel sustained in a crash during Sunday’s prologue time trial stage.
“Nino is super strong, but Florian is unable to pedal hard with his right leg, especially on the climbs. He was really sore yesterday, but he was treated by a physiotherapist and a chiropractor after yesterday’s stage. That seemed to help a bit,” said Thomas Frischknecht, the SCOTT Swisspower team manager.
“Florian really had to dig deep today to stay with Nino and get a podium place. They got a couple of fourth places here two years ago. We’re very happy with their podium finish today under the circumstances,” said Frischknecht.
Saturday sees the remaining riders tackle a tough stage from Wellington to Stellenbosch. It covers a distance of 100 kilometres, with 2950 metres of vertical ascent, the most ascent of any stagein this year’s race.