SOUTH AFRICAN STANDER TAKES EARLY LEAD AT CAPE EPIC

    South African Burry Stander and his Swiss teammate, Christoph Sauser, on the 36ONE–Songo–Specialized team, blitzed their way to a dominant victory on the opening stage prologue time trial of the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in Cape Town on Sunday.

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    The short, technical 27km opener to the world’s highest profile mountain bike stage race suited Stander (23) and Sauser (34), both former cross-country mountain bike racing world champions, who clocked a fast time of 01hr 02min 40sec on the trails through Tokai Forest and Silvermine.

    Second place went to the German pair of Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess (Multivan Merida 2) with three-time winners Team Bulls, Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt (both of Germany) in third place.

    Starting third from last in a field of over 600 two-rider teams, Stander and Sauser wasted no time in closing down the two-minute gap to Stander’s compatriots, Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank 360Life), who are more at home over longer stages with more open terrain.

    George and Evans, aiming to be the first ever South African team to win the gruelling race, ended fourth overall, 2min 10sec behind Stander and Sauser; a relatively small deficit in such an unpredictable event, which has seven days and 680km remaining. Evans and George did earn the right to wear the leader’s jerseys denoting the top African team. But after a third and a fourth place in previous editions, they’re more interested in the overall leaders’ jerseys.

    In the other categories, Swiss riders Nathalie Schneitter and Eva Lechner (Colnago Arreghini Südtirol) were the top Women’s team; Germans, Udo Boelts and Carsten Bresser (Team Juwl) won the Masters division; and Esther Suss and Barti Bucher (Wheeler – BIXS), both of Switzerland, were the fastest Mixed team.

    Monday’s Stage 1 is a relatively short 89km circular route, starting and finishing at Saronberg in Tulbach. But with 2050m of vertical ascent up mostly steep, rocky ascents, is being touted as one of the toughest in Cape Epic history.

    For full results and images, visit www.cape-epic.com