After winning the ABSA Cape Epic’s short opening prologue stage by the narrowest of margins on Sunday, South African Burry Stander and Swiss Christoph Sauser (36One-Songo-Specialized) put in a dominant display on Monday’s tough first stage proper to win the day and secure a commanding nine-minute lead overall with six days remaining.
Stander and Sauser’s closest rivals after Day 1, the all-South African pair of Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank 360Life) lost a massive 24 minutes on the 115km stage that started and finished in the town of Robertson in hot, dry conditions. They encountered a series of problems with George’s tyres and eventually finished the stage in 15th position, heavily denting their hopes of becoming the first South African team to win the prestigious race.
With George and Evans floundering, the teams that stepped up to lead the challenge against Sauser and Stander were the Team Bulls 2 pair of Tim Boehme (GER) and Thomas Dietsche (FRA) and the Swiss Stockli Pro team of Urs Huber and Kenny Looser. But their combined strength was no match for the defending champions, who attacked the lead group before the final water point at 78km and then charged on relentlessly on their own for more than 40km to finish in 04 hours 33 minutes 22 seconds.
Huber and Looser outsprinted Boehme and Dietsche for second place, but their time of 04:38:31 was more than five minutes slower than that set by the winners. German Three-time champions Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm (Team Bulls) finished a minute-and-a-half later, outdashing Hannes Genze (GER) and Andreas Kugler (SUI) of Multivan Merida and Alban Lakata (AUT) and Robert Mennen (GER) of Topeak Ergon Racing.
“We rode well today and were on our own for the last 45km, which we rode at our own pace. Some of the guys had problems with the heat or with their tyres. We didn’t have any problems, so it was a nice steady race for us. Touch wood,” Stander told the post-race press conference.
“I felt much better today than yesterday and enjoyed the stage. And of course it’s nice to go from 13 seconds in the lead to just under ten minutes. It really helps to have a strong second team and they were close to us for most of the day. It makes a big difference. I’m sure after today team 360Life will agree, as they apparently had many problems.”
The ‘second team’ Stander referred to, is the Songo-Specialized team of Max Knox (RSA) and Kohei Yamamoto (JPN), who finished 12th on the stage, but would have given their bikes or wheels to Stander or Sauser if required. Nedbank 360Life doesn’t have a second team in the race.
The first African team home was the eighth-placed overall MTN Qhubeka pairing of Andrien Niyonshuti (RWA) and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (RSA), while the first all-South African team home was 14th-placed Gawie Combrink and Nico Bell (Westvaal-Columbia).
Evans and George started the stage with aggression, claiming the R10 000 cash prize on offer for the first team over the Telkom Hot Spot at 28km into the stage, but it was shortly before the second water point at 58km where they encountered their first problem – a torn sidewall in George’s rear tyre. Their repair job wasn’t permanent due to the extent of the tyre damage and shortly after replacing his rear wheel at the next technical station, George’s front tyre punctured, forcing more delays.
In a show of goodwill at the evening’s prizegiving, George and Evans donated the R10 000 to the JAG Foundation charity.
In the highly competitive Master’s category South Africans Delaney Impey and Adrian Enthoven (JAG Craft) upstaged overnight leaders, Nico Pfitzenmaier (GER) and Robert Sim (RSA) of Team Robert Daniel Momsen to win the stage. However, Pfitzenmaier and Sim retained their overall lead by just over a minute, setting the scene for an exciting Stage 2.
Another South African victory came in the Mixed category where Erik Kleinhans and his wife Ariane (Contego 28E) finished 25th overall to secure the category win by over five minutes from overnight leaders Udo Boelts (GER) and Melina Landtwing (SUI) of Team Centurion Vaude. The Kleinhans couple now leads overall.
In the women’s race, Esther Suss (SUI) and Sally Bigham (GBR) claimed a dominant stage victory and extended their overall lead. Second on the stage was South African Theresa Ralph and Norway’s Nina Gassler (Britehouse Biogen), who are also second overall.
Tuesday’s Stage 2 covers a distance 119km with 1650 metres of vertical ascent, four kilometres longer than Stage 1, but with less climbing, small respite ahead of Wednesday’s monstrous Stage 3.
For photos, videos, complete results and other information, visit http://www.cape-epic.com/.