Sunday’s final stage of the 2012 ABSA Cape Epic wasn’t the procession it was expected to be as defending champions and overall leaders, Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser, attacked their rivals on the 64km leg from Oak Valley to Lourensford to win a sixth stage and claim their second successive overall win as teammates.
The 36One-Songo-Specialized pair broke clear of the lead group just before the Telkom Hot Spot, won the R10000 cash prize for being first across the prime and then continued to power away up the steep climb that followed. They then carried a relentless pace to the finish, where Stander, on the final approach, grabbed a South African flag, which he carried proudly across the finish line.
Second place went to the Topeak Ergon duo of Alban Lakata (AUT) and Robert Mennen (GER) who pipped Songo-Specialized’s Max Knox (RSA) and Kohei Yamamoto (JPN) in the sprint for second place, just less than a minute down on Stander and Sauser.
It was Stander and Sauser’s sixth stage win in eight days this year and it confirmed their dominance at the ninth edition of the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage race. It was Sauser’s third victory in the event, his other coming in 2006 with compatriot Silvio Bundi. Stander is the only South African to have won the overall Cape Epic title. His total of 20 career stage wins is second only to Sauser, who has 26.
South African Nedbank 360Life teammates, Kevin Evans and David George were fifth on the final stage, but secured second place on the General Classification, the highest ever placing by a South African team in the event. They also won the ABSA African Team competition. Hannes Genze (GER) and Andreas Kugler (SUI) of Team Multivan Merida, were third overall.
Unlike many of their rivals, Stander and Sauser had an incident-free eight days, virtually unheard of in a race that covers such rugged terrain and in such varied weather conditions as this year’s edition, which included intense heat, gale force winds and driving rain.
“We simply rode on the front for about 80% of the entire race and stayed out of trouble,” said Stander. “When you ride on the front you can pick your line and avoid possible problems. When you follow someone else, you can’t anticipate what’s coming. I felt so much more in control riding on the front more this year.
“We worked hard for this stage and the overall. We will never say no to the opportunity of winning a stage. Twenty-seven minutes is a big victory margin, but not only thanks to us. Our whole team and our equipment played a role. We learnt our lessons in previous years. The ABSA Cape Epic is a story. Everyday is a chapter and that makes it so amazing. Now we know the Yellow Jersey is ours. Until now it felt like we were borrowing it. Nothing compares to it,” added Stander.
The only other South Africans to win a category were the Team Contego 28E pairing of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans. The married couple won the Mixed category title overall, and collected seven stage wins in the process. They were by far the most dominant Mixed team in the race with an eventual winning margin of 02 hours 07 minutes over runners up Udo Boelts (GER) and Milena Landtwing (SUI) of Team Centurion Vaude. Boelts won the Master’s division last year and is a former top 10 finisher at the Tour de France.
Former World and Olympic champion and 2005 Cape Epic winner, Bart Brentjens (NED) and his compatriot Jan Weevers of the World Bicycle Relief team won the Telkom Masters (over 40) category. They were followed by two all-South African teams – Delaney Impey and Adrian Enthoven (JAG Craft) and Scott McKenzie and Warren Squires (Complete Cyclist) in second and third respectively.
The women’s division was dominated by the Wheels4Life team of Sally Bigham (GBR) and Esther Suss (SUI), winning seven stages and the overall title. South African Theresa Ralph and her Norwegian partner Nina Gassler were second, while another South African, Karien van Jaarsveld and her Swiss teammate, Jane Nuessli of Team MTN Qhubeka, were third.
A total of 604 two-rider teams started the 781km, eight-day race, with 481 teams finishing and 93 solo riders completing the event after their partners withdrew.
Leading final General Classification results:
1 Burry Stander (RSA) / Christoph Sauser (SUI) 36One-Songo-Specialized 31hrs 46min 50sec
2 Kevin Evans (RSA) / David George (RSA) Nedbank 360Life @ 27:22
3 Hannes Genze (GER) / Andreas Kugler (SUI) Multivan Merida @ 31:07
4 Thomas Dietsche (FRA) / Tim Boehme (GER) Bulls 2 @ 31:57
4 Alban Lakata (AUT) / Robert Mennen (GER) Topeak Ergon @ 32:32
1 Esther Suss (SUI) / Sally Bigham (GBR) Wheels4Life 38:34.11
2 Theresa Ralph (RSA) / Nina Gassler (NOR) Biogen Britehouse @ 49:26
3 Karien van Jaarsveld (RSA) / Jane Nuessli (SUI) MTN Qhubeka @ 1:35.03
1 Bart Brentjens (NED) / Jan Weevers (NED) World Bicycle Relief @ 35:35.58
2 Adrian Enthoven (RSA) / Delaney Impey (RSA) JAG Craft @ 1:38.52
3 Warren Squires (RSA) / Scott McKenzie (RSA) Complete Cyclist @ 3:52.28
1 Erik Kleinhans (RSA) / Ariane Kleinhans (RSA) Contego 28E 34:26.29
2 Udo Boelts (GER) / Milena Landtwing (SUI) Centurion Vaude @ 1:53.19
3 Klaas van Moortel (BEL) / Inne Gantois (BEL) BAIL Peak Performance Brugge @ 2:47.29