Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander (Songo-Specialized by DCM), winners of four stages during last year's Absa Cape Epic, made up for a disappointing start to this year's race by winning stage 3 in a time of 4:38:00.
They finished four minutes and 10 seconds ahead of the second-placed Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias (Trek World Racing), placing them in fourth position overall.
The Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm finished in third place (4:41.51), less than a second ahead of team Trek-Brentjens' Bart Brentjens and Jelmer Pietersma. The Bulls Team have now taken the overall lead.
"It's a huge relief to have done better than the first two days," said Stander. "I suffered a bit at the beginning of the stage, but felt very hungry at the first water point – a very good sign – and had something to eat. That made me feel better and I continued fueling my body after not being able to do so for the first two days.
"I started feeling better and stronger, and we started pushing to catch up with the leaders. As soon as we were with them, Christoph and I decided to go for it and open the gap. As long as I can eat, my body feels good. It's a really nice feeling to have won this stage and to know the game is back on."
Commenting on the high level of the competition he's been facing, Stander said, "This is definitely the toughest Cape Epic I've ever done and you can see that the riders are more fatigued. Hopefully during the next couple of days we'll feel good."
The first women to complete stage 3 were Kristine and Anna-Sofie Noergaard (Team Rothaus-CUBE) in a time of 5:41.34. They remain in second position overall (16:56.53). They were followed by the winners of the first two stages, Hannele Steyn-Kotze and Ivonne Kraft (team Sludge Ladies) in a time of 5:49.36. They are still the overall leaders in this category (16:53.42).
Julia Skea and Carla Rowley of Team RBS Biogen came in third in a time of 6:16.13 (fourth position overall – 18:35.28). In fourth place were Giuliana Vitali and Tamara Horn (Team bike2help.ch - Big Tree) who finished in a time of 6:27.39, placing them in third position overall (18:21.13).
"We're never the fastest at the beginning of the race, so we haven't been disappointed with our results so far," said Kristine. "From experience we know that it's important to race our own race all the way and to follow our own speed.
"Today we didn't decide to attack. I asked Anna-Sofie how her legs were feeling, she said well, so I said let's go. We're here to have fun, do what we can and sometimes a bit more. We don't put too much pressure on ourselves."
"Since Anna-Sofie had a baby, we've both realised that mountain biking is not the most important thing in the world. Of course, it's nice to be on the podium though."
"I started riding again about four weeks after giving birth," said Anna-Sofie. "My son's called Karlo and is named after one of our favourite riders, Karl Platt. Karl always manages to have fun, so we think Karlo is going to be strong and also have fun. This year's Cape Epic is harder than ever – and so many rocks and stones. It's also really tough because of the heat and water."
Today's stage took riders on fast open roads, flowing singletrack, leg-trashing climbs and rough doubletrack downhill. Almost half of the day's climbing was done within the first 40km and racers needed to be careful to ride within their limits. If heat and rugged terrain did not break their spirits, the sandy patches and devil thorns on the last 15km easily made up for it.
Stage four will take riders from Ceres to Worcester, a distance of 86km and 1,640m of climbing. It's not the toughest or longest stage, but after the combination punches of the first three stages, riders will be counting the pedal strokes to the short time trial of stage 5 the following day.