It was a close call for the top teams in this year's Absa Cape Epic as they battled it out to win the penultimate stage (Stage 7) of this year's event. The Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, attained their dream of a second stage win, but will need to make up at least 23 minutes and 26 seconds in tomorrow's final stage if they want to be crowned the kings of this magical and untamed African mountain bike race.
They won stage 7 of this year's Absa Cape Epic in 4:11.58,9 with the German Bulls Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm hot on their heels in a time of 4:12.05,3. Multivan Merida's José Hermida and Rudi van Houts finished in third place in 4:13.36,7. In fourth place were South African Burry Stander and his Swiss team mate Christoph Sauser (Songo-Specialized by DCM) in 4:15.59,8 and they were followed by current world cross-country mountain bike champion Nino Schurter and his team mate Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing) in 4:16.11,3. Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata (Team MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon) finished eighth in a time of 4:21.31,5.
The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm again successfully defended the zebra-striped adidas Leader jersey with an overall time of 27:02.46,4. They are now leading by 10 minutes and 51 seconds. Songo-Specialized by DCM remain in second place overall (27:13.36,9). MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon remain in third position overall (27:22.12,5), while the Flückiger brothers of Trek World Racing are in fourth position overall (27:26.11,7).
Lukas Flückiger said they lost Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing) who were riding very well today when they had a mechanical. "They were very strong and motivated today, but unfortunately had a technical problem about 20km before the finish. We had a good rhythm behind them and then took the lead. Also, Karl (Platt) crashed during the last bit of singletrack so we could also gain some time on them. I'm actually very surprised by our stage win today. My legs were really tired from yesterday."
To the question of whether they would be going for a hat trick with another stage win tomorrow, Lukas says they would definitely be taking it easier. "We'll probably not go for another stage win and just take it easy and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Today's stage had too much uphill. When I looked at the stage profile yesterday, I thought it was going to be much easier."
Added his brother: "I heard last night that our parents are sitting in front of the computer everyday following the live ticker to see where we are. It's really motivating to know they're behind us all the way."
Karl Platt in action
Karl Platt of the overall leading Bulls Team. "It was a really nice race today. I felt good and my legs were great. I think the leader jersey is safe for the moment. We worked really hard today and expected to finish first. We also wanted to win a stage and were riding together at the front, when there was an unexpected sharp turn and I braked too hard. Stefan then crashed into me, and the handlebar went into my behind which was quite painful. I was really upset with myself."
With regards to his shoulder which he dislocated twice during last year's event, Platt is very positive. "My shoulder is so much better and it's nice to feel so confident. My doctor sent me a sms this morning to ask how I was doing, and I said we have the Leader jersey which means he really did a good job."
Women: Fifth consecutive stage win for Rothaus-CUBE
Kristine and Anna-Sofie Noergaard (team Rothaus-CUBE) won the Ladies for the fifth consecutive day, finishing in a time of 5:19.21,5. They remain in first position overall (33:56.56,8). They were again followed by Hannele Steyn-Kotze and Ivonne Kraft (Team Sludge Ladies) in a time of 5:31.26,6, who remain in second place overall (34:32.12,4). In third place were Giuliana Vitali and Tamara Horn (team bike2help.ch – Big Tree) with their sixth podium finish in this year's race (5:54.00,2), placing them in third position overall (37:21.38,2).
Kristine Noergaard of team Rothaus-CUBE said: "Today it took me three hours to warm up and suddenly, for some unknown reason, I had a lot of energy. We really enjoyed the last part of singletrack – it was really good. We're used to the wind in Denmark, but it was much stronger today." Adds Anna-Sofie: "I really look forward to the last stage. Today was a very good day and the route reminded me a bit of the forests in Denmark. I also enjoyed the weather – it was nice and cool."
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.