Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander (Team songo-info) won the men's Cape Epic prologue, a format used only for the second time in its history. Sauser/Stander (40:58) beat 2008 prologue winners Kevin Evans and David George (MTN Energade) by the slim margin of five seconds. Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess (Multivan Merida) came in third (41:45).
In the women's race Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws (Absa Ladies) won in a time of 56:26, ahead of Sarah Koch and Daniela Hartmann (2 Swiss Epic Girls) (01:02:30) and Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) in third place (01:08:01).
For the first time in the history of the race, the 16.5km prologue circuit took place on the slopes of World Heritage site Table Mountain. The 1,200 teams raced for the honours of wearing the yellow and leader jerseys out of Gordon's Bay for the 112km stage race between Gordon's Bay and Villiersdorp.
The Men's Category during the Prologue was very competitive with what some labelled as "a slightly surprising result" and some of the favourites not making it to the podium.
Sauser is the reigning Cross Country World Champion and double World Cup Overall Champion with 16 World Cup wins behind his name. He has been racing professionally since 1993 and won the 2006 Absa Cape Epic with fellow Swiss rider Silvio Bundi. It is the second year in a row that he races with twenty-one year old Stander as team Songo.info. Stander is the current South African Under 23 Cross-Country mountain biking champion - a title he has won six times in different age groups. He also finished second in the Under 23 World Championship, second overall in the World Cup Andorra, fifth overall in the World Cup Series and 15th at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Sauser said "We hit the gas from the word go and actually deemed Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm to be faster than what they were in the end. We had a brief look at the route yesterday, got lost a few times, but finally had the key sections imprinted in our minds. So we could go fast."
Stander added "Today I felt that the prologue didn't go as well as it did last year, so it was a big surprise to me that we won. This is testimony that we're in good shape and takes the pressure off us."
According to David George, his advantage is rather the physical fitness than the technical strength. "Let's face it, I'm racing against the best technical rider in the world, Christoph Sauser, and I've actually been a roadie until last year. Considering all of this, my performance was not so bad."
Hannes Genze of Team Multivan Merida says they are very happy with their result because Kaess was ill last week. "Jochen only recovered in the last two days. I didn't think we could actually pull it off in the Prologue and Jochen was riding at his limit. Making it onto the podium was a sweet reward and a great way to start this year's race."
Booyens and Laws won the Absa Cape Epic Ladies division in 2004. They also raced together at La Ruta in Costa Rica the same year. In 2006 they raced the TransAlps and it was their last race as a team until now. Booyens said "It was very easy for us to connect again – we're good friends. Today was an absolutely stunning ride - I didn't even notice the burnt veld. We kicked off as the sun was rising and the whole of Table Mountain was glowing - it was marvelous.
"Of course we were a bit worried about today, but it went far beyond our expectations. I was surprised at Sharon's strength – she has been doing a lot of road biking to strengthen her legs and the results are definitely there. We were going fast today, but definitely not overdoing it and are quite surprised at how well it went." Laws added "The next few days will be interesting – my longest ride prior to the Absa Cape Epic was a 200km road training run with only 56 km of climbing."...