The Songo.info team of South African Burry Stander and Swiss rider Christoph Sauser continued their winning streak by taking top honours in stage 3 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Their fourth consecutive win, in 03:19:38, gives them an overall time advantage of 6min 52sec.
Team Songo.info were closely followed by the Swiss Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias (Trek World Cup Team), who managed to move up two positions from 11th to 9th overall (13:48:01) after completing their challenge at 03:19:50.
Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard (Trek-Brentjens) finished in third place (03:19:57), closely followed by the Bulls, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, in a time of 03:20:05.
The Bulls held on to their 2nd position overall (12:51:28), with Trek-Brentjens riders Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard maintaining their 3rd place (12:55:57).
The South African team of Kevin Evans and David George (MTN Energade) finished in seventh position in 03:28:37, but managed to maintain their fourth position overall (13:05:02).
The previous day's second runners-up Emil Lindgren and Andreas Kugler (Felt Factory 2) finished in 6th place (03:28:35) and are now in 5th place overall (13:10:54).
For the first time since the start of the race, the Flückiger brothers managed to break away and take the lead for parts of stage 3. Lukas Flückiger said: “It’s been our goal to attack and ride hard, and we knew today’s stage suited our style very well. It was a shorter distance so we could ride faster.
"Mathias broke away on the first big climb and I followed. Initially we thought Bart was ahead of us as we couldn’t see him, only to realise later that he was behind us after having taken a wrong turn. When we broke away the second time, we rode a long stretch of about 6km on our own – ahead of the other teams. It made it easier for the teams behind us as they were working together. By the time Songo.info attacked, we didn’t have the energy to keep up with them.”
Mathias added: “We were really desperate to win the stage today and although we went through all the emotional highs and lows typical of such a stage race, we’re thrilled with our second place. We feel we’ve broken the run of bad luck we had the first couple of days. And hope that we can ride according to our abilities from now.”
Brentjens and Jongewaard took a wrong turn early on in the race after they had built up a lead of about 1 minute. Brentjens said: “We were blinded by the sun and missed the route markers. Luckily we were saved by the TV helicopter crew – they indicated from the air that we had taken a wrong turn and needed to turn back. We had a good day and it was nice to make it to the podium."
According to Stander, stage 3's shorter route was harder than the previous day's. “Bart and his team mate Chris (Trek-Brentjens) were really pushing the pedals all the time," he said. "The very first climb today was already hard for me. There was a lot of loose gravel and we had to walk in quite a few places along the route. These hiking sections with your bike on your back were always followed by very fast descents and you really had to stay focused. I found it exhausting as you need energy to control your bike. We also had another flat and then needed to catch up with the leaders again.”
Sauser said: “Dr Evil [route designer Leon Evans’ nickname] plans good cross-country routes and I’m really enjoying this year’s Epic. But, the race is only over once you cross the finish line at Lourensford Wine Estate. Obviously we’re more confident that we can make it and we’re going to go for it.”
Stander added: “The overall victory of the Absa Cape Epic would mean a lot to me. Many South African riders focus on this race as their primary goal. Winning this race would prove that I’m a complete mountain biker and not only good at short, intense cross-country races.”
Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws finished in first place for the fourth day in a row (04:35:28), and remain in the overall lead (17:21:45) in their category.
They were again followed by Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) in a time of 05:18:52, placing them second overall as well (20:12:04).
The Tread Magazine Ladies, Nolene Saunders and Sarah Wielopolska, secured their second first podium finish in a time of 05:29:57, placing them in third position for this stage and overall (20:38:22).
Hanging onto their overall lead (14:38:09) and their green leader jerseys, Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor (Adidas Big Tree) again won the mixed category in a time of 03:54:30 for the fourth day in a row.
They were followed by Marcel Bartholet and Esther Süss (Wheeler – IXS Pro) in a time of 04:01:12 (second overall – 15:17:21) with Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC/ Momentum GT/ Activeworx) in third place (04:10:21). They are also placed third overall (15:33:12).
Süss said: “This is my very first Absa Cape Epic. I was prepared that the race would be tough, but now I know it really is. The mixed category very much depends on the kind of man you’re riding with. This is the very first year that Marcel and I are racing for the same mountain bike team. We spent the first stage trying to figure out how much I can ask him for support without wearing him out. It’s also Marcel’s first stage race, so it’s really trial and error for us. We’re only now getting to know each other and therefore our confidence is building.
“I also only knew Ivonne and Alison prior to the start of the race and didn’t know what to expect from the strong South African teams. We’ve realised now that we have a good chance of a podium finish. We’re also hoping for a day when we’re both feeling really strong so that we could perhaps manage a stage win, although Alison and Nico are a really strong team."
Cordes and Speedy were the winners of the mixed category in the 2007 edition of the Absa Cape Epic. Speedy said: “Having raced together before makes a big difference as we know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. We know when to push and when to shut up. When you’re full of adrenaline or anxiety, you may sometimes say something wrong and regret it later.
"We knew Alison and Nico would be strong – they’re actually riding in a different league. We’re more evenly matched with the second team and hope to race them in the next few days.”
Pfitzenmaier and Sydor have moved from 14th to 17th place overall and are leading their category by 39min 12sec.
Despite crossing the finish line first, Doug Brown and Barti Bucher received a 2-minute 'time adjustment' by the UCI Commissaires due to cutting short on the route. They mistakenly missed a turn following children waving and cheering them on.
They finished in a time of 03:47:00 and are still the overall leaders in this category (14:19:43). Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean (Cycle Lab Toyota) took the first step on the podium (03:46:05) and remain second overall (14:45:13). In third place were Corrie Muller and Robert Sim (Van Loveren/ SAND) in 04:08:13 (overall time 16:04:20).
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