When race leader Burry Stander broke his front wheel, South African rider Max Knox stepped in to lend him his bike. But even this act of sportsmanship wasn't enough to enable Stander's team, Songo.info, to win stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic.
Knox, who hails from Stander's home province of Kwazulu-Natal, was in 25th position overall with teammate Brandon Stewart (DCM Chrome) when Stander had his mechanical. As they weren't in the running for a place on the podium, they decided to help Songo.info.
While Stander rode on ahead on Knox's bike, Knox got a new wheel at the vantage point, repaired Stander’s bike and gave it back to him again at the next water point.
This cost the leading team more than 20 minutes in the first 3 stages. Songo.info finished in 9th place (04:43:30), dropping them to second place overall (17:30:06), 4min 29sec behind the Bulls.
However,after speaking to race marshals, UCI commissaires decided to give Songo.info a 15-minute time penalty as they benefitted from outside assistance. Their official time for stage 4 is therefore 04:58:30. Overall their time is 17:45:06 – 19min 29sec behind the Bulls.
The DCM Chrome team received a time penalty of 1 hour as they were assisted by day trippers on the route.
The Bulls, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, capitalised on Songo.info's misfortunes to take the lead and won their first stage in this year’s Cape Epic (04:32:09). They are also now the leaders overall (17:25:37).
The Bulls were closely followed by Emil Lindgren and Andreas Kugler (Felt Factory 2) in a time of 04:32:23, placing them 4th overall. Finishing in 3rd place were the Bulls 2 team, Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme, in 04:32:35. They are now in 12th place overall, having moved up from 24th.
The Flückiger brothers, Mathias and Lukas, finished in 4th place (04:36:04) and are now in 8th position overall, moving up 1 position. Trek-Brentjens, Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard, finished in 04:37:36, maintaining their 3rd position overall (17:35:13). The South African team of Kevin Evans and David George (MTN Energade) finished 6th in 04:39:24, and moved from 4th to 5th position overall (17:45:56).
Karl Platt, of the Bulls team, dislocated his shoulder again (as during the Prologue) around 2km from the finish. He screamed in agony. His team mate, Stefan Sahm then forced it back into its socket.
Sahm said: “We’re very happy that we can wear the yellow leader jersey again. We fought so hard last year and it didn’t work, so we’re stoked that we could make it work this year.”
The Bulls only learnt at the 2nd water point that Songo.info were 20 minutes behind them, but did not ride much faster to conserve energy. For them, the hard part started in the last technical sections when the MTN Energade team started attacking.
Platt said: “We’re super-happy about our overall success. I actually can’t show my joy so much right now. My shoulder hurts a lot and I’m already thinking about tomorrow. When I dislocated my shoulder, I first couldn't pop it back in. Then Stefan helped me – he had secretly asked our physio what to do in such a situation.
"Today was a really hard stage. It started hectic with lots of rocks and sand and everyone wanting to ride in front. At first we didn't notice that Burry had a problem, but on this technical terrain, you can be hit hard by bad luck – a ditch or big rock can hide behind every bush. At the second water point they told us that Songo.info were 20 minutes behind.”
Sahm added: “Karl and I decided to conserve energy for the last stretch. Bart were going hard, though. They wanted to catch up and didn’t even stop at the watering point. We then attacked on the third last uphill and managed to take the lead to the finish, despite Karl’s shoulder.”
Stander said: “I hit a tree, my wheel went sideways and the rim broke. Max Knox wanted to give me his front wheel, but our forks didn’t match. That’s why we exchanged bikes. Perhaps I’ve risked a bit too much. However, I’m still feeling great although we were pushing very hard to catch up.”
Absa ladies Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws finished in 1st place for the 5th day in a row (05:57:08), and remain in the overall lead (23:18:53) in their category. They were again followed by Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) in a time of 06:32:31, placing them 2nd overall as well (26:44:35). The Tread Magazine Ladies, Nolene Saunders and Sarah Wielopolska, secured their 3rd podium finish in a time of 06:45:47, placing them in 3rd position for this stage and overall (27:24:09).
Adendorff said: “Sarah’s 15 years older than I am. We’ve known each other for 8 or 9 years. We came to ride the Absa Cape Epic to enjoy it and to finish, and are very surprised that we’re doing so well – it’s a real bonus. We’re definitely in the running of a podium finish and now that the real ‘racing’ has started, we want to defend our second place overall in our category.”
There were no surprises in the mixed category, with Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor (Adidas Big Tree) still hanging onto their lead. They finished in a time of 05:13:27 (overall time 19:51:36).
They were again followed by Marcel Bartholet and Esther Süss (Wheeler – IXS Pro) in a time of 05:13:31 with only a 4-second gap between them. They maintain their overall 2nd position (20:30:51).
In 3rd place were Lukas Kubis and Ivonne Kraft (Haibike – VMT Afripex) in a time of 05:22:00 (4th place overall in 21:21:49). Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC/ Momentum GT/ Activeworx) are still in 3rd place overall (21:00:23), but finished in 4th place at the end of stage 4 (05:27:12).
Pfitzenmaier said: “After the false start I lost my nutrition bottle, so I wasn’t consuming enough calories. We were riding well and then I had a puncture. My tyre was ripped at the side so I had to put in a tube, which had a creeping flat. I had to stop all the time to pump it up again. So we were speeding ahead to gain time, and then stopped to pump. In the riverbed towards the end there was no air left, so I had to ride the last 2km to the finish on my rim. I can really feel that in my legs now.”
Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean (Cycle Lab Toyota) finished in 1st place (04:59:58), giving them their 2nd stage win in this year’s Absa Cape Epic. They remain 2nd overall in their category (19:45:11).
The Absa Masters Doug Brown and Barti Bucher finished 2nd (05:03:51) and are still the overall leaders (19:23:33). In 3rd place were Corrie Muller and Robert Sim (Van Loveren/ SAND) in 05:21:24, maintaining their 3rd place overall (21:25:44).
Brown said: “Today we weren’t able to keep up with the leading bunch on the fast gravel road sections, but were also too fast for the slower riders. We therefore mostly rode on our own, which is definitely tougher and takes more energy. This cost us time and is the reason why we came in later.”