Team Songo.info recovered from yesterday's technical problems to win stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic.
Burry Stander (RSA) and Christoph Sauser (SUI) crossed the finish line in 04:15:51, 1min 14sec ahead of second-placed Trek-Brentjens.
Songo.info are now placed third overall (22:00:57), moving up from yesterday’s fourth position despite a 15-minute time penalty.
The other participants in yesterday’s drama, Max Knox and Brandon Stewart (DCM Chrome), received a time penalty of one hour and are now placed 16th overall (25:10:19). They finished in 14th place today (04:36:48).
There was some friction between the leading teams today after Bart Brentjens (Trek-Brentjens) rode past the second water point without stopping, dishonouring the unspoken code of conduct among mountain bike riders.
The Songo.info team claimed their fourth stage win in this year’s Absa Cape Epic, closely followed by Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard (Trek-Brentjens), who are now placed second overall (21:52:18).
In third place, with their second podium finish, were the Swedish-Swiss team of Emil Lindgren and Andreas Kugler (Felt Factory 2) in a time of 04:20:00. They are in fifth position overall (22:05:07).
The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm maintain their overall leader position in the men’s race (21:46:46). They finished fourth today (04:21:09).
The South African team of Kevin Evans and David George (MTN Energade) finished fifth in 04:23:21, and now hold the fourth position overall (22:03:17).
On the subject of the 15-minute penalty, Stander said: "Christoph and I discussed it last night and he said we should forget about it right away. This is our chance to race all-out again. We don't have to worry about tactics any longer, just race our bikes as hard as we can and enjoy it. We were mentally prepared that today's stage would involve some hard racing so we really had fun. We basically saw it as our opportunity to start fresh again.”
The leaders during stage five of the Absa Cape Epic (Gary Perkin /SPORTZPICS)
Stander said: “Trek-Brentjens attacked at the second water point and you just don’t do that, not at water points or during mechanical issues.
"Then, in Lebanon Forest when we caught Trek-Brentjens on the bottom of the climb, we put the hammer down. We wanted to win this stage and took over the lead. On the last two or three climbs I was struggling a bit. Luckily the last singletrack section pulled me through. It was so much fun – I really enjoyed today’s stage. It was definitely the best part of all the courses we've been riding so far.”
Asked whether they would still try to win the race, Sauser said: “It’s in our blood to never give up. The race is only over when we get to Lourensford Wine Estate. We’ll go for stage wins and see what happens to our GC (general classification).”
In his defence, Brentjens said: “I made a mistake and didn't see [the water point]. Then I noticed that Chris wasn't behind me and turned around. He was riding towards me with water bottles as he had stopped at the water point.”
Jongewaard said: “When Bart carried on riding, I just shook my head. I had no idea what he was doing. We already passed the first water point and really needed water, so I stopped to fetch some.”
Absa Ladies Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws continued their winning streak by winning their division for the sixth day in a row (05:38:03), and remain in the overall lead (28:56:56).
They were again followed by Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) in a time of 06:27:01, placing them second overall (33:11:36). The Tread Magazine Ladies, Nolene Saunders and Sarah Wielopolska, secured their third podium finish in a time of 06:45:47, placing them in third position overall (27:24:09).
To the question of why they were still going so fast, Laws said: “On these long stages, the faster you go, the sooner it's over and you can recover. And on some of these climbs you can only go fast, because they’re so loose. The guys pedal up there with power. I have to spin up, so I’m riding faster.”
Leading ladies Sharon Laws and Hanlie Booyens (Karin Schermbrucker/SPORTZPICS)
Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean (Cycle Lab Toyota) finished first (04:44:58), giving them their third stage win in a row. They remain second overall in their category (24:30:09).
The Absa Masters Doug Brown and Barti Bucher finished second (04:45:10) and are still the overall leaders (24:08:43). In third place with their first podium finish were Eduardo Soares and Daniel Aliperti of Team Epic Brazil in 05:26:04. They are in sixth place overall (28:04:08).
Corrie Muller and Robert Sim (Van Loveren/ SAND) finished in 05:55:29 today, but maintain their third overall position in this category (27:21:13).
The Van Loveren/SAND team only finished in 17th position today, after making it to the podium in three of the previous four stages. Corrie Muller broke his shoulder bone, but decided to continue riding the last 25km of today’s stage. They had to withdraw and Muller was taken to the hospital for X-rays.
Muller said: “It was while we were riding on a straight stretch when my front wheel gave in. I hit the ground at 45kmh. I decided to complete today’s stage as it would impact on the funds we raise [for young leukaemia sufferers). I basically finished with the use of only one arm. I feel so sorry for my team mate who has been doing extremely well.”
Andrew Maclean, Bartie Boeger and Shan Wilson ( Karin Schermbrucker/SPORTZPICS)
In the mixed category, Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor (Adidas Big Tree) are hanging onto their lead by winning their category yet again. They finished in a time of 04:58:10 (overall time – 24:49:45).
They were again followed by Marcel Bartholet and Esther Süss (Wheeler – IXS Pro) in 05:02:01. They maintain their overall second position (25:32:52). Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC/ Momentum GT/Activeworx) finished in third place (05:06:26) and maintain their third position overall (26:06:49).
Pfitzenmaier said: “We had a great stage today – the singletrack was unbeatable. Alison always likes to ride with the leading men after the start. They’re more experienced and she doesn’t want to risk a crash as last year she really hurt herself. Keeping up with the front guys is extremely tiring though.
"Today we were very lucky – we didn’t have any technical issues like yesterday and despite the length of the stage and the gruelling steep climbs towards the end, it was actually a very ‘relaxing’ stage for us."
Mixed winners Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Syde (Karin Schermbrucker/SPORTZPICS)