The Flückiger brothers, Mathias and Lukas (Trek World Racing), rode to victory in the seventh stage of the Absa Cape Epic, but it was the Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm who took the overall win.
With a 4min 48sec lead time on Trek-Brentjens (placed second overall) at the start of the final stage, they crossed the finish line in fourth position together with the Songo.info team of Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander.
The Bulls finished in an overall time of 28:10:14, closely followed by the Trek Brentjens team of Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard in 28:15:08. In third place were Emil Lindgren and Andreas Kugler (Felt Factory 2) in a time of 28:28:43.
The South African team of Kevin Evans and David George (MTN Energade) finished in fourth place (28:41:00) overall and won the Best African Team jersey.
Songo.info’s Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander, who set the pace for this year’s race and won five of the seven stages as well as the prologue, finished in sixth place overall (29:08:41) after the 15-minute penalty they received on Wednesday for receiving outside assistance after breaking a wheel was increased to one hour.
The Bulls also won the Cape Epic in 2007, and Karl Platt won in the inaugural year (2004) with Mannie Heymans. Platt is the most successful participant in the history of the race, having won three times.
Sahm said: “Crossing the final finish line took a load off my mind. All the problems we had this year with Karl dislocating his shoulder twice, then riding in fear that it could happen again, and those small mechanical problems we had to face, all took its toll up to now.
"After all these obstacles, the joy is even greater. You can’t compare winning the Absa Cape Epic to anything else. It’s outstanding and for us the biggest and most important victory of all. It means the world to us.”
Asked why they are such a strong team, Sahm said: “I’d say our friendship – that always comes first. We look after each other, respect each other and would never do anything that could harm one another. And of course our experience plays a big part too. We don’t need to communicate through talking, and know what to do by heart. It’s almost like an atomised process because we know each other inside out.”
Platt added: “When we were crossing the finish line my thoughts were bouncing. We had so many highs and lows and sometimes made up time only to lose it again. Mentally and physically it was a very tough race and now in the end I’m unbelievably happy."
Mathias and Lukas Fluckiger of Trek World Racing win stage seven of the Absa Cape Epic
The seventh and final stage of the Absa Cape Epic was won by the Flückiger brothers in a time of 02:36:19. They were followed by South Africans Max Knox and Brandon Stewart (DCM Chrome) in 02:36:45 with the Multivan Merida team of Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss in third place (02:40:40).
Mathias Flückiger said: “It was wonderful to win the final stage. We’ve had so much back luck throughout the week with two chain breaks, eight flat tyres, a derailleur, and more. However, we were riding well and always managed to catch up with the top bunch and maintain a good position in the GC (General Classification). I guess we were always riding a bit too fast on the downhills, and that’s where we had most of our flats. Today we tried to be more careful and it really paid off."
Emil Lindgren of the Felt Factory 2 team, who finished in third place overall, said: “[Today's race] started like a cross-country race, but when three of the teams broke away, the top three teams decided to take it easy and were riding together. It was actually very enjoyable to reach the finish line without a problem. Crossing the finish line with some of the other teams was really special as it doesn’t happen very often. A great friendship has developed between the riders and that’s what makes this race so special."
Overall women's winners Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws finish stage seven
First to cross the finish line in the women's race was the Absa Ladies team of Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws. They won all of the stages as well as the prologue and completed the race in 37:18:20. They were followed by Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) in an overall time of 42:19:45. In third place in an overall time of 43:41:39 were Nolene Saunders and Sarah Wielopolska of the Tread Magazine Ladies team.
Booyens said: “We tried to ride as hard as possible in order to compete with the whole field, not only the other ladies. I felt a bit tired the last two days, but Sharon was going strong. I must admit I also enjoyed this year’s route much more than previous years. It was real mountain biking.”
The Adidas Big Tree team of Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor won their category in an overall time of 32:13:10, having won six of the seven stages as well as the prologue. In second place overall were the Wheeler – IXS Pro team Marcel Bartholet and Esther Süss in a time of 32:51:56. Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC/ Momentum GT/ Activeworx) finished in third place overall (33:44:48) with Lukas Kubis and Ivonne Kraft (Haibike – VMT Afripex) in fourth (34:04:38).
Sydor said: “I had a bit of a mechanical issue with my frame last night. It wasn’t repairable so the guys of team Adidas Garmin helped me out with a bike. Since I was riding on a borrowed bike, I didn’t want to risk anything so we went slow. We also had a side cut in one of our tyres which we had to repair with a tube. The final stage started a little stressful, but after that we were riding stress-free. It’s the best if you can really enjoy the final stage."
Masters stage winners Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean cross the top of the Viljoens Pass
The Absa Masters Doug Brown and Bärti Bucher won the master’s division in a time of 31:20:40. They were closely followed by Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean (Cycle Lab Toyota) in 31:23:46, with Doug Andrews and Rich Bartlett (Block/ Geoladders.com) in third place overall (31:47:52).
Brown,said this year’s race was close. “Too close for comfort actually," he said. "After yesterday when everything went wrong, I was suspicious of today and expected for something to happen – this is a high-risk sport. We had a good warm-up this morning and were riding well. Bärti is such a fantastic partner – he’s like a rock wall. I think I’m getting a little too old for this race. My body feels old after this week, but it’s still nice to beat all the young guys.”
Of the 1,196 riders who started this year’s Absa Cape Epic, 503 teams and 1,078 riders completed the 685km. During the prologue and seven stages they climbed a total of 14,663m, which is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice.
For full results, visit Cyclingews.com.