After winning the prologue, the South African/Swiss team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (36ONE Songo Specialized) cemented their lead in the 2011 Absa Cape Epic with victory in Stage 1 from Tulbagh.
They were followed by Urs Huber and Konny Looser of the Stöckli Pro team, with the Bulls 2 team of Tim Böhme and Thomas Dietsch in third place. Last year’s winners Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm (Bulls) finished fourth, meaning they're now in fifth position overall, with Sauser and Stander leading them by 5min 43sec.
“We rode well today, had good legs and felt comfortable," said Stander. "It wasn’t a day for tactics, just really tough up and down, up and down. We rode at our pace, but had problems with a chain and also a flat near the end, but went full force after that again."
The big news of the day was that one of the favourite contenders for this year’s title, South African Kevin Evans (360LIFE), had to withdraw after breaking his collar bone when his brakes failed on the second steep descent of the day.
Kevin Evans is out of the race after breaking his collarbone in a crash early in Stage 1
Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago Arreghini Sudtirol) won the women's category for the second day in a row, ahead of Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (USN), with Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth of team Absa aBreast in third place. Lechner and Schneitter lead by 8min 12sec.
"I had to work really hard today. I had cramps in my legs," said Schneitter. "I guess everyone has a bad day and today was mine. I even crashed in a sandy corner – my own fault, because I wasn't concentrating. We tried to drink a lot from the beginning as we're not accustomed to this heat.”
The Wheeler-BIXS team of Berti Bucher and Esther Suss won the mixed category again, followed by Erika Kleinhans and Ariane Lüthi. The Swiss team of Daniel Annaheim and Renata Bucher (Baumat/zaboobikes.com) finished third.
Masters victory went to the Juwi team of Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts, giving them an overall lead of 15min 52sec. Robert Sim and Doug Brown (Robert Daniel) came second and Adrian Enthoven and Gerrie Beukes (Nandos) third.
The 89km stage saw riders take the flat roads out of Tulbagh before hitting short but incredibly steep, rough and loose climbs followed by treacherous descents littered with volleyball-sized rocks and sand patches.
While the pro-riders made short work of it, the first 50km took backmarkers over five hours. The stage’s last climb on some rough roads brought riders to the top of one of the race's most difficult downhills, with large rocks, deep ruts and a sheer drop on the left.
Today, riders take on Stage 2, a loop from Tulbagh. You can follow the action live on Cyclingnews by clicking here. Cyclingnews also have a more detailed report on Stage 1, along with more pictures. You can watch some of the Stage 1 action below: