Absa Cape Epic

13 Mar 2016 - 20 Mar 2016
Cape town - western cape, South Africa Booking.com
Discipline: Stage race
Race class: SHC

Men Elite results - General Classification

1Platt Karl28:13:28Germany
1Huber Urs28:13:28Switzerland
2Rohrbach Nicola28:26:36Switzerland
2Pfrommer Matthias28:26:36Germany
3Porro Samuele28:38:32Italy
3Ferraro Damiano28:38:32Italy

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - General Classification

1Langvad Annika33:30:48Denmark
1Kleinhans Ariane33:30:48Switzerland
2Spitz Sabine33:45:44Germany
2Belomoyna Yana33:45:44Ukraine
3Morath Adelheid33:51:30Germany
3Bigham Sally33:51:30United Kingdom

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Prologue

1Platt Karl01:04:34Germany
1Huber Urs01:04:34Switzerland
2Rohrbach Nicola01:05:36Switzerland
2Pfrommer Matthias01:05:36Germany
3Porro Samuele01:05:44Italy
3Ferraro Damiano01:05:44Italy

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Prologue

1De Groot Robyn01:17:35South Africa
1Stenerhag Jennie01:17:35Sweden
2Langvad Annika01:17:53Denmark
2Kleinhans Ariane01:17:53Switzerland
3Spitz Sabine01:18:52Germany
3Belomoyna Yana01:18:52Ukraine

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Stage 1

1Platt Karl04:32:12Germany
1Huber Urs04:32:12Switzerland
2Lakata Alban04:32:50Austria
2Hynek Kristian04:32:50Czech Republic
3Ilias Periklis04:33:56Greece
3Ferreira Tiago Jorge Oliveira04:33:56Portugal

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Stage 1

1De Groot Robyn05:22:18South Africa
1Stenerhag Jennie05:22:18Sweden
2Langvad Annika05:22:58Denmark
2Kleinhans Ariane05:22:58Switzerland
3Morath Adelheid05:28:08Germany
3Bigham Sally05:28:08United Kingdom

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Stage 2

1Rohrbach Nicola04:16:48Switzerland
1Pfrommer Matthias04:16:48Germany
2Platt Karl04:19:54Germany
2Huber Urs04:19:54Switzerland
3Porro Samuele04:21:15Italy
3Ferraro Damiano04:21:15Italy

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Stage 2

1Langvad Annika05:06:00Denmark
1Kleinhans Ariane05:06:00Switzerland
2Bigham Sally05:06:45United Kingdom
2Morath Adelheid05:06:45Germany
3Belomoyna Yana05:09:19Ukraine
3Spitz Sabine05:09:19Germany

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Stage 3

1Platt Karl04:25:54Germany
1Huber Urs04:25:54Switzerland
2Rohrbach Nicola04:28:03Switzerland
2Pfrommer Matthias04:28:03Germany
3Lakata Alban04:28:48Austria
3Hynek Kristian04:28:48Czech Republic

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Stage 3

1Langvad Annika05:18:47Denmark
1Kleinhans Ariane05:18:47Switzerland
2Morath Adelheid05:19:19Germany
2Bigham Sally05:19:19United Kingdom
3De Groot Robyn05:19:58South Africa
3Stenerhag Jennie05:19:58Sweden

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Stage 4

1Porro Samuele03:06:49Italy
1Ferraro Damiano03:06:49Italy
2Bohme Tim03:08:00Germany
2Stiebjahn Simon03:08:00Germany
3Van Houts Rudi03:08:01Netherlands
3Becking Hans03:08:01Netherlands

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Stage 4

1Langvad Annika03:41:16Denmark
1Kleinhans Ariane03:41:16Switzerland
2Belomoyna Yana03:41:22Ukraine
2Spitz Sabine03:41:22Germany
3Bigham Sally03:46:38United Kingdom
3Morath Adelheid03:46:38Germany

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Stage 5

1Rohrbach Nicola04:07:04Switzerland
1Pfrommer Matthias04:07:04Germany
2Platt Karl04:07:05Germany
2Huber Urs04:07:05Switzerland
3Geismayr Daniel04:07:50Austria
3Pernsteiner Hermann04:07:50Austria

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Stage 5

1Spitz Sabine04:51:06Germany
1Belomoyna Yana04:51:06Ukraine
2Langvad Annika04:53:06Denmark
2Kleinhans Ariane04:53:06Switzerland
3Morath Adelheid04:54:01Germany
3Bigham Sally04:54:01United Kingdom

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Stage 6

1Ilias Periklis03:16:01Greece
1Ferreira Tiago Jorge Oliveira03:16:01Portugal
2Fumic Manuel03:17:20Germany
2Avancini Henrique03:17:20Brazil
3Platt Karl03:19:23Germany
3Huber Urs03:19:23Switzerland

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Stage 6

1Belomoyna Yana03:53:32Ukraine
1Spitz Sabine03:53:32Germany
2Langvad Annika03:56:27Denmark
2Kleinhans Ariane03:56:27Switzerland
3Bigham Sally04:02:20United Kingdom
3Morath Adelheid04:02:20Germany

Complete results in Women Elite

Men Elite results - Stage 7

1Fumic Manuel03:13:38Germany
1Avancini Henrique03:13:38Brazil
2Rohrbach Nicola03:14:06Switzerland
2Pfrommer Matthias03:14:06Germany
3Geismayr Daniel03:14:06Austria
3Pernsteiner Hermann03:14:06Austria

Complete results in Men Elite

Women Elite results - Stage 7

1Spitz Sabine03:53:31Germany
1Belomoyna Yana03:53:31Ukraine
2Langvad Annika03:54:18Denmark
2Kleinhans Ariane03:54:18Switzerland
3Morath Adelheid03:55:22Germany
3Bigham Sally03:55:22United Kingdom

Complete results in Women Elite

Stage 7

Karl Platt claims “unbelievable” fifth Absa Cape Epic crown

Twelve years after claiming his first Absa Cape Epic title Karl Platt today became only the second person to win the event five times when he and Urs Huber (Bulls) calmly sealed a dominant victory.

And in a gripping race for the Women’s category, Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad (Spur-Specialized) sealed their third successive title in front of thousands of cheering spectators at Meerendal Wine Estate.

In the men’s race German Manuel Fumic and Brazilian Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) claimed Stage 7 – the prestigious Grand Finale win – in thrilling fashion, but it was Team Bulls who took overall glory.

German Platt and Swiss teammate Huber of Switzerland rolled comfortably across the line at Meerendal in fifth place after the fast 86km ride, with Fumic and Avancini still joyously celebrating their stage win.

“We’ve wanted this all week,” said Fumic. “We targeted the Prologue, then Stage 4 and today. This was our last chance at a stage win after the other two didn’t work out, so we were really determined to take this one. There is nothing better than winning the final stage of the Cape Epic. There are always a lot of people here, but when we came over the bridge I couldn’t believe how many people were at the finish. It’s such a special feeling.”

Avancini, the 2015 Brazilian cross-country champion, was equally thrilled with a stage victory in his debut Cape Epic. “This is very special,” said Avancini. “We were chasing this stage win today so to get it in front of so many fans was incredible. We wanted Stage 4, but Manny had a few issues, so this was it for us.”

Fumic and Avancini crossed the line in 3:13.38,2, very fast riding on a stage without much climbing, quite a few district roads and in fairly cool conditions.

Second and third on the stage was wrapped up by the two Centurion Vaude by Meerendal teams. At one stage, on the last climb before the final 2016 Cape Epic descent, it looked as though they had positioned themselves for a one-two stage finish, but Cannondale Factory Racing snuck in front. “We are not the strongest team in the field,” said Avancini, “so today we had to be the smartest.”

The biggest smiles on the day, though, belonged to Platt and Huber. Their preparation for the 13th edition of the Absa Cape Epic has been superb, with both riders spending weeks in South Africa, racing and riding in local conditions.

“This is unbelievable… unbelievable,” said Platt seconds after crossing the line as the 2016 champion. I have no words to say now.” Platt, who won the very first Absa Cape Epic in 2004, has had to wait six years for his fifth win. “I must be getting better with age! I’ve been waiting a long time for this fifth win, so to actually have it now… I still can’t believe it.”

The race strategy on the day was a case of no heroics. With a 15-minute overall race lead over Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 (Swiss Nicola Rohrbach and German Matthias Pfrommer), Platt and Huber just had to enjoy the ride. “Everyone was racing hard again, but we did what we could to control it,” said Platt. “Then a bunch made a break, but Urs and I decided to take it easy and just enjoy the last 20km.”

This was Huber’s first Cape Epic victory, in his seventh event. “I was a bit nervous at the start,” said Huber, “but once the race began and we could control the pace for a while, I calmed down. We could see that lots of teams were going for the stage win, but we decided that was not for us. Today we said, no suffering!”

Meanwhile, the South African and Absa African classification was wrapped up comfortably by Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (USN Purefit). They claimed sixth on the day and sixth overall in the race. It was a highly impressive performance from the former road riders who, apart from the Prologue, were in complete control of the Absa African special jersey. “We’re happy and relieved,” said Woolcock. “It was another day of fast racing, so to make it into the finish in the red jersey, and to win the category overall, is a great result.”

After an intriguing week’s racing in the Sasol Women’s category, Kleinhans and Langvad are now three-time Absa Cape Epic champions; the Swiss-Danish duo joining Platt and Stefan Sahm as three-time champion pairings.

As was the case throughout the “eight days of courage”, Swiss Kleinhans and Dane Langvad didn’t have it their own way during today’s Grand Finale. The Spur-Specialized pair led going into the final two kilometres before the Sport for Good pairing of German Sabine Spitz and Ukranian Yana Belomoina overtook them and ecstatically crossed the finish line first in 3:53.31,4 – their third straight stage victory.

Langvad acknowledged that this has been a tough week for the pairing, after initially facing a strong challenge from Ascendis Health’s Robyn de Groot of South Africa and Swede Jennie Stenerhag (who withdrew after falling ill). Then Spitz and Belomoina found their legs in the closing stages but Spur-Specialized’s overall winning margin of 14.56 highlighted their superiority over the eight days.

“It was a difficult stage after a tough week of racing, but we are happy with our overall win and super happy with our third Epic title,” said the Dane. “Winning the Epic is a big goal. To celebrate I’m going to drink some of the great South African wine that I didn’t get to drink this week.”

Kleinhans, who came into the Absa Cape Epic unsure about her form once again had to dig deep to keep pace with her partner.

“This stage was a bit messy – we had a lot of men overtaking us today, but in general the route over the Epic was really good for the women, because we didn’t get bunched with the men. To celebrate I’m going to sleep, eat and recover. It’s been super tough.”

Grand Finale winners Spitz and Belomoina, who have got stronger and stronger through the eight days, cranked up the pace to make the decisive move on Meerendal’s famous Stairway to Heaven.

“On the final climb Yana was riding like crazy,” said a delighted Spitz. “She overtook a men’s team and I was sitting behind them thinking ‘oh my gosh’, then I saw her overtake the girls and I realised I had to use my last grain of power to get to her. To win three stages in a race is amazing. I’m really pleased I took the decision to come ride the Cape Epic.”

Belomoina, who at 23 is Spitz’s junior by 21 years, was happy that her cross-country skills could be the decisive factor on the day.

“The finish was very good, it was like a lap of cross-country so I had to go fast. I saw a small chance so I went for it and luckily Sabine could catch up. I’m very happy to win three stages in a row.”

Topeak Ergon’s Sally Bigham of England and her German partner Adel Morath rounded off the Sasol Women’s category podium – with another third place finish at Meerendal.

In the Masters category leaders Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands and Brazilian Abraao Azevedo (CST Superior Brentjens) sealed a dominant victory by winning their sixth stage in a row and extending their overall lead to 51 minutes. Second-place overall went to Adrian Enthoven and Nic White (Whit Inc) while Australians Damien Jones and Brad Clarke (Hampton Cycles) were third overall.

Stage 6

Ferreira and Ilias blitz Stellenbosch trails

Periklis Ilias and Tiago Ferreira notched up a thrilling debut Absa Cape Epic stage win on the trails of Stellenbosch today as Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina fired another shot across the bows of the women leaders.

Greece’s Ilias and Portuguese teammate Ferreira (Dolomiti Superbike) became the fourth team to claim a stage win at the 2016 Absa Cape Epic after boldly gambling on an early break.

By 45km and the day’s second water point the duo, in their debut race, had a 40 second lead. In spite of riding ahead of a chasing pack for most of the 72km course Ilias and Ferreira managed to stretch that lead to one minute and 20 seconds by the finish at Boschendal Wine Estate, claiming Stage 6 in a time of 3:16.01,0.

Second over the line were Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing), with overall race leaders Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls) wrapping up the podium places for the stage. Four-time winner Platt and partner Huber now sit comfortably in first place overall, 15-minutes ahead of nearest rivals Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2, who battled home in eighth place on the day after reportedly battling with mechanicals.

Dolomiti Superbike’s win proved to be a popular one in the Absa Cape Epic winners’ lounge, with Fumic, Avancini, Platt and Huber all warmly congratulating the triumphant pair. All week long the debutants have raced hard, often pulling the lead bunch before either suffering mechanicals or dropping off the pace as the finish line approached. An emotional Ferreira took a moment to absorb the victory, sitting with his head in his hands before exclaiming: “So good, so good. This feels so good. We’ve been trying to win a stage all week. We’ve gone out hard all week, worked hard at the front, but dropped off… until today. I’m super tired now, but super happy. To win a stage at the biggest mountain bike race in the world is incredible.” According to Ilias, the race stage strategy only kicked in after 10 minutes of riding. “Yesterday Tiago wasn’t feeling his best, but today we were both feeling good, so we decided to give it a go. We went off and just kept pushing.” Cross-country specialist Fumic was pushing hard behind Ilias and Ferreira on a day that suited his style, but said at the finish that he just couldn’t catch the pair. “I saw Dolomiti just ahead of me, and I thought now I’ll catch them. But I came around a corner and they were gone. They raced really well today.”

After toiling in Tulbagh, riders have been enjoying the trail networks of Wellington and Stellenbosch. “Today was really nice,” said Ilias. “Today was really good. It helps that we won the stage too. It’s fantastic.”

For the overall leaders at the Cape Epic it was a case of “keep it simple”. The Team Bulls outfit have controlled the race from start to finish and can almost taste victory. Barring disaster, Platt should notch up his fifth win on Sunday and Huber his first. Platt said he could sense that the lead pack was feeling the strain of seven days of hard riding, with the pace down at the start of stage. “Everyone has pushed hard all week, but today it felt like nobody wanted to push,” said Platt. “Urs and I just wanted to get from A to B without doing anything silly. In the end, it was a great day of riding. It was a ‘lekker’ route.” The first South African rider home on Stage 6 was Topeak Ergon Racing 2’s Erik Kleinhans, riding alongside Jeremiah Bishop this year. They finished fourth behind Platt and Huber. The top South African team was once again USN Purefit, Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock finishing seventh on the stage.

“I probably felt my best of the entire race today,” said Woolcock. “Darren was still feeling ill, but he pushed through like he always does. In the end it was another successful day, and actually really cool in parts. I know the trails well here, so it was really nice to ride in my own ‘backyard’.” With a 23-minute lead over the second-placed Africa challengers, Lill and Woolcock will almost certainly get their hands on the red Absa African special jersey at Meerendal tomorrow. German Spitz and Ukranian Belomoina may well be in the market for shares in Boschendal after winning consecutive Absa Cape Epic stages at the Stellenbosch wine estate.

Today the Sport for Good pairing crossed the line first in a time of 3:53.32,7 to not only beat Spur-Specialized over the 72km course, but also move ahead of Topeak Ergon for second place in the Sasol Women’s category. “It was amazing… we didn’t expect to come here and get two stage wins,” said a beaming Spitz. “We had lots of fun around Stellenbosch. After last night’s rain, the conditions were a little bit muddy but it reminded me of the forests back home in Germany.” Belomoina, for her part, couldn’t believe how their fortunes had turned around this week.

“When I finished the first and second stage I didn’t think it would be possible to get any wins. Those stages were so hard for me, but I’ve been getting better and better and today was fantastic.”

Going into Stage 6, Spitz and Belomoina trailed Topeak Ergon by five minutes and seven seconds, so were surprised that they were able to overhaul that margin during a short stage.

“We were all together at Water Point 1 but at Water Point 3 we heard that we were almost seven minutes ahead… to hear that was great,” revealed Spitz. “Tomorrow we’ll have to hang on and if Topeak make a move we’ll stay on their heels.” Splitting those two teams today was the Spur-Specialized pairing of Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans. “It was a very good stage with lots of nice trails. We were really treated well today, especially the bermed area which was quite dark and and the pine needles on the ground made it quite beautiful,” said Langvad. “It was good to not lose any time, even though it’s now Sport for Good in second place. They have been very consistent but are now comfortable with the terrain.” Kleinhans revealed that she was on the rivet today.

“On paper it was a shorter stage but it was a not a holiday, it was tough. As we get to the last few stages you have less power in the legs so I was definitely pushed to the limits today… especially when Sabine and Yana rode away from us.”

Kleinhans and Langvad can now focus on Sunday’s Grand Finale, with their 15.43 advantage over Spitz and Belomoina meaning only a disaster can stop them claiming their third straight title at Meerendal.

“We’ve entered the closing phase of the race and we definitely want to win it,” said Langvad. “There’s been pressure on us because to live up to our previous results, but our competitors have been quite strong. That said, we go into the final stage with lots of confidence because we have a good gap, which shows we have been the strongest team this week. Now we just have to get to the finish line.”

In the Masters category leaders Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands and Brazilian Abraao Azevedo (CST Superior Brentjens) again dominated, winning their fifth stage in a row and extending their lead to 45 minutes. Second-placed Adrian Enthoven and Nic White (Whit Inc) finished fourth on the day but hung on to second overall.

Stage 5

Spitz gets a taste of Absa Cape Epic victory

Cycling legend and Olympic gold medallist Sabine Spitz of Germany seems to be taking a liking to the Absa Cape Epic and today she and teammate Yana Belomoina swept to an impressive win in the race’s Queen Stage.

Spitz and her Ukranian partner (Sport for Good) punched the airy as they finished the 93km Stage 5 nearly two minutes ahead of overall women leaders Ariane Kleinhans of Switzerland and Annika Langvad of Denmark (Spur-Specialized).

It was a day in which the race leaders took a back seat in both the Men’s and Women’s categories.

Nicola Rohrbach and Matthias Pfrommer of Team Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 claimed their second stage win of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic in a sprint finish under the oak trees of Boschendal Wine Estate, Stellenbosch.

The “back up” Centurion Vaude outfit only came together about a week before the event, but they’ve pieced together an impressive race to now sit second in the overall standings. Rohrbach and Pfrommer finished the 93km Stage 5 in 4:07.04,4.

Second on the day went to overall race leaders Karl Platt and Urs Huber, who finished right behind Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2. Huber, in fact was first over the line, but Rohrbach and Pfrommer had positioned themselves between Huber and Platt to be the first pair to finish the stage.

This lead to a minor kerfuffle at the finish, with Platt unhappy at the way Rohrbach and Pfrommer had pushed hard into the final corner – a potentially dangerous, yet race legal move so late in the day. It was all handshakes moments later, though, with Platt congratulating the race debutants on their Stage 5 victory.

With five imposing climbs between Wellington and Boschendal Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic was billed as the Queen Stage of the 2016 event. Even those at the front are feeling the effects of what’s turning out to be one of the hardest routes in years.

“It was tough again today,” said Team Bulls’ Urs Huber. “I think because we have been going fast from the beginning every day has been hard.”

Huber, composed as always even moments after a day of racing, says the Bulls pair is now only focussing on maintaining their lead at the top and getting their hands on the 2016 Absa Cape Epic trophy. “We were not looking at the stage win today. Right now our first goal is to win the Cape Epic. If we are in a position for more stage wins we will take it, but the priority is to wrap the event up.”

For Rohrbach and Pfrommer, the general classification is also a priority. Currently sitting in second overall with a seven minute lead over third-placed Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro (Trek-Selle San Marco A), the pair started the day in a watchful mood due to Pfrommer crashing on Stage 4. Once they realised he was feeling okay, they hit their groove. “When Matthias felt that the injury was not too bad we got into the front today,” said Rohrbach. “We went with the Bulls and worked together. We were not focussed on the stage win at all, but we are happy to take it.”

It was a good day for Centurion Vaude, with their other team – Daniel Geismayr and Hermann Pernsteiner – coming home third.

Spitz and Belomoina won the Women’s Category in a time of 4:51.06,5.

The Sport for Good pairing have improved day-by-day this week as they have been getting used to the rigours of the Absa Cape Epic.

“We were supposed to win yesterday on the ‘cross-country’ stage but coming first on the Queen Stage is pretty good,” said an elated Spitz, riding her first Absa Cape Epic.

The 44-year-old revealed that the decisive moment for Sport for Good came in the final 10km of the stage.

“I must say that Annika is riding amazingly well. She’s so strong, especially on the flat where Ariane sometimes struggles. We were together with them all the way until we got to a sandy section where Annika had to wait. That was the moment we got a gap.”

Riders awoke to mild conditions in Wellington, with predicted rain only falling for a short while and helping Spitz and her 23-year-old partner’s cause.

“We hoped that it wouldn’t rain the whole day but in the end was only for an hour or so. That made the surface much better for riding as the dust settled and it was compact. It allowed us to ride consistently.”

Belomoina came across the line smiling from ear to ear, a clear sign that the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Under-23 champion is finding her feet on the trails of the Western Cape.

“I’m feeling very strong,” she said. “I think I’m getting better and better and I’m very happy to win a stage at the Cape Epic.”

Meanwhile, a relaxed looking Langvad did not seem too concerned about finishing second. Moments after crossing the line, 1.59,7 behind the Sport for Good pair, she said it had been a “perfect day … it only got hot towards the end after being quite cool”.

The Dane and Kleinhans both also punched the air as they finished, with the former admitting that they were surprised how well they handled the day’s climbing.

“With all the climbing we didn’t think we would be superior because our competitors are very good climbers. So we were actually surprised; we paced ourselves very well and got a good result out of it in the end.”

Kleinhans was not willing to let her thoughts turn to the grand finale at Meerendal yet. “To win a third title in a row would be an absolute dream, but I don’t really want to talk about it apart from saying we will give it our all to achieve it.”

Langvad was thankful that they’ve built up a big enough lead that they won’t have to panic if anything goes wrong during tomorrow’s 69km stage in and around Stellenbosch or Sunday’s return to Meerendal.

“With two days to go the lead we have gives us a very nice feeling. We appreciate every second so to add another minute today is perfect. It means that if we get a puncture or anything we can take our time fixing it.”

Sally Bigham and Adel Morath (Topeak Ergo) remain in second place overall in the Women’s Category and are enjoying the racing this year: “Today was a good mixture of trails and we really enjoyed it when all three teams were riding together. It shows that the separate starts are working well and makes it much more interesting for me as an athlete… previously the women’s race wasn’t fair enough,” said Bigham. “It has been a step forward for the race, made it more exciting for the riders and more interesting for spectators as we’ve seen with different winners this week.”

Meanwhile, Masters category leaders Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands and Brazilian Abraao Azevedo (CST Superior Brentjens) extended their lead in the category to 35 minutes by winning their fourth stage in a row. Second-placed challengers Nic White and Adrian Enthoven (White Inc) finished fifth on the day but remain second while Australian pair Damien Jones and Brad Clarke (Hampton Cycles) are now lying third.

Stage 4

Trails and tribulations … and a debut win

It was a day of disaster for one of the race favourites when Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic pulled out early on Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic after injuring his arm in a crash the previous day.

This left disconsolate Topeak Ergon Racing teammate Alban Lakata of Austria having to contemplate his eighth Absa Cape Epic without a win. The reigning Marathon World Champion has previously finished sixth, fifth, fourth, third and second and desperately wants to add the Cape Epic title to his long list of achievements.

That title seems destined for the Bulls German/Swiss pair of Karl Platt and Urs Huber after a stage in which they protected their overall lead.

The win on the day went to Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro, who punched the air as they approached the finish line. Just before the line, the pair who are riding for Trek-Selle San Marco, got off their bikes and carried them over the line in triumph, celebrating their first stage win of their debut Cape Epic.

The Italian stallions, the dark horses of this year’s race, are now third overall behind The Bulls and Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2. The Bulls, however, have taken firm control of the race – and now have a 9 minute 44 second lead over their nearest rivals, Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2.

The stage began and ended at the Wellington race village and was held mainly on the renowned trails network at Welvanpas.

With three stages left the Bulls will no doubt ride defensively to be in the yellow zebra jersey at the finish at the Meerendal on Sunday.

Porro said today’s stage, which had lots of climbs, suited the team because they are light. “We started easy and decided not to push too hard. When we got to the third water point – 25km before the end – we decided to push harder. We managed to get a gap and we just went. We came to the Epic just to get experience – and now we are on the podium. It’s unbelievable.”

Bulls 2 team, of the German pairing of Simon Stiebjahn and Tim Boehme who are racing in support of Platt and his Swiss teammate Urs Huber – were second in the 75km stage – 1 minute and 11 seconds behind Porro and Ferraro.

Dutch riders Rudi van Houts and Hans Becking (CST Superior) rolled across the line in third place in a time of 3:08.01.

Meanwhile, Platt said that everything had gone according to plan but it was yet another tough stage of the race. “The Epic is never easy, especially today with lots of climbs – we were going up and down all day, but there was lots of singletrack too.”

Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill (USN Purefit) extended their lead in the Absa African special jersey competition, and were the first South African team home in a time of 3:15.14 – almost two minutes ahead of their rivals Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (NAD Pro MTB).

In the women’s race, only five seconds separated Spur-Specialized and Sport for Good at the finish of the stage, with the race leaders being on the right side of that difference – thanks to a superior finish.

“Today was slightly less painful,” exclaimed Switzerland’s Ariane Kleinhans before revealing that partner Annika Langvad of Denmark was the main protagonist in the day’s final act.

“Annika is such a great partner. Today’s stage was really about teamwork and she was really awesome and made the difference when we dropped Topeak Ergon. Then, it was really great racing with Sport for Good. Coming into the finish, which was a little bit different to yesterday, she was motor-pacing me.”

The two teams rode within touching distance of each other for the majority of the 75km stage out and back from CPUT Wellington, during which positioning was important in and out of the famous Welvanpas trails.

“Just after Water Point 2 they got away from us,” said Kleinhans. “We weren’t worried, but we didn’t know whether we would be able to close the gap…”

Sport for Good’s former Olympic gold medallist Sabine Spitz of Germany said she had enjoyed the stage: “It was cross-country style so it was a nice fast one. We tried to make some nice moves, especially when we left the water point before Ariane and Annika. There was a flat section after that and they closed the gap and caught us.”

Spitz and Yana Belomoina of the Ukraine continued racing close to Kleinhans and Langvad thereafter, but the Swiss-Danish pair proved unbeatable.

Asked about her first experience of the Absa Cape Epic, Spitz said there had been moments on the first stage when she couldn’t see too well because of all the dust, “but I’ve loved the last three stages”.

Would she like to come back and win the race, Spitz laughed: “Maybe … why not?”.

Meanwhile, after two days of suffering in the searing heat, Spitz’s Ukrainian partner felt much more in her comfort zone in the mild conditions riders were greeted with on Thursday.

“Today was a very good day for me – all stage I still had energy and my legs felt good so it was fun racing with everybody. It was good weather for me, not so hot, so it was much better.”

Despite matching Spur-Specialized blow-for-blow, Spitz and Belomoina remain in third place overall, behind Topeak Ergon’s Sally Bigham and Adel Morath. The English-German pair came home third on the day, but over five minutes behind the leading pair and are now 12.49 behind Kleinhans and Langvad overall.

Stage 3

Drama at the front of the field

It was a bleak day on Stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic for two top teams.

Swede Jennie Stenerhag, second overall in the winner’s category with South African Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health), collapsed over the finish line after a tough and very hot 104km ride. She was immediately taken to the race hospital by stretcher to be checked out.

Stenerhag later pulled out of the race and De Groot indicated that she would probably continue on her own as an Outcast – a UCI rider whose partner has left the race. Team Ascendis Health announced on twitter that Stenerhag “cannot continue due to illness”.

And men’s challenger Kristian Hynek took a nasty tumble towards the end of the stage and crossed the line with a bloodied arm and battered ribs. He too was taken off to hospital for x-rays.

The overnight leaders in both categories meanwhile consolidated their positions.

Coming into the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Team Bulls) had already enjoyed a string of excellent results on South African soil.

So it should come as no surprise that Platt and Huber are dominating the Absa Cape Epic this year. With a third stage win on the ride from Tulbagh to Wellington Platt and Huber have moved nine minutes ahead of their nearest rivals, another German-Swiss team in the shape of Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2’s Matthias Pfrommer and Nicola Rohrbach. The 2016 Stage 3 win is also Platt’s 17th stage victory in 12 Absa Cape Epics.

Both have also spent time training and riding the trails in Wellington, which gave them a clear advantage in the last kilometres of today’s stage.

“In the last 30km we went very hard,” said Platt. “We know the trails well here, so we knew we could push and make a move the closer we got to the finish.”

Platt said the strategy for the stage was to keep it cool and also keep an eye on their nearest rivals until it was time to strike. “We put the pressure on after Bain’s Kloof Pass,” said Platt. “Simon Stiebjahn went into the trails ahead of us like a cannonball and we just followed him. There were two or three teams going into the trees at full pace, but we knew we could follow Simon and trust in his and our knowledge of the trails. It was another good day for us, and we are very happy to be home in first again.”

Two minutes back on the day were Stage 2 winners, Team Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2. Pfrommer and Rohrbach are enjoying a solid Absa Cape Epic debut, but admitted that after two days of furious racing the pace at the front is starting to take its toll.

“We’re very happy with the second place, but the pace was fast today,” said Pfrommer. “I don’t want to say it is too fast for us, but Karl and Urs were really going. It’s a good day, but it was hard work out there.”

For the third place overall team, Topeak Ergon Racing, there was more bad luck after a broken shoe derailed their Stage 2 efforts.

In the last five kilometres of Stage 3, previous winner Hynek took a nasty tumble that required medical attention to a bloodied arm on the finish line. Topeak Ergon Racing finished third on the day, but Hynek and Alban Lakata are now 11 minutes behind Team Bulls in the hunt for first place.

At the time of writing, Hynek had been sent to hospital for X-rays, after which the team were to make a decision on his ability to continue in the race.

In the Absa African Special Jersey competition, Team USN Purefit’s Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock strengthened their grip on the red rider jersey. Finishing seventh on Stage 3, they now have a 15-minute lead on their nearest African challengers, Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell of NAD Pro MTB.

“We felt good again today,” said Waylon Woolcock, “We spent some time riding with the front bunch until Darren punctured on the first climb. After a quick repair we stayed calm and just rode at our own pace to the finish. Things are going well so far.”

In the women’s race Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad of Spur-Specialized moved a step closer to clinching their third straight Absa Cape Epic title by winning Stage 3 in a time of 5:18.47.

While the Swiss-Danish pair arrived at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Wellington campus 32,1 seconds ahead of the Topeak Ergon and added another 1.11,3 to their overall lead on Ascendis Health, they didn’t have it all their own way on Wednesday.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Langvad told Kleinhans as they celebrated their victory.

The three contenders in the Sasol Women’s category, as well as Sport for Good, remained within a minute of each other at all three water points on the 104km transition stage from Tulbagh. While it didn’t end in a sprint finish, they all described the racing as fierce and exactly what the women’s category has been calling out for.

“It was a very close race and we had no idea how it was going to finish. The racing was super close and very tough because we were all together until the last 20 kilometres or so,” said Langvad.

“We didn’t win because we were stronger today, but only because we chose best when to use our advantage. After the last descent we went through vineyards and the corners were very slippery… that’s where we made our advantage count.”

Among the triumphant scenes of Kleinhans and Langvad, were the tears of Adel Morath (Topeak Ergon) and clear signs of the day’s toil when Stenerhag required medical attention.

“Today was the best women’s stage that I’ve been involved in during my Cape Epic history,” said Morath’s partner Sally Bigham, riding in her sixth straight Absa Cape Epic. “We had a great time and really enjoyed the close racing. The separate starts worked well today and it will be very good for the sport if we have more racing like today – there was lots of attacking and counter-attacking.”

Morath echoed Bigham’s sentiments. “It was an amazing stage… we watched each other, we attacked each other, it was very tactical. It was super hard so in the end everyone was suffering and looking forward to seeing the finish line.”

“Look, there were sections that were very hot,” revealed De Groot before adding that they had too enjoyed the stage. The racing was actually very exciting. It was a proper race today…”

Meanwhile, Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands and Brazilian Abraao Azevedo (CST Superior Brentjens) have taken control of the Masters Category – in which both riders are over 40 – after winning their second stage in a row. The defending category champions won Stage 3 by 14 minutes from Australians Damien Jones and Brad Clarke (Hampton Cycles) but more importantly finished 15 minutes ahead of overnight leaders Adrian Enthoven and Nic White (White Inc). The South African pair are now second in the category, nearly 12 minutes back overall.

Stage 2

Day of attrition sees Kleinhans and Langvad take the lead

Stage 2 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, the 100th stage in the history of the event, was held in another hot, windless day in Tulbagh. The racing in both the Men’s and Women’s categories was fiery too.

The leading men’s Team Bulls pair of Karl Platt and Urs Huber were determined to scorch a path through the Witzenberg Valley and for most of the day everything went according to plan. But on a technical descent just 10km from the finish Huber punctured, allowing the unheralded newbies Nicola Rohrbach and Matthias Pfrommer of Team Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 to take the stage win in a time of 4:16.48,3.

Third place for the stage went to the young Italian pair of Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro (Trek-Selle San Marco A).

The Men’s category winners on the day only came together as a team about a week before the event started, and even then they are participating here in support of Team Centurion Vaude by Meerendal’s Hermann Pernsteiner and Daniel Geismayr. Pernsteiner, though, had a fall on Stage 1, which opened the door for Pfommer and Rohrbach to win a highly-coveted stage at the Absa Cape Epic.

“Hermann had a crash yesterday,” said Pfommer, “so the plan was for him to start and then tell us that they would go on or if we must go on.”

At the stage’s first serious climb, a near 20km trek up an old wagon trail over the Witzenberg mountain range, Pernsteiner realised he was in trouble, and so instructed the “back-up” team to race on. “Hermann and Daniel told us to go, so we did and we hit it full gas,” said Pfommer.

For much of the race there were four teams in the lead bunch, with South African pair Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (USN Purefit) mixing it up in the front for a while too, until a broken chain for Lill halted their momentum.

“All day it was very tough and very technical, especially the middle part,” said Rohrbach. “But eventually we caught the Bulls and the lead bunch. I think we were about 10 seconds behind the Bulls, but the plan was always to then push hard because Matthias and I are both very fast on the downhill. We passed them on the last descent, but also because they had a flat.”

Crossing the line first, Pfommer and Rohrbach were ecstatic, punching the air and whooping with delight. “We are totally destroyed after that ride. But very happy.”

For the overall leaders, it was another successful, if slightly irritating day. “It was another hot stage, the weather and the racing,” said Huber. “The long climb after 10km definitely woke us up, but then we were on to the trails that we knew quite well after riding in the Tankwa Trek recently. We were riding along very comfortably all day. Even though the puncture was annoying, it was a good day. But like always in racing, it could be better.”

One of the pre-race favourites, Team Topeak Ergon Racing, endured another bout of bad luck, something of a recurring theme for Alban Lakata. After a good Stage 1, Lakata and Hynek would have expected to put more pressure on Team Bulls today.

Unfortunately for them, Lakata’s shoe broke early in the racing. After trying, and failing, to fix it, they eventually had to wait for their back up team so Lakata could take Erik Kleinhans’ shoe. Finishing in one red and one black shoe, the replacement also too small, Lakata said: “My foot is on fire, it’s burning. When these things happen you always think the race is over, but we have to get over it because we don’t know what will happen from here.”

Lakata also punctured later as they hit the top slopes of the wagon trail descent.

In the race for the red Absa African special jersey, Lill and Woolcock remain in front, approximately five minutes ahead of Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (Team NAD Pro MTB). Bell and Combrinck finished eighth overall on Stage 2, with Lill and Woolcock finishing 12th.

After an intriguing day’s racing in the Sasol Women’s category, defending champions Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad surged to victory and the overall lead on Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic – spending 5:06.00,2 in their saddles.

For much of the stage, the 100th in the race’s history, the Spur-Specialized pair bided their time in third place behind the Sport for Good’s Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina and Sally Bigham and Adel Morath of Topeak Ergon. Significantly, Kleinhans and Langvad remained ahead of the erstwhile race leaders, Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag of Ascendis Health and by the time the South African-Swedish pair arrived back in Tulbagh, their 58 seconds lead had turned into a three minute, 17 second defecit.

“It feels amazing to be back in the orange jersey,” said a beaming Kleinhans. “This morning I was confident we could do something but when Sabine and Yana went ahead on the first climb I thought it was going to be a long day. I knew I couldn’t go at the pace that they went up so we decided to keep it really consistent and I remembered from 2011 that the last climb goes into a long descent and is quite technical – I thought that’s where we could decide it.”

Spitz and Belomoina were the protagonists in establishing the pecking order for the day, by laying down a marker that only Bigham and Morath initially followed, up the wagon trail out of Tulbagh onto the Witzenberg mountains. Spitz revealed that their tactics were formulated because of their experience on Monday’s Stage 1.

“Our goal today was to not get fed with dust and the only way to do that is to stay in front for as long as possible,” said the 2003 Cross-country World Champion and 2008 Olympic Champion. “We managed to stay in front of the men until they caught us 500m before the end of the first climb.”

Despite eventually finishing the day in third place, the Sport for Good pairing remained in fourth overall, but were pleased to claim the day’s spot prize and look forward to the remaining stages.

After trailing Spitz and Belomoina through the first two water points, Bigham and Morath took over the lead before the third water point.

“It was really exciting today, particularly because the lead changed hands a few times,” said Bigham. “Ariane and Annika seemed to go full risk on the descent home and that’s where they overtook us.”

Outgoing race leaders, De Groot and Stenerhag were due to do some injury assessment after Stenerhag had a hard tumble onto her left arm on the first descent of the day. “I don’t think it’s badly injured, only a bit sore,” said Stenerhag, while inspecting her blood and dust caked arm.

The Masters category – in which both riders are over 40 – is meanwhile shaping up to be a thrilling race. Defending category champions Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands and Brazilian Abraao Azevedo (CST Superior Brentjens) won Stage 2 by nine minutes from South African’s Adrian Enthoven and Nic White (White Inc). But the White/Enthoven combination holds on to their overall lead thanks to a poor Stage 1 performance by Brentjens and Azevedo when the latter suffered from back problems.

Brentjens and Azevedo have moved up to third in the category now behind second placed Dutch pair John van de Wouw and Maikel Govaarts (Van de Haterd Mtb) and will fancy their chances of hauling in the leaders over the next stage or two.

In the Grand Masters category – both riders over 50 – the South African/German combination of Robert Sim and former Tour de France rider Udo Boelts have a commanding 20-minute lead over South Africans Andrew Mclean and Doug Brown (Cycle Lab) after winning their second stage in succession. The much-vaunted pairing of Austrian Heinz Zoerweg and Swiss Barti Bucher (Meerendal BIXS KTM) appear to have put two bad days behind them and finished second on Tuesday ahead of Mclean and Brown. They are third overall and will be determined to close the gap on the leading team over the remaining five stages.

The Mixed category was again dominated by French team Jean-Francois Bossler and Fanny Bourdon (Open-Kappius Components), who are now 21 minutes ahead of second-placed Hans Fluck and Anita Bucher (Giant Obwalden). Phillimon Sebona and Lucky Mlangeni (Exxaro/PwC) have taken a commanding lead in the race for the Exxaro special jersey and are now an hour ahead of second-placed Rilamulele Gadabeni and Tovhowani Mavundadavhi (Exxaro/Tronox).

Absa Cape Epic photos

Men Elite

Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sebastian Stark at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sebastian Stark at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Absa Cape Epic (2016) Absa Cape Epic (2016)Hermann Pernsteiner at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Hermann Pernsteiner at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Kristian Hynek at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Kristian Hynek at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Samuele Porro at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Samuele Porro at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Karl Platt at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Karl Platt at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Karl Platt at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Karl Platt at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Thinus Redelinghuys at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Thinus Redelinghuys at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Absa Cape Epic (2016) Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Konny Looser at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Konny Looser at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Damiano Ferraro at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Damiano Ferraro at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Damiano Ferraro at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Damiano Ferraro at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Waylon Woolcock at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Waylon Woolcock at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Manuel Fumic at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Manuel Fumic at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Tiago Jorge Oliveira Ferreira at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Tiago Jorge Oliveira Ferreira at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Tiago Jorge Oliveira Ferreira at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Tiago Jorge Oliveira Ferreira at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Oliver Munnik at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Oliver Munnik at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Henrique Avancini at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Urs Huber at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Darren Lill at Absa Cape Epic (2016)

Women Elite

Jennie Stenerhag at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Jennie Stenerhag at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Absa Cape Epic (2016) Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sally Bigham at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sally Bigham at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Catherine Hare Willianson at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Catherine Hare Willianson at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Absa Cape Epic (2016) Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Annika Langvad at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Annika Langvad at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Annika Langvad at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Annika Langvad at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Yana Belomoyna at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Yana Belomoyna at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Yana Belomoyna at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Yana Belomoyna at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Yana Belomoyna at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Yana Belomoyna at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Ariane Kleinhans at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sally Bigham at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sally Bigham at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)Sabine Spitz at Absa Cape Epic (2016)


GC - Men Elite
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Stage 1 - Men Elite
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Stage 4 - Men Elite
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