The Men’s Category for the prologue was won by the South African / Swiss team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (team 36ONE Songo Specialized) in a time of 1:02.40,7. They were followed by Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss of the Multivan Merida Biking team (1:04.22,9) with the Bulls team and 3-times winners of the Absa Cape Epic, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in third place (1:04.35,6). In fourth place was the South African 360LIFE team Kevin Evans and David George (1:04.50,5) with José Hermida and Ralph Näf in fifth place (1:04.53,0).
Says Burry Stander (team 36ONE Songo Specialized): “This course definitely suited us. It’s the best stage we’ve ever had – we’re cross country riders. It also suited our bikes. We were riding full suspension 29’ers which helped us close time on the flat section. Susi (his team mate Christoph Sauser’s nickname) was hurting me today and I had to slow him down a few times. Usually I lead at the start, but as soon as we hit the first climb he was leading and did so for about 80% of the way. It was also great as the MD of our new sponsor, 36ONE, especially flew down from Johannesburg to support us.” Sauser adds that winning the prologue was incredible. “We’ve never been as well-balanced and strong as a team. To date I suffered through every time trial, but today went really well. We’re obviously using the right equipment which helped.”
Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss of Multivan Merida Biking team finished second. Says Genze: “Jochen is in really good shape. For half of the race I struggled to stay on the back of his wheels. I even had to call him back once or twice. On the second downhill I found my rhythm and could then keep up with him. It was a beautiful, technical route.” Jochen adds that he prepared well in winter training on cross-country skis in Livigno, Italy. “I’m very happy to be here and am in good shape. It’s difficult to estimate how good your shape is until you get here.”
Karl Platt of the Bulls team enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere on the course. “People were shouting at us – it felt like the Tour de France. The race was excellent with lots of fun single-track. And of course a podium finish is great. My legs aren’t 150% yet, but we’re happy. We look forward to rest of the race. This year is going to be the big 29’er year. We developed our bikes last year especially for the Absa Cape Epic and it felt really good on the single-track.”
Says David George (of team 360LIFE). “I crashed last week Friday, so have stitches in my elbow, and today lost my pedal and fell which cost us about 15 seconds. But we have another 7 days and 680km to go, so a lot can still happen. I’m not concerned at all. It’s early days and we’ll keep going.”
According to Hermida, who will be giving amateur riders a witty summary of the day’s events in the dining marquees each evening, “it was a really good day for us. It’s been a long time since we trained together, so we had to get our co-ordination together and it seemed to come easy. It was a good race and technical, which we like. It was a great feeling crossing the finish line and to be on the podium. So this year I’m not just here for entertainment, but to race.” Näf adds that José is in really great shape. He could go faster than me today and it was hard to stay with him. We’re very pleased to be in the top 5 and proud of the other Multivan Merida team that finished in second place. Now we’ll enjoy the race.”
COLNAGO ARREGHINI SUDTIROL TAKES TOP HONOURS IN LADIES CATEGORY AT PROLOGUE
Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter (team Colnago Arreghini Südtirol) won the Ladies Category in a time of 1:20.20,1, ahead of Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (team USN) in a time of 1:26.37,6. Australian team adidas Naomi Hansen and Jodie Willett took honours in third place in 1:26.56,9.
Says Sally Bigham: “The prologue was so much fun. The course was nice and technical and kept us on our toes, with some really nice single trail, drops, rocks, roots and sand – my partner also rode really well. Apart from one little crash and problems with a chain, we really had fun. I felt fine power wise and am really looking forward to the next 7 days.” Her team mate Karien van Jaarsveld also had fun. “I had a super ride with Sally. It’s challenging to ride with an international rider such as Sally, but also a great privilege. She’s very experienced and really good on the single track.”
Hannele Steyn, a seven times Absa Cape Epic finisher, (of team Attix5 Ladies) is riding with newcomer Leana de Jager this year and finished in 1:30.40,1. “I’ve done all the Absa Cape Epics to date and find every year nerve-wrecking. I really enjoyed the vibe today and it was nice to see people on the course – it creates a fantastic atmosphere. This year I’m not racing and look forward to giving back to the sport. We were riding at Leana’s pace and it makes me proud to see people coming up.”
For Australia’s Niki Fisher (of team Swell/Giant) it was good to get the prologue out of the way. “It was hard to ride aggressively as there were too many riders out there. It was a good challenge and one just had to stay patient. Compared to similar events in Australia, the Absa Cape Epic is really huge. It’s great fun and I look forward to knuckling down tomorrow.” With her team mate Jenni King, they finished in 1:31.27,3.
Tracy Moseley of team Downhillers for World Bicycle Relief had a wonderful day (1:37.31,3). “The rest of the week will definitely be tougher. It’s nice to finally be here and get going. The atmosphere is awesome – families are having picnics in the forest and we even passed two baboons which of course made my day.” For her riding partner Anka Martin it was amazing. “We had tons of fun and enjoyed the heat. It’s nice to get started as it takes those nerves away.”
MASTERS CATEGORY PROLOGUE WON BY JUWI TEAM
The Masters Category was won by the Juwi team made up of Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts. Their winning time was 1:12.32,2. They were followed by Robert Sim and Doug Brown (team Robert Daniel) in 1:13.29,3 with Americans Dooley Thomas and Mike Hogan (team Singletrack.com/Justin’s Nut Butter) in 1:16.25,7.
Seventeen-time World Cup Winner and Olympic medallist Thomas Frischknecht (of team Scott-Swisspower equipped by Oslo), one of the most prolific winners of cross-country events of all time, says the prologue was a nice way to start. He and team mate Urs Gerig finished in 1:17.30,5. “It was great fun – and not too hard. It gave us time to get a feel for the bike. It’s the perfect way to start the race. There was a great atmosphere with all the spectators along the route.”
MIXED CATEGORY WINNERS IN PROLOGUE – BARTI BUCHER AND ESTHER SUSS
The Wheeler – BIXS team, Bärti Bucher and Esther Süss won the Mixed Category (in 1:15.46,0), followed by Erika Kleinhans and Ariane Lüthi in 1;20.07,6. The Swiss team of Daniel Annaheim and Renata Bucher (Baumat / zaboobikes.com) finished in third place (1:20.30,8).
Says Esther Süss of team Wheeler – BIXS: “It was fun. Tokai Forest is so cool. I can ride for hours and hours on this single track. It was still hard, but I feel so good. I finished strong and my legs feel great. I’m very happy as it means that my winter training worked. I’m excited for the race.” Bucher adds that “first we had to walk uphill and then only the single-tracks came. First work and then play! We had a very good start. The prologue is a great idea and makes it possible for many people to be part of it.”
Ivonne Kraft of (Raedisch Race) looks forward to the first stage of the race. “Today was great fun. We missed a section and had to go back – we probably lost about 40 seconds. I’m riding with a new partner (Peter Vesel), but I don’t think that will be a problem. One needs to respect each other. We’re all just doing our best and I think Peter and I will ride well together.” They finished in fourth place in 1;24.18,7.
Gisela Gartmair of Vau De Germany “couldn’t get going. My legs are stiff, so it was one of my worst days. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day. It was still an awesome experience and nice to be here.” Her team mate added that it was the first day. “We still have long days ahead of us and still have time to get in front. It’s a great event.”
Full results here