Absa Cape Epic – Stage 2 – Yellow zebra leader jersey changes hands again – Platt & Huber take the lead


Riders had to head into the Koue-Bokkeveld, known for its spectacular sandstone formations and summer temperatures regularly in the upper-30 degrees Celsius. Riders put mileage into their piggy banks early on when they scaled Middelberg Pass, 900 meters of altitude gain over the first 18 kilometers, on tar and smooth gravel. The descent onto the plateau was fast with a few sharp bends. Riders made up some time until just before the halfway mark, where a four-kilometer climb took them to the highest point of the entire race (1 150 meters above sea level). They were then rewarded with a five-kilometer single-track section that wounded through red sandstone formations. This stage felt fast and relatively flat, until the rugged and challenging wagon trail took the field into the Witzenberg Valley. Cleared for the race by local mountain bike-enthusiast farmers, this part of the race offered some of the finest terrain the Western Cape provides. The best was saved for last: a technical five-kilometer single-track, an old wagon trail opened up for the 2010 Absa Cape Epic, which plummeted into the Tulbagh Valley. It was a challenging transition onto a new playground, from the rugged and remote Cederberg to the fertile Tulbagh Valley with its quaint village and wine farms.

The temperature during stage 2 was ideal and not as hot as during stage 1. It was less sandy and a fast rolling stage with exciting racing. The course was particularly rugged and there were two major casualties in the pro-field – the first being the yellow zebra leader jersey and the second José Hermida picking up a five-inch nail. He had to repair it to get him to the next tech zone for a wheel change. This cost the team over 11 minutes at the end of the day. Riding at the front were Karl Platt and Urs Huber as well as Jaroslav Kulhavy and Christoph Sauser, until Kulhavy broke his chain. They lost a few minutes repairing the chain and in the process broke the chain tool. With a bit of improvisation, they managed to get it back together again, but lost 9 minutes in the process.

Men’s Category

The Men’s category of Stage 2 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic was won by the Bulls team of Karl Platt and Urs Huber in 5:35.32,1. Platt has won the event four times and this is his thirteenth Absa Cape Epic stage win in his career. They were followed by the Bulls 2 team of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme in 5:41.20,6 with Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy of Burry Stander – SONGO in third place (5:44.16,2). Yesterday’s winners José Hermida and Rudi van Houts finished in fifth place in 5:47.00,4.

Platt and Huber (Bulls) now lead the men’s category by 6 minutes and 23 seconds (11:05,08,4). Dietsch and Boehme (Bulls 2) are placed second overall (11:11.31,4) and Sauser and Kulhavy (Burry Stander – SONGO) are third in 11:13.12,3. Multivan Merida’s José Hermida and Rudi van Houts are in fourth place overall (11:14.14,2).

Says Huber of the Bulls team: “It all feels like a dream. It’s my first stage win at the Absa Cape Epic. We were fighting hard today and it was a really good day for me. I hope we can keep our rhythm for the next few stages.”  Platt adds: “I can’t find any words to express how I feel. We were hoping for a stage win at this year’s race, but didn’t expect it on Stage 2. This is the Absa Cape Epic – you need to improvise, take your chances and go for it. We were also riding conservatively today. At one point Kulhavy attacked and we just tried to keep up. He was going very fast – I can see why he is the Olympic champion.”

Says Van Houts of Multivan Merida: “We lost some time today as we had a puncture and had to replace a tube.” His teammate Hermida adds: “And if you ride on your own it’s difficult to ride as fast as when you’re with the group which keeps pushing you. But we rode at a steady pace and eventually joined up with the second group. We also rode carefully as we didn’t want to get a puncture again.” Van Houts continues: “Especially after winning yesterday, we had to push hard. Sauser and Kulhavy were riding hard again today, but everything evened out again on the flat sections.  We’ll check the map tonight and be careful tomorrow. We’re still in a good position in the overall and will keep on fighting.”

Jaroslav Kulhavy (Burry Stander – SONGO) broke his chain during the race today. “It was very hard and very hot. Now I know what everyone means when they talk about how hard the Absa Cape Epic can be.”

Absa African Jersey

The Absa African Leader jersey was won by Darren Lill and Charles Keey of team Cannondale Blend (5:47.01,0; overall 11:26.46,7) for the second day in a row. Says Keey: “We tried to ride as conservatively for as long as possible. Around the middle of this stage, 5 or 6 teams broke away and we rode together until we got to some jeep track where we started splitting up. We managed to stay with the Bulls team at first but couldn’t keep the pace. We’re happy with our performance.”

Exarro Jersey

Prince Maseko and Phillimon Sebona of Exxaro PwC Academy 1 won the Exxaro Jersey today in a time of 6:58.01,8 (overall 14:07.38,0).

Ladies Category

African/British duo Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson (Energas) won today’s stage in a time of 6:51.21,7. They were followed by the Pragma Volcan Ladies, Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth in 7:18.30,2 (overall 14:37.37,8). In third place were Kath Kelly and Erin Greene of www.rrsport.co.nz in 7:27.53,9 (overall 15:06.25,6). Speedy and Williamson now lead this category by 36 minutes and 7 seconds.

Says Speedy (Energas): “I must confess my partner is a powerhouse – she’s really strong. Esther and Jane must have had some problems. Hanlie and Ischen caught up with us and we were riding as hard as we could to the finish. It was a super fast stage for us, even with the sting in the tail at the end. It’s very nice to win a stage. We just hope that Esther and Jane are ok. It’s so sad that Sally and Milena had to withdraw yesterday due to illness.” Adds Williamson: “It was a very long, hard stage, but winning a stage is brilliant. I kept looking behind me – I was really worried that the others were going to catch up with us. I think we ruined a few egos along the way today.”

Esther Süss and Jane Nuessli of BMC Wheeler had some bad luck today. Says Süss: “I had a tummy bug and  felt very weak. After the first few kilometers I said to Jane that my legs aren’t feeling strong and that I’m not sure if I can do this. Jane said that whatever I decide to do, would be fine – she’ll support me.” Adds Nuessli, who was in tears: “Esther just carried on. I’ve never seen such courage. She’s a real tough cookie and I’m so proud of her.” Süss added: I would not have been able to finish today without Jane. She supported me the whole way without complaining.”

Telkom Business Master’s Category

The Telkom Business Masters category was again won by Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts (Juwi) in a time of 6:04.23,5 (overall 12:05.38,5). They were followed by Nico Pftizenmaier and Abraao Azevedo of the Bridge team in 6:05.36,2 (overall 12:22.24,6) with Neil Bradford and Tim Osrin of HCL/Harvest Foundation 1 in third place (6:28.46,7; overall 12:47.01,4).

Bresser and Boelts now lead this category by 16 minutes and 46 seconds and are placed 15th overall.

Pfitzenmaier of team Bridge says: “Abraao had a sore back yesterday and we had to see a chiropractor. We’re very happy with today’s stage. We rode with Bresser and Boelts until the last steep hill, when they started running off their bikes. We couldn’t chase them down again, but it was good riding today. It’s still a long race and anything can happen. We’re optimistic and looking forward to having a close race.”

Grand Masters

Bärti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg of Songo.info again finished in first place in the Grand Masters in a time of 6:23.57,7 (overall 13:02.04,7). They were followed by Linus van Onselen and Doug Brown (BALAMORY) in 6:37.07,1 (overall 13:32.10,1) with Paul Furbank and Chris Brand of Genesis Capital in third place in 6:52.53,7 (overall 13:54.25,2).

Says Bärti Bucher of Songo.info: “Today was much better than yesterday. It wasn’t as hot as the day before and the heat was more manageable. It was also greener and not so sandy. Every day we give our best and it’s nice to have a lead. It’s great fun riding with Heinz, but also tough.”

Mixed Category

It was a hat trick for the RE:CM team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans when they won the  Mixed category in 6:27.02,8 (overall 12:51.11,0), followed by Theresa Ralph and Damian Perrin of Biogen Britehouse (6:35.11,5; ovcerall 14:29.27,0). In third place were Peta Mullens and Jarrod Moroni of Target TREK-Moronis Bikes (6:45.03,6; overall 13:34.49,7).

Johan Labuschagne and Yolandi de Villiers of Exxaro Cycle Lab 1 finished in fourth place in 6:45.14,5 (overall 13:40.10,5). Erik and Ariane Kleinhans lead this category by 43 minutes and 38 seconds.

Says Ralph of Biogen Britehouse: “We started hard and were in front of Erik and Ariane. I thought we lost them, but when I looked over my shoulder shortly after the climb, they were on our heels. We had a very nice cruise down the hill chatting and sharing the work, and rode together to around the 90 or 100 km mark. From there I just couldn’t keep up and we lost 4 or 5 minutes on them. It was such a pleasure riding with them. Yesterday we had some bad luck – Damian had a fall and we had to try and repair his bike ourselves. We lost a lot of time – probably an hour or so. Yesterday was a tough day.”

Stage 3: Saronsberg Wine Estate (Tulbagh) to Saronsberg Wine Estate (94 km, 1 950 m of climbing)

Mountains surround the town of Tulbagh and stage three offers a tour of the basin, with a figure of eight traversing the vineyards and farmlands, skirting these mountains. By now riders should be used to starting with a climb. This 400-meter climb over 15 kilometers, with a short warm up, should be rather gentle on the legs. This is followed by three kilometers of sweeping single-track, finishing off with a section through popular forest. This is a pleasant day, with lots of ups and downs interspersed with flowing single-track sections. The day is more gentle, the soil is softer, the vegetation more lush and the hills shorter. If riders happen to hear the finish line, smell the race village, but their odometer only reads 55 kilometers, they need to keep pedaling. The second part of the figure of eight is shorter, but includes the same amount of climbing as the first one. Dr Evil and the route-design team show their true colours after water points three: a 1,5-kilometer climb on a steep farm road, followed by a short descent and three more short but sharp climbs on rough surface, before it is finally (almost) all downhill and back to the fields of Saronsberg Wine Estate.

Follow the riders on the live site at www.cape-epic.com, the mobi site (m.cape-epic.com, on Twitter (#absacapeepic), Facebook (www.facebook.com/capeepic) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/absacapeepic).

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