ABSA Cape Epic Stage 3 race report

For Stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic riders experienced fast open roads taking the field to a short section of smooth, flowing singletrack. Riders were relieved to reach water point 1 after a leg-trashing 3km climb out of the Ceres bowl and up onto a plateau. A rough dual track then headed through some rare fynbos. Riders needed to stay alert on the challenging downhill section. Almost half of the day’s climbing was done within the first 40km. After traversing the farmlands past a very inviting dam, riders hugged the foothills of Matroosberg. More descending took them back down into the Ceres bowl, the first section was on tar, but the next was technical. The last climb of the stage was short but very steep and loose, forcing riders to walk. The profile appeared fairly flat from there on. The sandy patches and devil thorns on the last 15km almost broke the participants’ spirits.

It will be the last night that Absa Cape Epic participants will be staying in Ceres before heading off to Worcester during Stage 4 (for two stages). Worcester is tucked away in the magnificent Brandwacht and Langeberg mountains with the Breede and Hex Rivers flowing either side of it, complimented by vineyards and luscious green valleys. Worcester is the most central point of the Cape Winelands District as well as the focal and economic hub of the Breede Valley. Situated on the main route between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, Worcester forms part of the Cape Route 62, the longest wine route in the world and offers visitors beautiful sceneries, award winning wines and great adventure. Its location is just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Hermanus, Ceres, Tulbagh, Robertson and Stellenbosch and serves as a well deserved stopover for the traveller to experience true hospitality, friendliness and excellent cuisine.

Sauser and Stander back in top form

Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander (Songo-Specialized by DCM), winners of four stages during last year’s Absa Cape Epic, are back in top form after winning stage 3 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in a time of 4:36.59,8. They finished 4 minutes and 10 seconds ahead of the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, of team Trek World Racing, who finished in second place (4:41.09,5). The Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm finished in third place (4:41.50,6), only 0,6 seconds ahead of team Trek-Brentjens’ Bart Brentjens and Jelmer Pietersma (4:41.51,2).

Bulls now in the lead

The Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm have taken over the overall lead (at 13:30.06,8) from Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata (MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon) who had serious technical problems along the route and lost a lot of time. They are now in third position overall (13:36:36,8). Trek-Brentjens is now second overall (13:34:10,1). Winners of today’s stage 3, Songo-Specialized by DCM, are now in fourth position overall (13:40.00,1).

Says South Africa’s Burry Stander, winner of today’s stage: “It’s a huge relief to have done better than the first two days. I suffered a bit at the beginning of the stage, but felt very hungry at the first water point – a very good sign – and had something to eat. That made me feel better and I continued fuelling my body after not being able to do so for the first two days. I started feeling better and stronger and we started pushing to catch up with the leaders. As soon as we were with them, Christoph and I decided to go for it and open the gap. As long as I can eat, my body feels good. It’s a really nice feeling to have won this stage and to know the game is back on. We’re in fourth place overall. But, you never can tell what happens in this race. It’s still a long way to go. This is definitely the toughest Absa Cape Epic I’ve ever done and you can see that the riders are more fatigued. Hopefully during the next couple of days we’ll feel good.” Sauser is very pleased that Stander is back in shape. “It’s lovely that Burry’s back. Every morning at the start we didn’t know if he may have to pull out. Also, if your partner’s not feeling well, you also feel bad. Today after the long technical climb, I saw that we were back in the race. We had to inflate tyres on two occasions, so lost some time, but when the Flückiger brothers took the wrong turn, we went for it and made good time. In this race you don’t only need to pedal – you have to keep your eyes open and your brain switched on.”

The Flückiger brothers, winners of last year’s final stage, finished in second place today, their first podium finish in this year’s event. Says Mathias, who was still in school in Switzerland last Thursday: “We had very good legs today. Around 5km before the finish, we took the wrong turn and lost about 4 minutes. We were riding at a good pace today and are very happy with the results. It’s just very hot – I’ve come from a very cold Switzerland and my body is still acclimatizing.” Lukas adds: “It’s a pity that we took the wrong turn. Our legs and heads were good today, and our bikes perfect. It was a good technical ride.”

Karl Platt of the Bulls team was very happy with today’s results: “It was a good stage and it feels great to be in the Leader jersey. We missed one of the signs and followed the motorcycle – we lost 4 minutes or so. We feel really sorry for Kevin and Alban. They’re incredibly strong and had some bad luck today. It must be hard for them. Fortunately we only had small punctures, so nothing major.” Sahm adds: “Yes, we’re very happy to have the Leader jersey back again.  It’s perfect to be in the overall lead, but now the fight really starts.”

According to Kevin Evans, of the MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon team, “we were in the lead when we started having problems around halfway. We probably had about 4 punctures and you start running out of tubes and bond. Today was unlucky for us, but there’s still a good few days to go.” His team mate Alban Lakata adds: “I had to run with my bike on my back for the last 2km as my rim exploded. When I hit the tar I could feel that it wasn’t going to make it – it was already that bad. Today was just unlucky. We even got some boms from the other riders to inflate the tyres, but the damage was too severe. In a way this is actually not all bad – I was starting to feel the pressure of riding in the Leader jersey. Now we can watch the leaders and maybe narrow the gap again.”

Tragedy at the 2010 Absa Cape Epic

It was an incredibly sad and emotional day during Stage 3 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Twenty-six-year old James Williamson, participant at the event and editor of the Australian Enduro mountain bike magazine passed away in Ceres Private Hospital at 6h47 this morning, after his riding partner Shaun Lewis (28) could not rouse him.

James was a strong young athlete, who had an uneventful ride during stage 2, feeling completely well with no complaints. He and his partner ate well last night and everyone who spent the afternoon and evening with him said that he was perfectly fine. After the first two stages they were in the 18th overall position.

On behalf of the race organisation, Kevin Vermaak, director of the Absa Cape Epic, has expressed his most sincere condolences to James’ partner Nicky, his family and his riding partner Shaun. Says Sonja Güldner-Hamel, international media director of the Absa Cape Epic, who has liaised for several years with James stated: “James was a very enthusiastic mountain bike journalist who had expressed interest to ride the race over the last few years. 2010 was the year that he could fit it into his publishing schedule and he was thrilled to finally be participating in the race. After yesterday’s Stage 2 through singletrack paradise, he was all smiles and repeatedly expressed how he enjoyed yesterday’s route. He will be deeply missed in the mountain biking media fraternity.”

Images courtesy sportzpics.net