Absa Cape Epic – Stage 6 – Fourth stage win for indomitable Sauser and Kulhavy of Burry Stander – SONGO



With a maximum stage time of 10 hours, riders had to prepare themselves for a long stage, the last real hurdle of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic. The first 20 kilometers were primarily in the forestry plantation on the slopes of Du Toit’s Kloof, with a steady 10-kilometer climb followed by an equally long, fast descent interrupted occasionally by some soft forest single-track. The second major climb was primarily through orchards that soon gave way to mountain fynbos as the trails turned more rugged, including another single-track descent, but riders had to watch out for the handle-bar-grabbing fynbos. By the time riders crossed under the N1 national highway at the 35-kilometer mark, they completed almost half the climbing of the day. The next section was fast going along farm and gravel roads along the Drakenstein Mountains towards Franschhoek. The route made the turn towards Helshoogte Pass, as the trail hugged the steep slopes of the iconic Simonsberg Mountain. Riders passed through wine farms and the Idas Valley before passing underneath the R310 road. From here it was one last steep climb, before a descent sweetened by some more forestry single-track that took riders into the race village.

Today was meant to be the king’s stage with some huge climbs in the beginning and steep climbs at the end. It rained last night and conditions were quite cool today. By the middle of the race it was down to two teams – Burry Stander – SONGO and the Bulls, with the other two Bulls teams and the Absa Africa Leader jersey team of Buys and Beukes (SCOTT Factory Racing) in pursuit. Sauser and Kulhavy (Burry Stander – SONGO) attacked on the final obstacle and the gap grew quickly to 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

Men’s Category

Indomitable Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy of Burry Stander – SONGO won Stage 6 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic. This is their fourth stage win this year and Sauser’s 30th stage win in the history of the event. They finished in 4:30.17,0 (overall 27:13.26,0). The Bulls Karl Platt and Urs Huber finished in second place again in 4:32.54,9 (overall 27:19.47,2).  They were followed by the Bulls 2 team of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme in third place in 4:35:44,4 (overall 27:39.27,7) with South Africa’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes of SCOTT Factory Racing in fourth place (4:36.42,4; overall 28:25.21,9).

Sauser and Kulhavy (Burry Stander – SONGO) now lead the race by 6 minutes and 21 seconds (overall 27:13.26,0). The Bulls Karl Platt and Urs Huber are in second place overall (27:19.47,2) and the Bulls 2 team Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme in third overall (27:39.27,7).

Says Kulhavy of Burry-Stander SONGO: “Today was very nice and quite easy. I’m really happy with our stage win, especially for Christoph as Stellenbosch is his second home. We increased the gap again. Now we only have tomorrow and I hope it will be good and that we don’t have any problems.”

Says Platt of the Bulls: “We put in everything that we had. After the second water point as we started the last part, it wasn’t that fast but Urs (Huber) dropped back. He had a bad moment for about ten minutes and we lost about two minutes. Since then we were chasing all the time and we tried hard. At the beginning it wasn’t a friendly competition, but that’s racing. The guys (Sauser and Kulhavy) were very strong. I had very good legs today and we rode well most of the way. It looks good.” Huber adds: “It was hard today and we tried to keep on fighting, but the Songo boys are very strong.”

Thomas Dietsch of the Bulls 2 comments: “Today was hard. We’re very happy with the podium finish. We’ve been trying for 5 years to be on the podium and there’s only one stage left. We’re in a good position to finish on the podium overall.”

Says Simon Stiebjahn of Bulls 3: “I felt very strong today and could keep up with the guys in the front. It was a great ride today with Stefan (Sahm) – he’s so strong. To finish fifth today is unbelievable.”

Absa African Jersey

The Absa African Leader jersey was taken over by Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes of SCOTT Factory Racing in 4:36.42,4 (overall 28:25.21,9). Beukes says: “It was a good day. We rode conservatively as we want to do well tomorrow. It was only at the first climb we pushed hard to put some pressure on Darren Lill and Charles Keey and kept up with the Bulls. At the last climb we started pushing for fourth place. We’re very grateful that it’s going so well for us at this year’s Absa Cape Epic. It’s an unbelievable experience and pleasure to be here.” His teammate Buys adds: “Today was nice – our legs were surprisingly strong. We extended our lead in the Absa African Jersey and we hope we can hang on to it tomorrow. I’m very happy with our performance so far. We thought we’d manage the top 10 and now we’re in the top 5.”

Exarro Jersey

Prince Maseko and Phillimon Sebona of Exxaro PwC Academy 1 won the Exxaro Jersey for the fourth consecutive stage in a time of  5:34.19,1 (overall 34:09.12,5). Says Maseko: “It was hard today. My partner is not feeling well and I was helping him a lot and pushing all the way. We worked as a team – that is why we made it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and will be happy at the finish. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done.”

Ladies Category

C-Bear’s Sara Mertens and Laura Turpijn won today’s stage in 6:05.45,9 (overall 37:52.15,6). They finished on the podium four times during this year’s event. They were followed by the Pragma Volcan Ladies Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth in 6:11.16,5 (overall 37:11.20,2). Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson (Energas) finished in third place in 6:14.06,2 (overall 35:11.08,3). The C-Bear’s now lead this category by 2 hours and 11 seconds.

Says Turpijn of C-Bear: “We never expected to win a stage or even to be second or third. Today was hard but I’m so proud of Sara. She kept on pushing. It was good and I’m really happy.” Adds Mertens: “We’re very happy. This is my third Absa Cape Epic – the first one I just wanted to finish. The second time I wanted to have fun, which I didn’t have in the first one. And this one I wanted to finish on the podium and Laura helped me with that.”

Williamson (Energas) says: “Yolande crashed today and really hurt herself. We’re hoping it’s only muscular. We were actually quite cautious today, but she hit a stone. It was before the second water point. I had a funny feeling about today. She couldn’t ride any of the single-track. She’s strong as na ox on the climbs. I’ll carry her tomorrow if she hasn’t broken anything.” Adds Speedy: “We were going so well today, until I hit a rock. Hopefully I can still finish tomorrow and nothing is broken. I’m just very grateful to Catherine for pulling me through today.”

Telkom Business Master’s Category

The Telkom Business Masters category was won for the fourth consecutive time by Nico Pftizenmaier and Abraao Azevedo of the Bridge team in 4:52.10,9 (overall 29:46.23,2). They were again followed by Bart Brentjens and Robert Sim (Superior-Brentjens 2) in 5:01.03,8 (overall 30:47.56,5). Brentjens and Sim finished on the podium six times during this year’s event. In third place were South Africans Neil Bradford and Tim Osrin of HCL/Harvest Foundation 1 in 5:04.32,5 (overall 31:21.55,2). Pfitzenmaier and Azevedo lead this category by 1 hour, 1 minute and 33 seconds.

Pfitzenmaier of team Bridge says: “Right at the beginning I hurt myself. We almost had a crash. I was on Rudi’s wheel and he hit a rock so badly that his wheel went about 2 meters sideways in the air. He managed to stay on his bike. It’s sore and I might have some stitches. It was not what I wanted, but I felt that everything was okay instantly. I just checked that everything was in working order with my bike and got into a rhythm again. Abraao rode brilliantly and our legs were good. We’re very happy with our stage win again.”

Says Robert Sim of Superior-Brentjens 2: “I’m moeg – it’s been a long week. We started hard and things have improved for me every day, but I’m looking forward to the finish tomorrow at Lourensford.”

Telkom Business Grand Masters

Bärti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg of Songo.info finished in first place in the Grand Masters for the sixth consecutive stage in a time of 5:19.53,6 (overall 32:08.36,9). They were again followed by Izak Visagie and Peter Stopforth of Cape Style Wines with their second podium finish in 5:40.40,2 (overall 35:28.14,1). Deon Wilkins and Raul Acuna Navarro of ERNESTO’S CYCLING finished in third place in 5:40.48,2 (overall 35:36.37,9). Bucher and Zoerweg lead this category by 2 hours, 22 minutes and 8 seconds.

Says Bärti Bucher of Songo.info: “I’m very happy that tomorrow is the last stage. Today was great and the route was fantastic. You go from point A to point B and I prefer that. It was a great route – we had some nice trails, but also some steep uphills.”

Mixed Category

The RE:CM team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won for the fifth time during this year’s event in 5:17.34,5 (overall 32:05.09,6). They were followed by  Duane Stander and Cherise Stander (Africanmtbkid 1), with their second podium finish, in 5:27.22,0 (overall 35:04.49,0) with Theresa Ralph and Damian Perrin of Biogen Britehouse in third place in 5:29.27,5 (overall 35:03.50,3). Erik and Ariane Kleinhans (RE:CM) lead this category by 2 hours, 7 minutes and 21 seconds.

Says Erik Kleinhans: “It was an incredible route. It was really nice and we’re very happy to finish first in Stellenbosch, our home town. We had so much support along the way.” Adds Ariane Kleinhans: “I felt really strong today. Of course we had some extra motivation coming home to Stellenbosch. We only have one stage to go and tomorrow will be very hard, but we’ve done most of it. There are so many mountain bikers in Stellenbosch and it’s so nice to see the whole family here.”

Stage 7: Stellenbosch to Lourensford Wine Estate (54 km, 1 500 m of climbing)

The final stage of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic is short, with only one major climb at the halfway mark. Riders will leave Stellenbosch along the mountainside through Coetzenberg and Eden Forest, then work their way into the Stellenbosch Winelands. The trail climbs up through the vineyards, opening up spectacular views of False Bay, as far as Cape Point, and back to Table Mountain and Durbanville, where the journey started seven long days ago. Having mastered the nine-kilometer climb up the side of the Helderberg Mountain into the Lourensford Neck, the finish line is almost within sight as the view into the striking Lourensford bowl opens up. This is the first time in Absa Cape Epic history that riders approach Lourensford Wine Estate from a totally different direction and not Gamtouw Pass. The final 25 kilometers are predominantly downhill, on forestry roads on the higher elevations, interspersed with some single-track, and into the orchards and vineyards on the lower slopes. The final run onto the lush green polo field packed with grandstands, marquees and supporters promises to be unforgettable.

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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Photo Credit: Nick Muzik