Bulls Platt and Sahm maintain their overall lead with only one stage to go
It was a close call for the top teams in this year’s Absa Cape Epic as they battled it out to win the penultimate stage (Stage 7) of this year’s event. The Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, attained their dream of a second stage win, but will need to make up at least 23 minutes and 26 seconds in tomorrow’s final stage if they want to be crowned the kings of this Magical and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race. They won Stage 7 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in 4:11.58,9 with the German Bulls Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm hot on their heels in a time of 4:12.05,3. Multivan Merida’s José Hermida and Rudi van Houts finished in third place in 4:13.36,7. In fourth place were South African Burry Stander and his Swiss team mate Christoph Sauser (Songo-Specialized by DCM) in 4:15.59,8 and they were followed by current world cross-country mountain bike champion Nino Schurter and his team mate Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing) in 4:16.11,3. Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata (Team MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon) finished eighth in a time of 4:21.31,5.
The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm again successfully defended the zebra-striped adidas Leader jersey with an overall time of 27:02.46,4. They are now leading by 10 minutes and 51 seconds. Songo-Specialized by DCM remain in second place overall (27:13.36,9). MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon remain in third position overall (27:22.12,5), while the Flückiger brothers of Trek World Racing are in fourth position overall (27:26.11,7).
Max Knox and Brandon Stewart of DCM Chrome finished in sixteenth place today (4:35.28,0), successfully defending their African Leader jersey for the fourth day in a row. They have moved up one place to tenth place overall (28:38.30,8).
Lukas Flückiger of Trek World Racing says they lost Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing) who were riding very well today when they had a mechanical. “They were very strong and motivated today, but unfortunately had a technical problem about 20km before the finish. We had a good rhythm behind them and then took the lead. Also, Karl (Platt) crashed during the last bit of singletrack so we could also gain some time on them. I’m actually very surprised by our stage win today. My legs were really tired from yesterday.” To the question of whether they would be going for a hat trick with another stage win tomorrow, Lukas says they would definitely be taking it easier. “We’ll probably not go for another stage win and just take it easy and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Today’s stage had too much uphill. When I looked at the stage profile yesterday, I thought it was going to be much easier.” Adds his brother: “I heard last night that our parents are sitting in front of the computer everyday following the live ticker to see where we are. It’s really motivating to know they’re behind us all the way.”
Karl Platt of the overall leading Bulls Team. “It was a really nice race today. I felt good and my legs were great. I think the Leader jersey is safe for the moment. We worked really hard today and expected to finish first. We also wanted to win a stage and were riding together at the front, when there was an unexpected sharp turn and I braked too hard. Stefan then crashed into me, and the handlebar went into my behind which was quite painful. I was really upset with myself.” With regards to his shoulder which he dislocated twice during last year’s event, Platt is very positive. “My shoulder is so much better and it’s nice to feel so confident. My doctor sent me a sms this morning to ask how I was doing, and I said we have the Leader jersey which means he really did a good job.”
José Hermida and Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida secured the first podium finish in this year’s race. Says Hermida: “Yes, we’re finally on the podium although it took us 7 days to get here. One of our aims was to win a stage but a podium is just as good. It was a lot like a cross-country race today. The first one to two hours we all rode at cross-country speed, then took a rest, and then again raced at cross-country speed. I’m pretty happy as it’s always good to be back in business. The world’s best riders all take part in this race to prepare for the season, and we’ve had some lovely weather and the race has such a great ambience.” Adds Rudi van Houts: “At the beginning I felt really good, but after the long climbs, I started to struggle a bit. We broke away with the leading group, but thereafter I was just trying to survive. I suppose this race is about survival of the fittest and I’m not the strongest anymore. But I’m still having fun, enjoying every moment and being with José is never boring. He’s always good to have around and a great motivator.”
Nino Schurter and his team mate Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing) finished in fifth place today, Says Schurter: “I felt pretty strong until we were about 18km from the finish line. I probably didn’t eat and drink enough because I was then feeling totally finished. We won’t try again for a stage win. This was excellent training and it wasn’t our goal to win. Florian flatted twice and I also flatted once, so we’ll see this as preparation for World Cup.”
Says Christoph Sauser (Songo-Specialized by DCM): “I had some stomach problems last night and this morning, so struggled a bit today. The uphills were difficult, but then I could always get back on the downhills. I didn’t have the power I would normally have in the long climbs. I think my body went into emergency mode, but we’re in second place overall which is nice.”
Bart Brentjens of Trek Brentjens hurt himself earlier this week and bruised his ribs. “I’m struggling a bit every day and we’re just trying to stay with the second or third group.” To the question of how he copes with pain, his answer is simply: “It’s part of the job.”
Images courtesy sportzpics.net