ABSA Cape Epic stage 8 report

The final day of the taxing 2010 Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas saw riders cover 65km and 1 640m of climbing, cycling from Oak Valley to their final destination at the Lourensford Wine Estate. As is tradition, the last stage was the shortest, but not easy. Hundreds of enthusiastic spectators welcomed the exhausted teams at the final finish line of this year’s event.

Of the 1172 riders who started their epic journey at Diemersfontein a week ago, 83.6% have successfully completed their Absa Cape Epic adventure by crossing the final finish line at the Lourensford Wine Estate. In the remaining 16.4% figure that is not classified as official finishers, the blue board riders are included. 445 teams were ranked on the GC (General Classification), with both team riders awarded the medal as official Absa Cape Epic finishers. 90 individual cyclists successfully completed the 8 stages without their partners.

German Bulls Platt and Sahm kings of the mountains at this year’s Absa Cape Epic

The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm walked away with top honours as overall winners of this year’s exciting Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas. With a ten minute and 51 second lead time on Sauser and Stander (Songo-Specialized by DCM) at the start this morning, the Bulls finished the last 8 days of the Magical and Untamed Mountain Bike Race of 722km in an overall time of 29 hours, 47 minutes and 46 seconds. In second place were South African Burry Stander and his Swiss team mate Christoph Sauser (Songo-Specialized by DCM) in 29:57.49,7 and in third place the South African/Austrian duo of Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata (MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon) in 30:12.30,0.

The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm also won the Absa Cape Epic in 2007 and 2009, and Karl Platt won in the inaugural year (2004) with Mannie Heymans from Namibia. He is the most successful participant in the history of the race having won four times and placing on the podium six times.

Max Knox and Brandon Stewart of DCM Chrome walked away with the Leader Jersey of Best African Team in 31:45.08,0.

Multivan Merida’s José Hermida and Rudi van Houts were first to cross the finish line in the final stage of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in a time of 2:40.32,4.  This was their second consecutive podium finish and they ranked sixth overall (30:44.56.8). They were followed by Rabobank Giant Off Road team Emil Lindgren and Fabian Giger, also with their second podium finish in this year’s race (2:42.18,1). In third place were Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander of Songo-Specialized by DCM in 2:44.12,8 with the Bulls Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in fourth place (2:44.59,6). Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata (MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon) finished fifth in 2:50.17,5.

Says Stefan Sahm of the winning Bulls team: “It’s an incredible feeling – words can’t describe it. It means so much to Karl and I. We arrived at the race as the defending champions and we successfully guarded our title. I had problems with my chain today and had to change it. It was nerve-wrecking. We enjoyed every second and every meter of the last few kilometers, and who knows, maybe we can do it again next year.” Sahm and Platt host a party at the end of the Absa Cape Epic, which has become known as Stage 9. “Stage 9 is always the most fun for everyone. It’s the party stage after a very hard race. Here we also need to defend our titles of the last men standing,” he says, adding with a chuckle “we can ride and party hard. Vincent, Karl and I have also started a company in South Africa called Stage 9 to bring Bulls bikes to the people.” Adds his teammate Karl Platt: “To win the Absa Cape Epic again – now for the fourth time – is absolutely unbelievable. It means so much to me, especially this year with the most competitive field ever. When people see our playful nature they tend to forget that we also get very nervous and are under pressure during the race; not only for our own sake, but for all the people that stand behind us and cross their fingers that we come out tops. So when we crossed that final finish line it was a huge relief, but most of all an euphoric joy.”

Burry Stander and his partner Christoph Sauser of Songo-Specialized by DCM secured three stage wins during this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Says Stander: “We’re very happy to finish second in this year’s race, but we still want to win. Everything has to get together all 8 days of the race, and it didn’t always work out for us. I’m really looking forward to a week’s rest and then to the cycling season. This is excellent preparation for the World Cups. It gives you such depth – all riders suffer at some point – and in every race you suffer.” Adds Sauser: “This Absa Cape Epic was really a big rollercoaster ride for us. The first two stages were tough and at one point we weren’t sure we’d be able to continue, then we were on a high, then I had a stomach bug and so on. At the beginning of today’s race I struggled a bit, but then my legs came back and I felt stronger. I’ll now rest for a week and then start with some short interval training. I’m looking forward to the season as we rode with some of the strongest riders in the world at this year’s event.” Will he be joining the Bulls at Stage 9? “Yes, of course – it’ll be really nice to get together and nobody needs to think about tomorrow.”

It was a difficult race for Alban Lakata of the MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon team: “We had two serious problems during this year’s race. First I broke my wheel and had to run 2km and then my health wasn’t all that great. I’ll have to prepare better for next year’s race – the last three stages were very tough for me. We had two stage wins and finished in third place overall, so that was fantastic. My goal was to finish on the podium, but now I’m really feeling tired.  I’m looking forward to next year’s race and also to two weeks’ recovery. This was excellent preparation for the World Cups and I think we’re in very good shape at the moment.” For Kevin Evans this was a wonderful experience: “All things considered I think it’s fantastic to be in third place overall. I take my hat off to Alban for the way he suffered to keep the third place. I’d also like to thank our excellent crew and support teams. Without the mechanics who sometimes worked through the night and our managers this would not have been possible. Nobody sees them but they play such a crucial part – a big thanks to them. And I’m really happy it’s over.”

José Hermida and Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida secured their first stage win in this year’s race. Says Hermida: “We won the final stage and finally got our victory on the last day. It’s a celebration of a big fight over the last few days, especially for us. It was very special to win the final stage at Lourensford Wine Estate. It’s part of my philosophy to attack and both Rudi and I had good legs today – we attacked again and finally made it!”
Emil Lindgren of the Rabobank Giant Off Road team broke his chain today. “I rode with a broken chain for most of the way. I had to run back 50m to get it, repaired it as fast as I could, and then we put the hammer down. I felt amazing, and so did Fabian. This is the best stage to get a place on the podium. We’ll definitely be back next year!” Adds team mate Giger: “This was awesome preparation for the upcoming season. We had eight days of suffering and now need to go home to recover, but will definitely be back!”

Lukas Flückiger of Trek World Racing says his legs were not great for the first 10km. “I struggled a bit on the first long climb and also broke my derailleur again on the downhill. I’m tired but very happy that the race is over. Perhaps next year we’ll be back for a place on the podium.”

Bart Brentjens of Trek Brentjens, who has been riding with bruised ribs, says “it wasn’t all that bad. You don’t really feel the pain when you’re racing – it’s much worse at night and before the race in the morning. We could ride at our own speed. We knew it would be hard to finish and I’m really happy that we did. I think next year I’ll be riding with someone else from my team. Jelmer is too strong for me and should ride with someone better next year. We’ll have one team for victory and one for technical support. This is the most important race of the year and we’ll be back again – you just need to plan ahead.”

Images courtesy sportzpics.net