MTN Energade team riders Evans, Cordes and Speedy speak about the Epic

With the ABSA Cape Epic over for another year, MTN Energade team riders Evans, Cordes and Speedy chat about their respective battles in this years race. For Kevin Evans and teammate Alban Lakata it was a matter of hanging in there over the last couple days to keep their 3rd place overall, while for Yolandé Speedy and teammate Paul Cordes it was sightly less eventful after overcoming a tough first stage to take the mixed team title yet again.

Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata

Kevin and  Alban were involved in a battle for survival over the last two days of the Absa Cape Epic, but they are not disheartened by their third-place finish.

“We were thoroughly tested, but we came out of the Epic as the best of friends. I always maintain that the Epic is a true test for any friendship. If you and your partner are still talking to one another after eight days of hard racing and severe suffering, it indicates a lasting friendship.

“Naturally we would have liked to do better than third overall, but I am quite happy with the way things turned out. All in all we had a good Epic. We won a stage and had 2nd and 3rd placings in stages.  In addition, we were one of only two teams to have worn the Epic’s coveted yellow jersey.

Kevin and Alban start stage 5

“Ours is surely a relationship on which we can build for the future. I would love to do another tour with Alban, perhaps the Trans-Alps.”

According to Evans their problems started during the last three days when they were racing in the Oakdale area.

“Alban battled to breath properly. We are not sure why. According to Alban the same thing happened to him the previous time he raced in the Oakdale area. Perhaps there is something in the air to which he is allergic or perhaps it is a sports-induced asthma.

“All I know is that it is very difficult to be competitive when you cannot breath properly because that means that your muscles don’t get enough oxygen.

“Our worst day was definitely the 7th stage when we lost about 13 minutes to the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias. It was really important for us to defend our 3rd position, because it would have been a waste of all our efforts if we had finished 4th.”

The third stage was also one filled with drama for Evans and Lakata.

Evans takes up the story.

“We had four punctures between the two of us. As luck would have it, both of us punctured our back tyres during the last five kilometers, basically at the same time.  At that time we were only two minutes behind the leaders.  Even though David George and his team-mate helped us out with ‘CO2 bombs’, luck was still not on our side. Within minutes our wheels were flat again. I decided to keep on riding with my flat tyre while Alban decided to take off his tyre and ride on the rim.

“For the last two kilometers we had to ride on tar and it was probably the heat of the tar that caused Alban’s carbon rim to explode.

“The moment that happened Alban said: ‘This is it.  It is race over.’

“I immediately responded: ‘It is not race over yet. Get off your bike and run.’

“And Alban started to run.  If he did not do that, we certainly would have lost our 3rd position overall.”

Evans also appreciated the time, early on during a stage, when Lakata punctured and Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN-Energade) stopped and gave his wheel to Evans to ensure that they did not lose too much time.

“I think all of us can learn much from the German’s Bulls. They enter two teams every year with just one goal and that is to win the Epic. It does not matter which team wins, as long as it is a Bulls team.

“Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, the overall winners, had only two serious problems during the whole Epic.  Both times the other Bulls team was there to help them out to prevent them from losing too much time.”

Now the big question is whether Kevin Evans and Burry Stander (Specialized/Mr Price) would ever ride the Epic together to ensure that an all-South African team wins the Epic.

If one looks at the Epic’s results, Evans and Stander are the only two riders who were really able to take on the international riders.

“I would love to ride with Burry because I think we would have a realistic chance of winning, but we ride for different sponsors with conflicting interests.

“For that to happen we would have to sit down with the sponsors and see if we can reach a working agreement.”

Paul Cordes and Yolandé Speedy

Cordes and Speedy had an amazing eight days of racing. They only had one puncture between the two of them and one serious health scare when Cordes dehydrated during the 1st stage. Of the eight stages they won five and they were in the top-twenty overall up until the 7th stage.

According to Cordes, the only reason why they lost their top-twenty placing was that they decided rather to play it safe over the last two days of racing.

“It is stupid to take unnecessary risks when you are winning,” Cordes said. In the end they finished 22nd overall, which is not bad considering that more than half of the teams that started the Epic did not finish.

“The first stage was our worst. Yolandé and I started off strongly. It did not take us long to open a five minute lead on the Swiss team, Bärti Bucher and Esther Süss.

Paul and Yolandé start stage 5

“Our problems started when we arrived at one of the water stations and could not identify our bottles. The bottles were there, but we made the mistake of not marking them correctly so they could not be found.

“Because I was worried about losing too much time, I said to Yolandé ‘Lets ride to the next water station’. I reckoned that we could take this chance because we still had one bottle to share between the two of us.

“When we got to the next water station, I tasted the water and it had a very funny taste. I did not want to take the risk of picking up a stomach bug, so we continued racing without taking any water with us. It turned out to be a huge mistake. I totally dehydrated and ended up ‘blowing’ completely, which led to us losing about eight minutes.

“But the funny thing was that neither Yolandé nor I was really despondent about the way things turned out. Actually it served as an extra motivation. We realized that we could beat the Swiss team if we kept our cool. So from the next stage we started chipping away at their lead.

“The 4th stage was the deciding moment. We were involved in quite a battle with the Swiss. Then, during the last 40 kilometres, Yolandé and I decided to really put down the hammer and we never looked back during the rest of the Epic. We managed to ride away from them and to open a useful gap.”

Cordes is full of praise for the role the MTN-Energade mechanics played in their victory.

“The guys really put in long and hard hours to ensure that our bikes were in tiptop condition every day. That is the reason why we had no mechanical problems apart from the one puncture.”

After winning the last stage, Speedy said: “This is the first time that I’ve won the final stage and it’s fantastic to win overall. I had goose bumps while coming in.  It was great to see the crowds and enjoy their support.”