Team Specialized claim split-second first-stage win at Grape Escape

The Team Specialized duo of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser won the first stage of the 2012 Columbia Grape Escape in a breath-taking photo finish, a split-second ahead of defending champions Kevin Evans and David George of Team 360Life.

Stander and Sauser just edged ahead of the rest of the leader pack – which included Team 360Life and the Team Bulls duo of Tim Böhme and Thomas Dietsch – in the last stretch to cross the finish line first. Commenting on the day, Stander said: “We were grouped together for much of the race, with the pack occasionally breaking up at the climbs but soon regrouping again at the flat and downhill sections. The combination of a great field of riders, a challenging route and perfect weather made for a great first day, and we’re looking forward to another great day tomorrow.”

The Cape Argus Ladies team of Hanlie Booyens and Jane Seggie were the first female riders to cross the finish line, just over eight minutes ahead of second-place Team Bizhub-fcf of Yolandi du Toit and Nicci Grobler.

Defending champion Kevin Evans said the conditions were similar to last year, but due to the increased number of top riders taking part the race was that much more competitive. “Tomorrow’s stage – with its rolling single-tracks and steep climbs – should suit us very well. We are still very optimistic about successfully defending our title.”

In the mixed category, husband-and-wife team Erik and Ariane Kleinhans of Team Contego 28E were the first to cross the finish line.

Hundreds of mountain bikers lined up at the starting line at the Durbanville Racecourse to take on the 74km to Boland Agricultural High School near Wellington. The first stage, which was redesigned after last year’s race, took riders through some never-before ridden tracks in the Fisantekraal area before linking with the Agter Paarl farms for an undulating roller coaster ride to the finish line.

David Bellairs, Marketing and Sponsorship Director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, says this year’s event has a smaller field of riders but a much larger group of international and local stars. “The focus for this year was to attract more international guys to take part. With a tougher route, and with the event moving one day back in the week, it’s become harder for casual riders to take part. We’re optimistic that the number of top local and international riders will continue to grow year on year.”

Stage 1 – Race Results

Team Men 1st: Burry Stander / Christoph Sauser (Team Specialized-Songo) (02:42:28)

Team Men 2nd: David George / Kevin Evans (Team 360Life) (02:42:29)

Team Men 3rd: Tim Böhme / Thomas Dietsch (Team Bulls) (02:42:31)

Team Ladies 1st: Hanlie Booyens / Jane Seggie(Cape Argus Ladies) (03:17:08)

Team Ladies 2nd: Yolandi du Toit / Nicci Grobler (Team Bizhub-fcf) (03:25:44)

Team Ladies 3rd: Nicola Walker / Jennie Stenerhag (Thule/Diadora) (03:29:43)

Team Mixed 1st: Erik Kleinhans / Ariane Kleinhans (Team Contego 28E) (03:05:43)

Solo Men 1st: Max Knox (02:42:31)

Solo Men 2nd: Ralph Näf (02:42:44)

Solo Men 3rd: Shan Wilson (02:42:49)