The route took riders over 105km with 2 600m of climbing from Caledon back to Caledon. Two major climbs jabbed upwards on the day’s route profile. The first was the loose, long and steep Babylonstoren. Then it was the brutal, stony ascent to Charlie’s Heaven and riders should have been used to false peaks by now. Riders were watching the weather report closely, hoping for some cloud cover to take the edge off the scorching heat. But with views as far as Cape Point and Cape Agulhas, it was worth going through hell to get to the top. Danger lay ahead on the rough, steep ascent, with jagged rocks and deep ruts on the washed-out road. The run into the finish included open farm roads, fast paths along a railway line, some tight single-track past the tiny village of Middleton and a few hundred metres of trails through Caledon’s botanical gardens.
The Men’s category of Stage 4 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic was again won by the indomitable Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser of Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized, in a time of 4:42.29,7 (overall 20:20.03,4). This is their fourth stage win in this year’s event. Hot on their heals were the tenacious South Africans Kevin Evans and David George of 360Life in a time of 4:43.13,2 (overall 20:45.04,6). In third place were Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler of Multivan Merida Biking in a time of 4:45.10,6 (overall 20:45.31,6). The Bulls 2 team of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme again finished in fourth (4:47.49,4; overall 20:48.10,0) with Kevin van Hoovels and Sebastien Carabin of Versluys-Craft in fifth place (4:47.55,7; overall 20:54.26,8).
Stander and Sauser (Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized) remain in the lead in this category by 25 minutes and 1 second, with Evans and George of 360Life moving up five positions to second place overall. Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler of Multivan Merida Biking are in third place overall, only 27 seconds behind Evans and George. Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme of the Bulls 2 team are in fourth place overall in a time of 20:48.10,0 with Alban Lakata and Robert Mennen of Topeak Ergon Racing in fifth (20:48.18,2). Urs Huber and Konny Looser of Stöckli Pro are now placed sixth overall (20:54.01,3) with previous winners of the event Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm of the Bulls 1 team in eighth place overall (20:56.50,8).
For the second day in a row, the Absa African Leader special jersey was won by Kevin Evans and David George of 360Life.
Siphosenkosi Madolo and Azukile Simayile of Exxaro Academy 9 are still the leaders in the Exxaro Development special jersey.
Burry Stander of TEAM 36ONE-Songo-Specialized comments: “Our pace wasn’t that fast today, but not because we were chilling. It was unrelenting out there. It was sandy, rocky big climbs and the wind made it even harder. Nothing comes easy at the Absa Cape Epic. All the teams shared in the work and even with the wind, nobody tried to hide or miss their turn in front.” Adds team mate Christoph Sauser: “The stage was shorter than yesterday, but I think the wattage was higher! I don’t like this wind, but I liked the climbs. We try our best every day and if we increase our lead, it’s a bonus. I feel comfortable though with three days to go. We’re getting closer to the routes I know pretty well, because it’s so close to Stellenbosch. That will also help, as it’s very difficult to plan if you don’t know the route.”
Says Kevin Evans of team 360Life: “I know we have to look at the bigger picture, but it would be great to win at least one stage. As they (Stander and Sauser) said yesterday, there are no gifts in this race and a podium finish overall is first prize for us. Today was a bit frustrating, especially on the big climb. We put in the effort to take the gap, but the other teams stayed with us. The wind was terrible in the last 30km – and as if the stage wasn’t hard enough, my father (Leon Evans, route designer) managed to also organise some wind. The rain forecast for tomorrow wouldn’t be the worst as it would at least settle the dust.” Adds team mate David George: “It was the same two teams doing most of the forcing. There was a strong cross wind, which made it trickier and that’s where road tactics come into play, which is my game. The three teams at the front were keen to get a time gap and we were all committed to it.”
Says Andreas Kugler of Multivan Merida Biking: “I felt strong in the beginning, but near the end I could feel I was losing power in my body. I think today everyone had to go at his own limit. The wind was super strong. Basically, the guys in front are stronger than we are.” Hannes Genze adds: “It was very difficult and the tempo was high from the word go. Also, my legs didn’t feel good. Today was just not my day, but at the last long steep climb, I saw that the other riders were also taking some strain, and that motivated me again.”
Says Karl Platt of the Bulls 1 team: “Firstly, Dr Evil must think about making the Absa Cape Epic more enjoyable and decide whether it’s for mountain bikers or runners. Thanks for the beautiful scenery, but we couldn’t really enjoy it because we had to watch where we walked so that we didn’t fall. Today’s stage was super hard and the terrain was more for walking than cycling. That’s not good for motivation – all this walking. There’s a lot of nice mountain bike trails out here. We suffered, but we’re still motivated for tomorrow. We’ll try every day – if it’s good, it’s great, and if not, that happens also.” Teammate Stefan Sahm adds: “Today was not a good day for us – in fact, it was even worse than bad. I have nothing in my legs at the moment. I suffered like hell with a heart rate of 143, but nothing happened. I don’t know the reason for that and find it very frustrating. I’ll stay in the same routine, have a message and good sleep, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. We take it day by day.”
Sally Bigham and Esther Süss of Wheels4Life won the Ladies category for the fifth day in a row in a time of 5:50.11,7 (overall 24:01.03,5), ahead of Biogen Britehouse team Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler in a time of 5:56.31,4 (overall 24:42.10,3). They were followed by Ivonne Kraft and Elisabeth Brandau of notebooksbilliger.de in 6:15.20,1 (overall 25:58.04,0).
Bigham and Süss lead the Biogen Britehouse team Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler by 41 minutes and 7 seconds. MTN Qhubeka’s Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nuessli are now in third place overall.
Says Esther Süss of Wheels4Life: “The start was so fast today, that it killed me. I eventually recovered and could find a good rhythm. In the flat I didn’t have enough power and Sally had to wait for me. But every day I sit on the bike and give my best.” Adds Sally Bigham: “Today’s course was really nice. There were more single-track, some really nice views and trails. In fact, today was my favourite stage. The wind made the end really difficult, but fortunately I did a lot my training in the wind, which of course helped a lot.”
Telkom Business Master’s Category
For the third consecutive day, the Telkom Business Masters Category was won by Robert Sim and Nico Pfitzenmaier of the Robert Daniel Momsen team in 5:22.16,7 (overall time 22:20.19,2), followed by the World Bicycle Relief team of Bart Brentjens and Jan Weevers in 5:31.24,5 (overall time 23:14.33,7). In third place was the Jag Craft team of Adrian Enthoven and Delaney Impey in 5:44.31,9 (overall 23:06.18,1).
Sim and Pfitzenmaier lead the Jag Craft team of Adrian Enthoven and Delaney Impey by 45 minutes and 59 seconds. World Bicycle Relief team Bart Brentjens and Jan Weevers are in third place overall.
Says Nico Pfitzenmaier of Robert Daniel Momsen: “Today was a tough stage. The pace was high at the start and the lactic acid built up in our legs in the first 10 km. The landscape was beautiful. Later this morning, the wind was howling and you had to fight against it. That was a bit hectic. Rob also sliced his tyre and we needed to replace his tube, but we managed to consolidate our lead, which is good.” Adds Rob Sim: “A stick speared my tyre and the hole was too big just to plug. I was worried that we used most of our equipment, but these things happen. Fortunately we came home safely.’
Says Bart Brentjens of World Bicycle Relief: “It’s very different riding in the Masters category. The elite teams are much stronger. If you compare it, we’re slow. I actually think I prefer riding in the Men’s. I always enjoy the Absa Cape Epic. It’s very well organized – that’s one of the reasons I come back every year. Also, South Africa is a lovely country, the terrain is nice, and the best riders in the world compete. But you have to compete as a team.” Adds Jan Weevers: “I’ve participated in many races in Europe – some of the toughest one’s we have – but nothing compares to this. It’s a little bit heavy for me.”
The Contego 28E team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won the Mixed category for the fourth day in a row in 5:40.24,0 (overall 23:30.29,8), followed by first-time podium finishers Klaas Vanmoortel and Inne Gantois of BAiK-Peak Performance Brugge in 6:02.23,3 (overall 25:42.56,3). Russell de Jager and Andrea Huser of Big Tree / Velocity Sports Lab finished in third place in 6:08.09,2 (overall 26:34.11,5) with Pieter Venter and Leana de Jager of Attix5 in fourth place in 6:18.31,3 (overall 25:38.31,6).
Erik and Ariane Kleinhans of Contego 28E lead Udo Boelts and Milena Landtwing of Centurion Vaude by 1 hour, 40 minutes and 42 seconds. Pieter Venter and Leana de Jager of Attix5 remain in third place overall.
Says Erik Kleinhans Of Contego 28E: “It was very hard out there today. Not only because of our tired legs from yesterday, but the first half of the route was loose sand and rocky climbs and the second half we battled with the wind. It’s not always easy to ride the Mixed, but Ariane is just so strong. I leave her on the climbs because she’s more than capable and doesn’t really need my help. I know when I have to help and when not.” Adds his wife and team mate, Ariane: “I’m so happy with the result. Winning our fourth stage is amazing. It’s also great to have a big lead, because anything can still happen and it’s still a long way to Lourensford Wine Estate.”
Says Klaas Vanmoortel of their first podium finish: “We came back this year to see if we can at least finish on the podium in one stage. After finishing fourth a few times and yesterday’s stomach problems Inne had, we thought it was all over for that dream. But we had such a good day today and Inne was so strong. I think it was her best day on a bike ever.” Adds Inne Gantois: “To finally get on the podium is very exciting. It’s all we wanted from this year’s Absa Cape Epic.”
Caledon to Oak Valley/Elgin (119km, 2350m of climbing)
Dr. Evil has one aim on Stage five – get riders to that farmed Oak Valley single-track as soon as possible. So it’s a fast, flowing start, before heading to the fynbos-lined mountain tracks. As they edge closer to Elgin/Grabouw, riders’ morale will be buoyed by the striking views from the Highlands Plateau onto the Botrivier Lagoon and Kleinmond Beach. A steady 10-kilomtre climb takes them through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, famous for its biodiversity and rare fynbos. Then, it’s a combination of new and old flowing single-track through Lebanon, Thandi and Oak Valley on some unforgettable loops in apple country. But be warned, the last few steep single-track climbs throw some devastating combination punches to the legs in the final push towards the lush fields of the race village in Oak Valley.
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).