Stage 5 took riders from Caledon to Oak Valley in Elgin, a distance of 119km, with 2 350m of climbing. Dr. Evil had one aim on Stage five – get riders to that farmed Oak Valley single-track as soon as possible. So it was a fast, flowing start, before heading to the fynbos-lined mountain tracks. As they edged closer to Elgin/Grabouw, riders’ morale was buoyed by the striking views from the Highlands Plateau onto the Botrivier Lagoon and Kleinmond beach. A steady 10-kilomtre climb took them through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, famous for its biodiversity and rare fynbos. Then, it was a combination of new and old flowing single-track through Lebanon, Thandi and Oak Valley on some unforgettable loops in apple country. The last few steep single-track climbs threw some devastating combination punches to the legs in the final push towards the lush fields of the race village in Oak Valley.
The Men’s category of Stage 5 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic was again won in a sprint finish by the unbeatable South African–Swiss duo of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized), in a time of 5:06.45,3 (overall 25:26.48,7). This is their fifth stage win in this year’s event. With only 1 second apart, the Bulls 2 team of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme finished in second place in a time of 5:06.46,0 (overall 25:54.56,0). In third place again today were Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler of Multivan Merida Biking in a time of 5:07.49,1 (overall 25:53.20,7). Alban Lakata and Robert Mennen of Topeak Ergon Racing finished fourth (5:07.54,2, overall 25:56.12,4) with South Africa’s 360Life team of Kevin Evans and David George in fifth place in 5:14.25,9 (overall 25:59.30,5).
Stander and Sauser (Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized) remain in the lead in this category by 26 minutes and 32 seconds. Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler of Multivan Merida Biking moved up one position to second place overall, with the Bulls 2 team of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme in third place, 1 minutes and 35 seconds behind them. Alban Lakata and Robert Mennen of Topeak Ergon Racing are now placed fourth overall, with Kevin Evans and David George of 360Life in fifth place overall.
For the third day in a row, the Absa African leader 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 race for the Exxaro Development jersey.
A disappointed Kevin Evans of 360Life explains what happened along the route: “I cut my back tyre between water points 2 and 3. After we fixed it, I really struggled to find my rhythm again. We’re very disappointed to again have had bike trouble. As if it’s not hard enough already, we’re making life more difficult for ourselves. It was one of the worst days on a bike and I’ve had a few in my career!”
Christoph Sauser of Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized says: “Today was very challenging. The rain stopped and then it started again. It’s never ever been this wet at the Absa Cape Epic before. The backmarkers are going to struggle a lot in these conditions. We rode for the stage win today and extra time in the GC (General Classification) is a bonus. Tomorrow is going to be very daunting with the climbs and the conditions.” Adds Burry Stander: “I prefer the heat! I took my rain jacket off with 35km to go when the sun came out. Big mistake! Soon I got so cold and was struggling. When Christoph upped the pace, I wasn’t too impressed and had some choice words for him in my mind! I was starting to feel better though and only the Bulls stayed with us. It was nice to ride with them because they pushed us.”
Says Tim Boehme of the Bulls 2 team: “We were very close to our first stage victory. Second place is nice enough though as it was such a tough stage. It’s really nice to be on the overall podium but Oak Valley is not the end, so we’re not celebrating yet. The conditions were crazy out there and it rained a lot.” Adds his riding partner Thomas Dietsch: “I suffered more yesterday, but today was hard because we gave so much to stay in front. We were very close to first place, so we do feel some disappointment, but I’m happy as well with our podium finish.”
Hannes Genze of Multivan Merida Biking says it feels good to be at the finish. “I hope the camper is warm! We’re now second overall which is great, but we only moved up due to the problems 360Life had. Then again, it happens in the Cape Epic. Hopefully we can keep going strong for the last two days. Our bodies and minds are getting stronger and we’re happy with our performance.” Adds Andreas Kugler: “It was so hard, wet and cold out there. It felt like the Swiss Alps! It will be a big fight tomorrow for second and third on the overall podium.”
Adrian Niyontshuti is now riding as an ‘outcast’ after his partner Jacques Janse van Rensburg withdrew yesterday due to a bad fall and illness.
The Ladies category was won by Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nüssli of MTN Qhubeka in a time of 6:15.11,4 (overall 31:57.24,2), ahead of Biogen Britehouse team Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler in a time of 6:40.52,8 (overall 31:23.03,1). Sally Bigham and Esther Süss of Wheels4Life finished in third place today in a time of 6:43.10,8 (overall 30:44.14,3).
Bigham and Süss (Wheels4Life) lead the Biogen Britehouse team Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler by 38 minutes and 49 seconds. MTN Qhubeka’s Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nüssli remain in third place overall.
Says Karien van Jaarsveld of MTN Qhubeka: “Today was nice after yesterday’s very low point. It all came together for us. I think we just made our GC place safer today. We won’t stop racing until Lourensford Wine Estate. The last few kilometres were so cold because of all the downhills. I got hungry!” Adds team mate Jane Nüssli: “Winning the stage was perfect. It all worked out great because this is my kind of weather. We’ll just keep on racing, whatever the outcome.”
Says Esther Süss of Wheels4Life: “We were all very cold and we had mechanical problems when Sally’s shifter broke before the first water point. I barely managed to finish today. I don’t know how I did it.”
Telkom Business Master’s Category
Securing their first stage win, Bart Brentjens and Jan Weevers of World Bicycle Relief finished in 5:24.37,5 (overall 28:39.11,2). They were followed by the Jag Craft team of Adrian Enthoven and Delaney Impey in 6:15.25,8 (overall 29:21.43,9). Dirk Rossignol and Ignace Spruyt of Rossi Spruyt finished in third place in a time of 6:22.31,3 (overall 31:52.25,2). Nico Pfitzenmaier and Robert Sim (Robert Daniel Momsen) finished in sixth place today after Pfitzenmaier had a bad fall. Their time was 6:36.53,3 (overall 28:57.12,5).
Bart Brentjens and Jan Weevers now lead the Masters category by 18 minutes and 1 second. Robert Sim and Nico Pfitzenmaier are in second place overall, followed by Adrian Enthoven and Delaney Impey in third place overall.
Nico and Robert looked shattered when they crossed the finish line. Nico crashed really badly and gashed his knee and shin. He had medical treatment for more than 20 minutes. Says Robert Sim of Robert Daniel Momsen: “Nico fell on a really big rock. The moment it happened, he said that it was over, but he got back on his bike and we finished. I don’t know if he’s going to be riding tomorrow. He is a tough guy, but that fall was scary.”
Bart Brentjens of World Bicycle Relief says he feels comfortable in this kind of weather. “We had a good today. We talked and worked nicely together in the conditions today. Others had bad luck and we now have the lead. We just have to keep it now! It’s a nice advantage and we’ll work with that.” Adds Jan Weevers: “I’m very surprised but also excited. I didn’t expect it, but we worked really hard. Bart is so much stronger than me, so I had to dig deep. These conditions and the route suited me much better than previous days. I can also see why Bart has never ridden with the same person twice! But luckily I know him very well.”
Consolidating their overall lead, the Contego 28E team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won the Mixed category for the fifth day in a row in 6:19.16,6 (overall 29:49.46,4). They were followed by Udo Boelts and Milena Landtwing of Centurion Vaude in a time of 6:22.23,8 (overall 31:33.35,3), followed by second-time podium finishers Klaas Vanmoortel and Inne Gantois of BAiK-Peak Performance Brugge in 6:38.57,9 (overall 32:21.54,2).
Erik and Ariane Kleinhans of Contego 28E lead Udo Boelts and Milena Landtwing of Centurion Vaude by 1 hour, 43 minutes and 49 seconds. Klaas Vanmoortel and Inne Gantois of BAiK-Peak Performance Brugge have moved into third place overall.
Says Erik Kleinhans Of Contego 28E: “Today was a nightmare! It was so cold, I gave my jacket to Ariane because she was really hurting. It got worse when Ariane cut her tyre. It was a hard stage, but we won in our category and our lead is still safe. So we’re satisfied.” Adds Ariane: “I really struggled in the cold today. My hands became numb and I couldn’t get food out of my pockets or anything. I was hurting a lot as well. But the cold was the worst part.”
Start and finish: Oak Valley/Elgin (85km, 2200m of climbing)
Riders should not be fooled by the distance of the stage. It Is a hard day of climbing and Nuweberg is the first big challenge with the dangling carrot of stunning vistas at the top. On the penultimate day, nearing the climax of race week, the grand old lady Groenlandberg appears. Deep into this highly unique and remote landscape, riders will savour the solitude of the 30-kilometre of dual tracks through this pristine Cape Nature reserve as they tackle her in two parts. The first steady rise brings them to a rutted descent. From here the path contours along the side of this beautiful mountain, then it is the final ascent towards the saddle, followed by yet another tricky, washed-out descent. Again, riders get to enjoy the twisting single track on Paul Cluver before finishing off with fast and flat single-track on 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).