Race Report | Absa Cape Epic – Sauser realizes his dream
Meerendal/South Africa – The Swiss cycling legend Christoph Sauser (Investec-Songo-Specialized) has seen success across the full spectrum of mountain biking and what could be a more fitting goodbye to one of the best careers in pro cycling than winning the Absa Cape Epic? Riding with Jaroslav Kulhavy, Sauser has become the first person in history to win this epic 8-stage mountain bike race five times. After the final 92-kilometre stage to the Meerendal Wine Estate near Cape Town, the pair finished a total of ten minutes ahead of their biggest rivals, Alban Lakata (AUT) and Kristian Hynek (CZE) from Team Topeak Ergon. The other hotly touted favourites, Karl Platt (GER) and Urs Huber (SUI) from Team Bulls finished in third place.
To uphold the honour of their sponsors, Jochen Käß and Daniel Geismayer (Meerendal Centurion Vaude) rode an inspired race, leading from the start to take the ultimate stage win. Only José Hermida and Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida) could keep up with the pace set by the pair, and this led them to a surprising second place on today’s stage, despite the Spaniard having suffered stomach problems the previous day. The Swiss pair of Martin Gujan and Fabian Giger (Novus OMX Pro) were third.
“These moments are so rare”, exclaimed the emotional and champagne-drenched Sauser after finishing. “When I’m old it will perhaps mean a lot to me that I won the Epic five times. But now I’m just enjoying the moment.” For Sauser, crossing the line as the overall winner was a moment of “enormous relief”, and even the otherwise quite calm Olympic champion Kulhavy was grinning broadly. “It’s brilliant to ride such a race with Susi. Today I enjoyed every kilometer – the finish line in particular.”
After the Finale, second-placed Hynek said: “I never expected to be disappointed with a second place. It hurts more than I’d thought that I couldn’t defend the title [that I won with Robert Mennen last year].” Nicknamed the ‘Albanator’, his Austrian teammate continued: “That was such a rollercoaster. One day would go well, and we’d have issues on the next. But taking the overall victory at the Epic is still a huge goal for me.”
Four-time Epic winner Karl Platt crossed the line somewhat disappointedly. “I could only half enjoy this year’s Epic – we probably put ourselves under too much pressure.” The final two stages left his partner Urs Huber suffering.
Winners of stage 5, the Scott Factory Racing Team of Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes crossed the line today as the first African team once again and claimed the overall victory in the African riders category.
In the finishing area stood a large chocolate cake awaiting the arrival of Annika Langvad, the three-time marathon world champion, who simultaneously celebrated her birthday and the overall victory in the Absa Cape Epic. Together with Ariane Kleinhans for Team RECM Specialized, the Dane rode an unthreatened race and not even the wrong-turn time penalty could halt the pair. “We’re really happy: birthday, stage victory, overall win. We’ve got enough to celebrate today”, said a delighted Annika Langvad after the stage. The pair spent the final three kilometres of the stage high-fiving the spectators who lined the course.
The pair’s incredible performance at this year’s Absa Cape Epic has earned them even more financial rewards than the overall winners in the male race. Thanks to the female category’s sponsor, Sasol, the prize money at Epic is equal for both sexes: 200,000 South African Rand for the overall victory. Stage wins equate to 5,000 Rand each. Having won seven stages, the pair will claim seven times 5,000, as well as 15,000 each for the Sasol Hotspots (three mountain classifications).
The leaders in the mixed category, Ivonne Kraft (GER) and Peter Vesel (SLO) lost a few minutes with a snapped chain but their overall lead of 39 minutes remained uncontested. “It’s a dream come true for Peter”, said Kraft, “He has wanted to ride Absa Cape Epic for ten years and now it’s almost a miracle that he’s won both stages and the overall victory.”
Cyclocross specialist Hanka Kupfernagel, riding with the veteran Epic master Karsten Bresser (Team Dietrich Rocky Mountain), missed out on a podium spot, finishing fourth overall. “It was mental”, said the road and cyclocross specialist, “but I got more into it and now I can even imagine doing a few more mountain bike races.”
The leaders in the Masters category Bart Brentjens/Abraao Azevedo (BETCH.nl-Suiperior) kept their command on the final stage. The chasers, Pfitzenmaier/Simm (RSA, Team Dorma Robert Daniel), were significantly affected by Pfitzenmaier’s broken finger, finishing 24 minutes behind the winners and securing second place in the GC. Third place went to the ASSOS Werkmannschaft with the eight-time Tour de France rider Daniele Nardello and son of Tour de France winner Karl Zoetemelk.
Having won seven stages, the Grandmasters Barti Bucher (SUI) and Heinz Zoerweg (AUT), Team Meerendal BIXs KTM, dominated their category to take the overall win.
All results can be found at www.cape-epic.com
Christoph Sauser (SUI) Investec-Songo-Specialized
It’s incredible to have achieved this huge goal. I’ve been training since November for this and to see how everything has come together after so many kilometres is wonderful. Of course, I had such a strong partner in Jara. It’s hard to describe the emotions. I tried to enjoy every metre coming down the mountains, such moments are rare.
Alban Lakata (AUT) Topeak Ergon
It is my main goal to win the Absa Cape Epic. I should actually be pleased. After coming 5th, 4th, then 3rd and now second, surely there’s only number one left to come. There was tough competition this year and Susi and Jara rode a touch better than us. We missed a bit of good luck on some days. Unfortunately we’ve come away without any stage wins. I crashed today and hit my knee; I just wasn’t with it. I’m also very happy with second place overall.
Jochen Käß (GER) Meerendal Centurion Vaude
I’m super happy to have won a stage. All week we’ve had issues, with so many crashes and so many flat tyres. Winning the finale is great compensation.
Karl Platt (GER) Bulls
As long as I feel able to ride at the front, I’ll do it. And I have that feeling; it’s still there. I’ll definitely be in for the next three years to come and if everything goes to plan, I’ll try to take the overall victory. As the first to win the Cape Epic, it’s fitting.
Robert Mennen (GER) Topeak Ergon
Today wasn’t about the overall lead; you can’t get back ten minutes. And you also don’t want to win the GC because of the leading team suffering mechanical issues, that wouldn’t be pleasant. We didn’t have much good luck during the week and we unfortunately didn’t win any stages. The pace was ridiculously fast.
Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) RECM Specialized
We’re definitely coming back next year. You can’t miss a race like this one. The finale of the Absa Cape Epic is very emotional and finishing in front of so many spectators gives you goose bumps.
Ivonne Kraft (GER) Etis
It was mental. We’ve been through everything in the last three days. Today [we had a] flat tyre and the snapped chain, but we still made it. Brilliant.
Hanka Kupfernagel (GER) Dietrich Rocky Mountain
It’s crazy. But we also had some amazing moments. I had three really good days but otherwise it was a case of serious suffering. I’m happy that Udo (Bölts) and Karsten (Bresser) persuaded me to take part. I got through it better than I’d imagined. All I wanted to do on the first two stages was die, but it actually all turned out well.
Words: Absa Cape Epic Pressemitteilung
Photos: Ewald Sadie, Nick Muzik, Sam Clark, Shaun Roy, Damien Schumann, Emma Hill, Sophie Smith, Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS