Race Report | Absa Cape Epic Stage 3 – Heated duals in South Africa
Cape Town – Even the 30 °C heat couldn’t stop the Czech engine of Jaroslav Kulhavy in his quest for victory. Together with Christoph Sauser (SUI), Team Investec-Songo-Specialized, the Olympic mountain bike champion defended the yellow zebra-striped leaders’ jersey at the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa.
The other favourites, the former marathon world champion Alban Lakata (AUT) riding for Topeak Ergon along with last year’s victor Kristian Hynek (CZE) remained in close pursuit, before letting Sauser/Kulhavy take the stage win with a 26-second lead. Now moving up into second place in the GC after today’s second-placed finish in Worcester, Topeak Ergon fought off the other hot favourites Team Bulls, consisting of Karl Platt (GER) and Urs Huber (SUI). The former Epic winner Platt punctured badly and rode on his rim for four kilometres to the third tech zone where the rear wheel could be changed. By this point the leading group, comprised of the second Topeak Ergon team of Robert Mennen (GER) and Jeremiah Bishop (USA) and Multivan Merida’s José Hermida (ESP)/Rudi van Houts (NED), took a two-minute advantage – a setback that they wouldn’t recover from. Taking fifth spot on the stage Platt/Huber finished 6:48.5 minutes back and slipped down to fourth in the GC behind Multivan Merida. The GC leaders currently have an advantage of 13:33.1 minutes.
The tears streamed when Ariane Kleinhans (RECM Specialized) finished today’s stage – both from joy and pain. After yesterday’s time penalty was inflicted on the pair, they used all their power to get the stage win, hoping to regain the lead in the GC. The clock was ticking as the Swiss Kleinhans and the Danish marathon world champion rubbed the dust from their faces and washed down their legs. With no female teams in sight after 27 minutes and 6 seconds, they embraced each other. After a wrong turn yesterday, the capable pair were shouldered with an hour’s time penalty. Fully committed, they took to the rollers in the starting area in Oak Valley this morning to ensure they warmed up sufficiently. Placing 20th overall on the stage today is testament to the aptitude and speed the Swiss-Danish pair employed today!
The Ascendis Health female team, consisting of the South African champion Robyn Lee de Groot with the Swede Jennie Stenerhag, who began today’s stage in the leaders’ jersey, faded drastically in the latter part of today’s 126-kilometre stage, and finished sixth.
“We wanted to take it easy, rode quite relaxed at the start and suddenly we were in second place”, said the multiple world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja, who is riding with the Swiss Kathrin Stirnemann for the Team World Bicycle Relief. “We’re taking it each day as it comes. Who knows, perhaps we’ll really give everything to see how it goes for us”, continued the relaxed Gunn-Rita after finishing. In third place came the Swiss cycling legend of Esther Süß and her partner Alice Pirard from Team Meerendal Wheeler, who’d kept the pace of World Bicycle Relief and justly took the third step on the podium. The Austria champion Christina Kollman, riding with Sally Bigham for the Team Sellaronda Hero in the Cape Epic race, suffered heat stroke and couldn’t finish the stage.
Despite crashing in the starting chaos, the multiple cyclocross world champion Hanka Kupfernagel and Carsten Bresser made good headway today and finished the stage second in their category. The Austrian Sabine Sommer, one of the leaders in the mixed category accidentally rode into the German and fell off. Ivonne Kraft (GER) and Peter Vesel (SLO), Team Etis, won the mixed category and are now leading the mixed GC by 8.28.2 minutes, ahead of René Haselbacher/Sommer (ENS RH77).
The Masters category got even more exciting on this stage. Just like the previous day, Nico Pfitzenmaier/Rob Sim (Dorma/Robert Daniel) could only put 12 seconds into the overall leaders Bart Brentjens/Abraao Azevedo (Betch.NL Superior). Now they’re second on the masters GC by 1.38.3 minutes behind the Dutch-Brazilian duo.
Alban Lakata (AUT) Topeak Ergon
We had to let them both (Sauser/Kulhavy) go on a bumpy section on a dam that was 13 kilometers from the finish. Kristian could still keep Jaro’s back wheel but then dropped back to me. We fought brutally and wanted to keep the gap within reason. We did quite well at that but it was a lot of work. We are now second overall and there’s everything to play for.
José Hermida (ESP) Multivan Merida
The two Czechs are incredibly strong, with Hynek climbing and Kulhavy on the flat it’s brutal. I’m fortunate that I have Rudi van Houts as my team partner; he’s a true diamond. My stomach was not right today and I was really close to vomiting on many occasions. Rudi pushed me on and kept me motivated, I hung onto his back wheel and we were able to keep with the lead group thanks to Rudi’s performance. He’s an incredible partner; he knows exactly when I’m suffering.
Christoph Sauser (SUI) Investec-Songo-Specialized
Today went really well for us. At 15 kilometres from the finish there was a section with rough stones on a dam, we got there first and Jaro was able to just ride full-out on the flat for ten minutes and open up a big gap.
Robert Mennen (GER) Topeak Ergon
On the longest stage we were able to keep up at the front. Despite the high speed we positioned ourselves well and kept managing to close the gaps. When we got to the dam section we’d lost the leading group, and I fell on the chase and Jeremiah waited for me so that we could ride in and claim third place.
Karl Platt (GER) Team Bulls
The technical problems just had to arise when it was flat. And when you’ve got three teams ahead of you riding like a steam train, there’s nothing you can do.
Urs Huber (SUI) Team Bulls
Two kilometres before the tech zone we couldn’t fix a puncture and then had to ride 20 kilometres on our own. It’s a shame as we’d battled over all the mountains and if we’d been able to stay with them then we’d have dropped them.
Nico Pfitzenmaier (RSA) Dorma Robert Daniel
Today’s stage was great for Bart (Brentjens): long and flat, it wasn’t too technical. The race started badly for us. After a few hundred metres I had a flat tyre, and this meant we lost contact with the leading group. If we’d then gone all out, it would have cost us dearly. We gave it all before the climbs and then sped down the downhills. When Abraao had a low, we attacked, they both came back though and in the end we only got a 10 second gap. But we’re really happy to have won the stage.
Annika Langvad (DEN) RECM Specialized
We gave everything. We wanted to stay with the favourites of the male race for as long as possible. When we couldn’t hang on anymore – although I tried to push Ariane to keep in contact, we just went as fast as we could. On the flat sections and the asphalt at the end, I bent down low over my handlebars and used the aero position to go as fast as possible.
Words: Absa Cape Epic Pressemitteilung
Photos: Sophie Smith, Nick Muzik, Shaun Roy, Sam Clark, Ewald Sadie, Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS