Absa Cape Epic Stage Two: Day Three
Against The Ropes
Against the Ropes was certainly a suitable name for today's race which consisted of 110km in distance and 2000m of climbing. This particular stage was set to feature a series of climbs that would throw jabs and uppercuts at the riders all day.
The starting line was at Arabella Wine Estate once again as stage one (19 March). The Balboa, the Cow Climb, Kat se Pad, Kat de Stert, Neil’s Folly, One-Two-Three Combo, Suckerpunch Climb and, the CounterPunch Climb were some of the challenges the riders had to endure. Just when they thought it would get better the Land Rover technical terrain of the Bosvark trail took them by surprise as it snakes its way up. We are on the Climb after the Balboa, 7km before the next Water point. These guys are pumping already. Trek Selle San Marco came through in the front but the Team Cannondale Factory Racing duo of Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini were in the lead.
The Cape Epic expects dubbed this a battle suited for marathon and cross-country as the course was much tougher with tortuous terrain - certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Team Cannondale was bound to feel the pressure especially wearing the yellow jersey as this kind, of course, wasn't suited for them as cross-country champions. However, this duo's hard work is paying off as they dominated stage two as they spent most of the day putting their energy to good use in order to not tire themselves as they would eventually approach the finish line - smart riding.
|Centurion Vaude|Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS|
Marathon expects and Prologue winners Nicola Rohrbach and Daniel Geismayr of Centurion Vaude made their come back to the podium after stage one didn't go according to plan for them. As the saying goes, where there is the Epic there's bound to be some drama of sort. With that said, the Centurion Vaude duo experienced a mechanical early in the stage but were quick to saved by their backup team who assisted them with a rear-wheel change. This would ideally keep them in the third position on the overall general classification.
“I had a flat tyre after 5km and the bunch was quite big so we just kept pushing and managed to get back to them,” said Rohrbach.
“It was not easy with all the dust but it was a better day for us and to get second today and win some time on Investec Songo Specialized is great.”
Geismayr echoed his partner's sentiments: “Our strategy was to make up some time after yesterday. After 60km I tried to attack on a 100m climb but it all stayed together and nobody wanted to work so it came to a sprint finish.”
Stage two's runners-up, Investec Songo Specialized, made their intentions known when they attacked on the appreciably steep and loose “One-Two-Three” climb, a move only Canyon Topeak and Centurion Vaude were able to follow. They maintained their momentum on the loose descents by using their cross-country prowess to full effect and entered the 9.5km Bosvark Land Rover Technical Terrain in first position. The tight and twisty nature of this section worked in their favour but no sooner did they extend their lead than a costly puncture forced them to surrender it to a chasing pack comprising yellow jersey wearers Cannondale Factory Racing.
The duo of Jaroslav Kulhavy and Howard did their best to catch up with front guys having been ahead of them prior to the mechanical they experienced but they efforts were left with disappointed and their hopes of snatching the yellow jersey away from Team Cannondale Factory Racing faded away in the dust.
“Today we were let down by mechanicals, we were set for a good stage and did everything right.” said a disappointed Grotts.
"It was just so frustrating to be in the front and then lose time. I was riding over my limit when we chase back – now I just need to recover well.”
Further back the BULLS combination of five-time winner Karl Platt and Urs Huber were struggling to keep up with the pace – having put up a great recovery performance during stage one after they had a tricky start to the Epic on the Prologue day.
“Today I felt strong and good at the start but at 70km or so I just lost all my energy. I can’t explain it – this is just so disappointing,” Platt told the Cape Epic.
“Today was all about keeping safe for us,” Fumic told the media.
“The stage suited the marathon guys more and they went for it to show us,
"We focused on damage control but got caught out a few times. In the sprint, our experience helped us for sure and to get the stage win and another day in yellow makes us happy. There’s still a lot of racing to come,” said Fumic.
Canyon Topeak’s Alban Lakata was happy to finish on the podium but expressed some of the bitterness at how the final kilometres played out.
|Kristian Hynek| Nina Zimolong/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS|
“Kristian was up to race in front today and it was brilliant,” said Lakata. “In the end, the sprint finish was a little bit chaotic and I thought the Cannondale wouldn’t sprint – especially since we did a lot of work today.
“The course felt like it had less climbing but there was a lot of tricky terrains – sand, dust and slow single-track riding. I actually enjoyed the route today despite it not suiting my style of riding.
“Coming into the Absa Cape Epic I felt we could win every stage and I think we can still make up a lot of time in the next few days.”
The sprint was won by Cannondale Factory Racing with Centurion Vaude second, Canyon Topeak third and Buff Scott fourth
The women also came to the party with their endurance equal to the men when they took on the 'Against the Ropes' stage - no climb or technical terrain was going to stop them on finishing this ruthless stage.
Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney of Investec Songo Specialized took control of stage two which was no surprise and they claim the first position to be overall leaders and keep the Yellow Zebra jerseys - with no effort whatsoever.
Team Spur's Ariane Luthi and Githa Michiels followed right behind Investec Songo Specialized and came second as they did in the first stage. Ascendis Health had some struggles along the way and seemed to have not been a good day at the office for Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot; but they managed to claim fourth place with a time of 10:42.29,2. All hope is not lost as they still have plenty of time to catch up. Silverback - KMC duo of Mariske Strauss and Annie Last finished the day with a well-deserved third place on the podium - what a day!
Stage one results were as follows:
|Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS|
1. Cannondale Factory Racing (Manuel Fumic, Henrique Avancini) 4:05.52,3
2. Centurion Vaude (Nicola Rohrbach, Daniel Geismayr) 4;05.54,0
3. Canyon Topeak (Alban Lakata, Kristian Hynek) 4:05.54,5
Andrew McFadden/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS
1. Investec Songo Specialized (Annika Langvad, Kate Courtney) 4:37.43,8
2. Spur (Ariane Luthi, Githa Michiels) 4:42.10,4
3. Silverback - KMC (Mariske Strauss, Annie Last) 4:42.11,1
Stage three is set to be 'The Longest Day' as we head to Worcester but it won't be as challenging as the previous days in terms of terrain.
Stay tuned. . .