The Bulls team of Germany’s Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm took over the lead of the Absa Cape Epic following stage 4, as the previously dominant songo.info team suffered a mechanical — and then were penalized for accepting assistance.
The songo.info team — South African Burry Stander and Swiss cross-country star Christoph Sauser — won the prologue and the first three stages and appeared to have a commanding lead. But Stander hit a tree and broke his rim early on stage 4.
Fellow South African Max Knox, who was in 25th place with teammate Brandon Stewart, offered to give Stander his wheel, but since they used different axle systems, they decided to swap bikes instead.
Knox then got a new wheel at a technical aide point, repaired Stander’s bike, and gave it back to him again at the next water station, where Stander and Sauser waited for them. The exchanges cost Sauser and Stander more than 20 minutes, and they finished in ninth place on the stage.
Later, UCI officials slapped the team with a 15-minute penalty for accepting aide from Knox. Knox and Steward were penalized an hour for offering the aide and for accepting aide themselves from some bystanders.
Stander took the blame for perhaps riding too aggressively, leading to the broken wheel. “Perhaps I’ve risked a bit too much,” Stander said. “However, I’m still feeling great although we were pushing very hard to catch up.”
The Bulls will wear the leaders’ jerseys for stage 5 of this year’s race and are also now the leaders overall (17:25:37). They were not without their own adventures on the way to taking over the lead.
Karl Platt dislocated his shoulder again (he also did so during the prologue) around 2km from the finish. He screamed in agony. Teammate Stefan Sahm relocated the shoulder.
“We’re very happy that we can wear the yellow leader jersey again,” Sahm said. He jokingly added that he is now also Platt’s physical therapist. “I’ll always do whatever’s necessary. We ride together, we’ll die together.”
Stewart said offering Stander the wheel was a no-brainer. “It’s pretty cool to be able to help someone. Yesterday we could help David George with a cartridge. Burry and Christoph have been racing so well, they deserve to win. That’s why we wanted to help when they were in trouble. We were not competing for top honors and now we’re just here to enjoy it. We would really help anybody if we can and hopefully that will pay off one day when we’re in need.”
Absa Ladies continue their domination
The Absa Ladies team of Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws finished in first place for the fifth day in a row, and remain in the overall lead in their category.
In the Mixed category, Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor (Adidas Big Tree) finished in a time of 05:13:27 to win the stage and maintain their overall lead.
Pfitzenmaier said maintaining the team position has not been as easy as it might appear from afar. “After the false start I lost my nutrition bottle, so I wasn’t consuming enough calories. We were riding well and then I had a puncture. My tire was ripped at the side so I had to put in a tube, which had a creeping flat. I had to stop all the time to pump it up again. So we were speeding ahead to gain time, and then stopped to pump. In the riverbed towards the end there was no air left, so I had to ride the last 2 km to the finish on my rim. I can really feel that in my legs now.”
Stage 5 is 111km and 2,233 meters of climbing. A fast downhill brings the field to the Noordekloof climb — 2km of demanding climbing on rough surfaces. Respite comes soon after with the beautiful flowing dual tracks alongside the railway line all the way to Botriver.