The longest stage at the Absa Cape Epic on Friday — 143km with 2,350m of climbing —made day five the longest day in years. Fast open roads, three climbs with pitches of up to 15 percent and technical rocky ascents hammered riders for hours.
The pummeling took its toll on Team Singletrack.com/Justin’s Nut Butter Masters rider Mike Hogan who hit the deck hard near the end of the day.
“Mike crashed 3K from the finish,” said his teammate Thomas Dooley said in an email. “We had a great ride finishing a solid 10th. Hoping Mike can go on but I doubt it. Possibly cracked rib(s) and bad bruise on his hip. Sucks.”
The beast, as the Absa Cape Epic is often called by the riders, also took a bit of the pro ranks. Konny Looser of Switzerland’s Stöckli Pro team crashed on a downhill, hurt his shoulder and broke his frame. The two Swiss, who were in fourth position overall, were devastated.
“We were in fourth place and on top of last climb I crashed into a ditch,” Looser said. “My bike was broken and I couldn’t ride anymore. The last 20 km I could ride at 10km per hour, so I walked a lot as well. We wanted to make it to the finish. Tomorrow, if my shoulder and head is okay, we want to perhaps go for a podium finish again. We definitely want to finish the race.”
Getting across the line first on the day for a race-dominating fifth time were Switzerland’s Christoph Sauser and his South African teammate Burry Stander (36ONE Songo Specialized). They were followed by the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, of Trek World Racing in 5:19.41 with the Multivan Merida team, Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss, in third place (5;19.51).
Sauser and Stander now lead overall by 8 minutes and 8 seconds with an overall time of 21:03.45,6. In second position overall are Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss of Multivan Merida Biking in 21:11,54, followed by the defending champion Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in 21:19.04.
The difference in time between the leaders and last year’s winners Platt and Sahm are 15 minute and 18 seconds.
“Every day we get closer to the finish. We still have a long day tomorrow and the next day is the final stage,” said Stander. “If we can finish tomorrow without any mechanicals and with our lead intact, we have a good chance of winning. But as always we’ll wait for the finish line to be sure. We’ve lost this race too many times to take it for granted.”
Mathias Flückiger said he and his brother were five seconds behind the Stander and Sauser for most of the race, but said that in the end the overall race leaders were too strong.
The Attix5 Ladies, Hannele Steyn and Leana de Jager won Friday’s stage in a time of 6:28.32 (3rd overall; 30:08.51). They were followed by Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (team USN) in a time of 6:31.29 (1st overall 27:33.47), with Australians Niki Fisher and Jenni King in third place in 6:42.15,4 (overall 30:35.06).
“We need to stay focused and not make mistakes,” Bigham said. “I’m really happy the other girls won as it’s nice for them. It also shows our category is very competitive.”
Robert Sim and Doug Brown of the Robert Daniel team won stage 5 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in 5:40.41,7 (overall 23:50.48,8), followed by the Juwi team (Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts) in 5:40.43,2 (overall 23:04.31,4). In third place were the Nandos team of Adrian Enthoven and Gerrie Beukes in a time of 5:53.00,1 (overall 24:27.53,2). Sim and Brown are still in second place overall in this category and the Juwi team lead by 46 minutes and 18 seconds.
Just as domintating as Sauser and Stander is, The Wheeler – BIXS team in the Mixed Category, Bärti Bucher and Esther Sϋss won the category for the sixth day in a row in 5:59.12 (overall 24:51.59). They were again followed by Erik Kleinhans and Ariane Lüthi (of Contego Giant Sludge) in 6:05.32 (overall 25:40.51). Ivonne Kraft and Peter Vesel of Raedisch Race achieved their second podium finish in third place in 6:18.32,6 and are also placed third overall (27:34.34,8). The Wheeler – Bixs team lead this category by 48 minutes and 52 seconds.
Stage 6: Oak Valley to Oak Valley (128km; 2,700m of climbing)
In the penultimate stage competitors will be tested right to the end of the week on the brutal Oak Valley loop. Again they head over Groenlandberg for the second time in two days, this time following the 2010 route in reverse. After crossing the R43 comes the tough sandy climb, nicknamed The Beeatch. A short section on Highlands Road will be a relief before more loose and partially sand climbing.