When a section of race course is nicknamed “The Beeatch,” you know it’s going to be tough. And so it was on Stage 6 of the Cape Epic Friday when The Beeatch — tough sandy climb — did its thing to racers.
Afterward a short section on Highlands Road offered some relief, with one of the climbs offering a dramatic view over the Indian Ocean, the Bot River mouth and Kleinmond. Overall, the day saw 2,700m of climbing.
For the first time in this year’s Cape Epic the Spanish/Swiss team of José Hermida and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking 3) secured their first stage win. Hermida boasts a number of titles including the cross-country world champion (2010), fourth place at the Sydney Olympic Games, six World Cup round victories, runner-up in the European Championships and five times Spanish National Champion. Näf was the European Champion in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010, World Marathon Champion in 2006, and second in the World Championships in 2007.
They finished Friday’s 128km stage in a time of 5:00.47. They were followed by the 36ONE Songo Specialized team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser in 5:01.38, with the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, in third place in 5:04.06.
Sauser and Stander (overall 26:05.24) continue their overall placing and lead the second team of Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss (Multivan Merida Biking) by 10 minutes and 51 seconds. Genze and Käss maintain their second place overall in 26:16.15. In third place overall are the Bulls, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, in 26:23.37,4. They finished in 6th place on Friday and are 18 minutes and 13 seconds behind the leaders and 7 minutes and 22 seconds behind Multivan Merida Biking.
“It was our goal to win a stage, so we’re very happy,” said Hermida. “We worked for our teammates Hannes and Jochen for most of the stage and near the end they saw we could have a chance of winning and gave us the green light to go.”
Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter (team Colnago Arreghini Südtirol) finished in first place Friday with their fifth stage win in 6:24.46 (2nd overall; 35:48.58,0). They were followed by the Attix5 Ladies, Hannele Steyn and Leana de Jager, in a time of 6:37.53 (3rd overall; 36:46.44,6). Overall women’s leaders Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (team USN) finished in third place in a time of 6:39.43 (1st overall; 34:13.31). Bigham and Van Jaarsveld lead by 1 hour 35 minutes and 26 seconds.
Schneitter crashed the day before and had to ride with a broken bike.
“I had to ride for 70km without a fork,” said Schneitter. It was wonderful to win the stage today. It was our plan as the course suited us quite well. We got away at the beginning and had a peaceful day. We closed the gap to the team that was in second place so we’re happy with our performance. We’d really like another stage win tomorrow.”
Lechner said she and her teammate will try and recover and go for a stage win again on Saturday.
“This is my first Absa Cape Epic,” Lechner said, “and it’s a lot harder than I thought.”
The Juwi team (Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts) secured their sixth stage win today in 5:28.44,5 (overall 28:33.15). They were followed by Robert Sim and Doug Brown of the Robert Daniel team in 5:39.07 (overall 29:29.55), with the Toyota Cyleclab team of Gary Marescia and Bruce Diesel in third place in 5:54.50 (30:52.36). The Juwi team lead by 56 minutes and 40 seconds.
The Wheeler – BIXS team, Bärti Bucher and Esther Sϋss won the Mixed category for the seventh day in a row in 5:55.31 (overall 30:47.31). They were again followed by Erik Kleinhans and Ariane Lüthi (of Contego Giant Sludge) in 6:06.53 (overall 31:47.45). Ivonne Kraft and Peter Vesel (Raedisch Race) finished in third place in 6:18.36, and are also placed third overall (33:53.11,2). The Wheeler – Bixs team lead this category by 1 hour and 15 seconds.
“Today was really hard for me,” Süss said. “Every day seems to be more difficult than the previous one. I suffered a lot. I really hope we can win the last stage. It’ll be wonderful to get to Lourensford with a stage win. I think the route is more difficult than last year, but I really liked the singletrack.”
Stage 7: Oak Valley to Lourensford (59km; 1 700m of climbing)
The last of the Absa Cape Epic might be short but it is never easy. Old Viljoen’s Pass and Nuweberg remind riders that it is not over yet. Trail builders cut new routes and Dr Evil has warned riders of a final few surprises before a traditional finish at Lourensford, where riders are reunited with their loved ones – a life’s task accomplished and an experience they will never forget. The Magical and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race – the Absa Cape Epic.