The second stage of the CAPE EPIC from Saasveld to Herbertsdale was by far the longest and toughest of the Epic ride. 144.6 gruelling kilometres with a total ascent of 2 720 metres drained everyone, even the pros.
Due to the length of the stage the leading mens teams were rather subdued - in contrast to the leading women who did the exact opposite.
Hannele Steyn-Kotze (RSA) of team Fiat/ Bianchi/ adidas 2 loves the heat. And she loves hills. So stage twos weather conditions and route were the perfect match for the multiple SA MTB champion, who pushed her team partner Zoe Frost (RSA) to the limits to catch up with the girls in the red leader jerseys, Hanlie Booyens (RSA) and Michelle Lombardi (RSA).
Disciplining themselves, they started the race at a slow pace and heart rate, although the Scott Ladies went hard from the start. "I know that Hanlie doesn’t like long rides, so today I controlled myself not to follow her, although I have a hard time being patient", Hannele said in the finish.
"We got to know each other quite well riding together at the adidas Bike TransAlp Challenge last year, so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I knew I we could take the pain the longest. I actually don’t like to ride a race from the back, but it was the smarter choice today and it paid off in the end. We succeeded with passion, desire and consistency."
Hannele and Zoe only attacked at the last water point. "All of a sudden we saw two red jerseys in front of us and I instantly felt that they won’t last. Zoe was much stronger today although she had a bad crash yesterday.
What’s still new for her is that in mountain biking you must also ’ride’ the downhills, you don’t relax going down. It has been my dream for one year to ride onto the podium of The CAPE EPIC so I will do anything to help my partner. But I also expect from Zoe that she will do her best which she did today, Hannele said.
Hannele and Zoe finished their second Epic stage in a time of 7 hours, 4 minutes and 39.81 seconds, 2 minutes and 34 seconds ahead of Hanlie and Michelle. This secured them the leader jerseys with a lead in the overall rankings by 1 minute and 21 seconds. Kirsten Rösel (GER) who won the Mixed category at the inaugural CAPE EPIC and her team partner Petronella Hattingh (RSA) came in third again and defended their third position in the overall rankings.
Mens leaders defend their jerseys
Due to the length of the stage, the leading men teams decided not to attack as no one wanted to be out on their own under the burning sun.
Team Rocky Mountain with Carsten Bresser (GER) and last year’s winner Karl Platt (GER) got their strength back and managed to secure a third place in the overall rankings with a lead by over 3 minutes to the Swiss Papival-Stoeckli-Move Magazin team with Sandro Spaeth and Thomas Zahnd.
"Today’s stage was not so intense, but it took forever", said Roel Paulissen (BEL) when the top three teams crossed the finish line after 5 hours, 17 minutes and 29 seconds.
"But I enjoyed it more than yesterday, because when you are riding in a group you can actually look at the scenery around you."
The yellow leaders jerseys started their race with a flat. When Bart Brentjens (NDL) fixed his puncture the leading bunch of about 30 to 40 riders took the chance to hit the gas and team Giant had to speed up to stick to the front. "For some time we were a quite large group. Eventually at a long stony ascent we went hard and left them behind and eight of us were left. Finally we lost Sandro and Thomas.
"What really kills you in this race is the constant up and down", Karl Platt sighed. "You don’t find a rhythm; but we still maintained a 28 km/h average today and that is not bad for 144 kilometres and 2 700 metres. Carsten has recovered, now he will become stronger and stronger every day."
Kevin Evans of team adidas/ Fiat Rotwild/ Scott remains the best South African rider in the field. Together with his Austrian team partner Silvio Wieltschnig he came in fifth today, defending the fifth position in the overall rankings.
"We were riding with Shan Wilson and Roen Exelby", Kevin described his ride. "After the second water point we attacked and rode them off. Then we made a major mistake. We didn’t stop at the third water point thinking that half a bottle would take us into the finish. We wanted to save time - and that was wrong. We were so dehydrated in the end that we almost fell of our bikes. That won’t happen to us again."
1. Siemens Cannondale - Christoph Sauser (SUI), Fredrik Kessiakoff - 5:17:29.13
2. Giant - Roel Paulissen (BEL), Bart Brentjens (NDL) - 5:
3. Rocky Mountain - Carsten Bresser (GER), Karl Platt (GER) - 5:
1. Fiat/ Bianchi/ adidas 2 - Hannele Steyn-Kotze (RSA), Michelle Lombardi (RSA) - 7:04:39.81
2. Scott Ladies - Hanlie Booyens (RSA), Michelle Lombardi (RSA) - 7:07:13.68
3. Hai-Bike/ Scrane.de - Kirsten Rösel (GER), Petronella Hattingh (RSA) - 7:36:39.96
1. Sauna Diana - Jan Siemons (NDL), Jos v. Aert (NDL) - 6:
2. Getaway Mongoos - Doug Brown (RSA), Friedrich Coleske (RSA) - 6:19:15.77
3. Specsavers - Linus Van Onselen (RSA), Frans van Zyl (RSA) - 6:22:16.38
1. Team Microsoft - Nic White (RSA), Anke Erlank (RSA) - 6:36:43.17
2. Manic Cycles/ Enduren - Geddan Ruckock (RSA), Janine Bomford (RSA) - 6:48:08.08
3. Fast n Fresh - Leon Erasmus (RSA), Liza Serfontain (RSA) - 6:53:56.63
Todays stage will take the Epic riders to Riversdale. The 104 kilometre long and relatively easy route consists of technical jeep tracks through forest followed by open farm roads an a few tough technical detours. The total ascent will be 1 435 m.