The demanding fourth stage of the Cape Epic had it all: challenging uphills, technical jeep track, and magnificent vistas amongst spectacular fynbos - in short; everything that makes mountain biking so special.
What exhausted the riders on the 110.6 km from Riversdale to Barrydale were not only the climbs with a total ascent of 2425 metres, but also the burning heat, especially on the tarred section crossing famous Tradouws pass where spectators were cheering the riders uphill.
After 4 hours 11 minutes and 6.17 seconds the stage victory was decided in a tight 500 metre sprint finish. When he saw the adidas arch at the horizon in Barrydale, Christoph Sauser (SUI) of team Siemens Cannondale hit the gas, but had to give in to Giant team riders Roel Paulissen (BEL) and ’Bartman’ Brentjens (NDL) who seem to be unbeatable in the flats. Paulissen closed the gap instantly and Brentjens sprinted from the back being the first to cross the finish line.
At the 70km mark the race broke up in the most technical section of the day leading through Grootvaderbos Nature Reserve. "We actually didn’t attack", explained Roel after the stage, "we just rode at our own pace. And we took it easy on the downhills not to risk another flat with all the sharp stones.
Bart had a puncture in the beginning of the stage, but we could seal the hole quickly with the tubeless liquid. The technical sections would have been more fun to ride with a fully, but then there are so many long stretches in this race. That’s why I chose a hardtail."
After having had a few energy problems during the first days, which slowed him down at the end of each stage, Christoph Sauser has now found his strength. "I really enjoyed the first two hours. We didn’t push and I had time to look around. I also wanted to keep my feet dry for a change. After the second water point we were in the front", Christoph recaps, "but Bart caught up on the flats. And I am just not a good enough sprinter to keep up with him."
By sticking to the wheels of the yellow leaders jerseys, however, team Siemens Cannondale increased the gap to team Rocky Mountain with Karl Platt (GER) and Carsten Bresser (GER) by 3 minutes 30 seconds (now 12 minutes in total); Bresser/ Platt came in fourth today after a second sprint finish battling with Sandro Spaeth (SUI) and Thomas Zahnd (SUI) for a place on the podium.
Boundless woman power
One of the hardest and most interesting battles for the adidas leaders jerseys at this year’s Cape Epic takes place in the Women category, because it reveals the power of mind.
Hannele Steyn-Kotze (RSA), for years South Africa’s most dominant female mountain biker and without doubt one of the most competitive souls in the race, has chosen a team partner that only started cycling a year ago.
Zoë Frost (RSA), a former golf pro and winner of several Pro Am tournaments and the US National Championships began to ride her road bike to get back into shape after she gave birth to her two little twin boys, Jordan and Jaeger, who are now 1 year old.
Before joining Hannele in the Cape Epic, the 30 year old adidas athlete only participated in two mountain bike races. Thus, almost everything from race tactics to riding technique is completely new to her.
The one thing that Zoë, who now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has in common with her riding partner is a powerful mind. "I expected this race to be very tough, but it is actually a lot harder than you can imagine.
I guess my strength is my mind. Every day is a new race for me and I learn so much from Hannele. Today I crashed three times in the technical section. But I want to hold on to the leader jersey. I am doing this for my boys."
Zoë Frost can take a lot of pain - one can see this instantly looking at her bruised and scratched legs that after four days of racing almost have the red colour of the leader jersey she and Hannele have successfully defended yesterday.
Results (all results are online under www.cape-epic.com)
1. Giant - Roel Paulissen (BEL), Bart Brentjes (NDL) - 4:11:06.17
2. Siemens - Christoph Sauser (SUI), Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE) - 4:11:06:91
3. Papival-Stoeckli-Move Magazin, Sandro Spaeth (SUI), Thomas Zahnd (SUI) - 4:14:40.92
1. Fiat/ Bianchi/ adidas 2 - Hannele Steyn-Kotze (RSA), Zoe Frost (RSA) - 5:19:38.36
2. Scott Ladies - Hanlie Booyens (RSA), Michelle Lombardi (RSA) - 5:23:44.10
3. Hai-Bike/ Scrane.de - Kirsten Rösel (GER), Petronella Hattingh (RSA) - 5:57:32.03
1. Specsavers - Linus Van Onselen (RSA), Frans van Zyl (RSA) - 4:44:00.99
2. Getaway Mongoos - Doug Brown (RSA), Friedrich Coleske (RSA) - 4:46:53.60
3. Scarabee 2- Frankz Taelman (BEL), Dirk Rossignol (BEL) - 4:48:53.42
1. Team Microsoft - Nic White (RSA), Anke Erlank (RSA) - 5:06:25.53
2. Fast n Fresh - Leon Erasmus (RSA), Liza Serfontain (RSA) - 5:11:12.51
3. Manic Cycles - Geddan Ruddock (RSA), Jeannie Bomford (RSA) - 5:17:20.65
Today’s stage from Barrydale to Montagu is probably the most spectacular stage in the short history of the CAPE EPIC. More than 50 kilometres of the stunning route lead through private Game Reserves, including Sanbona, the Cape’s newest Big Five Game Reserve.