Pic: Sven Martin/Sportzpics
Day 4Riversdale to Swellendam (146km, 1,819m of climbing)
Rolling hills in the first part of Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic were an opportunity for the power riders to set the pace. It wasn’t all flat and fast, though, and Bart Brentjens and Alban Lakata (Team Dolphin) used the first serious climb – 25km into the stage – to break away from the pack. The following descent let them consolidate their advantage, and despite Lakata beginning to get dehydrated after losing a bottle they held their lead to the end of the stage.
Although Dolphin’s lead grew to three minutes at its best, the gap was down to twenty seconds at the line, with MTN Energade (Kevin Evans/David George) grabbing second place just a second ahead of race leaders Cannondale Vredestein (Roel Paulissen/Jakob Fuglsang).
Commenting on their stage win, Brentjens said that it wasn’t necessarily a planned attack, but more a spontaneous decision. “We of course discuss every evening what we should do the next day, but you actually have to wait and see how you feel during the first couple of kilometres and whether your legs are strong enough. The pace of this year’s Absa Cape Epic is very fast and attacking takes a lot of energy – not only to create the gap, but to maintain it. That is why you have to think carefully on whether you should actually do it.”
Cannondale Vredestein remain the yellow jersey holders, with a comfortable 18 minute lead at the halfway point of the Cape Epic. In second place is Bulls, with Alb-Gold Mountainbike in third. Cannondale Vredestein’s advantage is big enough that all they need to do to win the overall title is to stay in touch with their rivals.
In the women’s category, Pia Sundstedt and Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain) came away from Stage 4 with an overall leading margin of almost an hour, despite being beaten to the line in Swellendam by Susan Haywood and Jennifer Smith (Trek/VW WSD) – the first sprint finish in the women’s competition. It was bad news for Fabienne Heinzmann and Katrin Schwing (Dolphin-Trek MTB Racing), who finished fifth in Stage 4, slipped to third overall but had to withdraw due to a neck injury sustained by Heinzmann. She’s been transferred to Cape Town for an MRI to make sure that there isn’t any serious damage.
Full results at www.cape-epic.com.