In the penultimate stage competitors were wary; the route profile and the total ascent revealed how they would be tested right to the end of the challenge on this brutal Oak Valley loop.
Again, the riders headed over Groenlandberg, for the second time in two days, this time following the 2010 route in reverse. After crossing the R43 came a tough sandy climb, nicknamed “The Beeatch”. A short section on Highlands Road was a relief before more loose and partially sandy climbing – which was rewarded with a dramatic view over the Indian Ocean, the Botriver mouth and Kleinmond.
One last climb led participants through another Cape Nature area featuring some rare fynbos. Shortly after riders got to enjoy the flowing single tracks of Lebanon, before they dipped under the N2 for more fun single track through Thandi and back home to Oak Valley – a great way to finish a strenuous day in the saddle.
Victory in sight for Sauser and Stander
The Spanish/Swiss team of José Hermida and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking 3) finally secured their first stage win in this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Hermida boasts a number of titles including the Elite 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 today’s stage of 128km in a time of 5:00.47,0.
They were followed by the 36ONE Songo Specialized team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser in 5:01.38,7, with the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, in third place in 5:04.06,0. Sauser and Stander (overall 26:05.24,3) continue their winning streak and now 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 26:16.15,7.
In third place overall are the Bulls, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, in 26:23.37,4. They finished in 6th place today and are 18 minutes and 13 seconds behind the leaders and 7 minutes and 22 seconds behind Multivan Merida Biking
Unsung heroes working tirelessly behind the scenes
Behind the success of every year’s Absa Cape Epic is an enormous team of crew, volunteers, sponsors and full time staff ensuring that the event takes place as effortlessly as possible for all the participating Cape Epic enthusiasts. Forty one volunteers hail from as far as Australia, the USA, the Russian Federation to Canada, including 26 from South Africa. Many of them are return volunteers – a great testament to the success of the Absa Cape Epic volunteer programme.
Karen Clements, Race Logistics Manager, says: “What many people don’t realise is that with the Absa Cape Epic hosting 1 200 riders, there is a crew of almost 872 people behind the scenes who ensure the best possible service and comfort for the participants. They make sure that everything runs as smoothly as what the event is known for! Some of these heroes are never even seen by riders as they’re working behind the scenes, sometimes throughout the night, to make sure that those who participate have everything they could possibly need.”
She says that the dedication of the crew is absolutely amazing. “When you take into consideration that the catering crew starts at 2am to ensure that breakfast is ready in time, to the guys who set up the waterpoints at 5am; there is just always someone up and about and on the move at the Absa Cape Epic to make sure life is easier for the rest.”
Dekker Vermeulen, who has been with the event since the very first Absa Cape Epic, is in charge of ensuring that all the tents (a whopping 1 800) are moved from one stage to the next, without disrupting any of the riders. By the time riders arrive at their next destination, the infamous red tents are ready for them, displayed in the layout that is representative of the Absa Cape Epic and instantly recognisable.
Vermeulen states that every year is different: “This year we used children from the local schools. It was tricky as children get tired faster and don’t have as much physical energy as grownups do. We couldn’t exhaust the children so we had to take it a bit easier. This year we started setting up on the 25th of March. It takes us a day and a half to set up each race village. There are three different villages in this year’s race and three sets of tents in total, but only one set of mattresses, which delays the set up process a bit. We start early morning and work till late afternoon.”
Although in charge, Vermeulen refuses to take any of the credit: “Without the support of the team none of this is possible. We all work hard and help each other where we can, coordinating our efforts to reach our goal.”
Numerous logistics runners (affectionately known as the “Zulus”) are also on the event to help with everything possible under the sun, from moving barricades at 11pm in the rain, to carrying tables and chairs, mattresses for the riders to whatever else is required to ensure a smooth run of events. Some of these runners include well known characters like Phil “Soli” Solomon with his always helpful and friendly face, Keri-Ann Read, a fully qualified architect who volunteered this year, Dianovan Lucus who started off as a baggie, and many more.
“They help riders, crew and everyone else with all those small tasks no one else has time, energy or the capability to complete, which ensures the tremendous success of the event. Their contribution is invaluable to the success of the Absa Cape Epic,” says Clements.