The 2012 edition of the Absa Cape Epic kicked off yesterday in South Africa with a 27km prologue around Meerendal Wine Estate in the Durbanville Wine Valley, right on the Cape Town’s doorstep.
1,200 riders from 46 countries enjoyed sunny weather with the first group of riders starting their 8-day journey at 06:45. Far from just a ceremonial stroll, it was flat out from the start ramp heading through spectator points Contermanskloof, Kliprug Hillcrest and Nitida.
The route took riders through protected Renosterveld, railing the sublime single track created by the Tygerberg Mountain Bike club. On the final push on the lung-bursting climb up to the Meerendal hilltop finish – a first in the history of the Absa Cape Epic, riders saw spectators lining the trail for support, with magnificent views of Table Mountain and Table Bay in the background.
This time trial was a race against the clock to decide the seeding at the start of Stage 1 in Robertson.
Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser set the pace
For the second year in a row, the Men’s category for the prologue was won by the South African/Swiss team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (team 36ONE Songo Specialized) in a time of 1:11:52,1. They were followed by South Africans Kevin Evans and David George of 360LIFE (1:12:05,3) with Alban Lakata and Robert Mennen of Topeak Ergon Racing in third place in (1:14:57,0). In fourth place was Max Knox and Kohei Yamamoto of Songo-Specialized (1:15:08,3).
“We started really well,” said Stander. “I pushed to hard at the beginning and crashed on a bend. Shortly after Christoph almost crashed and we decided to back off a bit. We found our rhythm shortly therafter and Christoph was very strong today. I just had to hang on as he pulled us. Thirteen seconds is a small gap, but it’s very nice to wear the Yellow Zebra jersey again for Stage 1 of the race. It was a fast course and one had to keep up your speed through the turns. The dust made it a bit difficult. Luckily I didn’t hurt myself or damage the bike, so all in all it was a good day.”
Sauser added: “We started out very steady and I was drafting behind Burry. Towards the end, I felt really good and took over the lead. But this is a long race and from tomorrow, the racing will be very different. We also have a strong second team in Max and Kohei and it’s good to have them out there – also for team bonding and to help each other, which is very important. Tomorrow the real mountain bike racing starts and one would need to conserve your energy – it’s still a long way to go Lourensford Wine Estate.”
Sally Bigham took the lead in the women’s race
With partner Esther Süss, Bigham won the Ladies category in a time of 1:29:27,3, ahead of Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler (Biogen Britehouse) 1:31:46,7. German team Ivonne Kraft and Elisabeth Brandau (notebooksbilliger.de) finished third in 1:36:01,1, with South African Scottish duo Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nüssli (MTN Qhubeka) in 1:37:25,4.
Sally commented after the prologue: “Today was brilliant. It was a really nice stage and I felt really good and strong. It was a good pace for me and we worked really well together as a team – I think we’re going to have a good week. It was also a nice course, I loved the climbs, and nice single trails. Although I’ve lost my voice yelling ‘excuse me’ to all the riders ahead of us to make way.” Adds Esther Süss: “It was a good starts to the Cape Epic. It was a hard, dusty course but good. I think finishing first laid a good foundation for Sally and I.”
Watch the race unfold live here www.cape-epic.com/live/