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Cape Epic: stage three report

Racing, as with the heat, has been hotting up with three stages now completed

Following their second consecutive victory in the Absa Cape Epic, Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser were outdown by the German pairing of Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess on stage three, but Stander and Sauser maintained their advantage to retain the overall lead.

The German team of Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess (Multivan Merida Biking) beat the South African/Swiss team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (36ONE Songo Specialized) in a sprint finish by 2.8 seconds, securing their first stage win in this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Stander and Sauser still lead overall by 6 minutes and 15 seconds, with three times winners Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm (Bulls team) in fourth place overall and 8 minutes and 32 seconds behind the leaders.

With an overall time of 14 hours, 40 minutes and 29,3 seconds, the 36ONE Songo Specialized team will wear the yellow leader jersey for stage 4.

With the fast roads out of Tulbagh, riders covered 13km before the first climb. It was steep at times and very loose, requiring hard bursts of effort to gain momentum over the rockiest parts. After the 4km climb, riders arrived at a plateau with a beautiful valley nestled between spectacular mountains that resemble the pictures found on the covers of fantasy novels.

There was little time to look around during the race though, the deeply rutted descent tested rider and equipment alike. After smooth farm roads and more rocky tracks, tyres were put to the test, with devil thorns lying in wait. A long drag upwards on a rough path lead to a remote hut at the foot of the cliff face of the bare rock of the mountainside. This area is a geologist¡’s paradise. After the final water point, Absa Cape Epic veterans experienced déjà vu, with a similar run into the race village through some winding single-track.

Quotes from the racers

Says Burry Stander (team 36ONE Songo Specialized): “We’re happy with our overall result and weren’t fighting for stage win. We’re ahead of the Bulls overall. We stayed with the Multivan Merida Biking team and they broke away in the last 2 km. We let them know if you want to win a stage, you have to earn it.
“This stage was very hard. I’ve never experienced something so tough. It was 5 hours of pain and at one point I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. There were rocks everywhere and the first 50km felt like we¡’ll be riding all day. Eventually we hit the tar. I take my hat off to anyone who finishes this stage!”

Bart Brentjens of the Netherlands, the 2005 winner of the Absa Cape Epic, two times Olympic medallist and former World Champion and World Cup winner, finished in third place today with his team mate Jeroen Boelen. He says: “We attacked before water point 2, but we lost time as we took a wrong turn. We rode at a good speed and worked really hard. It was a long stage. This is my 6th Absa Cape Epic, so I know the race, but Jeroen is a roadie and has never done the Cape Epic before. He’s a new member of our team but I’m very happy with his performance. He’s learning a lot – fast. Every day we plan for the next day and I really hope we can make it to the finish.”

Jose Hermida of the Multivan Merida Biking team says he is thrilled to keep one of their teams in front. “I’m really tired today, but we’re fighting for our team in the race. I’m so pleased they won today. We enjoy helping where we can, but they still need to win it by themselves. I’ve had a headache for most of the day and it was really hard out there. But as they say, it takes many days to get to Paris.”

Women’s race

The UK’s Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (team USN) were in the Leader jersey out of Tulbagh this morning and proved their competence by also winning stage 3 in a time of 6:43.35,9 (overall 19:25.14,6).

They were followed by Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth of Absa aBreast in 6:48.40,6 (overall 19:47.21,1) with their first podium finish, ahead of Naomi Hansen and Jodie Willett of adidas who finished third in 6:55.45,3 (overall 20:22.00,7). Lechner and Schneitter lead by 22 minutes and 6 seconds.

Yesterday’s leading team Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter (team Colnago Arreghini Sdtirol) received a time penalty of one hour. They were penalised for breaking rule 23.1 and 23.4 of the Absa Cape Epic. Riders are not allowed any outside assistance with regards to spares, equipment and nutrition.
Sally Bigham said of the position change: “I don’t know how to feel about having the Leader jersey because I’m not sure how it happened. I’d want to be in the Leader jersey because we’re the strongest team, but I also firmly believe in sticking to rules.

“If it’s true that they didn’t stop at the water points, they (Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter) saved a lot of time because it takes us at least 2 minutes at each water point, which adds up to six minutes per day in total. Having won today was really nice though and I’m really pleased. It was a tough stage and lived up to the Absa Cape Epic’s reputation. It definitely is the hardest race I’ve ever done and I¡’ve done quite a lot. We’re halfway and I look forward to starting later tomorrow.”

Stage 4: Worcester to Worcester (23km; 800m of climbing)

It’s a first for the Absa Cape Epic: two time trials in the 2011 race. This is a 32km route through the foothills of Brandwacht. As in 2010, riders traverse the western side of Worcester in this semi-desert environment. Added to last year’s route is an extra 5km loop along dual tracks past the local golf course.

The route data reads 860m of climbing which may not seem like a lot, but over such a short distance, it still requires a hard effort. As usual, the top teams leave at 1 minute intervals, racing only against the clock, some looking for a stage win and others to consolidate. Riders should hold back on this stage and save themselves for the next half of the Cape Epic saga. With what’s waiting for them in the coming days, they’ll be glad they did.

For a complete results list of today’s stage and all previous stages go to www.cape-epic.com/live/results2011.php

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