The 36ONE Songo Specialized team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser walked away with top honours as overall winners of this year’s exciting Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas.
With a ten minute and 51 second lead time at the start this morning, Stander and Sauser finished the last 8 days of the Magical and Untamed Mountain Bike Race of 707km in an overall time of 28:44.44,0. It is the first time in the history of the race that a South African is part of the winning team.
In second place in an overall time of 28:51.52,8 were the German team of Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss (Multivan Merida Biking), with the Bulls, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, in third place overall in 29:05.53,7. The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm won the Absa Cape Epic in 2007, 2009 and 2010, and Karl Platt won in the inaugural year (2004) with Mannie Heymans from Namibia. He is the most successful participant in the history of the race having won four times with eleven stage wins.
The Swiss Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, of the Trek World Racing team, won the final stage of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in 2:33.18,6 with Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss (Multivan Merida Biking) in second place (2:35.37,1).
They were closely followed by José Hermida and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking 3) in 2:39.06,1, with Alexandre Moos and Balthasar Weber of BMC Mountainbike Racing in fourth place (2:39.07,4). Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser (36ONE Songo Specialized) took a slower pace once they reached the final 200 metres in order to enjoy the overwhelming welcome of the crowds, finishing in fifth place in 2:39.19,7.
How the final stage played out
Says Burry Stander of 36ONE Songo Specialized: “We didn’t start off well today. We lost about 4 minutes with a flat. We then chased hard again to catch up with the leading group, only to find out that Multivan Merida attacked. We finally caught up with them and could then relax and enjoy it to the finish. Today was still hard, but we were prepared for that. To be the first South African to win this race is on par to winning the World Championships.
The Absa Cape Epic takes more work because for eight days you have to be perfect instead of only one day.” Christoph Sauser adds: “This is only my opinion, but I was surprised when they attacked when we were having problems. We then had to risk not staying with our back-up teams to make up some time. When we finally caught up with them, we could enjoy the rest of the race. This race is definitely up there with the World Championships. I can’t describe the feeling of winning in words, but I know the exhaustion will hit us tomorrow.”
Says Lukas Flückiger of Trek World Racing: “It feels fantastic to win the last stage at Lourensford. The race was so hard, but Mathias was in great shape today and I also felt good. I was completely exhausted yesterday, but luckily I recovered well. The Absa Cape Epic is amazing and I’m very happy that it’s over. It’s an amazing feeling to win this stage.“ His brother Mathias adds: “I’m also really happy with our stage win and glad it’s over.”
José Hermida and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking 3) sprinted to the finish today. Says Hermida: “It was a tough day from the beginning and our team had a technical problem. It’s nice to see our two teams finish the Cape Epic in similar shape. This was the first sprint I’ve won in my life! I’m very proud to participate in this year’s event and hope to see the results of this in my season. I’m hoping to defend the World Championship Jersey this year.” His team mate Ralph Näf adds: “This year’s race was much better than 2007 – I felt better. We had some bad luck in the second stage, but we’ll be back. I love South Africa! I’ll take one week off before training again – I need a rest.”
Karl Platt of the Bulls team finished in third place overall. “Sometimes if you know that you can ride faster and your team partner doesn’t have the legs, you need to fight your own mind. You can’t change it and Stefan also had to accept it. It was a huge learning curve for me – not to get angry and to stay relaxed. We came third together! This was a very good life lesson and it keeps your feet on the ground. Learning something like this also affects other areas of your life. Our partnership was tested and we made it – through the good times and bad. It’s a tough life lesson, but it stays with you forever. Our friendship is more important than a victory.”
Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld win Ladies category
Sally Bigham and Karien Van Jaarsveld (team USN) finished in third place today (3:30.37,5) and are the overall winners of the Ladies category in 37:44.09.0.
In second place overall are Eva Lechner and Nathalie Schneitter (team Colnago Arreghini Südtirol) in a time of 39:18.02,7. They also won the final stage of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in 3:29.04,7. In third place overall was the Absa aBreast team of Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth in 39:24.09,6. They finished in fifth place today in 3:43.49,0. In second place today was the Attix5 Ladies team of Hannele Steyn and Leana de Jager in a time of 3:30.30,1.
Comments Sally Bigham: “We weren’t chasing a win and just wanted to maintain our lead and stay safe. We didn’t want to take risks at all. I’m really happy with the win and enjoyed it a thousand times more than racing in the Mixed. The Ladies category is definitely the way to go for me. We supported each other and made an excellent team. In this race your relationship with partner is so important. This was so special ¨C words can’t describe it.”
Emotional end for victorious finishers
It was an emotional day for the 2011 Absa Cape Epic participants who crossed the final finish line at the prestigious Lourensford Wine Estate. Just under 90% of those who started their journey last Sunday (27 March 2011) enjoyed the ultimate reward of receiving the highly sought after finisher t-shirt.
Jonathan Vogel from South Africa (team 110%) says that he didn’t know what to feel. “I want to cry, I want to smile, I want to jump and I want a beer. And I want to hug my partner.”
Australian Toni van Heerden of team Where’s Marley? says the Absa Cape Epic was amazing and really tough. “What a cool experience, it was so nice to be here. In terms of the route, all the descents were highlights.”
Masixole Matini from South Africa, riding as team VisionK, ended his Cape Epic journey with the words: “I’m so tired, it was hard. The single track and downhill was cool. I’ll do the event again, I like it!”
Brazilian Vinicius Silva of team GibaVini took part in his first Absa Cape Epic this year. “I feel so proud of myself. I can’t believe I did it!” His riding partner Brazilian Gilberto added: “I’m exhausted, but very happy that I finished. It was beyond hard and much more than I expected. I’m a very strong man now!”
More at www.cape-epic.com