2010 Absa Cape Epic Stage 2
Absa Cape Epic riders in single track paradise
Stage 2 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas was known as the singletrack stage. Riders crossed farmlands, descended rocky scrub and navigated forest paths. The narrow, steep and rocky climbs split the race apart. One of the lead motorbike riders on the race, Martin Glisner, commented after test driving Stage 2’s 60km singletrack the day before that the challenging part of this stage was very rough, and he had to put bandages on his hands as they were hurting so much. “And I’ve got a thick skin as I’m on my motorbike all the time, so I felt really sorry for all the riders who had to face these conditions today. I told them to just take it easy.”
It was a close call for the top teams in this year’s Absa Cape Epic as they battled it out to win the second stage (Stage 2) of this year’s event. Bart Brentjens and Jelmer Pietersma of Trek-Brentjens attained their dream of a stage win in a time of 4:08.06,4 and were closely followed by Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm of the Bulls team (4:08.08,8), with South Africa’s Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata of the MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon team (4:08.10,7) following closely in the first sprint finish of this year’s event.
Team MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon is still in the overall lead by 4 minutes and 23 seconds (overall time - 8:43.53). The German Bulls team are now in second place overall (8:48.16,2), followed by Trek-Brentjens in third position overall (8:52.18,9).
Early on in the race, the Flűckiger brothers’ team of Lukas and Mathias (team Trek World Racing) launched an attack, pushing hard during the singletrack sections in order to build up a lead of up about five minutes. Due to the weather and terrain conditions of the day (including sun in the riders’ eyes and dust) many of the leading riders did not even notice the breakaway. But then Lady Luck had her own ideas on how the events of the day would play out with Lukas encountering a defect on his derailleur, whereafter he had to walk for 2km to the next vantage point to fix it. Unfortunately he didn’t find the matching product among their spare parts, so in the end he had to ride a majority of the stage with a limited range of gears, and had to dig deep to catch up. The Scott-Swisspower MTB-racing team (Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel) then saw the chance to escape and built up a lead of more than three and a half minutes, followed by MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon, Bulls and Trek-Brentjens. Lady Luck was not on their side either as they had a flat tyre and had to change their wheel at water point 3. As the spare wheel did not have enough air, they had to pump the tyre and lost a lot of time. Shortly after on a tar section of the stage, they had yet another flat. The three chasing teams passed them, with MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon and Trek-Brentjens realising they were fighting for a stage win (as some spectators already alerted them to the fact that the Flűckiger brothers were out). However, the Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm were not aware of this, thinking that they were fighting for second place. With Jelmer Pietersma (Trek-Brentjens) in front he tried to build up a gap on the last 100 metres before the finish line, confident that Brentjens would be able to outsprint the others to secure a stage win. The Bulls team never attacked as they were blissfully unaware that the stage win was up for grabs, only realising it when they arrived at the finish line.
Says Jelmer Pietersma of the Trek-Brentjens team: “We were initially behind, but managed to catch up with the leading riders. We’re not very good on the climbs, but caught up on the descents. Schurter and Vogel as well as the Flückiger brothers were a few minutes in the lead, but at the second water point we heard the Flückigers had some problems – I believe they broke a chain – and at this point we realised we were riding for victory. Both Bart and I felt quite strong today and when we only had a few hundred meters to go, we knew we could win.” Commenting on his strong sprinting abilities, Brentjens said that if he can see the finish line, he can beat most riders. “Today was really great with lots of single-track, but fast and small climbs all the way,” adds Brentjens. “The Flückiger brothers were unlucky as was Schurter and Vogel.
This year’s race has some really strong contenders. As it is, the Absa Cape Epic is a hard race and very different to any other events – one needs to use a different race tactic. It’s push, push, push all the way – and today’s stage was hard as you had to concentrate all the time and stay focussed. There were also some annoying sandy sections towards the end.” With regards to the possibility of winning another stage, Brentjens commented: “The stages count together, and one gets more tired as the race goes along. At least today we finished early and can take some time to relax.”
According to Bulls Team rider, Stefan Sahm, he felt better during this stage than yesterday. “Today was okay. The climbs and flat sections were better and there was some nice singletrack. In a way we were unlucky today as we thought the Flückiger brothers were ahead of us and didn’t realise we were fighting for first place. If we knew, we definitely would’ve pushed more. But hey, Karl always gets stronger towards the end; we have a lot of patience and can wait.” Adds Platt: “Today was a nice stage with lots of awesome singletrack. At the beginning of the stage, the sun shone right into our faces which made it a bit tricky as you couldn’t see the stones, only dust. We’re feeling really strong and although we finished in second place, we’ll take the jersey in the end.”
Alban Lakata, of the MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon team, and still in the lead overall says: “Unfortunately we had some bad luck at the beginning as we had a puncture. I damaged my rear wheel and had to change it, but managed to catch up with the leading group. The Flückiger brothers attacked in one of the singletrack sections but also had some bad luck, as did the Bulls Team. The other Bulls team helped them out with a front wheel, as did our second team by assisting us when I had a puncture. It’s really good to be able to get support from your team mates. It was a tough day and also very hot. The Absa Cape Epic is always a hard race as you have to look where you’re riding and your nutrition is really important.”
The Songo-Specialized by DCM team of Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander finished in 14th place today (4:23.43,3) and they are in ninth place overall (9:03.00,3). Stander felt sick during stage one, and hardly slept the night before stage two, suffering from severe stomach problems.
The first ladies to complete Stage 2 were Hannele Steyn-Kotze and Ivonne Kraft (team Sludge Ladies) finishing in a time of 5:16.10,0 (also first overall at 11:04.05,3). They were again followed by Kristine and Anna-Sofie Noergaard (Team Rothaus-CUBE) in a time of 5:22.31,1 who remain in second position overall (11:15.19,2). Giuliana Vitali and Tamara Horn (Team bike2help.ch – Big Tree) finished in a time of 5:39.01,5, placing them in third position overall (11:53.34,3).
Says Ivonne Kraft, previous winner of the Mixed category in 2008: “Today was very hot and tough, but still fun. I’ve just come from Germany, where it’s still winter and cold. The African terrain was very rough and it was definitely one of the most technical stages of the race, which both Hannele and I like a lot. We’re very satisfied with the way the race is going for us. I used to ride this race in the Mixed category and always played the role of the weaker member of the team. I therefore had to dig very deep to stay on the wheel of the man I was riding with. Riding in die Ladies category this year for the first time has changed my role completely – now I’m the stronger one and need to watch out for Hannele and support her whenever I can. If my heart rate is low enough, I push her so that the physical burden is shared. I’m drawing from my experience as the weaker link in the Mixed team.”
Yolande Speedy and Paul Cordes (MTN Business Qhubeka) finished in first place today in a time of 4:44.23,8. They are now placed second (overall) in their category (10:07.24,0). They were followed by yesterday’s category winners Bärti Bucher and Esther Süss (Wheeler – BIXS) in a time of 4:48.40,3 who retain the first place overall (10:03.38,2). Nico Pfitzenmaier and Sally Bigham of the Adidas Big Tree team again finished in third place (4:59.41,8) and remain in the same position overall (10:22.45,9).
According to Paul Cordes of the MTN Business Qhubeka team, “Today’s race was really enjoyable. There were lots more singletrack which we liked. We made a few mistakes yesterday which cost us our lead and had to make amends today. We were more conservative and picked it up in the end.” Speedy reckons it was a great course. “It was a tough day, but I loved the technical side of it. I’m happy with our results.”
Cyclelab’s Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean again took top honours in Stage 2 (4:40.49,7) giving them the overall lead in the Masters (9:51.32,0). They were followed by the Big Tree Masters Team Corrie Muller and Robert Sim (5:02.03,3), who are now in third place overall (11:35.23,6). Adrian Enthoven and Gary Marescia (Cycle Lab Jag Foundation) finished in third place today in 5:05.26,5 and are placed second overall (10:41.28,0).
Says Shan Wilson: “Today was tough but good. We extended our lead and are very happy with the result. We only had one flat at the beginning of the stage – but nothing major. The singletrack made the race more technical, so one had to concentrate all the time.”
Celebrity riders still going strong after Stage 2
Participating in the Absa Cape Epic this year in support of the JAG Foundation, former Springbok rugby player Marius Hurter (riding with Christiaan Schutte as team Reparil/JAG Lab-rats) says that he is doing much better than last year, managing to complete the second stage of the Absa Cape Epic in 8:22.10,3. “It’s actually very enjoyable this year. I feel so much better – last year almost killed me. But why did route designer Dr Evil have to make us ride on a railway line during the first stage? It was so much fun up to that point,” he says. With Stage 2 being a very technical race with lots of singletrack, Hurter says that it is the kind of terrain he prefers. “We’re brilliant when it comes to technical terrain, so no problems there. Bring it on!” Although many riders feel like retirement after the eight days of racing, Hurter will be competing in a 56km ultra marathon in less than a week after completing the Absa Cape Epic. He will also be taking part in the Ironman and the Comrades this year. “I’m clearly addicted to sport. After all this, I’ll be preparing for next year again.”
A sports hero who was unable to complete the 2009 Absa Cape Epic is soccer star Mark Fish, who is back for more as part of the Absa Laduuma! team (together with Mike Andrew). They are also racing in aid of the JAG Foundation. “I’m a lot more prepared this year and feel so much better. Last year was very tough, but so is this year - especially the railway section during the first stage. But we are just focusing on getting through every day, or in fact, water point to water point. It really helps having the partner that I do – he is a very strong athlete and mentally tuned, so we’re working hard together.” Today Mark Fish completed his second stage in a time of 8:18.39,8 which keeps him in the top 500 teams overall.
Ex-Bafana Bafana striker and football legend Shaun Bartlett is competing in this year’s Absa Cape Epic with trainer Bruce Diesel as one of four Toyota teams. Bartlett has played for South Africa’s national Bafana Bafana team and he was one of the historical winners of the Africa Nations Cup in South Africa in 1996 as well as playing at two FIFA World Cups. He has been fortunate enough to play as a professional footballer at the highest level in South Africa, the United States of America, Switzerland and in England. “I’m a very inexperienced rider, but we’ve trained hard and smart, and I’m looking forward to completing this challenge and am embracing it 100%. My goal is to finish the race, no matter what. So far it has been very tough, but I’m very glad that I got through it. My recovery after each stage has been good with plenty of fluids, massages, nutrition and more. But without Bruce motivating me all the time, I don’t know what I would have done. He is so experienced and helping me every second on the way.” Bartlett says that he has been negotiating by offering Wold Cup tickets in order for Diesel to keep on assisting him. Says Diesel: “I haven’t received any tickets yet, however, as I’m still paying for convincing Shaun to do this difficult and challenging race. Hopefully towards the final stages, I’ll start scoring some tickets.” Bartlett was cheered on by Absa Cape Epic enthusiasts when he crossed the stage 2 finish line at 8:36:38,1.
1995 World Cup winner and rugby coach, Chester Williams (participating as team Absa Ebony and Ivory together with Ernst Viljoen) says that he struggles during the initial couple of hours of every stage. “I was very tired yesterday after the first stage and really struggled to get to the finish line. But Ernst kept talking, encouraging and assisting me. Once I’m warmed up, it gets much better. There are lots of people cheering for me, so the pressure is on to complete the race. Especially riding up the hills is very tough on me, however we’re very confident about the singletrack areas. I just want to get through every day and once I cross the final finish line at the Lourensford Wine Estate, the emotions will come.” Williams says that Viljoen is the perfect teammate as he allows them to race at Williams’ pace and never puts him under too much pressure. They crossed the finish line of Stage 2 in a time of 8:25.46,2.
Rugby legend Joel Stransky (taking part for the very first time as part of the Absa Ghost Riders team with teammate Pierre Loubser), says he is incredibly excited that the event has finally arrived. “It’s so good to get going after all of these months of training. It was a great way to start with the beautiful surroundings at Diemersfontein during stage one and the incredible atmosphere amongst the riders. The Absa Cape Epic is everything I expected – it’s tough, long and hot. You have such a wonderful sense of achievement when you cross that finish line. Our preparation was spot on and we worked hard. We actually wanted to go out slowly, but it’s difficult not to go faster when you’re so excited. We did great - we felt the odd little cramp or two, but nothing major. I have no concerns about not finishing this year’s race,” he says. Stransky says that after each stage he enjoys a massage, dinner, a beer or glass of wine, and then a good night’s sleep in preparation of the next day. Today he completed Stage 2 in a time of 6:47.41,9.
Erica Green and her partner Andrew Paterson are riding as the Absa Cape Stormers team. Green is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most prominent female cycling athletes, completing stage 2 in a time of 6:59:50,2. Her family is here to support her during the 2010 event, including her husband and two children. Her oldest son, Timothy, says that he is very proud of his mommy and he blows kisses along the way to cheer her on. Commenting on Stage 2, Green says: “Today was much tougher than yesterday. Riding the single track for most of the route was very hard not only physically but mentally as well. You need to stay very focused the whole time”.
Green complimented her partner Andrew Paterson: “Andrew did very well considering that today’s climb was very steep and Andrew is much more of a power rider. We’re both looking forward to tomorrow’s Stage Three though.”
Stage 3 – Ceres to Ceres (118km distance, 1720m climbing)
For Stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic riders will see fast open roads take the field to a short section of smooth, flowing single track. The riders will be relieved to reach water point 1 after a leg-trashing 3km climb out of the Ceres bowl and up onto a plateau. A rough dual track then heads through some rare fynbos. It’s easy on the eye, but what’s to come is hard on the body and bike. Riders will need to stay alert on the challenging downhill section. Almost half of the day’s climbing is done with the first 40km and experienced athletes will ride within their limits, not spending too much energy, too early. After traversing the farmlands past a very inviting dam, riders hug the foothills of Matroosberg, passing a ski hut – they’ll be dreaming of snow on a hot day. More descending takes them back down into the Ceres bowl, the first section is on tar, but the next is technical. The last climb of the day is short but very steep and loose, forcing riders to walk. The profile looks fairly flat from here on, but riders shouldn’t be fooled. If the heat and rugged terrain doesn’t break their spirits, the sandy patches and devil thorns on the last 15km can easily do so.