2010 Absa Cape Epic Stage 4
Exhilarating welcome in Worcester
The Absa Cape Epic enthusiasts who completed Stage 4 of the Magical and Untamed African mountain bike race were welcomed at the finish line in Worcester by hundreds of young (and older) spectators - an energetic and exhilarating crowd cheering those on who managed to reach the halfway mark of this year’s eight stage event. Schools in the area decided that learners would not have to attend classes on the day, and instead provided one of the most hospitable and exciting crowds on the route thus far.
Leaving Ceres for the last time, riders faced a short climb up Mitchell’s Pass, which was followed by a fast downhill section on tar, before turning off into the winelands past Waverly Hills Farm and Mountain Ridge. Then came a long zig-zagging section of rustic dual and singletrack up and down the foothills of the mountains, before the cyclists finally climbed up onto the saddle. After another descent and climb to the next saddle ahead, riders were rewarded with spectacular views into the Breede River Valley. Even when they had home in their sights, there was still a rough 2km Boesmanberg climb to scale before they finally reached their destination.
Songo-Specialized by DCM takes stage win for second day in a row
Switzerland’s Christoph Sauser and his South African team mate Burry Stander (Songo-Specialized by DCM) again proved their world-class stature by winning Stage 4 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic. This is their second consecutive win, having also taken top honours in Stage 3 of this year’s race. They finished in a time of 3:33.01,2, moved up one place in the overall ranking to third position and are eight minutes and 20,1 seconds behind the leaders. They were followed by the German Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in a time of 3:34.24,4. In third place were the South African/Austrian duo of Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata (team MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon) in a time of 3:34.32,6.
The Bulls team are still in the overall lead and ahead by 6 minutes and 18,2 seconds (17:04.21,2). Team MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon have made an impressive comeback after yesterday’s technical problems and are now in second position overall (17:10.39,4), and Songo-Specialized by DCM claimed the third position overall after Stage 4 (17:12.41,3). The Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, of team Trek World Racing are in fourth place overall having moved up from the 6th position in a time of 17:20.48,8.
Says Burry Stander of Songo-Specialized by DCM: “We were all still together at Water Point 3 today as all the teams are battling for the Leader jersey. But Christoph kept attacking, attacking, attacking and I think the other teams could just not hang on any longer. When we hit the last saddleback, it was quite easy to break away.” Adds Sauser: “I felt very good today. I looked at the stage profile yesterday and knew it was going to be a cross-country stage which is really our strength. It would be great if we could ride like this every day. Tomorrow’s trail ride will also work in our favour because cross-country riders can ride hard from the start. Hopefully we’ll be feeling good and not too tired. This is also a mental game and you have to be prepared to suffer. I don’t like gradual climbs – it’s always the same – up, up, up. As long as I have small downhills in between, I’m okay. We’ll also have to be careful that we don’t have mechanical problems – it’s always such a fine line.”
According to Karl Platt of the Bulls Team, Sauser and Stander put on the pressure early on in the stage. “Christoph and Burry tried to outdistance us today with brute force. We managed to stay with them for some time, but once in a while we had to let go and catch up with them afterwards. It was a really stressful day - the terrain was extremely difficult. But if we only lose one or one and a half minutes in the upcoming days, that’s okay.”
Kevin Evans of Team MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon, reckons Songo-Specialized by DCM had it easy for the first three days. “We’ve been fighting for the last three days, especially with our bad luck yesterday when Alban had to run for 2km to cross the finish line. Christoph and Burry pushed very hard today – even the Bulls could not follow in the end. But we’re only halfway and anything can still happen. Tomorrow’s time trial will also suit us. Hopefully we can recover and sleep a bit later tomorrow so that we’re well rested. We’re in a good position.” Lakata says that his legs were not in top form during Stage 4. “My legs were quite sore today. We’re still focusing on the Leader jersey and are still in good shape. With 4 stages to go, anything can happen and we’re definitely still in the running to win the race. Today we only had problems with our legs – riding on the rim yesterday cost a lot of energy, and stages 2 and 3 were hard on us. We hope we don’t have any major punctures and mechanicals from now on. Kevin has a lot of experience with the time trail and we’ll definitely try our best. It’s a short but challenging course which I think will suit us.”
Jose Hermida of Multivan Merida 2, who finished in fourth place today (3:38.18,9) and is in tenth position overall, says the spirit of the Absa Cape Epic is what keeps him going. “Every afternoon after the stage you ask yourself why you’re doing this, only to get up the next morning, see all the smiling faces and feel motivated again. It was lovely to finish at the Worcester school today and have all the kids cheering us on – it really motivated us and created a fantastic atmosphere.”
The Flückiger brothers, Mathias and Lukas, finished in fifth place today, and are fourth overall (17:20.48,8). Says Lukas: “We’re happy with our results and are in a stable position. We ride for a stage win every day, but today our legs weren’t great. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
DCM Chrome defends African leader jersey
Max Knox and Brandon Stewart of DCM Chrome finished in eighth place today (3:41.36,0) and are in the eleventh place overall (17:47.31,6). They took the African Leader jersey from Mannie Heymans and Marc Bassingthwaigthe (Garmin adidas) yesterday and also defended it today.
Says Max Knox of DCM Chrome: “Today’s stage was definitely a lot harder than we thought. The conditions were difficult and it was very windy, but we’re happy with our African leader jersey. We stayed with the leaders for as long as we could, and then had our own race.”
Rothaus-CUBE new overall leaders in Ladies Category
The first ladies to complete Stage 4 were Kristine and Anna-Sofie Noergaard (team Rothaus-CUBE) in a time of 4:30.03,7, winning in their category for the second day in a row. They have moved to first position overall (21:26.56,5). They were again followed by the winners of the first two stages, Hannele Steyn-Kotze and Ivonne Kraft (team Sludge Ladies) in a time of 4:41.57,3, who are now placed second overall (21:35.39,0). In third place were Giuliana Vitali and Tamara Horn (team bike2help.ch – Big Tree) who finished in a time of 5:03.45,7, placing them in third position overall (23:24.58,7). Julia Skea and Carla Rowley of Team RBS Biogen finished fourth in a time of 5:10.16,8 (4th position overall – 23:45.44,9).
Says Anna-Sofie Noergaard of team Rothaus-CUBE: “Today was really nice. We were riding at our own pace again and caught up with the leading women. We just kept going and weren’t all that interested in winning – we also like to have fun.” Adds Kristine Noergaard: “I really liked today’s stage. The last part was on tar which was so nice and very unlike the Absa Cape Epic. I also enjoyed the dirt tracks as well as the downhill.”
Ivonne Kraft of the Sludge Ladies Team felt really good today. “I had a good day but it was tough for Hannele. She was completely empty and couldn’t take in any food. I pushed her up almost every uphill - I could enjoy the ride but she had to fight all the way. The only thing I didn’t like today was the cold – I was frozen. Luckily we had no technical problems and enough water. I’ll have to feed Hannele some fat today – she’s so skinny and has nothing left to burn. I think we can do this and get the Leader jersey back.” Says Hannele Steyn-Kotze: “I eat a lot but really battled a bit today. I worked very hard but the other girls rode extremely well. Ivonne's more experienced at doing time trials, so hopefully she can help tomorrow. But, I will not give up until we get to Lourensford Wine Estate.”
Second stage win for Wheeler-BIXS
Bärti Bucher and Esther Süss (Wheeler – BIXS) celebrated their second stage win in a time of 4:10.14,0 and moved up to second place overall (19:59.15,5). They were followed by Yolande Speedy and Paul Cordes (MTN Business Qhubeka) in a time of 4:13.10,4 who remain the overall leaders in their category (19:34.25,1). Nico Pfitzenmaier and Sally Bigham of the adidas Big Tree team finished in third place (4:15.39,6) and are third overall (20:15.34,2).
Ester Süss of the Wheeler – BIXS team says: “We cycled with Yolande and Paul to the second water point when they had a flat - they’re a very strong team. Today was very windy and sandy, but luckily we had no technical problems. I think we’re all starting to feel tired and really look forward to the time trial. The Mixed category is definitely more competitive than last year.” Adds Bärti Bucher: “We had no problems today, but you must know that Yolande and Paul can’t take it easy. We need more hard days to even out the field and as always, the Absa Cape Epic is never easy.”
Yolande Speedy of MTN Business Qhubeka says today was a tough day: “We had a flat and had to stop. Of course we were chasing Esther and Bärti all the way to the finish, but never caught up. It was a taxing day, but at least it was cooler than yesterday. And of course it was nice when the wind was behind us, but not when it came from the front.”
Hat trick for Cyclelab after winning stage 4
Cyclelab’s Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean ensured their third stage win in 4:03.18,0, and they remain the overall leaders in the Masters (19:24.01,4). They were followed by Adrian Enthoven and Gary Marescia (Cycle Lab Jag Foundation) in 4:17.42,0 and are placed second overall (20:34.38,0). In third place were Pieter van Rooyen and Milan Spolc (Oleander) in 4:25.58,0 with their second podium finish in this year’s race. They are also in third place overall in a time of (21:48.23,7). The Big Tree Masters Team Corrie Muller and Robert Sim finished in fourth place in a time of 4:37.43,1 and have moved to fourth place overall (21:40.33,9).
Cyclelab’s Andrew Mclean says it was a good day for them. “We’re not under pressure to take risks to defend the Leader jersey and rode at a good tempo with Thomas Frischknecht and some other riders. Of course our legs are getting worse as we get more tired, but luckily it’s the same for everyone. The course was also not as hard as the last three days, so I think everyone will enjoy it.”
Youngest rider still going strong
Nick Arthur (18), the youngest participant in this year’s Absa Cape Epic, is still going strong after the halfway mark of this year’s event has been reached, racing with his brother Mike as team Island Tribe.
Following in the footsteps of his father (Jim) and his brother, who both completed the Absa Cape Epic five times before, Arthur hopes to add another notch to the family cycling belt. After coming in at position 159 for stage 4 in the men’s division, he proudly says, “I am happy with our performance. This is my first epic and I’m still in the race. I just wish there was less sand and no railways we have to cross, but further than that I have no complaints.” Arthur had experienced two punctures in this stage and a few technical problems with his gear cables, but nothing serious enough to keep him away from the finish line.
The eighteen-year-old cyclist from Ballito in Natal turned the qualifying age (18) just in time to compete in this year’s race. “We are not competing competitively as completing the race is more of a personal challenge for both of us. After a few years we may consider the competitive side of the event. Although this is an endurance race people tend to forget that your mind has to tolerate certain elements as well. You have to have a mind like a rock. That’s why it has been easy to train with my brother; I can be true to my partner and to myself.”
The stage that Nick Arthur found particularly challenging was stage two. “The single track and rocky terrain made this stage difficult for us. There was one point where I had slammed on my breaks and endured a hard fall. I hurt my hip a little bit but fortunately it wasn’t anything serious.”
When it comes to his young age Arthur believes that he is at a disadvantage as older riders have more experience. “I am not intimidated by these riders as we aren’t participating for competitive reasons, and it’s not like I see them speed past me. All I see is my brother’s back tyre,” he chuckles. “It takes years to get the miles and legs of the pro-riders.”
Arthur’s greatest fear when starting the race was that he wouldn’t be able to finish it. “I don’t have that fear anymore now that we’ve reached the half way mark. But I do still fear that I might crash. With this race you don’t know what to expect during the next stage. Anything can happen!”
Presenting sponsor adidas ‘the face’ of the Absa Cape Epic
The presenting sponsor of the Absa Cape Epic, adidas, has a significant presence at the event every year. As the global leader in sporting goods and a renowned brand in cycling, it has a rich history in sponsoring adventurous mountain bike races like the Absa Cape Epic. adidas largely participates in creating ‘the face’ of the Absa Cape Epic through unique Zebra-striped leader jerseys, stunning participant T-shirts, high quality competitor bags, excellent merchandising products like caps and bandanas, and more.
Axel Burkhardt, head of Olympic Sports, Cycling and Outdoor of adidas Global Sports Marketing says that adidas produces new cycling gear specifically for the Absa Cape Epic each year that is only available at the event. “We manufacture about 30 different models and styles for the event, and the feedback that we have received is just incredible. Some items are actually sold out already, which is a pity for those who have waited too long. But it’s always difficult to determine how many items to order before the Absa Cape Epic – some years you have items left, other years they are sold out by the second day.” He says that the current range available at the event includes arm and leg warmers, jerseys (from long, short to no sleeve), T-shirts in all shapes and colours, and more. “We also made sure that we have everything that a cyclist may need – ranging from sunglasses to shoes, as it is easy for a cyclist to forget something when arriving at the event. So we have emergency replacement products available in most sizes, ensuring that all riders can compete in top form.”
At the Absa Cape Epic this year adidas also offers the BEMER electro magnetic service, which is free for all riders. Four benches are available for this treatment with two staff members looking after those making use of the remarkable procedure. Burkhardt explains: “The procedure actually helps the riders to recover much faster. It assists in thinning the blood and ensures that cyclists are in top form and fit for the next day. It usually takes around twenty minutes and is available in a variety of intensities. We encourage the Absa Cape Epic enthusiasts to make use of this service as they’ll definitely notice a difference.”
adidas eyewear has a secret weapon
Twenty-three-year old Neil Schaffer, a merchandise assistant at the adidas eyewear section, has been an eager biking enthusiast since he completed his first Cape Argus Cycle Tour at the tender age of nine.
Schaffer comes from a family of cycling enthusiasts, so it is therefore no surprise that he has completed the Argus for fourteen consecutive years. “It was actually my mom who got my dad into cycling and now my dad has completed the Argus twenty one times. My mom took a step back from cycling, but along with my sister and brother they don’t miss a race. They’re especially fond of the Tour de France.” He adds: “I would go to races with my dad when I was very young and then decided I wanted to compete as well.”
Although this is the first Absa Cape Epic Schaffer is working at, he has been a spectator for the last three years, supporting several of his participating friends. “It’s tough watching them when I actually want to be part of the race,” he commented after one of the exhausted cyclists greeted him. “This race offers so much more than road racing. After a road race the cyclists get in their cars and go home, but at the Epic cyclists cool down and chat while cleaning up. I’ve realised that these cyclists are also funnier and friendlier. That could be because the race has such a great vibe. There is so much hype surrounding it all.”
In Schaffer’s opinion, the back markers are the most determined of all the cyclists. “It’s easy to be at the front and cycle for four hours but to be at the back and take eight hours to complete the exact same race is tough. It takes determination.”
At the adidas eyewear section Schaffer is one of two members responsible for setting up their stand, supplying free sun glasses to those that have vouchers, cleaning adidas sun glasses and selling adidas products to the public. “We’re here to get the adidas brand out there and to provide customer support wherever it is needed.”
“My dream is to complete the Absa Cape Epic and the Giro del Capo, which I’ve done once but couldn’t complete because I crashed,” he concluded.
Time trial awaits cyclists during Stage 5
For Stage 5 (the time trial of the 2010 Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas) this year’s participants will ride for only 27km and climb a total of 860m. In this time trial stage, teams will set off at 30 second intervals, in reverse order, according to their overall ranking. The route forms a figure of eight through the foothills of Brandwacht, taking the race along the western side of Worcester through semi-desert vegetation. Eight hundred and sixty metres of climbing is a great deal on any mountain biking day, but over only 27km it will be extremely demanding. However, the relatively short time spent in the saddle today, will give riders a chance to recover and prepare for what is yet to come.