Scott-SRAM and Investec songo Specialized seal victory at 2019 Absa Cape Epic

At the Grand Final of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic, former winners Nino Schurter and Annika Langvad on Sunday completed their objectives of guiding two race newbies to victories in the last leg of the gruelling eight-day race around the Western Cape.

 

Men’s category

Multiple World Champion Schurter and his Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing partner, European Champion Lars Forster, wrapped up a tense week of racing in which they had to fight back from a day of mechanical dramas to beat Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) by seven-and-a-half minutes overall.

“This was amazing,” Schurter said of the title after the finish. “It’s a really special one to win. It’s really tough to win this race you need to have a lot of good luck and a strong team. We are super stoked about it.”

“Yesterday I was suffering and today I was suffering more,” a visibly delighted Forster explained how the final day played out. “Luckily I had a strong horse with me who still had some left in the tank.”

Schurter and Forster went into the final stage from Stellenbosch University to Val de Vie Estate with a comfortable eight-minute lead over second-placed Cannondale Factory Racing. This meant they had to watch only Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini to cap off a successful week and claim overall honours at the 2019 Absa Cape Epic.

Their conservative run to the finish allowed other teams to gun for coveted Grand Finale stage honours. Queen Stage victors Matthys Beukes and Phil Buys of PYGA Euro Steel seized the initiative early, attacking up a climb in Jonkershoek. The only team who could stay with them was KROSS-SPUR, who had been aggressive all week, winning various Dimension Data Hotspots but to date had been unable to convert that form into a stage win. A win they desperately wanted after being put out of GC contention with mechanical issues on Stage 1.

While the likes of CST Sandd, Trek Selle San Marco, both 7C CBZ WILIER teams, Specialized Foundation NAD as well as the Team BULLS outfits of Heroes and Young Guns were left to chase across a route which featured the best of Jonkershoek, Vuurberg, Boschendal and Val de Vie’s trails, KROSS-SPUR Racing and the South Africans worked well together all the way to the finish.

Onto Val de Vie Estate and the long final stretch it came down to a bunch sprint, which saw Matthys Beukes cross the line first, but Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez and Ondřej Cink followed closely in second and third, giving them stage honours.

“It was so so close,” said Gutierrez at the finish. “It was the shortest stage but still very tough with lots of singletrack and many climbs.”

“A stage victory is super important,” he added outlining how they had to change their strategy of overall GC aspirations after their disastrous Stage 1 mechanical. “We were super focused on a stage win after that; finally, on the last opportunity on the last stage, we managed that, so it is very special.”

It also proved a special day for Sebastian Fini and Martins Blums of CST Sandd who finished on the stage podium for the first time in the race. As well as SpecializedFoundationNAD’s Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers, who finished sixth on the day doing enough to stay in fifth overall and win the Absa African Men’s Jersey.

Buys and Beukes’ performance on stage 7 saw them as the first all African team across the line, but they were never in contention for the overall Absa African Men’s Jersey title after a consistent eight days from Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers (Specialized Foundation NAD). Hatherly and Beers ended fifth on GC after crossing the line sixth on Sunday. Marco Joubert and Nicol Carstens (Imbuko Giant) ended up second, just under 40 minutes back.

Men’s category

Stage Results

  1. KROSS-SPUR 14-1 Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spain) 14-2 Ondřej Cink (Czech Republic) 02:53.07,3
    2. PYGA Euro Steel 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 02:53.07,4 +0,1
    3. CST Sandd 19-1 Sebastian Fini (Denmark) 19-2 Martins Blums (Latvia) 02:54.02,2 +54,9

Final General Classification

  1. Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing 4-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 4-2 Lars Forster (Switzerland) 26:09.45,5
    2. Cannondale Factory Racing 3-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 3-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 26:17.22,4 +7.36,9
    3. Trek Selle San Marco 10-1 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 10-2 Samuele Porro (Italy) 26:26.22,8 +16.37,3

 

Women’s category

Langvad and Breggen collected their seventh stage win in the Grand Finale at Val de Vie Estate – the five-time World Marathon Champion Langvad, and World Road Race and Olympic Champion Van der Breggen attacked, leaving behind Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath (Summit Fin) within the last kilometre.

The Investec-songo-Specialized pair established their superiority on the opening Prologue on the slopes of Table Mountain National Park a week ago and never looked like being headed throughout the eight stages around the Western Cape. Even when Lill and Morath pounced on the chance of a stage win on Friday, when Van der Breggen was having a rare off day, it always looked like nothing more than a temporary setback for the dominant race winners.

In the 70km final stage from Stellenbosch University to Val De Vie Estate, Lill and Morath ended just 17 seconds behind but were over 30 minutes behind on GC. Ariane Lüthi and Maja Wloszczowska (Kross-Spur Racing) finished third on both the stage and overall standings.

Langvad was surprisingly calm about collecting her fifth win and matching the record of Absa Cape Epic greats Karl Platt and Christoph Sauser; her focus was rather on Van der Breggen and her first victory.

“The Absa Cape Epic is always so intense, the ups and downs … it has been so emotional this year. It has been such a good week and I have really enjoyed riding with Anna and forming a new partnership. It has been a blast.

“Every single time the Absa Cape Epic races are different. Bringing a roadie into the Absa Cape Epic and transforming her into a mountain biker has been so awesome. Watching her improving day by day has been such a great experience.”

Van der Breggen looked relieved to have completed what she believes to be her biggest ever week on a bike.

“It was a really tough week. It was such a new experience and so nice to do something totally new and see the boundaries where you can push your body.

“Sometimes I did not like the suffering, but it was such a nice thing to do. I do not think my body has ever been this tired and I do not think I have ever spent so many hours on the bike in one week. It was hard at the beginning, but now I know how it feels to achieve what we did.”

And what will it take to beat Langvad, who has now won all five times she has started the Absa Cape Epic?

“I don’t know” she said with a smile – and it seems her opponents don’t know either.

In the race for the Absa African Women’s Jersey, Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill of team Galileo Risk comfortably completed the stage in sixth position, the same place they ended all week, winning the Jersey for 2019.

Stage Results

  1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 03:33.46,1
    2. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 03:34.03,5 +17,4
    3. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 03:40.18,4 +6.32,3

Final General Classification

  1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 31:26.41,4
    2. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 31:57.04,1 +30.22,7
    3. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 32:35.09,3 +1:08.27,9

 

Other categories

In the Dimension Data Masters category, Jose Hermida and Joaquim Rodriguez (Merida Factory Racing) wrapped up the victory with their sixth stage win and an impressive 26th position overall. Ondrej Fojtik and José Silva (Mitas Head New Race) were second, over 70 minutes behind.

Abraao Azevedo and Bart Brentjens (CST Sandd Bafang) completed their clean-sweep in the Grand Masters category and the eight stage wins meant they beat Barti Bucher and Hans Juerg Gerber (Meerendal) by one hour 40 minutes.

The MMR Mixed team of former Road World Champion Oscar Freire Gomez and Natalia Fischer Egusquiza won the Grand Finale stage in the Virgin Active Mixed category. However, after a dominant performance throughout the week, the Cape Town-based German husband and wife team of Sebastian and Laura Stark (TBR-Werner) were category winners by 36 minutes. Miller Paneling’s David Miller and Shayna Powless were third, another 30 minutes further behind.

The Exxaro Jersey race saw the lead change hands numerous times throughout the week, but finally Lucky Mlangeni and Tshepo Tlou (Exxaro/PWC 1) took control over the final few days and their stage win on Sunday confirmed a 40-minute win over Luyanda Thobigunya and Baphelele Mbobo (BMT Fairtree), with Sean Baloyi and Anele Mtalana (Exxaro/RMB 1) third.

Dimension Data Masters category

Stage Results

  1. Merida Factory Racing 59-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 59-2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) 03:10.19,3
    2. MITAS HEAD NEW RACE 63-1 Ondrej Fojtik (Czech Republic) 63-2 José Silva (Portugal) 03:18.23,7 +8.04,4
    3. IBS Capital Allies 64-1 Erik Dekker (Netherlands) 64-2 Maarten Tjallingii (Netherlands) 03:21.16,5 +10.57,2

Final General Classification

  1. Merida Factory Racing 59-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 59-2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) 29:03.43,4
    2. MITAS HEAD NEW RACE 63-1 Ondrej Fojtik (Czech Republic) 63-2 José Silva (Portugal) 30:18.17,1 +1:14.33,7
    3. IBS Capital Allies 64-1 Erik Dekker (Netherlands) 64-2 Maarten Tjallingii (Netherlands) 30:21.28,9 +1:17.45,5

 

Grand Masters category

Stage Results

  1. CST Sandd Bafang 66-1 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 66-2 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 03:18.30,3
    2. Meerendal 65-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 65-2 Hans Juerg Gerber (Switzerland) 03:28.03,0 +9.32,7
    3. Zboys Racing 292-1 Tim Zimmerman (United States of America) 292-2 Troy Zimmerman (United States of America) 03:31.56,2 +13.25,9

Final General Classification

  1. CST Sandd Bafang 66-1 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 66-2 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 29:58.15,1
    2. Meerendal 65-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 65-2 Hans Juerg Gerber (Switzerland) 31:38.58,8 +1:40.43,7
    3. Zboys Racing 292-1 Tim Zimmerman (United States of America) 292-2 Troy Zimmerman (United States of America) 32:30.44,4 +2:32.29,3

 

Virgin Active Mixed category

Stage Results

  1. MMR MIXED 70-1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain) 70-2 Natalia Fischer Egusquiza (Spain) 03:36.16,8
    2. Nardinature 293-1 Florence Darbellay (Switzerland) 293-2 Eric Morard (Switzerland) 03:39.21,2 +3.04,4
    3. Miller Paneling 226-1 David Miller (United States of America) 226-2 Shayna Powless (United States of America) 03:41.09,5 +4.52,7

Final General Classification

  1. TBR-Werner 72-1 Sebastian Stark (Germany) 72-2 Laura Stark (Germany) 32:40.15,0
    2. MMR MIXED 70-1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain) 70-2 Natalia Fischer Egusquiza (Spain) 33:17.01,3 +36.46,3
    3. Miller Paneling 226-1 David Miller (United States of America) 226-2 Shayna Powless (United States of America) 33:44.31,7 +1:04.16,7

 

Absa African Men’s Jersey

Stage Results

  1. PYGA Euro Steel 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 02:53.07,4
    2. Specialized Foundation NAD 13-1 Alan Hatherly (South Africa) 13-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 02:56.43,6 +3.36,2
    3. IMBUKO GIANT 35-1 Marco Joubert (South Africa) 35-2 Nicol Carstens (South Africa) 02:57.55,2 +4.47,8

Final General Classification

  1. Specialized Foundation NAD 13-1 Alan Hatherly (South Africa) 13-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 26:47.12,0
    2. IMBUKO GIANT 35-1 Marco Joubert (South Africa) 35-2 Nicol Carstens (South Africa) 27:22.23,3 +35.11,3
    3. DSV Pro Cycling 28-1 Julian Jessop (South Africa) 28-2 Arno Du Toit (South Africa) 27:36.11,0 +48.59,0

 

Absa African Women’s Jersey

Stage Results

  1. Galileo Risk 56-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 56-2 Sarah Hill (South Africa) 03:59.35,2
    2. Land Rover Jaguars 46-1 Hannele Steyn (South Africa) 46-2 Katja Steenkamp (South Africa) 04:26.26,6 +26.51,4
    3. T and T 351-1 Jeanette Treherne (South Africa) 351-2 Vivienne Turvey (South Africa) 05:12.39,6 +1:13.04,4

Final General Classification

  1. Galileo Risk 56-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 56-2 Sarah Hill (South Africa) 35:01.38,4
    2. Land Rover Jaguars 46-1 Hannele Steyn (South Africa) 46-2 Katja Steenkamp (South Africa) 40:17.55,5 +5:16.17,1
    3. T and T 351-1 Jeanette Treherne (South Africa) 351-2 Vivienne Turvey (South Africa) 45:16.30,5 +10:14.52,1

 

Exxaro Jersey

Stage Results
1. EXXARO/PWC 1 82-1 Lucky Mlangeni (South Africa) 82-2 Tshepo Tlou (South Africa) 03:36.17,3
2. BMT Fairtree 446-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 446-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 03:37.39,7 +1.22,4
3. Exxaro/RMB 1 88-1 Kagiso Tlou (South Africa) 88-2 Patrick Rengane (South Africa) 03:38.03,2 +1.45,9

Final General Classification
1. EXXARO/PWC 1 82-1 Lucky Mlangeni (South Africa) 82-2 Tshepo Tlou (South Africa) 32:53.08,2
2. BMT Fairtree 446-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 446-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 33:32.19,1 +39.10,9
3. Exxaro Pepto Sport 81-1 Sean Baloyi (South Africa) 81-2 Anele Mtalana (South Africa) 34:05.00,0 +1:11.51,8

 

Photos: Nick Muzik | Xavier Briel