“Today was slightly less painful,” exclaimed Kleinhans before revealing that Langvad was the main protagonist in the day’s final act.
“Annika is such a great partner. Today’s stage was really about teamwork and she was really awesome and made the difference when we dropped Topeak Ergon. Then, it was really great racing with Sport for Good. Coming into the finish, which was a little bit different to yesterday, she was motor-pacing me.”
Langvad, for her part, wasn’t going to let the Sport for Good pair of Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina take the stage win without a fight.
“I knew they wanted to go for the stage win but it was in our interests too, so I asked Ariane that if she’s up for a sprint finish then I am too.”
The two teams rode within touching distance of each other for the majority of the 75km stage out and back from CPUT Wellington, during which positioning was important in and out of the famous Welvanpas trails.
“Just after Water Point 2 they got away from us,” said Kleinhans. “We weren’t worried, but we didn’t know whether we would be able to close the gap…”
Former Olympic gold medallist Spitz said she had enjoyed today’s stage: “It was cross-country style so it was a nice fast one. We tried to make some nice moves, especially when we left the water point before Ariane and Annika. There was a flat section after that and they closed the gap and caught us.”
Spitz and Belomoina continued racing close to Kleinhans and Langvad thereafter, but the Swiss-Danish pair proved unbeatable.
“They are both strong, so we are very satisfied with second place today. In the closing stages I said to Yana that it’s better to stay behind them because they know the route. It was going to be easier to follow their path through the corners and save energy by not having to concentrate as hard,” said Spitz.
Asked about her first experience of the Absa Cape Epic, Spitz said there had been moments on the first stage when she couldn’t see too well because of all the dust, “but I’ve loved the last three stages”.
Asked if she would like to come back and win the race, Spitz laughed: “Maybe … why not?”.
Meanwhile, after two days of suffering in the searing heat, Spitz’s Ukrainian partner felt much more in her comfort zone in the mild conditions riders were greeted with on Thursday.
“Today was a very good day for me – all stage I still had energy and my legs felt good so it was fun racing with everybody. It was good weather for me, not so hot, so it was much better.”
Despite matching Spur-Specialized blow-for-blow, Spitz and Belomoina remain in third place overall, behind Topeak Ergon’s Sally Bigham and Adel Morath. The English-German pair came home third on the day, but over five minutes behind the leading pair and are now 12.49 behind Kleinhans and Langvad overall.
“There were some nice trails out there but we were pretty much on our own the whole day after losing contact with the first two teams on the first climb. At times we closed the gap, but not enough to be in contention so we saved ourselves a little bit,” said Bigham.
“It was nice to have a shorter stage today as it gave us a bit more time to eat, stretch and look after ourselves; especially because tomorrow is a long stage.”
Morath, for her part, arrived back at CPUT Wellington in far better spirits than she had the previous day.
“My knee was sore again today but I enjoyed my time on the bike, it was a very nice stage but it’s frustrating losing time to the other teams.”
Friday is a transition stage that will see the riders cover 93km from Wellington to Boschendal Wine Estate in Stellenbosch but with 2 500m of climbing, it is billed as the toughest stage of this year’s Absa Cape Epic – the Queen stage.
“Our main focus is the the orange jersey, not stage wins, so we might take it safe tomorrow,” concluded Kleinhans.