Cross-country specialists Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing XC) continued their blazing assault on the 2017 Absa Cape Epic with another surprise stage win, while in the Hansgrohe Women’s category there was an excellent victory for Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC).
After a strong performance on Stage 1, the Swiss/Swedish combination have opened up a nearly nine-minute overall lead over Ascendis Health’s Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz.
On the 101km Stage 1 route that started and finished at Hermanus High School, Fumic and Avancini raced home in a time of 4:25.35, which means they retain the overall lead and the yellow jersey. They admitted, though, that an unfortunate tumble by Jaroslav Kulhavy with around 5km to go allowed them to cross the line first.
Second over the line was Christoph Sauser and an incredibly dusty Kulhavy (Investec-Songo-Specialized), while third on the day went to Jochen Kaess and Markus Kauffmann (Centurion Vaude).
Fumic, was beaming from ear to ear after another excellent performance. “Our plan was to get to the front and stay there. That way we could control the pace,” he said. “The plan worked very well for us today. It was hot out there, very hot, but we came out on top and are very pleased.”
In the race for the Hansgrohe Women’s category, it was literally blood sweat and tears. At the end of the stage, Stenerhag and Suss had sweated their way to a healthy overall lead over Spitz and De Groot.
The Ascendis Health duo, who started the stage with a 39-second lead after winning the Prologue on Sunday, had a tough day with a mechanical giving their rivals an early advantage, and then just as they started clawing their way back, Spitz fell down a crevice and cut her head badly.
Mariske Strauss and Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro) finished third and are now 13 minutes off the lead, but the big tears were from Ariane Lüthi and Adelheid Morath (Spur) whose hopes of victory seem to have almost certainly disappeared. The pre-race favourites are a massive 23-minutes behind Stenerhag and Suss and after two disappointing days in the saddle do not look to be able to mount any sort of a challenge against the top teams.
“We are now in the lead but so much can happen through the whole race. We must look after ourselves and not worry about the other riders and how they are riding,” said Suss.
In the tight fight for the Absa African Special Jersey, Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (PYGA Euro Steel) enjoyed a solid day and crossed the finish line (4:38.14,7) fractionally ahead of HB Kruger and Waylon Woolcock of BCX (4:38.15,3). They now have the overall lead in the category, with BCX breathing down their necks in second.
“We have the red jersey so that’s good for now. We are just looking to keep it steady for the next few days,” said Buys.
There was drama in the Virgin Active Mixed category with Olympic gold medalist Jenny Rissveds being taken to the medical tent straight after the finish. With partner Thomas Frischneckt (Scott Sram Nextlevel), she had fought back to beat South Africans Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (joBerg2c-Valencia) by just seven seconds in a brutal duel in the heat.
Rissveds crossed the line and then had to be taken to the medical tent by the race medics. Rissveds and Frischneckt now hold a one-minute 51-second lead overall. Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (RBI Tech-Mitas) are third, 12 minutes behind the leaders.
William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona of Diepsloot MTB Academy lead the race in the battle for the Exxaro Jersey after a stage one time of (5:39.48,5). They finished the first stage with thirteen minutes of daylight between them and second-placed Luyanda Thobigunya and Baphelele Mbobo (BMT Academy Fairtree).
In the Dimension Data Masters category, there was a stage win for Tomi Misser and Ibon Zugasti (Orbea Factory). They currently lead the category ahead of Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo (CST Sandd American Eagle) in second and Cadel Evans and George Hincapie (BMC Absa Racing Team) in third.
Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg (Meerendal CBC 3) took the stage win for the Grand Masters category. Overall, they lead Greg Anderson and Deon Kruger (Absa Bus Boys) in second and Waleed Baker and Marius Nel (Pitstop1Sport24hrs) in third.
Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic starts at Hermanus High School and finishes at Elandskloof in Greyton. The stage is a 102km long and has 2350m of climbing.