Frei, a silver medallist in the cross-country mountain bike event at the Tokyo Olympics this year, was thrilled with the win. “It’s unbelievable,” she said. “We came into the Absa Cape Epic to ride and do well, but I never expected to win this race. We have just been a good team all week. We got onto the podium and we never left. I’m really happy right now. Laura and I are good friends and I think this helped us throughout the week.”
Stigger added that the victory came down to teamwork. “Our success belongs to the entire team. Everyone has worked so hard for us. I can’t really describe the feelings right now; it’s just so cool.”
The NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team enjoyed a flawless 2021 Absa Cape Epic, barely putting a foot or pedal stroke wrong all week. They were powerful on the climbs and poetry on the descents. That theme continued on the Grand Finale, with Frei and Stigger accelerating away from the chasing pack up the Beulah and the Hawequa Climbs.
Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss (Faces CST) tried to respond, but the legs weren’t willing. Still, they were able to claim second overall in the Elite women’s race.
“On the start line this morning our plan was to attack early to go for the stage win,” said Lill. “We started off well and set the pace, but we quickly realised that the legs were gone after the last few days. Mariske also had a triple puncture, so we had a small panic with that, but we quickly sorted it out and kept moving.”
The 2021 Absa Cape Epic was the first that Strauss and Lill have ridden together, and the pair have finished every day with big smiles and hugs. Will they still be able to compete against each other in the future? “Haha - I am sure we will be able to race each other when the time comes,” said Strauss. “But yes, this race has really solidified our friendship this week. It’s been an awesome experience riding with Candice. I can’t wait to do more stage races together.”
Robyn de Groot and Ariane Lüthi (Salusmed) were also a first-time pairing for the 2021 Absa Cape Epic. They finished third overall in the women’s race, with De Groot admitting that she battled throughout the week.
“I didn’t feel myself at this event,” said De Groot on the finish line. “At some stages, I didn’t feel like I could make it to the finish. I had to put on a poker face and just hang on to this superstar Ariane.”
Lüthi was full of praise for her teammate and looks forward to more women riders taking on the challenge of the Absa Cape Epic. “Robyn gave it her all,” said Luthi. “She is a great competitor and it’s fantastic to ride with her. We gave it everything we had and we crossed the line! I encourage all women mountain bikers to enter the Epic. You can do it. You enter, you train and we would love to see you here.”
Stage 7 Results:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina FREI, Laura STIGGER 03:21:50.8
2) Faces CST, Candice LILL, Mariske STRAUSS 03:32:36.9 | +00:10:46.1
3) Salusmed, Ariane LÜTHI, Robyn DE GROOT 03:33:35.2 | +00:11:44.4
General classification after Stage 7:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina FREI, Laura STIGGER 30:39:52.8
2) Faces CST, Candice LILL, Mariske STRAUSS 31:20:51.6 | +00:40:58.8
3) Salusmed, Ariane LÜTHI, Robyn DE GROOT 31:32:38.0 | +00:52:45.1