The 2023 Absa Cape Epic Queen Stage delivered big time with shake ups not only stage results in the various categories, but also dishing up a change in leader jerseys in more than one category.
The transition stage from the Oak Valley Estate to Lourensford Wine Estate over 102km (2300m of climbing) included the brutal Groenlandberg and a downhill portage of the Gantouw Pass.
After a day described by more than one (read many) rider as “one of the most brutal days ever on a bike” the stage is set for more riveting racing over the last two days of the Absa Cape Epic.
The moment local mountain bike enthusiasts were waiting for finally came true when local legend Oliver “Pinner” Munnik and Rogan Smart (Signal Racing) won a stage in the brand-new Amateur category. Munnik and Smart, both from South Africa, are the Amateur kings of the Queen Stage. They won the stage in 5 hours, 6 minutes, and 58 seconds.
Second on the day was Australian brothers Hayden and Oliver (James Brothers) followed by Australian Mitchell Docker and his American teammate Ian Boswell (Digger and the Doughboy).
Munnik and Smart won by almost six minutes and the gap to the top spot of the overall standings is now 9 minutes. The James Brothers are third overall (+28.07).
There is still no stopping Refilwe Mogorosi and Omphile Mataung (Exxaro Academy Ladies) who continued to dominate women’s racing for the Amateur category by winning yet another stage. Their time of 8:09.13 was another strong performance this time beating Charline Chatue and Andisiwe Skeyi (Charsiwe) and another South African combo Buhle Beauty Nontobeko Ngobese and Ricci-Lee Brookstone (ABSA SheUntamed 2023) in second and third place respectively.
In the overall standings there was no change. Ngobese and Brookstone are second and third is Nicola Biani and Kerry-Lee Pienaar (SheUntamed Bellas).
Absa Cape Epic-legend Karl Platt (Ger) and his Spanish teammate Tomi Misser (Legends BULLS:MONDRAKER) completed their fightback for overall honours and are now the new leaders in the NTT Masters category.
Platt and Misser stormed to another victory in 4:44.21. South Africans Craig Uria and Michael Posthumus (Restonic) who started the day in the overall first position came in second (+18.15) and the Czech combination of Pavel Gonda and Jan Fisnar (Czech Rockets Outfindo) was third (+25.31).
The defending NTT Masters champion Platt and his new teammate overturned an overnight deficit of 13 minutes for a lead of 5 minutes going into the penultimate stage. Gonda and Fisnar are still in third place overall more than an hour behind.
The comeback has been nothing short of remarkable seeing that Platt and Misser were 30 minutes behind after the second stage. Misser struggled with a stomach bug for the first few days of the Absa Cape Epic, but since Stage 3 they have been fighting back for that overall victory that is now within grasp with two days to go.
With an overall lead of more than three hours the question of if former Absa Cape Epic Champions Sweden’s Jennie Stenerhag and Switzerland’s Esther Süss (cm.com ladies) will win the first ever NTT Masters Women’s title, but rather will they do it with a perfect record?
Since they donned the blue NTT Masters jerseys, they have kept the standards high and won all the stages and now have a more than three-hour lead over Carina Mohr and Nina Hartleb (Scott Sport Germany) and South Africans Tessa Keers and Nicola Walker (CM.com).
Third on the stage was South Africans Carli Cooke and Natasja Kask (Absa #SheUntamed).
The Grand Masters category defending champions Dutchman Bart Brentjens and Brazil’s Abraao Azevedo (KMC Mtb Racing) won yet another stage (5:15.48), but it was the teams behind them who mixed up the results a bit. SCOTT-SRAM Old Dudes from Switzerland Thomas Frischknecht and Urs Gerig came in second spot some 20 minutes later. Another new team to the podium the Argentinians Leandro Oddino and Leonardo Ariel Alochis (Oddi’s Nuts) took the last step on the podium for the stage.
With this performance the Swiss duo of Frischknecht (father of Andri) and Gerig moved into third place overall. The Italians Loris Tomat and Michele Gallina (FVG) are still second overall. The time difference between second and third place is some 20 minutes.
Great Grand Masters
Bart Meganck (Bel) and Cyrille Chossegross (Fr, 63CC/APHM) brought an end to the winning streak of Frenchmen Rene Vallee and Alain Broglia (Forestiere Rosti 2) by winning the Queen Stage in 6:27.58. South Africans Graham Monteith and Robin Olbrich (Emergency Diesel) were second (+30.32) and the overall leaders crossed the finish-line in third place (+33.05).
Thanks to their stage win Meganck and Chossegross moved up to the third spot on the podium. The Frenchmen still have a lead of more than one hour over Monteith and Olbrich with two stages to go.
The Toyota Mixed category was another category where the overall standings changed. Spanish YouTuber Ibon Zugasti and his Belgium teammate Alice Pirard (Orbea Factory) took control of the race by winning the stage in 5:31.20 and opening up a gap of more than 30 minutes to closest rivals and former overall leaders South Africans Riaan Weideman and Samantha Sanders (Toyota Gazoo Racing), who finished third (+38.20) in the stage.
Second on the day was Bikehigh’s Jasper Lefevre (Bel) and Ariadna Rodenas Pascual (Sp). They are third overall.
Absa African Jersey
Philip Buys (SA) and his Namibian teammate Alexander Miller (PYGA Euro Steel) were the first African team over the finish-line in the toughest stage of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic. They finished in 11th position. Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning (Insect Science Pro) were second and in third place was South Africa’s Marco Joubert and Pieter du Toit (Imbuko TypeDev).
In the Absa African Men's jersey race Buys and Miller strengthened their number one position over Joubert and Du Toit in second and Du Toit and Bontekoning in third.
In the Absa African Women’s jersey competition Mauritian Kim Le Court and Vera Looser from Namibia won another stage (5:23.46) wearing the Absa African jerseys even though these jerseys still belong to South Africans Candice Lill and Amy Wakefield (e-Fort.net|SeattleCoffee Co) who are the overall leaders in the CM.com Women’s race and the prestigious orange jerseys take preference. In third place on the stage and overall is another South African combination Tiffany Keep and Hayley Preen (Valley Electrical).
William Sello Majapholo and Obvious Khorommbi (Exxaro/RMB) brought an end to the winning streak of overall leaders Zola Ngxakeni and Ntlantla Nonkasa (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne 3) by winning the fifth stage in 5:30.23. Ngxakeni and Nonkasa finished second and Tlotlo Mohweledi Selala en Halalisani Njabulo Ndebele (Exxaro/PEPTO) took the last spot on the podium.
Even though the overall lead did not change with Ngxakeni and Nonkasa still in green, there was in a change in the third position with Masixole Zondani and Kabelo Alphues Maduna (Exxaro/GIANT) moving up in the ranks. Today’s stage winners are second overall.
The wearers of the Exxaro Women’s Jerseys are Refilwe Mogorosi and Omphile Mataung (Exxaro Academy Ladies), though they are racing in the white Amateur jerseys.
Lourensford Wine Estate, 78km (2300m climbing)
For the first time in Absa Cape Epic history, outside of a time trial, an entire stage will be hosted by a single landowner. The Prologue and Stage 1 of the 2022 race hinted at the spectacular mountain biking within the vast Lourensford Wine Estate. 2023 delves into the details. Exploring trails both old and new. Taking on sculpted icons like the Lourensford Ultimate and rugged remains of South Africa’s first foray into trail building, like the Blue Gum Dam singletrack. All 82 kilometres and 2 300 metres of climbing take place within the boundaries of the estate, and given the quality of the trails there is no compromising on the route, despite never crossing a fence. Rather, the riding is superb throughout, with the added benefit of being exceptionally spectator-friendly. The course crosses over itself as it skirts on the estate dams, creating a unique opportunity for fans to watch the live broadcast in the chill zone, then cheer on their favourites as they pass close by the race village, before going back to the televisions for the second half of the stage and eventually welcoming the teams across the finish.