On his fourth attempt, Burry Stander became the first South African to win the Absa Cape Epic at Lourensford Wine Estate near Cape Town on Sunday.
On his fourth attempt, Burry Stander became the first South African to win the Absa Cape Epic when the eight-day, 707km mountain bike race finished at Lourensford Wine Estate near Cape Town on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Stander and his Swiss teammate, Christoph Sauser, racing for the 36One-Songo-Specialised team, finished fifth on the eighth and final stage, but had built up a lead of more than 10 minutes over their nearest rivals during the gruelling race and simply had to finish without encountering any problems to secure one of the most coveted titles in international bicycle racing.
Stander, the 2009 Under-23 world champion in the Olympic cross-country discipline, combined well with Sauser, a similarly versatile racer, to capture the title on their fourth attempt.
For 34-year-old Sauser, the victory was one of his career highlights.
“I won before in 2006, but since then the Cape Epic has become so competitive, attracting all the top riders in the world,” said Sauser. .
“It’s a different race now and I’m pleased I could be a part of helping Burry become the first South African winner.
The final stage was a relatively short, but testing 59km leg from Oak Valley to Lourensford with 1 700m of ascent.
It was won by the Swiss Fluckiger brothers Mathias and Lukas who broke clear early on and finished in a time of 2,33.18.
The all-German Multivan Merida two pair of Jochen Kaess and Hanne Genze finished the stage in second place and also completed the race in second place overall—more than seven seconds behind the winners.
Three-time winners and defending champions, Germans Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt, completed the final podium places 21 minutes off the pace.
Stander and Sauser had to contend with a puncture that cost them four minutes early on during the final stage, but after a hard chase, they managed to rejoin the front riders.
Stander also revealed that he’d picked up a viral infection in his mouth on stage 4, but which he concealed so as not to show any sign of weakness to his rivals.
“Winning the prologue put pressure on us from the first day,” he said.
“You can’t show any weakness in such a strong field.
“My mouth was in agony, but fortunately the infection it didn’t affect the rest of my body,” said Stander.
South African marathon champion, Karien van Jaarsveld gave the host nation a second category win when she and her British teammate, Sally Bigham claimed a dominant victory in the women’s race.
Their consistency throughout the eight-day event paid dividends, giving them a final victory margin of 1,33.35 over Italian Eva Lechner and Swiss Nathalie Schneitter, who won the final stage and in the process, moved from fourth to second overall.
Third place overall was the all-South African Absa aBreast team of Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth.
“Sally is a very experienced mountain bike racer. It was a real privilege to race with her,” said Van Jaarsveld, who only started racing bicycles less than two years ago.
“Leading the race for so long came with a lot of pressure, but we never let it affect our initial strategy, which was to finish and to race every stage with a combination of strength and caution.”—Sapa