It was a traditional final day, all culminating at Lourensford Wine Estate where a hero’s welcome awaited the tired riders. It was a short day with a late start, but definitely not a free ride to the finish! A few final hurdles challenged riders, like the climb up Nuweberg on forestry roads, with its steep and washed out descent. Once over the Hottentots Mountain Range, riders enjoyed the vistas over False Bay, all the way back to Cape Town where their journey began some odd 700km ago. A final steep single track climb and riders celebrated their homecoming as they entered the Lourensford Bowl.
Nino Schurter and Philip Buys of SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing along with Scott's second team African leaders Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns were in the lead all the way to Lourensford with Torpado Factory’s Roel Paulissen and Riccardo Chiarini still gunning for third spot on the overall winner's podium. Team Bulls 2 Simon Stiebjahn and Tim Boehme gave their all to limit the risk of losing the third place on overall podium. The Scott teams dropped Torpado Factory after the portage section. At the finish line, winner of today’s stage Matthys Beukes was very emotional. He and team mate Gert Heyns made Epic history by being the first ever SA team to win the final stage. They also won the Absa African special jersey.
Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans of RECM 2 crushed the rest of the field in the Women's category and won the final stage into Lourensford Wine Estate.
Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns of SCOTT Factory Racing won the final stage of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in 3:00.02,3 in a sprint finish with Swiss/South African duo Nino Schurter and Philip Buys (SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing) in 3:00.02.6. Roel Paulissen and Riccardo Chiarini of Torpado Factory finished in third in 3:02.24,2. Buys also finished in second place with Beukes in the final stage last year, and Schurter in third.
Says stage winner, Matthys Beukes of SCOTT Factory Racing: “Winning a stage in the Absa Cape Epic with my best friend in the world, isn’t something I can describe. I’m so happy after coming so close last year and not winning the stage.” Adds teammate Heyns: “I never expected this. People were telling me that at 20 I’m too young to want to do the Epic. We won a stage, won the African jersey and finished in the top 10 overall. I would never have expected this – not even in my wildest dreams, but I’m so happy. With today's victory and the African jersey I showed what I can do. It’s been an amazing experience riding with Matthys. Today with Nino and Philip was also very special.”
Robert Mennen and Kristian Hynek of Topeak-Ergon Racing were overall winners of the world’s foremost mountain bike stage race, after finishing in an overall time of 30:31.59,2. In second place overall were a disappointed Christoph Sauser, bidding for his fifth win, and František Rabon of Meerendal Songo Specialized in 30:42.22,4. Team Bulls 2 of Tim Boehme and Simon Stiebjahn were ecstatic with their third place overall in 30:45.25,2. Mennen and Hynek won with a lead time of 10 minutes, 23,2 seconds.
Says Mennen Of Topeak-Ergon Racing: “There was no way I would’ve thought that we’d win the Epic. I’m so happy to win the biggest mountain bike stage race in the world. I don't know if I’ll ever be able to say thank you enough to the Centurion-Vaude guys. They played such a big part and I’ll never be able to repay them." Hynek adds: “I knew we were strong and my hope was a podium finish and some stage wins, but flat tyres ruined our chances of stage victories! It’s an amazing feeling to be on the podium. Now I want to celebrate and rest. That’s all I’m thinking about!"
For four-times Absa Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser of Meerendal Songo Specialized, it was a different experience than the previous three years, when he won the event. “We wanted the win, but it’s not how it worked out for us. We did all we could and fought every single day for the victory." Rabon continues: “I’m happy it’s over. It was my first Epic and I think it’s great to finish second, but that’s not what we came for, so naturally we’re disappointed. We battled every day and always gave it our best.”
Stiebjahn of the Bulls 2 team suffered in the final stage. “We were fighting the whole way to make sure that we finish on the podium. And we did it! It’s awesome." Boehme agrees: “The battle for the third place on the podium was really hard. Today we just went full gas. I’m happy that it’s over and that we managed to keep our third place."
Sasol Women’s Category
Swiss/Danish duo Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad (RECM 2) dominated this year’s race and won their category in an overall time of 34:54.53,7 with a lead time of 37 minutes and 44 seconds. They also won the final stage in 3:32.59,0. In second place overall were the Meerendal team of Esther Süss and Sally Bigham in 35:32.38,1, who also finished in second place in the final stage (3:45.06,6). In third place overall were Jennie Stenerhag and Theresa Ralph of Cape Brewing Company in 37:35.38. Milena Landtwing and Hielke Elferink (Meerendal Wheeler) finished in third place today in 3:48.31,9, but placed fourth overall in 38:13.15,5. It was also their first podium this year.
Kleinhans and Langvad walked away with the largest share of the women’s prize purse, amounting to R281 000 of the total prize purse. The women’s prize purse is equal to that of the men’s, and the largest for women in any cycling event in the world.
Says Langvad of RECM 2: “It’s surreal. I dreamt about it before the Epic. I'm feeling so great now and I’m so happy, I have no words. I’m thrilled that Ariane asked me and I said yes." Kleinhans adds: “I’m so grateful for my amazing partner who is mentally and physically tough. She was brilliant and I had a great time riding with her. It was hard every day, but I’m just so happy with the victory."
Bigham of Meerendal comments that "Ariane and Annika were the strongest team. They were super strong and well done to them. I had a great Epic. Esther suffered a bit, but we had a good time. I’m happy with the second place and also very grateful to Sasol Oil for giving the prize money."
Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo (BETCH.nl Superior Meerendal) reigned supreme in the Masters category and won the final stage (3:28.24,9) as well as the overall in a time of 33:53.04,1. South Africans Shan Wilson and Adrian Enthoven of Definitive Bikes finished second overall in 34:12.28,9, with Absa Masters Warren Squires and Nic White in third place overall in 36:34.01,3. Brentjens and Azevedo won by 19 minutes, 24,8 seconds.
Says Brentjens of BETCH.nl Superior Meerendal: "We got stronger everyday and to finish this way is amazing. It’s a great end to a great Epic." His teammate Azevedo adds: “Riding with Bart was a great experience and very special. I enjoyed being part of the Epic and the team. I enjoyed every day.”
The South African and Austrian duo, Andrew Mclean and Heinz Zoerweg of Cycle Lab Toyota won the Grand Masters overall in a time of 33:56.37,5. They won the Prologue as well as six stages of this year’s race. They were followed by Bärti Bucher and Doug Brown of Meerendal Songo Specialized 4 in an overall time of 34:56.24,2 with Absa Grand Masters Eben Espach and Corrie Muller in third place overall in 36:41.34,6. Bärti Bucher and Doug Brown of Meerendal Songo Specialized 4 won their first stage in this year’s race in 3:33.36,4. Mclean and Zoerweg won this category by 59 minutes, 46,7 seconds.
Says Mclean of Cycle Lab Toyota: “It’s all about the jersey. We ended up winning almost all the stages, but in the end all that we wanted was the jersey. It was a great experience riding with someone I didn't really know before the time. We worked so well together despite that. I had a good time with Heinz.”
Yannick Lincoln and Aurelie Halbwachs of Synergy won the Mixed category overall in a time of 37:07.20,1. They were followed by Gal Tsachor and Idit Shub of Trek Israel in 39:03.36,6 with Tom Janas and Bettina Uhlig of Sportograf.com – BQ Cycling in third place in 39:42.31,3. They (Sportograf.com – BQ Cycling) also won today’s stage in 3:41.28,9. Synergy beat their closest rivals by 1 hour, 56 minutes and 16,5 seconds.
Says Lincoln of Synergy: “I’ve never experienced the Epic like this. It’s the biggest victory ever. I can't believe it. We never expected it." Halbwachs adds: “In 2009 I ended 24th and now I won! It’s not something I really have words for."
Absa African Jersey
The fastest all-African team was Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns of SCOTT Factory Racing in an overall time of 31:42.52,4. In second place were Erik Kleinhans and Nico Bell of RECM in 32:05.11,5 with RED-E Blend’s Andrew Hill and Charles Keey in third place in 32:59.37,3.
Siphosenkosi Madolo and Azukile Simayile of team Meerendal Songo Specialized 16 won the Exxaro special jersey in an overall time of 35:40.05,9. They also won the final stage in 3:31.08,9 and finished in 30th overall (GC).
Comments Madolo: “This is what we wanted. We came to win and to actually finish first and take the Exxaro jersey home, is what we hoped for and dreamt about. I can't stop smiling right now!"
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Source: Absa Cape Epic press release
Photo: Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS