Success for Schurter, Stirnemann, Suss and Stenerhag at Absa Cape Epic

  • Wrap of all the action at the Grand Finale of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic and results
  • Absa African special jersey Highlights
  • Exxaro special jersey Highlights
  • 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans wins the Dimension Data Masters category and results
  • Epic is no honeymoon for the backmarkers

Success for Schurter, Stirnemann, Suss and Stenerhag at Absa Cape Epic

It was sweet success for Nino Schurter, Matthias Stirnemann, Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.

Swiss duo Schurter and Stirnemann (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) were first time winners of the men’s race, while Süss and Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC) claimed the Hansgrohe Women’s category. 

It was Stenerhag’s first win in her fourth attempt, while for Süss it was a third title after winning the Mixed in 2011 and the Women’s category in 2012. 

Stirnemann wins the Absa Cape Epic in his first attempt, while for Schurter, a bronze, silver and gold Olympic medal winner in cross-country racing, the win comes in his fourth Cape Epic - his previous best had been a fifth place in 2014.

The current Olympic and world champion, cool and calm as ever at the end, admitted that the strategy was always to come and win the Absa Cape Epic, but only in 2018.

“The plan was to come here in 2018 and win, but we are a year early!” said Schurter. “This is very special. To win the Olympics and then come to South Africa and win the Absa Cape Epic, that is great. After Rio it was always my intention to come and win the race, but this has taken us by surprise. I thought next year would be our year. We are ahead of schedule.”

Stirnemann called the moment ‘unreal’ and said only tonight or tomorrow will he be able to let it all sink in. “This is amazing, just amazing. I really can’t believe it.”

In the Hansgrohe Women’s category, there were emotional scenes at the finish. A year after having heart surgery Swede Jennie Stenerhag wept on Sunday as she and Esther Süss won the Absa Cape Epic in their first effort as a team.

“Since that day my biggest goal was to try and come back to win this race,” said Stenerhag. “To pull it off is something completely unreal. I cannot believe that I am standing here as the winner. I think we won by keeping everything smooth and consistent. We just kept calm and never thought we could win until now when we crossed the line.”

Experience and consistency were key to that win when Süss from Switzerland and Stenerhag crossed the line as third women’s team at the final stage to Val de Vie Estate near Paarl, but having done enough to claim a convincing victory overall in the Hansgrohe Women’s category.

Süss was ecstatic about the win.

“I am only happy, happy, happy!” said the 2010 Marathon World Champion. “It was quite tough and fast and you had to really be focussed because something can happen so fast. I am only happy.”

In the race for the Absa African special jersey, presented to the best all-African team at the Cape Epic, there was only going to be one winner after a strong week of riding from PYGA Euro Steel. Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys were in command of the jersey all week, and finished strongly yet again to claim seventh overall at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. 

“It was a great Absa Cape Epic!” said Buys. “It’s a pity we missed out on a stage win, but we really put everything out there today and we are really happy with the red jersey. We learned a lot this Epic, so I'm sure we will come back smarter.”

In the Virgin Active Mixed race the Scott-Sram Nextlevel duo of 22-year-old Rio Olympic Champion and 1996 world champion Jenny Rissveds of Sweden and 47-year-old Thomas Frischknecht of Switzerland were in a class of their own. 

On Sunday they finished off a clean sweep of eight victories in eight days as they cruised to a massive 65-minute win overall over South Adfricans Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (joBerg2c-Valencia), with Johan Labuschagne and Briton Catherine Williamson (RBI Tech – Mitas) a further 45 minutes a back in third.

In the Dimension Data Masters category, Australian Cadel Evans and American George Hincapie (BMC Absa Racing Team), riding in their first Cape Epic, got stronger with each day of the event. Starting the final day almost three minutes behind the category leaders Tomi Misser and Ibon Zugasti (Orbea Factory) of Spain, Evans and Hincapie cycled like demons to overtake Orbea Factory.

They eventually won the category comfortably, ending the day five minutes ahead of the team that had lead the category for most of the Absa Cape Epic. Evans and Hincapie finished 20th overall. 

“I didn’t know it was this hard, but fortunately I got in shape as the race went on,” said Hincapie. “I stay relatively fit at home but not by any means for this kind of effort. I'd love to be back next year and race again.”

There was no such drama in the Grand Masters category, with Swiss/Austrian duo Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg (Meerendal CBC 3) leading from start to finish. They finishing 34th overall and won their category by an extravagantly comfortable two-and-a-half hours. 

Diepsloot MTB Academy riders William Mokgopo and Philimon Sebona crossed the finish line in high spirits yet again, and after an impressive week of riding, claimed the Exxaro special jersey and finished the event in 42nd place overall. As they crossed the line, a delighted crowd clapped and cheered as the pair exchanged high fives and hugs with their team managers.

“It was difficult stuff today,” said Mokgopo. “I’m not a flat terrain type of person, I prefer it up and down and that’s the type of rider I am. I just try relax more when it comes to flats and really push it in the undulations. But today we didn’t need to do any work, we just enjoyed ourselves.” 

2017 Stage 7 Men

Stage Results

1. Scott-SRAM Young Guns 18-1 Michiel Van der Heijden (Netherlands) 18-2 Andri Frischknecht (Switzerland) 2:57.14,9

2. Trek-Selle San Marco 2 13-1 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 13-2 Fabian Rabensteiner (Italy) 2:57.32,3 +17,4

3. SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing 5-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 5-2 Matthias Stirnemann (Switzerland) 2:57.53,2 +38,3

Overall Results

1. SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing 5-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 5-2 Matthias Stirnemann (Switzerland) 26:35.06,5

2. Investec-Songo-Specialized 3-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 3-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 26:43.13,9 +8.07,4

3. Centurion Vaude 2 16-1 Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland) 16-2 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 26:54.41,3 +19.34,8

4. Kansai Plascon 7-1 Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Colombia) 7-2 Max Knox (South Africa) 26:55.39,2 +20.32,7

5. Cannondale Factory Racing XC 8-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 8-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 27:04.57,0 +29.50,5

6. Scott-SRAM Young Guns 18-1 Michiel Van der Heijden (Netherlands) 18-2 Andri Frischknecht (Switzerland) 27:08.58,9 +33.52,4

7. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 27:36.12,8 +1:01.06,3

8. Topeak Ergon Racing 4-1 Alban Lakata (Austria) 4-2 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 27:48.45,2 +1:13.38,7

9. Centurion Vaude 6-1 Jochen Kaess (Germany) 6-2 Markus Kaufmann (Germany) 27:52.40,6 +1:17.34,1

10. Claes - Carabin 24-1 Frans Claes (Belgium) 24-2 Sebastien Carabin (Belgium) 28:03.21,3 +1:28.14,8

2017 Stage 7 Women

Stage Results

1. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 3:34.27,0

2. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 3:34.27,5 +0,5

3. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 3:34.41,9 +14,9

Overall Results

1. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 31:39.43,7

2. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 32:15.03,0 +35.19,3

3. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 32:26.46,0 +47.02,3

4. Spur 50-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 50-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 32:49.49,2 +1:10.05,5

5. Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab 138-1 Carmen Buchacher (South Africa) 138-2 Michelle Vorster (Namibia) 33:02.42,8 +1:22.59,1

6. DormaKaba SA 55-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 55-2 Vera Adrian (Namibia) 33:15.00,7 +1:35.17,0

7. Meerendal CBC 2 53-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 53-2 Cornelia Hug (Switzerland) 33:57.00,1 +2:17.16,4

8. Merchants 438-1 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa) 438-2 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 33:57.17,3 +2:17.33,6

9. LIVBeyond 667-1 Fienie Barnard (South Africa) 667-2 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 35:22.25,5 +3:42.41,8

10. Spur Foundation 57-1 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 57-2 Sabrina Enaux (France) 35:34.21,4 +3:54.37,7

2017 Stage 7 Masters

Stage Results

1. BMC Absa Racing Team 63-1 Cadel Evans (Australia) 63-2 George Hincapie (United States of America) 3:10.12,2

2. CST Sandd American Eagle 61-1 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 61-2 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 3:17.17,3 +7.05,1

3. Orbea Factory 35-1 Tomi Misser (Spain) 35-2 Ibon Zugasti (Spain) 3:18.16,9 +8.04,7

Overall Results

1. BMC Absa Racing Team 63-1 Cadel Evans (Australia) 63-2 George Hincapie (United States of America) 29:28.57,5

2. Orbea Factory 35-1 Tomi Misser (Spain) 35-2 Ibon Zugasti (Spain) 29:34.18,8 +5.21,3

3. CST Sandd American Eagle 61-1 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 61-2 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 29:36.07,6 +7.10,1

4. ROCKY MOUNTAIN - toMotion 62-1 Thorsten Keller (Germany) 62-2 Max Friedrich (Germany) 31:57.26,3 +2:28.28,8

5. LGE Midas/Slender-Wonder 330-1 Igna de Villiers (South Africa) 330-2 Paul Theron (South Africa) 32:07.34,8 +2:38.37,3

6. Oakhaven Capital 340-1 Michael Creedon (Ireland) 340-2 Andrew Cairns (South Africa) 32:36.19,6 +3:07.22,1

7. Podium Sports 65-1 Nic Lamond (South Africa) 65-2 Simon Lamond (South Africa) 32:43.41,7 +3:14.44,2

8. GACOSUR IEDES CENTAURO 68-1 Manuel Rojo Nieto (Spain) 68-2 Jorge Lopez Janeiro (Spain) 32:45.16,9 +3:16.19,4

9. Eurocasa Gaggenau 609-1 Richard Lurie (South Africa) 609-2 Brent Russell (South Africa) 32:51.07,4 +3:22.09,9

10. @40 64-1 Hannes Hanekom (South Africa) 64-2 Ben Melt Swanepoel (South Africa) 33:08.16,6 +3:39.19,1

2017 Stage 7 Grand Masters

Stage Results

1. Meerendal CBC 3 67-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 67-2 Heinz Zoerweg (Austria) 3:22.24,7

2. ALAIN - KAPPIUS 130-1 Alain Broglia (France) 130-2 Alain Morra (France) 3:46.44,2 +24.19,5

3. Holte MTB Club 291-1 Bo Falck Hansen (Denmark) 291-2 Carsten Kristiansen (Denmark) 3:49.17,1 +26.52,4

Overall Results

1. Meerendal CBC 3 67-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 67-2 Heinz Zoerweg (Austria) 31:23.01,5

2. ABSA Bus Boys 304-1 Greg Anderson (South Africa) 304-2 Deon Kruger (South Africa) 33:56.42,7 +2:33.41,2

3. Pitstop1Sport24hrs 342-1 Waleed Baker (South Africa) 342-2 Marius Nel (South Africa) 35:33.36,7 +4:10.35,2

4. Cape Airconditioning 594-1 Landon la Grange (South Africa) 594-2 Peter Winn (South Africa) 36:05.46,4 +4:42.44,9

5. Bestmed Jaguar Sandton 312-1 Rex Benson (South Africa) 312-2 Rory Mapstone (South Africa) 36:44.42,4 +5:21.40,9

6. ALAIN - KAPPIUS 130-1 Alain Broglia (France) 130-2 Alain Morra (France) 37:09.46,7 +5:46.45,2

7. Holte MTB Club 291-1 Bo Falck Hansen (Denmark) 291-2 Carsten Kristiansen (Denmark) 37:53.59,3 +6:30.57,8

8. PitstopSport24hrs3 483-1 Ahmed Zaid Mahomed (South Africa) 483-2 Dawood Osman (South Africa) 38:59.29,3 +7:36.27,8

9. Lab Rats 300-1 Arrie Rautenbach (South Africa) 300-2 Philip Vermeulen (South Africa) 39:12.00,1 +7:48.58,6

10. Pedal Damn It 481-1 Renaat Verbeke (Belgium) 481-2 Jozef De Meyer (Belgium) 40:08.03,0 +8:45.01,5

2017 Stage 7 Mixed

Stage Results

1. Scott-Sram Nextlevel 70-1 Jenny Rissveds (Sweden) 70-2 Thomas Frischknecht (Switzerland) 3:21.42,6

2. Joberg2C-Valencia 565-1 Grant Usher (South Africa) 565-2 Amy Beth McDougall (South Africa) 3:32.48,1 +11.05,5

3. Fairtree Capital 72-1 Corrie Muller (South Africa) 72-2 Mari Rabie (South Africa) 3:34.43,7 +13.01,1

Overall Results

1. Scott-Sram Nextlevel 70-1 Jenny Rissveds (Sweden) 70-2 Thomas Frischknecht (Switzerland) 31:27.29,4

2. Joberg2C-Valencia 565-1 Grant Usher (South Africa) 565-2 Amy Beth McDougall (South Africa) 32:32.49,9 +1:05.20,5

3. RBI Tech - Mitas 71-1 Johan Labuschagne (South Africa) 71-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 33:17.08,7 +1:49.39,3

4. Fairtree Capital 72-1 Corrie Muller (South Africa) 72-2 Mari Rabie (South Africa) 33:44.38,2 +2:17.08,8

5. New World St Martins 668-1 Willy Williams (New Zealand) 668-2 Kate Fluker (New Zealand) 34:06.01,3 +2:38.31,9

6. Motor Mile Racing 449-1 Bradley Cobb (United States of America) 449-2 Carla Williams (United States of America) 34:52.44,3 +3:25.14,9

7. Vejer Bike 625-1 Cristina Barberan (Spain) 625-2 Jesus Morillo Romero (Spain) 35:53.59,4 +4:26.30,0

8. Globeflight 49-1 Henning Blaauw (South Africa) 49-2 Louise Ferreira (South Africa) 36:34.59,7 +5:07.30,3

9. Comus Clif Bar 583-1 Jean-Luc Perez (France) 583-2 Muriel Bouhet (France) 36:36.54,2 +5:09.24,8

10. SAICA 139-1 Ila Stow (South Africa) 139-2 Darryn Stow (South Africa) 37:23.06,2 +5:55.36,8

2017 Stage 7 Absa African

Stage Results

1. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 2:59.15,8

2. NAD Pro MTB 14-1 Nico Bell (South Africa) 14-2 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 3:03.08,3 +3.52,5

3. Breedenet 549-1 Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse (South Africa) 549-2 CP van Wyk (South Africa) 3:03.37,7 +4.21,9

Overall Results

1. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 27:36.12,8

2. NAD Pro MTB 14-1 Nico Bell (South Africa) 14-2 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 28:05.11,6 +28.58,8

3. The Gear Change 141-1 Justin Tuck (South Africa) 141-2 David George (South Africa) 29:16.33,7 +1:40.20,9

4. SPOT Africa-Agrichem 39-1 Timothy Hammond (South Africa) 39-2 Dominic Calitz (South Africa) 29:43.20,5 +2:07.07,7

5. BCX 10-1 Hendrik Kruger (South Africa) 10-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 29:49.03,9 +2:12.51,1

6. Imbuko Freewheel Cycology 23-1 Christopher Wolhuter (South Africa) 23-2 Dylan Rebello (South Africa) 30:00.10,2 +2:23.57,4

7. NFB - Spine & Sport 27-1 Craig Uria (South Africa) 27-2 Andrew Duvenage (South Africa) 30:58.37,6 +3:22.24,8

8. William Simpson 33-1 Michael Posthumus (South Africa) 33-2 Derrin Smith (South Africa) 31:21.20,3 +3:45.07,5

9. LGE Midas/Slender-Wonder 330-1 Igna de Villiers (South Africa) 330-2 Paul Theron (South Africa) 32:07.34,8 +4:31.22,0

10. Provincial Logistics 335-1 Franso Steyn (South Africa) 335-2 Jandri Ferreira (South Africa) 32:20.02,8 +4:43.50,0

2017 Stage 7 Exxaro

Stage Results

1. DMA Absa 361-1 Sean Baloyi (South Africa) 361-2 Luke Mashiane (South Africa) 3:31.09,1

2. Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 376-1 William Mokgopo (South Africa) 376-2 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 3:31.24,3 +15,2

3. BMT Academy Fairtree 1 362-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 362-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 3:36.53,3 +5.44,2

Overall Results

1. Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 376-1 William Mokgopo (South Africa) 376-2 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 32:20.28,6

2. BMT Academy Fairtree 1 362-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 362-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 34:03.18,4 +1:42.49,8

3. DMA Absa 361-1 Sean Baloyi (South Africa) 361-2 Luke Mashiane (South Africa) 34:38.48,9 +2:18.20,3

4. Songo-Investec 1 373-1 Thando Klaas (South Africa) 373-2 Lorenzo Leroux (South Africa) 34:46.28,9 +2:26.00,3

5. Exxaro MTB Academy2 365-1 Anele Mtalana (South Africa) 365-2 Rilamulele Gadabeni (South Africa) 35:18.56,8 +2:58.28,2

6. RMB Change a Life 371-1 Ndumiso Dontso (South Africa) 371-2 Sipho Kupiso (South Africa) 36:04.52,1 +3:44.23,5

7. Land Rover 7 370-1 Syanda Masango (South Africa) 370-2 Luvuyo Siyasi (South Africa) 36:54.51,6 +4:34.23,0

8. RMB Change a Life 1 372-1 Bongumusa Zikhali (South Africa) 372-2 Mazwi Smimango (South Africa) 36:58.47,5 +4:38.18,9

9. BMT Academy 377-1 Abongile Bhusakwe (South Africa) 377-2 Siyabulela Tutu (South Africa) 38:32.43,8 +6:12.15,2

10. Absa DMA ROSS 305-1 Clement Mabula (South Africa) 305-2 Mphodisa Bruce Sebopa (South Africa) 38:40.58,3 +6:20.29,7


Buys and Beukes claim Absa Cape Epic red jersey

The PYGA Euro Steel team of Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys rode with good pace on the Grand Finale of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic to finish nearly four minutes ahead of NAD Pro MTB (Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck) on the stage. 

By doing so they also claimed the Absa African special jersey - for the first team in which both riders are from the continent - thanks to a strong overall performance, finishing seventh in the general classification.  

Beukes was pleased at the race finish. Even without a stage win, this year’s Absa Cape Epic was educational for PYGA Euro Steel. 

He said the team is hungry for success in 2018 at the Absa Cape Epic, hinting that a challenge for an overall win could be on.

“We obviously didn't get what we set out to get, but we definitely matured a lot and rode smartly. I think this week was incredibly tough. It’s the most I have ever learned at a Absa Cape Epic so there are a lot of good things to take home.”

The 2017 edition presented numerous mechanical challenges for the Absa African special jersey winners. Their ride was plagued by punctures, but Beukes said this didn’t cost them an elusive stage win.

“This year we had a couple of issues, but we handled them quickly and calmly. The level of the Absa Cape Epic is becoming more intense every year. A couple of year’s ago we set out to win a stage and won it comfortably. This year, there was no chance of that, you really had to put your head down.”

Of the experience, Beukes was all smiles. “We had a good time. We always enjoy riding, whether it's well or not so well, we just try and have a good time.”

Buys was also in good spirits after finishing the Absa Cape Epic seventh overall. 

“It was a great Absa Cape Epic! It’s a pity we missed out on a stage win, but we really put everything out there today and we are really happy with the red jersey. We learned a lot this Epic, so I'm sure we will come back smarter.”

As for the immediate future, he said, “Firstly we want some time off - maybe a week or two. The Absa Cape Epic is actually the first event of our local season and we have a bunch of races up until August and then another short break.”

Although they were never quite close enough to contend for the Absa African special jersey, Nico Bell of NAD Pro MTB was pleased to cross the line in good time. 

“It’s good racing - the competition was great this year, it seems like it is always picking up. We are glad to get to the finish today without any issues during the race.

“It’s a tough race. You're either strong or you're not. A lot of guys get ill, crash or break something. A lot counts on this race.” 

Bell and Combrinck have much to look forward to for the rest of 2017. “Throughout the year we will be doing many South African races. We race throughout the year, but this was a key race,” said Bell.

Not happy but not unhappy either, Combrinck has higher hopes for next year’s Absa Cape Epic. “It turned out okay. We didn’t come here to finish where ended up. But the riding and racing was fun. This final stage was still sandy and dusty but thankfully quite cool.”


William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona win Absa Cape Epic Exxaro special jersey

Diepsloot MTB Academy riders William Mokgopo and Philimon Sebona crossed the finish line in high spirits yet again, and after an impressive week of riding, claimed the Exxaro special jersey and finished the event in 42nd place overall. 

As Mokgopo and Sebona finished, a delighted crowd clapped and cheered and the pair exchanged high fives and hugs with their team managers.

They extended their lead almost every day in the chase for the Exxaro special jersey, ending with a time gap of +1:42.49,8. Compared to preceding stages of the Absa Cape Epic, the final day was relatively flat, something that didn’t quite suit the team. But on the Grand Finale they were only racing themselves. 

“It was difficult stuff today,” said Mokgopo. “I’m not a flat terrain type of person, I prefer it up and down and that’s the type of rider I am. I just try relax more when it comes to flats and really push it in the undulations. But today we didn’t need to do any work, we just enjoyed ourselves.” 

Of the Absa Cape Epic experience, an overwhelmed Mokgopo said it was an incredible week. “It was a hard week but amazing too. My legs felt like bricks today. It was mind over matter for this last stage. In general, everything is still catching up to me.”

As part of their prize, the pair will get to fly to Belgium and spend eight days at the elite Bakala Academy doing testing and training. They will also get to interact and spend time with the Etixx Quick-Step professional cycling team, which is based in Belgium and uses the academy to improve its performance.

“I am excited for Belgium. I’ve heard wonderful things about it, and we are going to do some great things over there.”

Sebona explained the final stage as a different kind of challenge.

“We left the start and we saw our team number two coming up close behind us, so we wanted to help them and walk with them to the line. So today’s strategy was to get safely to the finish line with no broken bikes, no skin torn. We wanted to make sure to bring our second team to the line in a very good position.”

Cindy Ross is the general manager for Diepsloot MTB Academy. 

An elated Ross admitted they hadn’t considered the idea of winning the jersey. “We are extremely proud. We haven't stopped receiving messages of congratulations. We came into the Absa Cape Epic hoping to get fifth position in the category, and now we have the Exarro special jersey!” 

Explaining the team's success, Ross said there are lessons that everyone can learn.

“I think this is a prime example that you can never underestimate yourself. Five years ago when we met William, he had told us that he wanted to represent South Africa one day. And he just continued to work hard and we tried to help open doors for him. Nobody believed in our Academy, but the amazing thing is, these boys did it all on their own - without a coach or many resources.”

She concluded, “The Absa Cape Epic has exceeded our dreams and expectations. Outside of this our riders are great. William is still studying, mentoring the kids at home. Both riders want to start coaching the kids full time at the academy, and William will continue to do so while completing his studies with the prize money won.”

As winners of the Exxaro special jersey, Sebona and Mokgopo will enjoy R50 000 from Exxaro to spend on education or other initiatives designed to improve their personal circumstances.


It was Epic, says Evans and Hincapie

2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans picked up the Dimension Data Masters category with a storming final day that saw him and his fellow Tour de France stage winner George Hincapie grab victory on the last stage of the Absa Cape Epic from Grabouw to Val de Vie near Paarl.

Evans and Hincapie (BMC Absa Racing) started the 85km final stage second in their category, almost three minutes behind the masters leaders, Team Orbea’s Tomi Misser and Ibon Zugasti, and just three seconds ahead of Bart Brentjensand Abraao Azevedo (CST Sandd American Eagle).

The two retired road racers started fast and on the long road climb up Franschhoek Pass midway through the final stage opened a huge race-winning gap on their rivals.

“We didn’t have many time checks so we didn't really know where we were,” said Evans “We knew we were at least three or four minutes up but you can’t be sure until you cross the line, so we just kept pressure on right to the line.

“George had a bad moment mid-way when we came off on a descent. When he dropped it, it unsettled him a bit … but otherwise we were pretty good.

“I rode nine Tours de France and 16 Grand Tours in my career, so those ones mentally are much more taxing because of the duration. But the Epic is hard for your legs,” said Evans rubbing his quadriceps.

“The Epic is hard on your muscles. You wake up every morning with sore legs, and you might have that on the Tour de France but only after a bad day!”

And the good news for his fans around the race village: “I'd love to come back next year.”

Hincapie found the race a lot tougher than he expected.

“I tell you it was tough. I definitely came in underprepared. I didn’t know it was this hard, but fortunately I got in shape as the race went on.

“I stay relatively fit at home but not by any means for this kind of effort. But of course the body kicked into stage race mode and I just felt better as the race went on. I'd love to be back next year.”

And his description of the Absa Cape Epic in one word: “Exactly that, Epic!”


Epic is no honeymoon for the back markers 

Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann blitzed through the eight days of the Absa Cape Epic in 26 hours and 35 minutes, arriving at the finish each day tired but ready to head to their luxury camper vans to rest and recover before the next stage.

At the other end of the field, in last place was former Springbok rugby player Marius Hurter who, with partner Marius Claassen, spent a massive 56 hours and 11 minutes completing the Prologue and seven stages.

His time on average was almost four hours more on the bike each day – four hours a day less time to recover and prepare the body for the next gruelling stage.

There were also a few other problems for the back markers, like The Weiss-Mohr-Lovetrain pairing of Tamara Weiss and Michael Mohr from Germany, who were married just before the Absa Cape Epic and opted to spend their honeymoon riding the Epic.

Weiss and Mohr were the last riders to finish the long 103km Queen Stage on Saturday and ended sec on last and one position ahead of Hurter on the overall standings.

But the petite Weiss pointed out a particular problem for the newleyweds riding at the back of the field: “Yes it is our honeymoon, but there is not much honeymoon going on … he is too tired,” laughed the blushing bride. “We are completely broken but are just so happy to have got to the finish line today.

“It was really tough. Actually the whole week was very exhausting. Today (Saturday) the hill at the beginning was tough and I was exhausted, but Michael was very good and pushed me a lot today.

“This was not the honeymoon I expected, but we chose it together and after this we are spending a few days before going back home.”

Hurter, who was a prop with the Springbok rugby squad which won the 1995 World Cup, has also found the going tough, in some ways tougher than any rugby match he ever played.

“A rugby match is 80 minutes and it is gone – bish, bash, bosh. But in this type of event you need to get your nutrition right and then get your head around doing eight days of the same thing day in and day out.

“And day by day your body breaks down and so you need to be very careful how you ride. You cannot just blast it because you feel fresh. On the short days guys think it is going to be easy, but it is never easy in the Epic.

“Every year it is tough. This year Stage 1 sorted the guys out, but every Epic there is one or two or three stages that sort the guys out – stages that are particularly hard. There is no such thing as an easy Epic and there are so many factors that can influence the day … it is always tough.”

And Hurter knows all about how tough the Epic can be.

“I have started eight and this is my sixth finish.

“This year has been hard. Stage 1 we made it by a few minutes so it was extremely hard for me, especially with the heat. You know it was 44-45ºC in the valley on Monday. While I was walking in the sand there is a mini-war going on in my head. It requires a lot of patience.

“I weight 108kgs now. I have lost about 20 since my rugby playing days, but I am about eight more than when I rode last year. And I also have about four litres of water with me – I am not going to run out of water this year. You need it to get your body heat down.

“I didn’t train too much. When you start riding the Absa Cape Epic you think ‘Yussus, I must train,’ and you blast it. And then the second year you do a bit less and third year you think I will do a bit less.

“This year I wanted to do more but did not do enough with family and work and all that stuff. I do enough to get by but then end up with this – coming in last!

“Obviously I want to train more and now I want to train more because I don’t want to go through this again.”

* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic has come to a close. One hundred Early Bird entries for the 2018 edition will be made available at 15:00 (GMT+2) on Monday, 27 March 2017.