Burry Stander (RSA) and Christoph Sauser (SUI) of the 36One-Songo-Specialized team showed just what complete mountain bike racers they are when they overcame wet, cold and muddy conditions to win Stage 5 of the 2012 ABSA Cape Epic on Friday.
It was their fifth stage win in six days, but it will go down as one of their most memorable. Intermittent rain followed heavy overnight rain to create a muddy, slippery 119km stage from Caledon to Oak Valley. With the wind-chill, the temperature over the high ground was in single digits Celsius, aggravating the conditions further and making for one of the toughest Cape Epic stages ever.
Two thirds of the 500-team strong field that started the stage took more than eight hours to finish, while at the front, Stander and Sauser outsprinted the Team Bulls 2 team of Tim Boehme (GER) and Thomas Dietsche (FRA) to secure the victory in a time of 05 hours 06 minutes 45 seconds.
A few of the top teams lost a lot of time on the stage, some to mechanical problems and others to the conditions. Big losers on the day were South Africans David George and Kevin Evans who slipped from second to fifth overall, after Evans had to deal with a cut tyre. The Nedbank 360Life pair has been the only team able to match Stander and Sauser with any consistency, but have conceded a total of 31 minutes as a result of mechanical incidents.
“I prefer the heat! I took my rain jacket off with 35km to go when the sun came out. Big mistake! Soon I got so cold and was struggling,” said Stander afterwards. “When Christoph upped the pace, I wasn’t too impressed and had some choice words for him in my mind! I was starting to feel better though and only the Bulls stayed with us. It was nice to ride with them because they pushed us.”
A broken gear shifter hindered the dominant women’s Wheels4Life pairing of Esther Suss (SUI) and Sally Bigham (GBR), forcing them to stop for repairs to Bigham’s bike. Team MTN Qhubeka’s Karien van Jaarsveld (RSA) and Jane Nuessli (NOR) seized the opportunity and claimed their first stage win of the 2012 event. However. Suss and Bigham still maintain their overall lead with two stages remaining.
South Africans Erik and Ariane Kleinhans (Contego 28E) continued their domination of the Mixed category with their fifth stage victory in six days. They have a massive lead of one hour and 43 minutes over their nearest rivals, Udo Boelts (GER) and Milena Landtwing (SUI) of Team Centurion Vaude.
There was a shake up in the Masters division after overnight leaders Nico Pfitzenmaier (GER) and Robert Sim (RSA) lost a significant amount of time when Pfitzenmaier crashed and injured his leg. They limped to the finish in sixth place, losing 1 hour 12 minutes to stage winners Bart Brentjens (NED) and Jan Weevers (NED) of Team World Bicycle Relief. The Dutch pair became the new leaders, 18 minutes up on Sim and Pfitzenmaier.
At 85km, Saturday’s Stage 6 is relatively short, but includes 2200 metres of vertical ascent and incorporates the race’s highest climb, the Groenlandberg, which peaks at 1100m above sea level.
Leading results after Stage 5:
1 Burry Stander (RSA) / Christoph Sauser (SUI) 36One-Songo-Specialized 25hrs 26min 48sec
2 Hannes Genze (GER) / Andreas Kugler (SUI) Multivan Merida @ 26:32
3 Thomas Dietsche (FRA) / Tim Boehme (GER) Bulls 2 @ 28:07
4 Alban Lakata (AUT) / Robert Mennen (GER) Topeak Ergon 29:23
2 Kevin Evans (RSA) / David George (RSA) Nedbank 360Life @ 32:41
1 Esther Suss (SUI) / Sally Bigham (GBR) Wheels4Life 30:44.14
2 Theresa Ralph (RSA) / Nina Gassler (NOR) Biogen Britehouse @ 38:48
3 Karien van Jaarsveld (RSA) / Jane Nuessli (SUI) MTN Qhubeka @ 1:13.09
1 Bart Brentjens (NED) / Jan Weevers (NED) @ 28:39.11
2 Robert Sim (RSA) / Nico Pfitzenmaier (GER) Robert Daniel Momsen @ 18:01
2 Adrian Enthoven (RSA) / Delaney Impey (RSA) JAG Craft @ 42:32
1 Erik Kleinhans (RSA) / Ariane Kleinhans (RSA) Contego 28E 29:49.46
2 Udo Boelts (GER) / Milena Landtwing (SUI) Centurion Vaude @ 1:43.48
3 Klaas van Moortel (BEL) / Inne Gantois (BEL) BAIL Peak Performance Brugge @ 2:32.07