April 30, 2006 – The weather could not have been better in honour of the finishers of the 2006 Absa Cape Epic, the Magical and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race presented by adidas. On their last day the Epic riders from around the world completed the final leg of their challenging mountain bike journey through the Western Cape under bright blue skies.
523 two person teams from 37 countries had started eight days ago at the Waterfront in Knysna; 824 of the 1,046 riders cycled all the way to Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. In just eight days they covered a distance of 921 gruelling kilometres and climbed a total of 16,605 metres – that is the equivalent of riding twice up Mount Everest! In order to deserve the honourable title of ‘Cape Epic Finisher’ the participants had to complete all of the eight gruelling stages.
Today’s last leg of the challenging stage race led the aspiring amateur athletes and international mountain bike pros once more through the magnificent scenery of the Western Cape to beautiful Spier Wine Estate near Cape Town. On the final day of the Magical and Untamed African Mountain Bike Race, the ‘mountain bike soul’ was fed with some spectacular jeep and single track riding, technical climbs, and breathtaking downhills including the original ’97 UCI World Cup Downhill track in Stellenbosch – in short everything that made this final stage of the Absa Cape Epic another unforgettable mountain biking experience.
Over 420 staff worked in the background of the world’s largest full-service mountain bike race, pitching 1,200 tents each day, setting up 1,500 chairs and 150 tables, loading and unloading 1,050 rider bags, erecting a total of 21,130 square metres of dining marquees as well as the start and finish chute, the Giant Bicycles bike park and the Cape Union Mart Race Village with 33 individual luxury showers and 100 portable flush toilets. In total they transported 780 tons and 2,700 cubic metres of equipment and supplies during the event. This year, the fleet of the Absa Cape Epic comprised more than 110 event registered vehicles including five 22 metre Superlink trucks and two foodgrade tankers for single source water support.
To ensure that the operation behind the scenes runs like a clockwork, the Cape Epic organisers have compiled a group of experts in their respective fields who manage key areas at the event and are fully integrated in the Cape Epic team, such as Imperial Logistics who handle the daily logistics requirements, Medi-Clinic Special Events Team that caters for emergency response and medical care at all times during the race, Delta Search and Rescue who ensure that communication on route is always adequate, and Conference Communications who are in charge of audio visuals as well as setting up all wireless networks and cutting edge technology at the event.
The last day of the Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas was an eventful one. While quite a few amateur riders suffered from a lack of concentration so ‘close to home’ – on the technical terrain a fatal thing to happen resulting in many last minute crashes – the pros also had to struggle with some unpredictable difficulties. Right after the start Karl Platt (GER) of Team Rocky Mountain Business Objects broke the lock of his suspension fork. “I was riding the entire last stage without shock absorbance,” he said. “And that must happen to me on the best stage of all when we wanted to close the gap to second place in the technical downhill sections. And Carsten hurt his shoulder badly today, so we were both a bit handicapped.” Despite the support of leading team Specialized who tried to help the two Germans on the last day to make up for their backing earlier in the race when Silvio broke his derailleur and Carsten and Karl slowed down the leading bunch to help them catch up, they could not defeat team Stevens Racing with Johannes SickmÃ¼ller (GER) and Christian Heule (SUI). They, too, struggled on the last day as they missed a few turns in the woods when Specialized attacked and they had to increase their pace to stick to them.
Tragic bad luck also struck the leading Mixed team Anna Baylis- (AUS) and JÃ¶rg Scheiderbauer (GER) who both crashed on the first downhill early in the race and couldn’t complete their first Cape Epic. Anna broke her collar bone; JÃ¶rg injured his knee and shoulder.
The moment the Epic riders turned into the finish chute at Spier Wine Estate, cheered at by the overwhelming spectator crowds and hundreds of children with handmade flags welcoming the riders from around the world, the pain and suffering of the last eight days were instantly forgotten.
With an overall time of 34 hours, 41 minutes and 41 seconds, seven out of eight stage wins, and a lead by 29.08 minutes, dual Overall World Cup Champion Chistoph Sauser (SUI) and his friend and team partner Silvio Bundi (SUI) won the 2006 Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas. When the yellow leader jerseys entered the finish chute showering in champagne the crowds went mad. “We really enjoyed today’s stage”, said Christoph. “It was like riding in our backyard as we knew every inch of the terrain. Now I am a little sad that Epic is over. Of course it is nice to sleep in a decent bed again and to enjoy the comfort of our guest house. But I will miss the great vibes and the people. At least I did it with Silvio who is one of my best friends and we can cherish our memories together. Next year we will be back, for sure.”
Like last year, Kevin Evans was the best South African in the field, placing fourth overall with his team partner Mannie Heymans (NAM) of team adidas Raleigh, who had won the inaugural Cape Epic in 2004 with Karl Platt. According to Mannie “having had such bad legs on day one created a gap that they weren’t able to close in the following seven stages.”
Winning eight out of eight stages, South Africa’s Absa Business Banking Services team featuring Geddan Ruddock and 53 year old Linus von Onselen dominated the Masters category from day one. They completed the Absa Cape Epic a time of 38:42:11 placing 9th overall. “This was by far my best Cape Epic ever”, said Geddan Ruddock. “Not only because I am wearing the blue leader jersey but also because Linus and I have been such a great team. If Absa asks us again, we will definitely be at the start for 2007 to defend our title.”
Swiss Mixed team radys.com with Dolores Maechler and Severin Rupp won the Mixed category by surprise today when leading team Ghost International were taken to hospital after their bad crash. “It is actually not a nice way to win a race” Severin said. “I really feel sorry for Anna and JÃ¶rg, because they have dominated our category and had a 45 minutes advantage when we started this morning. I hope they will get better soon. But of course we are proud to be awarded with the green adidas Cape Epic leader jerseys tonight after eight tough days of racing.”
The leading women needed twelve hours longer to ride the 921 kilometres from Knysna to Spier. German adidas Fiat Rotwild team featuring Kerstin Brachtendorf (GER) and Sabine Grona (GER) completed their first Cape Epic in 46 hours, 25 min and 52 seconds, 1 hour and 25 minutes ahead of the second placed Women team Mountainbike Revue with Lisi Hager (AUT) and Sandra Lettner (AUT). All four girls didn’t expect to be placed so high on the podium when they came to South Africa. “This entire week has been incredible in every sense of the word”, Lisi raved. “The Cape Epic truly is the best race in the world and the best all around mountain bike race experience. The organisation is perfect, the vibes are outstanding. The headline of my article will be ‘Heaven and Hell’, because in the past week we have been through all the highs and lows. We crashed, had technical defects, were exhausted but also had a stage win and met many great people. We will do our bit that next year there will be more Austrians at the start and we will advise them to stay in the camp, because only then you get the full Epic experience.”
In the afternoon, tired but proud Absa Cape Epic finishers lazed under shadowy oaks in the beautiful Spier gardens, enjoyed their first glass of wine after eight gruelling days in the saddle and told their families and friends, who had all come out to the Winelands to celebrate their heroes, about their personal African mountain biking adventure.
After one week of carbo-loading, during which the only purpose of eating was to quickly and effectively refill the energy reservoir of a stressed body, the CAPE EPIC participants indulged in the large variety of delectable Cape African dishes prepared buffet style at Moyo at Spier restaurant. Proudly wearing their adidas finisher T-shirts and medals, the athletes from around the world celebrated their completion of the Magical and Untamed African Race in style with a great gala banquet and finisher party.
1. Team Specialized: Christoph Sauser (SUI) and Silvio Bundi (SUI) – 34:41:41
2. Stevens Racing: Johannes SickmÃ¼ller (GER) and Christian Heule (SUI) – 35:10:49
3. Rocky Mountain Business Objects: Karl Platt (GER) and Carsten Bresser (GER) – 35:18:21
4. adidas Raleigh Kevin Evans (RSA) and Mannie Heymans (NAM) – 35:36:25
5. adidas-Fiat-Rotwild Andi Strobel (GER) and Silvio Wieltschnig (AUT) – 35:57:25
1. adidas-Fiat-Rotwild: Sabine Grona (GER) and Kerstin Brachtendorf (GER) – 46:25:52
2. Mountainbike Revue: Elisabeth Hager (AUT) and Sandra Lettner (AUT) – 47:51:21
3. Homebrew Lite: Anna Sutton (AUS) and Joanne Marie King (AUS) – 52:50:52
4. I&J Hermanus Cycles: Estelle Labuschagne (RSA) and Nadia Neil (RSA) – 54:53:23
5. Swisslis: Christine Wyss (SUI) and Sandra Koch (SUI) – 55:25:09
1. Absa Business Banking Services: Linus van Onselen (RSA) and Geddan Ruddock (RSA) – 38:42:11
2. dennis mccann: Ergee du Toit (RSA) and Corrie Muller (RSA) – 40:05:44
3. Marsilio Projects: Tony Conlon (RSA) and Lieb Loots (RSA) – 40:49:47
4. Huguenote Cycles: Dennis du Toit (HT/RSA) and Jacques Malan – 41:17:17
5. Centra Harvest: Christian Stabell Eriksen (NOR) and Ole Kristian Silseth (NOR) – 41:33:50
1. radys.com: Dolores Maechler (SUI) and Severin Rupp (SUI) – 40:02:29
2. adidas / WE Cycles / Bianchi – Fourie Kotze (RSA) and Anke Erlank (RSA) – 40:10:36
3. Scott: Patrick Mosterd (RSA) and Yolande de Villiers (RSA) – 42:03:18
4. X-Fusion: Louise Kobin (USA) and Eric Warkentin (USA) – 44:43:36
5. PEAK Vienna: Andreas Muehlbacher (AUT) and Anita Waiss (AUT) – 44:46:29