March 18, 2013 (Durbanville Wine Valley, South Africa) – The fourth prologue in the nine-year history of the Absa Cape Epic set the seeding order for tomorrow’s Stage 1 of the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race with Christoph Sauser (Sui) and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) leading the charge.
Following the resounding success of the 2012 Prologue, the tenth edition of the race kicked off with a 22-kilometer prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate in the Durbanville Wine Valley – mountain biking Mecca on Cape Town’s doorstep. The event saw more than 1 200 excited riders from 41 countries enjoy sunny weather with the first group of riders starting their 8-day journey at 06:45. Set off with a bang, riders left the start chute riding through the historic Meerendal Manor House and almost immediately thereafter faced a challenging climb up “Stairway to Heaven” to the top of Dorstberg, a mountain top boasting magnificent 360 degree views of world famous landmarks such as Table Mountain, Robben Island and Cape Point.
Pressed for time, teams had to forego sight-seeing as they dove straight into a rugged, Renosterveld lined trail that descended into the quarry and adjacent Hoogekraal farm, where sweeping single-track formed part of the Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club trail system. Well bermed turns made for a fun roller coaster descent as the route ultimately headed back through steep vineyards and a steady climb past dairy fields onto the picturesque Meerendal Wine Estate, finishing off with some more single-track and ensuring riders finished the first day with big smiles on their faces.
This time trial was a race against the clock to decide the seeding in the field and which teams will wear the coveted leaders’ jerseys at the start of Stage 1 in Citrusdal.
The Swiss/Czech team of Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Burry Stander – SONGO) will wear the sought-after yellow zebra jersey with Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (SCOTT Factory Racing) wearing the red Absa African leader jersey. Esther Süss and Jane Nuessli (BMC Wheeler) will be leading the Ladies in orange, with Bart Brentjens and Robert Sim of Superior-Brentjens 2 wearing the Telkom Business Masters blue jersey. The Grand Masters purple jersey will be worn by Bärti Bucher and Heinz Zorweg. Siphosenkosi Madolo and Azukile Simayile of Team Exxaro RMB Academy-Songo managed to secure the green Exxaro Jersey.
For the third year in a row, the Men’s category for the Prologue was won by Christoph Sauser. This year he won with new team mate, Olympic gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavy, in a time of 55:10,1. They were followed by Multivan Merida’s José Hermida and Rudi van Houts in 56.17,1, with Italian/German combo Marco Fontana and Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) in third place (in 56.34,2). In fourth place was Alban Lakata and Robert Mennen of Topeak Ergon Racing in 57:03,6 with four-times winner Karl Platt and Urs Huber of the Bulls in fifth place in 57.18,7.
Says Christoph Sauser of Burry Stander – SONGO: “I knew Jaroslav was going to be strong, but he was a powerhouse. We had perfect team harmony and did a good job. We have similar riding styles and take it slow in the corners and fast on the flats. Our bikes were amazing as we could sit and just ride. It was very emotional for me and when the spectators shouted Burry’s name, I had goodsebumps.” Jaroslav Kulhavy adds: “It was amazing and I enjoyed it. We were in good shape for today. I enjoyed the Prologue and feel excited about the next week.”
Multivan Merida’s José Hermida says: “I really like this country and also liked the route today. I enjoy riding fast and taking corners, followed by some single-track. Today we just tried to stay in front. We had fun and our aim is to finish on the podium overall. It was a great tribute to Burry (Stander) that the Specialized team (Sauser/Kulhavy) took the jersey. We have a white shadow following us – Burry will be with us for the whole race.” Rudi van Houts adds: “Our focus was to finish on the podium and we made it. Now we still have a goal for the week – to try and get the Leader jersey. Of course we’d like to finish on the podium, so we can’t lose too much time in any of the stages.”
Esther Süss and Jane Nuessli of BMC Wheeler won the Ladies category in a time of 1:08.21,6, ahead of Sally Bigham and Milena Landtwing (Topeak Ergon) in 1:10.19,2. South African/British duo Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson (Energas) finished third in 1:11.56,4, with South Africans Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth (Pragma Volcan Ladies) in fourth place in 1:15.22,9.
Says Esther Süss of BMC Wheeler: “This was my first race of the season and I’m really happy with how it went. Jane and I work well together and hopefully we’ll recover for tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. At least I know where I stand.”
Says Sally Bigham of Topeak Ergon: “Today was really good. It wasn’t as hot as last year and a nice temperature. We did a test ride yesterday and I was unsure whether I liked the course, but really enjoyed it today. The spectators on the course were also really nice and added to my enjoyment of the race. I felt stronger than last year. We’re here to enjoy the race and will see what happens. I’ve won the last two years, so maybe it’s someone else’s turn to win. This is my fourth stage race with Milena and we’ll have a good time.” Adds Milena Landtwing: “It’s hard to bike with Sally as she’s faster than I am. I’m happy though as I did my best and we still have a long way to go.”
Catherine Williamson (Energas), who finished third, says: “It’s always nice to get the first day out of the way. We can now get into a rhythm. It’s the first time we rode together and we’re both happy with how today went. All bodes well and I’m happy with my legs. I’m sure Yolande is also happy with hers. Now the nerves have gone we can focus on tomorrow which is a really hard stage. The Cape Epic is a long race and our aim is a podium finish, but we’ll take it one stage at a time.” Yolande Speedy adds that she was very nervous at the start of the race. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we had a strong ride today. I’m looking forward to the next 7 days – we’re happy with our position.”
Telkom Business Master’s Category:
The Masters category was won by former Olympic medalist Bart Brentjens and Robert Sim of Superior-Brentjens 2. Their winning time was 1:01.14,5. They were followed by Nico Pfitzenmaier and Abraao Azevedo of team Bridge in 1:01.14,8. Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts of Juwi finished third (1:01.58,9).
The RE:CM team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won the Mixed category (1:06.23,9), followed by Theresa Ralph and Damian Perrin of Biogen Britehouse in 1:08:40,9. The South African/Swiss team of Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber (Big Tree) finished in third place (1:11.13,3).
Says Erik Kleinhans of RE:CM: “We’re happy with everything. We wanted to catch the two Mixed teams ahead of us and managed to do so. We increased the gap from there. Our mission was to win the Prologue and we accomplished that. There’s still a long way to go, but our form is good. We’ll ride conservatively and cleverly.” Ariane adds: “I’m very happy with today’s results. I felt much better than last year and really gave my best. We’re a good team and Erik supports me so well. Tonight we’ll look at tomorrow’s stage and take it from there.”
Grand Masters Category:
Bärti Bucher and Heinz Zorweg of Songo.info finished in first place in the Grand Masters in a time of 1:06.12,4. They were followed by Paul Furbank and Chris Brand of Genesis Capital in 1:08.53,8 with Linus van Onselen and Doug Brown (BALAMORY) in third place (1:09.30,2).
Absa African Jersey:
A hotly contested ‘race within a race’ is the one for the red Absa African jersey, awarded to the highest placed team, with both members holding African nationalities. Team SCOTT Factory Racing Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes finished first in 58.16,7 with Darren Lill and Charles Keey (Cannondale Blend) in second (58.24,3). They were followed by Brandon Stewart and Neil Macdonald of FedGroup-Itec in third place in 1:01.47,8.
Siphosenkosi Madolo and Azukile Simayile of team Exxaro RMB Academy-songo managed to secure the Exxaro jersey with their impressive performance during the Prologue. Their time was 1:06.14,9 and they are placed 32nd overall.
Stage 1: Citrusdal to Citrusdal (96 km, 2350 m of climbing)
Stage one is a 96-kilometer loop on virgin Absa Cape Epic territory that starts and finishes in Citrusdal, a small farming town at the foot of the Cederberg Mountains. The stage starts climbing from the word go, up Piekenierskloof on relatively smooth and sandy roads, before descending nearly 600 meters in seven rocky kilometers of a wet Olifants River crossing. A steady eight-kilometer climb leads to a four-kilometer section of rugged dual track and a short, but thrilling, single-track descent. The gradual descent to water point two, is on uneven farm roads through citrus orchards. Riders need to fill up here as the most challenging section of the day awaits – seven kilometers of climbing, a brief rutted descent and then a portage that will test bodies and humour. The long descent to water point three is followed by approximately 20 kilometers through the farmlands in the Olifants River Valley. With no significant climbs, though by no means flat, riders will enjoy a slight reprieve before reaching the final obstacle of the day: a tough, sandy slog up the mountain side and the just reward of a fast, fun descent into the race village in Citrusdal.
Full results HERE.