Stander, Sauser defend Cape Epic title
2 April 2012
South Africa's Burry Stander and Swiss star Christoph Sauser successfully defended their Absa Cape Epic title in Lourensford in the Western Cape on Sunday after dominating the eight-day, seven-stage event from start to finish. The all-South African duo of Kevin Evans and David George placed second.
Sunday's final stage wasn't the procession it was expected to be as the defending champions and overall leaders attacked their rivals on the 64km leg from Oak Valley to Lourensford to win their sixth out of seven stages.
The 36One-Songo-Specialized pair broke clear of the lead group just before the Telkom Hot Spot, won the R10 000 cash prize for being first across the prime, and then continued to power away up the steep climb that followed.
South African flag
They then carried a relentless pace to the finish, where Stander, on the final approach, grabbed a South African flag, which he carried proudly across the finish line.
Second place on the day went to the Topeak Ergon duo of Alban Lakata (Aut) and Robert Mennen (Ger) who pipped Songo-Specialized's Max Knox (RSA) and Kohei Yamamoto (Jpn) in the sprint for second place, just less than a minute down on Stander and Sauser.
Stander and Sauser's sixth stage win in eight days confirmed their dominance at the ninth edition of the world's most prestigious mountain bike stage race.
It was also Sauser's third victory in the event, his other having come in 2006 with compatriot Silvio Bundi. Stander is the only South African to have won the overall Cape Epic title. His total of 20 career stage wins is second only to Sauser, who has 26 to his name.
Nedbank 360Life's Kevin Evans and David George were fifth on the final stage, but secured second place on the General Classification, the highest ever placing by a South African team in the event. They also won the Absa African Team competition. Hannes Genze (Ger) and Andreas Kugler (Sui) of Team Multivan Merida, were third overall.
Unlike many of their rivals, Stander and Sauser had an incident-free eight days, which is virtually unheard of in a race that covers such rugged terrain and features such varied weather conditions as this year's edition, which included intense heat, gale force winds and driving rain.
Rode on the front'
"We simply rode on the front for about 80% of the entire race and stayed out of trouble," said Stander afterwards.
"When you ride on the front you can pick your line and avoid possible problems. When you follow someone else, you can't anticipate what’s coming. I felt so much more in control riding on the front more this year.
"We worked hard for this stage and the overall," he added. "We will never say no to the opportunity of winning a stage. Twenty-seven minutes is a big victory margin, but not only thanks to us. Our whole team and our equipment played a role.
'Nothing compares to it'
"We learnt our lessons in previous years. The Absa Cape Epic is a story. Every day is a chapter and that makes it so amazing. Now we know the Yellow Jersey is ours. Until now it felt like we were borrowing it. Nothing compares to it."
The only other South Africans to win a category were the Team Contego 28E pairing of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans. The married couple won the Mixed category title overall and collected seven stage wins in the process.
They were by far the most dominant Mixed team in the race with an eventual winning margin of two hours and seven minutes over runners up Udo Bölts (Ger) and Milena Landtwing (Sui) of Team Centurion Vaude. Bölts won the Master's division last year and is a former top-10 finisher at the Tour de France.
Former World and Olympic champion and 2005 Cape Epic winner, Bart Brentjens (Ned) and his compatriot Jan Weevers of the World Bicycle Relief team won the Telkom Masters (over-40) category. They were followed by two all-South African teams – Delaney Impey and Adrian Enthoven (JAG Craft) and Scott McKenzie and Warren Squires (Complete Cyclist), in second and third respectively.
The women's division was dominated by the Wheels4Life team of Sally Bigham (GBR) and Esther Süss (Sui), who won all seven stages and the overall title. South African Theresa Ralph and her Norwegian partner Nina Gassler were second, while another South African, Karien van Jaarsveld, and her Swiss teammate, Jane Nuessli of Team MTN Qhubeka, were third.
A total of 604 two-rider teams started the 781km, eight-day race, with 481 teams finishing and 93 solo riders completing the event after their partners withdrew.
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