19 March 2017

South Africa: 2017 Cape Epic Kicks Into Gear

The 2017 Absa Cape Epic got off to a blistering start in hot and dusty conditions at Meerendal Wine Estate.

In the men's elite race Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing XC) powered through the 26km course to take the win, while in the Hansgrohe Women's Category Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) claimed the top step on the podium.

Fumic was all smiles after a great start to his race. "We are very happy with the result," he said.

"Our plan was to put up a good time and that's exactly what we did. Obviously the Prologue is a cross-country day and that really suits us. We targeted this day and our aim was always to be number one on the podium. But 26km is very routine for us. Tomorrow the race starts and we are hopefully near the front for the rest of the week."

Looking slightly disappointed after their Prologue ride were defending champions Karl Platt and Urs Huber. Five-time winner Platt in particular seemed to have taken strain in the hot conditions after the pair had blasted out of the starting block.

"Our ride did not go according to plan; I think we were maybe a little over motivated at the start and went out too fast. We were going hard, but just couldn't keep the pace up all the way to the end. It's only one stage, though, and we have the whole week to make it back. We will look to make time back little by little every day."

A very relaxed and upbeat De Groot could not keep the smile off her face after a perfect start to the 2017 event.

"We really enjoyed the route today. It was so nice doing what we love doing today. The plan was to take it at is comes and it went perfectly so we had a very good Prologue today. For me it is such a privilege to be to be able to learn from Sabine for this week - and who can there be better to learn from?" said the multiple South African champion of her gold, silver and bronze Olympic medal-winning partner.

In the race for the Absa African Jersey, South African pair Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink (NAD Pro MTB) were the first all-African team to cross the line with a time of 1:06.04,8 for ninth position overall.

The next South African team on the day was Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes of PYGA Steel (1:06.43,2). They finished 11th overall for the Prologue. Completing the Absa African Jersey top three was BCX (1:06.53,0) with riders HB Kruger and Waylon Woolcock.

In the Virgin Active Mixed category, 2016 Olympic Women's gold medallist Jenny Rissveds and mountain biking legend Thomas Frischknecht (Scott-Sram Nextlevel) claimed the early lead and took a one minute 44 second lead into the first stage in Hermanus on Monday.

Grant Usher and former World Single Speed World Champion Amy Beth McDougall (Joberg2c-Valencia) are second with the New Zealand paring of Willy Williams and Kate Fluker (New World St Martins) third just six seconds further back.

The leaders in the Exxaro Jersey after the Prologue are William Mokgopo and Sebona Phillimon of Diepsloot MTB Academy 1, whose time of 1:18:13 puts them just less than two minutes ahead of Velokhaya/Thesele's Boya Mthetheleli and Mxenge Thlasizwe.

Lying in third place for Exxaro Jersey is Tsepho Tlou and Lucky Mlangeni - both riders and team-mates from Exxaro's team, Exxaro MTB Academy 1.

"The conditions were extremely hot and the dust got a little too much in some parts, especially in the descents - making them a little slippery. The soil soaked up the heat and it just kept everything around us very warm, but it was an enjoyable day," said Tlou.

After the Prologue, Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo (CST Sandd American Eagle) lead the way in the Dimension Data Masters category, with Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg out in front of the Grand Masters category.

Tomorrow the riders will tackle a 101km circular route, as the event moves to Hermanus for the first time since 2008.

Stage 1 will start and finish at Hermanus High School and features 2 300m of climbing.

* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race is taking place until Sunday, March 26.

Source: Sport24

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