Cross-country specialists Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing XC) continued their blazing assault on the 2017 Absa Cape Epic with another stage win.
The pair has now scored a hattrick of stage wins if you include their victory in the final stage of the 2016 Cape Epic.
On the 101km route that started and finished at Hermanus High School, Fumic and Avancini raced home in a time of 4:25.35, which means they retain the overall lead and the yellow jersey. They admitted, though, that an unfortunate tumble by Jaroslav Kulhavy around 5km to go allowed them to cross the line first.
Second over the line was Christoph Sauser and an incredibly dusty Kulhavy (Investec-Songo-Specialized), while third on the day went to Jochen Kaess and Markus Kauffmann (Centurion Vaude 1).
Defending champions Karl Platt and Urs Huber were seventh on the day, five-and-half minutes off the stage pace and almost 10 minutes off first place on the overall standings. After regaining his composure and cooling down, Platt offered – still with his trademark grin and a one word assessment of the day’s riding: “tough”.
Fumic, though, was beaming from ear to ear. Along with Avancini, he rode with intent all day. “That was very good, very very good. We had a great run. Our plan was to get to the front and stay there. That way we could control the pace,” he said. “The plan worked very well for us today. Nino (Schurter) was pushing, Susi (Sauser) was pushing, but we were able to push harder. We were lucky with Jaro (Kulhavy) crashing, but that happens. It was hot out there, very hot, but we came out on top and are very pleased.”
Also happy with their day’s riding were the composed Investec-Songo-Specialized pair. Although they pushed hard all day and would have wanted the stage win, they were not overly upset by second place and are clearly comfortable in their ability and strategy for the week ahead.
“It went very well for us today,” said a relaxed Sauser. “Jaro had a crash just towards the end and at first we were worried that his rim was broken, but it was only a broken valve in the end.
We didn’t have a strategy; our plan was simply to get to the front and stay there. Our biggest decision was whether or not we needed to stop at the final water point. But by the time we got there it wasn’t a tough call at all; we had to stop and take in some liquids. I was actually surprised that the other guys went straight through because at that stage it was very hot.”
Sauser added that the performance of Fumic and Avancini came as no surprise. “The leaders jersey gives you wings. They are dong very well, which makes for great racing.”
Kulhavy, a man of few words, noted that the day had gone according to plan – even with a late crash. “The crash was unfortunate, but nothing serious. I’m very happy with our ride today, I feel it was a good performance. We are both enjoying the racing.”
For the men in third, the podium finish came as a welcome surprise, especially after a hard day of racing. “It was rocky and sandy all day; a very hard ride,” said Markus Kaufmann of Centurion Vaude 1. “It was full gas from the start. There was just no let up. We were in the chasing pack for most of the day, so we are very happy with the podium finish. We chased all day and in the final few kilometres we just kept passing people. To me, Nino (Schurter) and Matthias (Stirnemann) looked very tired at the end and we came past for third.”
2016 Olympic gold medal winner Schurter said that he and Stirnemann (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing), who were in the lead bunch for most of the day, pushed as hard as they could for third but couldn’t hold on. “The final kilometres were very tough. It was hard pedalling to the finish.”
Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic starts at Hermanus High School and finishes at Elandskloof in Greyton. The stage is a 102km long has 2350m of climbing.
* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race is taking place until Sunday 26 March. Watch the action live on our website www.cape-epic.com