On a day when race conditions changed at the Absa Cape Epic – but the number one spot didn’t – it was business as usual for the dominant pair in the Sasol Women’s category.
Team RECM’s Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad survived a crash scare to charge home and into the orange leader’s jersey once again, in the process opening up an overall gap of just over 20 minutes on second placed Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot of Team Ascendis. Meerendal Wheeler’s Esther Suss and Alice Pirard finished third on the 113km Stage 1, moving into third on the overall standings at the same time.
“I’m not a huge fan of the colour orange,” said Kleinhans, “but I like the orange colour of this leader’s jersey. It’s definitely one I want to keep.” Kleinhans fell on the stage while overtaking some slower riders, but shrugged it off as a minor mishap on an otherwise dominant day.
“The crash was just something silly – maybe blame the pine cones – luckily it was nothing serious, though. It was a very hard first stage. Besides the small crash we managed to stay problem-free out there.”
Team RECM admits that they came into the Cape Epic with the goal of winning it, so both riders are thrilled with their racing so far. “It feels wonderful to be on the podium again,” says Langvad. “We want to win this race, it’s a huge season goal for Ariane, and right now it feels like we are on track.”
The day started out dry and dusty, with vision on the route poor at times due to bikes kicking up dust. “It was a funny day,” said Langvad. “It was very dusty and loose in the beginning, and then once we went over the mountain it was cold and rainy. I survived the Danish winter okay, but I wasn’t prepared for this.”
Second-placed team on the day, Ascendis Health, started the race with no major expectations and are taking the race day-by-day. However, their form in the Prologue and Stage 1 has been impressive and both riders are happy to be in the top three so far. “It was hard out there, especially when the rain came,” said De Groot. “We are riding well together and we had another good day, though we did feel it in the legs towards the end.”
“We are riding as hard as we can,” added Stenerhag, “but Ariane and Annika are still miles ahead of us. They are just two absolutely phenomenal riders. This is definitely one of the strongest women’s fields the Cape Epic has ever had, but it feels like they have no competition out there.”
The field will be tested again tomorrow, on another day that stays in the Elgin valley. Stage 2 is billed as “an interesting mix” of a day, with a balance between tough climbing, fast flat sections and some great singletrack. The route is 92km with 2300m of climbing and takes riders up the Nuweberg before weaving through the hills above Grabouw and then down towards the Elgin Country Club. Riders will then cross Oak Valley Wine Estate and into Paul Cluver before heading back to the finish at Oak Valley.
- RECM Specialized; 50-1 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 50-2 Annika Langvad (Denmark); Stage time 5:32.00,5
2. Ascendis Health; 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (SA); Stage time 5:49.39,9
3. Meerendal Wheeler; 51-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 51-2 Alice Pirard (Belgium); Stage time 5:53.16,1
- RECM Specialized; 50-1 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 50-2 Annika Langvad (Denmark); 6:25.39,2
2. Ascendis Health; 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (SA); 6:46.54,4; +21.15,2
3. Meerendal Wheeler; 51-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 51-2 Alice Pirard (Belgium); 6:51.40,1; +26.00,9
4. SasolRacing; 56-1 Yolande de Villiers (SA) 56-2 Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia); 7:03.07,9; +37.28,7
5. Sellaronda Hero; 52-1 Sally Bigham (England) 52-2 Christina Kollmann (Austria); 7:05.39,6; +40.00,4
6. Meerendal Wheeler C’dale; 54-1 Milena Landtwing (Switzerland) 54-2 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands); 7:11.30,7; +45.51,5
7. RBS; 137-1 Theresa Ralph (SA) 137-2 Jeannie Bomford (SA); 7:12.46,5; +47.07,3
8. World Bicycle Relief; 53-1 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Norway) 53-2 Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland); 7:23.44,4; +58.05,2
9. SasolRacing; 2 59-1 Leana de Jager (SA) 59-2 Yolandi du Toit (SA); 7:30.53,8; +1:05.14,6
10. Novus OMX Pro; 79-1 Mariske Strauss (SA) 79-2 Cherie Vale (SA); 7:37.56,5; +1:12.17,3
This year the Untamed African MTB stage race takes place from 15 to 22 March 2015, and will once again take 1 200 riders through some of the Western Cape’s most unspoilt territory. The race begun with the Prologue on Table Mountain, starting from the University of Cape Town, and will eight days later at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville.
Meerendal Wine Estate will be hosting the finish of the race and the Grand Finale celebrations for the very first time on 22 March 2015. The Grand Finale will kick off with live entertainment, a Farmer’s Market, delectable food and wine as well as glorious scenery. Vantage points will be accessible to the general public, so that all may have a piece of the mountain biking action.