Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavý fought back from 2 minutes down at one point to finish just 17 seconds off the stage winning SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing team, on Stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic on Friday the 24th of March. In so doing the Investec-songo-Specialized pair retain their second position on the general classification, though the lead changed hands as the Cannondale Factory Racing XC team of Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini lost 9 minutes on the stage, handing Nino Schurter and Matthias Stimemann the yellow jerseys.
The 84 kilometre long stage, which started and finished at Oak Valley in Elgin, included 2 100 metres of climbing taking in some of the region’s best loved trails. Despite the cool temperatures the racing was blazing hot from the off, with the SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing team of Schurter and Stimemann, and their SCOTT-SRAM Young Guns stable-mates, Michiel van der Heijden and Andri Frischkencht, setting the early pace. “They should respect my age” Sauser joked, “I can’t start like that.”
Getting serious he elaborated: “The pace was super high this morning, a bit too high for me. Still we suffered at a very high level. But we just couldn’t get to the SCOTT teams. I know what I don’t have at the beginning I always have at the end, so I always kept positive.”
“It was only with about ten kays to go that we really started closing down” he said reflecting on how he and Kulhavy reduced the deficit from 1 minute and 35 seconds to just 17 seconds in the final 13 kilometres, from the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre to the finish line at Oak Valley.
Despite losing time to Schurter and Stimemann, Sauser and Kulhavý are now actually better off time-wise than they have been throughout the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. The Investec-songo-Specialized team now trail the new race leaders by 50 seconds, with two important stages to come. Stage 6 could well be the decisive stage of the race as it is the undoubted Queen Stage; at 103 kilometres long with 2 750 metres of vertical gain.
In the Exxaro jersey category Thando Klaas and Lorenzo le Roux, of songo-Investec 1, had a difficult day on the bike as they finished nearly 29 minutes down on category stage winners William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona, of Diepsloot MTB Academy 1. Fortunately their rivals for third place in the category, Sean Baloyi and Luke Mashiane, of DMA Absa also struggled on the stage, meaning the gap was only reduced by 2 and a half minutes. But with the mammoth Queen Stage to come, and le Roux struggling on the climbs throughout the week so far, Stage 6 is a daunting prospect for the young songo.info riders. But with the end now very much in sight the that should provide the added motivation needed to see them through the final 188 kilometres of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.
Follow all the action from the Queen Stage of the Absa Cape Epic live on www.cape-epic.com, from 07:00 on Saturday morning and watch the day’s highlights on SuperSport 2 at 21:30 tonight. You can also engage with the team by following @songoinfo on Twitter or liking the songo.info Facebook page.
2017 Absa Cape Epic | Selected Results
Stage 5 | Men
1) SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing: Nino Schurter & Matthias Stimemann (3:50:38.5)
2) SCOTT-SRAM Young Guns: Michiel van der Heijden & Andri Frischkencht (3:50:39.4 | +0.9)
3) Investec-songo-Specialized: Christoph Sauser & Jaroslav Kulhavý (3:50:55.9 | +17.4)
4) Trek-Selle San Marco 2: Damiano Ferraro & Fabian Rabensteiner (3:54:23.4 | +3:08.54)
5) Kansai Plascon: Max Knox & Leonardo Paez (3:55:18.7 | +4:40.2)
General Classification | Men
1) SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing: Nino Schurter & Matthias Stimemann (19:10:34.4)
2) Investec-songo-Specialized: Christoph Sauser & Jaroslav Kulhavý (19:11:24.7 | +50)
3) Cannondale Factory Racing XC: Manuel Fumic & Henrique Avancini (19:19:46.4 | 9:12)
4) Kansai Plascon: Max Knox & Leonardo Paez (19:25:05.0 | +14:30)
5) Centurion Vaude 2: Nicola Rohrbach & Daniel Geismayr (19:28:43.0 | +18:08)