Despite Stage 3 being pencilled in as one for the XCO specialists Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavý, a man who defies mountain bike categorisation, emerged victorious in the second sprint finish in a row at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic, on Wednesday the 22nd of March. In the surge for the line Sauser and Kulhavý saw off Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann, of SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, in a repeat of Stage 2’s finish. Though this time Stirnemann was just 0.4 seconds off Sauser, halving the previous day’s already small deficit.
As the shortest official stage of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic, barring the Prologue and the last-minute shortened Stage 2, it was always going to be a frenetic one. And so it was, with the racing full speed from the off.
“At the beginning it’s always hard to ride in the front. Everybody thinks they have to sprint for every trail. For me it’s important to be in the top five/top ten in the trails, but it takes a lot of energy to sprint for the first place. Then you see after an hour and a half it’s much easier to ride in the front two” Sauser stated when asked about the opening hour of the day. Despite the riders arriving at each way-point of the stage ahead of the predicted schedule the lead group was the biggest of the race thus far, with Team Bulls and Topeak Ergon Racing managing to stay with the fast paced XCO teams for longer than they had on previous stages.
The race leaders, Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini of Cannondale Factory Racing XC, set the pace on the singletrack packed stage. “The Cannondales are always good in the trails and stuff, always going first; but once we came to the open fields and the cross winds you could see they were just hiding and struggling. Then the real climb came and we made quite a few seconds, but they almost came back on the downhill. Then there was another small kicker and we opened it again. And with Jaro, he’s like a train when he gets going, we just kept opening it” he explained as to how the Investec-songo-Specialized pair managed to drop the yellow jersey wearers.
SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing and the Centurion Vaude 2 team, of Nicola Rohrbach and Daniel Giesmayr, hitched a ride to the finish on the wheel of the Czech Express, Kulhavý, along with Sauser. Leading into the finish the Investec-songo-Specialized team kept cranking up the pace until Rohrbach and Giesmayr could no longer match their efforts; leaving Sauser and Kulhavý to contest the sprint with Schurter and Stirnemann. For the second day in a row Schurter was up to the task of a sprint finish with the race favourites, but his young Swiss partner Stirnemann was once again out foxed and out sprinted by Sauser as Investec-songo-Specialized claimed their second stage victory of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.
More importantly than the stage win was the 1 minute and 19.5 seconds they managed to win back on Cannondale Factory Racing XC. The result brings the general classification time gap down to 1 minute and 20.2 seconds with four tough stages remaining.
Stage 4, from Greyton to Elgin, is the longest of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic at 112 kilometres long and should suit Sauser and Kulhavy to a T. “I like those A to B stages. I like the variation and the road racing style” Sauser said when asked about the stage to come. “It was very different last year with Sipho [Madolo of songo.info], I just wanted trails but when it counts for the win…” he trailed off laughing at the prospect of another hard day in the saddle as he seeks his sixth Absa Cape Epic title.
You can follow all the Absa Cape Epic the action live tomorrow on www.cape-epic.com 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 3 | Men
1) Investec-songo-Specialized: Christoph Sauser & Jaroslav Kulhavý (3:03:46.0)
2) SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing: Nino Schurter & Matthias Stimemann (3:03:46.4 | +0.4)
3) Centurion Vaude 2: Nicola Rohrbach & Daniel Giesmayr (3:03:54.5 | +8.5)
4) Cannondale Factory Racing XC: Manuel Fumic & Henrique Avancini (3:05:05.5 | +1:19.5)
5) Kansai Plascon: Max Knox & Leonardo Paez (3:05:05.9 | +1:19.9)
General Classification | Men
1) Cannondale Factory Racing XC: Manuel Fumic & Henrique Avancini (11:05:51.4)
2) Investec-songo-Specialized: Christoph Sauser & Jaroslav Kulhavý (11:07:11.6 | +1:20.2)
3) SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing: Nino Schurter & Matthias Stimemann (11:15:23.5 | +4:03.8)
4) Kansai Plascon: Max Knox & Leonardo Paez (11:15:23.5 | +9:32.1)
5) Centurion Vaude 2: Nicola Rohrbach & Daniel Giesmayr (11:15:59.4 | +10:08.0)
Investec-songo-Specialized | ACE Stage 3