Thrilling stage decided by sprint finishes

The leading two UCI womens category teams battie it out during stage 3 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Elandskloof in Greyton, South Africa on the 22nd March 2017 Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

The leading two UCI womens category teams battie it out during stage 3 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Elandskloof in Greyton, South Africa on the 22nd March 2017
Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

For the second day in a row both the Men’s and Women’s categories of the Absa Cape Epic were won by a tense sprint finish.

In Wednesday’s 78km Stage 3, Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Investec-Songo-Specialized) claimed a second consecutive stage win. More importantly for them they managed to eat into the time gap of the overall race leaders, Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing XC). The difference now is just 80 seconds.

In the Hansgrohe Women’s category, once again there was no obvious difference between the top two pairings as Ascendis Health and Meerendal CBC spent the entire 78km stage around Greyton locked in a close battle.

Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) managed to get the stage win by outsprinting the overall race leaders, Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC), in the desperate dash for the finish line.

These two teams have dominated the women’s race so far and between them have won all four of the stages so far. Ascendis Health won the Prologue and Stage 3 while Meerendal emerged victorious on Stages 1 and 2.

In the men’s race, Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann (Scott-Sram MTB Racing) ended second for the second day in a row, with third-place on Wednesday going to Nicola Rohrbach and Daniel Geismayr (Centurion Vaude 2).

Left to right: 2nd Place Matthias Stirnemann & Nino Schurter of SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, 1st Place Jaroslav Kulhavy & Christoph Sauser of Investec-Songo-Specialized and 3rd Place Daniel Geismayr & Nicola Rohrbach of Centurion Vaude 2 during stage 3 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Elandskloof in Greyton, South Africa on the 22nd March 2017 Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Left to right: 2nd Place Matthias Stirnemann & Nino Schurter of SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, 1st Place Jaroslav Kulhavy & Christoph Sauser of Investec-Songo-Specialized and 3rd Place Daniel Geismayr & Nicola Rohrbach of Centurion Vaude 2 during stage 3 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Elandskloof in Greyton, South Africa on the 22nd March 2017
Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

The relatively short 78km stage should have been a day for the cross-country specialists to rise to the occasion, so it was no surprise Schurter and Stirneman were aggressive on the early climbs and descents, causing overall leaders Cannondale Factory Racing XC to drop off the pace a number of times. But the Olympic champion and his partner couldn’t shake off the imposing presence of Sauser and Kulhavy.

Investec-Songo-Specialized made the decisive attack on the final big climb of the day and crucially Cannondale Factory Racing XC dropped back.

In the dash for the line, Stirneman misjudged the finish line and started his sprint too early, allowing Sauser to power past and claim the win for his team.

“That was a good day for us,” said a relaxed Sauser. “We managed to make good progress and win the stage. It was only a short day so we weren’t expecting to eat too much time into the Cannondale Factory Racing XC guys, but we did so we’ll take the win and that little bonus.”

In the women’s race, Suss dismissed any suggestion they were content with their nine-minute lead and had started to ride a defensive race.

“No! We definitely did not just try and sit on,” she said while recovering after the hectic race for the line on Wednesday. “We try to go as fast as we can. Jennie went to the front and went as hard as she could when she was strong, and I went hard on the front when I could. We tried very hard in the second part of the day.

“We are not really happy with the second. I worked maybe too hard on the flat section just before the finish. But we are still in the lead and today we did not lose any time, so I think that is the best for us.”

In the other categories, Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds and Thomas Frischknecht (Scott-Sram-Nextlevel) increased their lead over Grant Usher and Amy Beth Mcdougall (joBerg2c-Valencia) to 16 minutes in the Virgin Active Mixed category; while Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes (Pyga Euro Steel) are 15 minutes ahead of BCX’s HB Kruger and Waylon Woolcock in the Absa African special jersey (for teams where both riders are from the continent) and Candice Lill and Namibia’s Vera Adrian (dormakaba SA) are the leading African women.

In the Dimension Data Masters category, former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and George Hincapie (BMC Absa) won the stage but are still third, 12 minutes behind Orbea Factory (Tomi Misser and Ibon Zugasti) and five back from CST Sandd American Eagle (Abraao Azevedo and Bart Brentjens). The Diepsloot MTB Academy’s William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona once again added to their overall lead in the Exxaro special jersey.

With a long day tomorrow – 112km from Elandskloof to Oak Valley in Elgin – the overall men’s leaders will have their work cut out for them while the women’s leading teams are expected to be locked together once more.

2017 Stage 3 Men
Stage Results

1. Investec-Songo-Specialized 3-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 3-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 3:03.46,0
2. SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing 5-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 5-2 Matthias Stirnemann (Switzerland) 3:03.46,4 +0,4
3. Centurion Vaude 2 16-1 Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland) 16-2 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 3:03.54,5 +8,5

Overall Results

1. Cannondale Factory Racing XC 8-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 8-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 11:05.51,4
2. Investec-Songo-Specialized 3-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 3-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 11:07.11,6 +1.20,2
3. SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing 5-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 5-2 Matthias Stirnemann (Switzerland) 11:09.55,2 +4.03,8
4. Kansai Plascon 7-1 Hector Leonardo Paez Leon (Colombia) 7-2 Max Knox (South Africa) 11:15.23,5 +9.32,1
5. Centurion Vaude 2 16-1 Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland) 16-2 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 11:15.59,4 +10.08,0
6. Bulls 1-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 1-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 11:21.47,6 +15.56,2
7. Centurion Vaude 6-1 Jochen Kaess (Germany) 6-2 Markus Kaufmann (Germany) 11:24.20,2 +18.28,8
8. Topeak Ergon Racing 4-1 Alban Lakata (Austria) 4-2 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 11:26.45,6 +20.54,2
9. Scott-SRAM Young Guns 18-1 Michiel Van der Heijden (Netherlands) 18-2 Andri Frischknecht (Switzerland) 11:30.26,1 +24.34,7
10. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 11:32.43,0 +26.51,6

2017 Stage 3 Women
Stage Results

1. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 3:41.20,6
2. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 3:41.20,8 +0,2
3. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 3:44.25,4 +3.04,8

Overall Results

1. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 13:13.23,0
2. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 13:22.20,8 +8.57,8
3. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 13:37.45,1 +24.22,1
4. Spur 50-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 50-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 13:56.34,3 +43.11,3
5. DormaKaba SA 55-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 55-2 Vera Adrian (Namibia) 14:00.51,0 +47.28,0
6. Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab 138-1 Carmen Buchacher (South Africa) 138-2 Michelle Vorster (Namibia) 14:14.19,0 +1:00.56,0
7. Meerendal CBC 2 53-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 53-2 Cornelia Hug (Switzerland) 14:15.32,3 +1:02.09,3
8. Merchants 438-1 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa) 438-2 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 14:20.15,4 +1:06.52,4
9. Spur Foundation 57-1 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 57-2 Sabrina Enaux (France) 15:03.14,3 +1:49.51,3
10. LIVBeyond 667-1 Fienie Barnard (South Africa) 667-2 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 15:08.59,9 +1:55.36,9

2017 Stage 3 Masters
Stage Results

1. BMC Absa Racing Team 63-1 Cadel Evans (Australia) 63-2 George Hincapie (United States of America) 3:23.31,1
2. CST Sandd American Eagle 61-1 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 61-2 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 3:23.33,9 +2,8
3. Orbea Factory 35-1 Tomi Misser (Spain) 35-2 Ibon Zugasti (Spain) 3:30.16,4 +6.45,3

Overall Results

1. Orbea Factory 35-1 Tomi Misser (Spain) 35-2 Ibon Zugasti (Spain) 12:28.17,6
2. CST Sandd American Eagle 61-1 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 61-2 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 12:33.10,7 +4.53,1
3. BMC Absa Racing Team 63-1 Cadel Evans (Australia) 63-2 George Hincapie (United States of America) 12:40.11,7 +11.54,1
4. AGU-DESIGNYOUROWN.CC 69-1 Henrik Kirk (Denmark) 69-2 Thomas Noerup (Denmark) 13:21.04,1 +52.46,5
5. GACOSUR IEDES CENTAURO 68-1 Manuel Rojo Nieto (Spain) 68-2 Jorge Lopez Janeiro (Spain) 13:24.33,1 +56.15,5
6. ROCKY MOUNTAIN – toMotion 62-1 Thorsten Keller (Germany) 62-2 Max Friedrich (Germany) 13:31.45,6 +1:03.28,0
7. LGE Midas/Slender-Wonder 330-1 Igna de Villiers (South Africa) 330-2 Paul Theron (South Africa) 13:36.04,3 +1:07.46,7
8. @40 64-1 Hannes Hanekom (South Africa) 64-2 Ben Melt Swanepoel (South Africa) 13:39.13,2 +1:10.55,6
9. Eurocasa Gaggenau 609-1 Richard Lurie (South Africa) 609-2 Brent Russell (South Africa) 13:53.22,2 +1:25.04,6
10. Podium Sports 65-1 Nic Lamond (South Africa) 65-2 Simon Lamond (South Africa) 13:57.12,4 +1:28.54,8

2017 Stage 3 Grand Masters
Stage Results

1. Meerendal CBC 3 67-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 67-2 Heinz Zoerweg (Austria) 3:36.15,0
2. ABSA Bus Boys 304-1 Greg Anderson (South Africa) 304-2 Deon Kruger (South Africa) 3:49.53,2 +13.38,2
3. Pitstop1Sport24hrs 342-1 Waleed Baker (South Africa) 342-2 Marius Nel (South Africa) 4:03.23,2 +27.08,2

Overall Results

1. Meerendal CBC 3 67-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 67-2 Heinz Zoerweg (Austria) 13:15.43,7
2. ABSA Bus Boys 304-1 Greg Anderson (South Africa) 304-2 Deon Kruger (South Africa) 13:53.45,8 +38.02,1
3. Pitstop1Sport24hrs 342-1 Waleed Baker (South Africa) 342-2 Marius Nel (South Africa) 15:04.16,7 +1:48.33,0
4. Cape Airconditioning 594-1 Landon la Grange (South Africa) 594-2 Peter Winn (South Africa) 15:27.12,2 +2:11.28,5
5. Bestmed Jaguar Sandton 312-1 Rex Benson (South Africa) 312-2 Rory Mapstone (South Africa) 15:55.30,2 +2:39.46,5
6. ALAIN – KAPPIUS 130-1 Alain Broglia (France) 130-2 Alain Morra (France) 15:56.03,2 +2:40.19,5
7. Holte MTB Club 291-1 Bo Falck Hansen (Denmark) 291-2 Carsten Kristiansen (Denmark) 15:56.25,6 +2:40.41,9
8. PitstopSport24hrs3 483-1 Ahmed Zaid Mahomed (South Africa) 483-2 Dawood Osman (South Africa) 16:30.26,8 +3:14.43,1
9. Lab Rats 300-1 Arrie Rautenbach (South Africa) 300-2 Philip Vermeulen (South Africa) 16:31.10,1 +3:15.26,4
10. Gutta Boyz 412-1 Ivar Tollefsen (Norway) 412-2 Trond Hilde (Norway) 16:47.35,8 +3:31.52,1

2017 Stage 3 Mixed
Stage Results

1. Scott-Sram Nextlevel 70-1 Jenny Rissveds (Sweden) 70-2 Thomas Frischknecht (Switzerland) 3:38.34,1
2. RBI Tech – Mitas 71-1 Johan Labuschagne (South Africa) 71-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 3:48.13,1 +9.39,0
3. Joberg2C-Valencia 565-1 Grant Usher (South Africa) 565-2 Amy Beth McDougall (South Africa) 3:51.27,9 +12.53,8

Overall Results

1. Scott-Sram Nextlevel 70-1 Jenny Rissveds (Sweden) 70-2 Thomas Frischknecht (Switzerland) 13:21.08,0
2. Joberg2C-Valencia 565-1 Grant Usher (South Africa) 565-2 Amy Beth McDougall (South Africa) 13:37.32,6 +16.24,6
3. RBI Tech – Mitas 71-1 Johan Labuschagne (South Africa) 71-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 13:51.49,5 +30.41,5
4. New World St Martins 668-1 Willy Williams (New Zealand) 668-2 Kate Fluker (New Zealand) 14:33.16,6 +1:12.08,6
5. Fairtree Capital 72-1 Corrie Muller (South Africa) 72-2 Mari Rabie (South Africa) 14:40.36,1 +1:19.28,1
6. Motor Mile Racing 449-1 Bradley Cobb (United States of America) 449-2 Carla Williams (United States of America) 14:55.30,6 +1:34.22,6
7. Meerendal CBC 4 432-1 Heinz Posch (Switzerland) 432-2 Nina Brenn (Switzerland) 15:11.33,0 +1:50.25,0
8. Vejer Bike 625-1 Cristina Barberan (Spain) 625-2 Morillo Romero (Spain) 15:13.47,1 +1:52.39,1
9. Comus Clif Bar 583-1 Jean-Luc Perez (France) 583-2 Muriel Bouhet (France) 15:34.39,5 +2:13.31,5
10. Globeflight 49-1 Henning Blaauw (South Africa) 49-2 Louise Ferreira (South Africa) 15:41.49,9 +2:20.41,9

2017 Stage 3 Absa African
Stage Results

1. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 3:10.42,7
2. BCX 10-1 Hendrik Kruger (South Africa) 10-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 3:15.21,0 +4.38,3
3. NAD Pro MTB 14-1 Nico Bell (South Africa) 14-2 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 3:18.47,1 +8.04,4

Overall Results

1. PYGA Euro Steel 9-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 9-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 11:32.43,0
2. BCX 10-1 Hendrik Kruger (South Africa) 10-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 11:48.21,7 +15.38,7
3. NAD Pro MTB 14-1 Nico Bell (South Africa) 14-2 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 11:55.40,7 +22.57,7
4. SPOT Africa-Agrichem 39-1 Timothy Hammond (South Africa) 39-2 Dominic Calitz (South Africa) 12:18.45,6 +46.02,6
5. Imbuko Freewheel Cycology 23-1 Christopher Wolhuter (South Africa) 23-2 Dylan Rebello (South Africa) 12:50.42,5 +1:17.59,5
6. NFB – Spine & Sport 27-1 Craig Uria (South Africa) 27-2 Andrew Duvenage (South Africa) 12:55.49,9 +1:23.06,9
7. Breedenet 549-1 Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse (South Africa) 549-2 CP van Wyk (South Africa) 13:05.19,8 +1:32.36,8
8. William Simpson 33-1 Michael Posthumus (South Africa) 33-2 Derrin Smith (South Africa) 13:06.53,4 +1:34.10,4
9. LGE Midas/Slender-Wonder 330-1 Igna de Villiers (South Africa) 330-2 Paul Theron (South Africa) 13:36.04,3 +2:03.21,3
10. Joberg2C-Valencia 565-1 Grant Usher (South Africa) 565-2 Amy Beth McDougall (South Africa) 13:37.32,6 +2:04.49,6

2017 Stage 3 Exxaro
Stage Results

1. Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 376-1 William Mokgopo (South Africa) 376-2 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 3:43.10,3
2. Exxaro MTB Academy2 365-1 Anele Mtalana (South Africa) 365-2 Rilamulele Gadabeni (South Africa) 3:55.13,6 +12.03,3
3. BMT Academy Fairtree 1 362-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 362-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 3:57.29,6 +14.19,3

Overall Results

1. Diepsloot MTB Academy 1 376-1 William Mokgopo (South Africa) 376-2 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 13:46.53,3
2. BMT Academy Fairtree 1 362-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 362-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 14:32.24,3 +45.31,0
3. Songo-Investec 1 373-1 Thando Klaas (South Africa) 373-2 Lorenzo Leroux (South Africa) 14:47.15,8 +1:00.22,5
4. DMA Absa 361-1 Sean Baloyi (South Africa) 361-2 Luke Mashiane (South Africa) 15:05.03,7 +1:18.10,4
5. RMB Change a Life 1 372-1 Bongumusa Zikhali (South Africa) 372-2 Mazwi Smimango (South Africa) 15:05.20,6 +1:18.27,3
6. Exxaro MTB Academy2 365-1 Anele Mtalana (South Africa) 365-2 Rilamulele Gadabeni (South Africa) 15:15.03,2 +1:28.09,9
7. RMB Change a Life 371-1 Ndumiso Dontso (South Africa) 371-2 Sipho Kupiso (South Africa) 15:45.42,5 +1:58.49,2
8. Land Rover 7 370-1 Syanda Masango (South Africa) 370-2 Luvuyo Siyasi (South Africa) 16:08.43,2 +2:21.49,9
9. Absa DMA ROSS 305-1 Clement Mabula (South Africa) 305-2 Mphodisa Bruce Sebopa (South Africa) 16:16.54,9 +2:30.01,6
10. BMT Academy 377-1 Abongile Bhusakwe (South Africa) 377-2 Siyabulela Tutu (South Africa) 17:12.06,0 +3:25.12,7

* 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