HERMIDA AND VAN HOUTS TO WEAR YELLOW ZEBRA-STRIPED JERSEY FOR STAGE 1 OUT OF ROBERTSON
The fifth prologue in the eleven year history of the Absa Cape Epic set the seeding order for Stage 1 of the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race.
Following the resounding success of the 2012 and 2013 Prologues, the eleventh edition of the race kicked off with a 23-kilometer prologue at Meerendal Wine Estate in the Durbanville Wine Valley – the mountain biking Mecca on Cape Town’s doorstep. The event saw 1 200 excited riders from 50 countries enjoy cool weather with the first group of riders starting their 8-day journey at 06:45. Short and filled with loads of purpose built single track, the Prologue was the first test for man and machine for the week to come. Rolling off the start ramp, the route took riders through the historic Manor House after which a surprising twist awaited before riders faced the challenging single track climb up “Stairway to Heaven” to the top of Dorstberg, a mountaintop which boasts magnificent 360 degree views of world famous landmarks such as Table Mountain, Robben Island and Cape Point. Pressed for time, teams had to forgo sight-seeing as they dove straight into a rugged, Renosterveld lined trail that descended into the quarry and adjacent Hoogekraal farm, where sweeping single track forming part of the Tygerberg Mountain Bike Club trail system lay in wait. Well bermed turns made for a fun roller coaster descent as the route ultimately headed back through steep vineyards and a steady climb past dairy fields onto the picturesque Meerendal Wine Estate, finishing off with some more single track, ensuring that riders finished their first day with big smiles on their faces.
This time trial was a race against the clock to decide the seeding in the field and which teams will wear the coveted leader jerseys at the start of Stage 1 in Robertson.
The Spanish/Dutch team of José Hermida and Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida Biking) will wear the sough-after yellow zebra-striped leader jersey in the Men’s category. Ariane Kleinhans and Annike Langvad (RECM 2) will be leading the women in the orange leader jersey, with Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo of BETCH.nl Superior Meerendal wearing the blue Masters leader jersey. The Grand Masters purple jersey will be worn by Andrew Mclean and Heinz Zoerweg (Cycle Lab Toyota). The Absa African special jersey will be worn by Kevin Evans and Max Knox (FedGroup Itec), and the Exxaro special jersey worn by Siphosenkosi Madolo and Azukile Simayile of team Meerendal Songo Specialized 16.
KAUFMANN AND KAESS WIN THEIR FIRST STAGE AT THE 2014 ABSA CAPE EPIC
SAUSER AND RABOÑ MOVE UP TO THIRD PLACE OVERALL
Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic is always referred to as one of the most challenging of the race, and it was no different for the 2014 event. The stage was as tough as it was beautiful with the most spectacular views rewarded after the most demanding climbs. The day was characterized by a fast start at water point 1, where the real challenge began. Three major climbs, all on rough surfaces, took riders through fynbos deep into the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains.
Tortoise Hill stood out with its double peak and precariously steep descent, followed by some relentless ridgeline riding and the sharp zigzag climb, which started off through cooling pine trees before once again heading for the skies. It was the harsh surface which made the day challenging – as well as the fact that most of the climbing was packed into the 45km section in the middle of the stage. Riders were able to make some time on the final 25km as the terrain eased back into flowing farm and gravel roads. Temperatures for this stage ranged from 19 to 22 degrees Celcius with light rain.
The course took the riders through rain in a loop, starting and finishing in Robertson, over some of the most rugged terrain in the Western Cape and up three brutal climbs. All of the top teams had problems during the day, ranging from punctures and mechanical problems to crashes and illness. Several teams who had an eye on the Men’s category podium were set back – among them favourites Karl Platt, from Germany, and Swiss teammate Urs Huber (Bulls), who slipped into seventh place overall and are five minutes off the pace, with fears that Huber may be getting ill. The biggest setback of the day probably befell Spaniard José Hermida and his Dutch partner Rudi van Houts (Team Multivan Merida), who had won Sunday’s prologue but finished more than one hour and 15 minutes off the pace yesterday.
Hermida fell victim to stomach problems overnight and struggled throughout. In the women’s event, pre-race favourites and prologue winners Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad had a disastrous day with a series of punctures and problems and fell 25 minutes off the pace. Kaufmann and Kaess – who came into the Epic unheralded – survived a flat tyre and a fall to eventually pull away near the end of the stage.