Epic leaders win consecutive stages in Robertson | TeamSA - TeamSA
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Epic leaders win consecutive stages in Robertson

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Stage two of the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race produced repeat winners for both the men and the women, but their respective victories arose from different tactics on the out-and-back route around Robertson on Tuesday.

Cannondale Factory Racing’s Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini along with Investec Songo Specialized’s Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney made it two wins in a row, but there was nothing similar in the way their respective races unfolded.

Fumic and Avancini needed to edge ahead in a four-way sprint to claim their victory at the end of the demanding 106-kilometre stage, while the Songo women’s pair attacked 30km from the finish and built a lead of over four minutes.

The pressure that comes with wearing the yellow jersey was obvious in the faces of Fumic and Avancini ahead of a stage that was expected to favour the diesel engines of the marathon racers. However, a new-found sense of maturity is paying off for the exuberant duo, who spent most of the day conserving energy and riding smart.

That paid off when they were able to claim victory in a final mad dash for the line, just ahead of Nicola Rohrbach and Daniel Geismayr (Centurion Vaude), Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek (Canyon Topeak) and Francesc Carretero and Luis Pinto (Buff Scott MTB).

The day was not without earlier drama however with first Rohrbach and Geismayr experiencing a mechanical early in the stage. Their backup team of Markus Kaufmann and Jodok Salzmann were on hand to assist with a rear-wheel change – a move that would ultimately keep them in third position on the general classification.

But the big losers on the stage were Monday’s runners-up, Jaroslav Kulhavy and Howard Grotts. The Investec Songo Specialized pair made their intentions known when they attacked during the appreciably steep and loose ‘One-Two-Three’ combination climb, a move only the teams of Canyon Topeak and Centurion Vaude were able to follow.

They extended their lead early in the 9.5km Bosvark Land Rover Technical Terrain but a costly puncture forced them to surrender their advantage over the chasing pack.

After putting in a serious effort to get back to the leading pack, Kulhavy and Grotts looked poised for their first stage victory yet a second puncture forced them to surrender all hopes of snatching the yellow jersey away from Cannondale Factory Racing.

‘Today we were let down by mechanicals,’ said Grotts. ‘We were set for a good stage and did everything right. It was just so frustrating to be in the front and then lose time. I was riding over my limit when we chased back – now I just need to recover well.’

‘Today was all about keeping safe for us,’ said Fumic. ‘The stage suited the marathon guys more and they went for it to show us. We focussed on damage control but got caught out a few times. In the sprint, our experience helped us for sure and to get the stage win and another day in yellow makes us happy. There’s still a lot of racing to come.’

Kulhavy and Grotts put in a superb effort to only give up one minute 42 seconds to the stage winners and Cannondale are now 2:42 ahead overall, with Centurion Vaude 3:14 further back in third.

The PYGA Euro Steel team of Matthys Beukes and Julian Jessop bagged their first win in the Absa African Men’s special jersey race, with Timothy Hammond and Arno Du Toit (SPOT Africa) and HB Kruger and Stuart Marais (Ellsworth-ASG) rounding off the podium. NAD MTB’s Nico Bell and Matthew Beers – who finished sixth – were forced to surrender their red jersey to the Ellsworth-ASG pair.

‘Today’s start was tough but we managed to work through it,’ said Kruger. ‘We are very happy to get our hands on that red jersey – that was the one goal we had. There are still more days to come and we will defend the jersey.’

In the women’s category, a brutal attack 30km from the finish allowed Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney to stamp their authority on the women’s category and they collected their third win in three days while they have now extended their lead to a daunting six and a half minutes over Team Spur’s Ariane Lüthi and Githa Michiels.

While the leaders are turning this into a one-team procession, the race for second remains intriguing with the Spur pair edging out Mariske Strauss and Annie Last (Silverback-KMC) by the narrowest of margins after a sprint for second on the stage that left Michiels lying prone on the finish line.

Spur are now over six minutes ahead of their young rivals in the fight for second, but with Wednesday’s 122km stage followed by another 111km brute on Thursday, Michiels’ recovery is going to be key to their fight for the second step on the podium.

Team Ascendis Health finished fourth once again on Tuesday as Robyn de Groot had to nurse Sabine Spitz to the finish as the German continues to struggle with illness. The pair lost another 12 minutes to the leaders and are now 26 minutes off the pace with stage wins the only realistic target remaining if Spitz can recover fully.

When asked if the stage win was a comfortable victory, American Courtney laughed and said ‘comfortable is a very strong word with a partner like Annika!’

‘There was a pretty steep climb about 30km to go and Annika got on the front and set the pace and I just hung on for dear life. We managed to get a gap and then hold it to the finish.’

The USA champion added that she is ‘learning that every second matters in this race. We saw yesterday with our flat that a minute gap can vanish in a few seconds, so it is really about staying on the gas, staying focused and giving our best every second of the race.’

In the race to be the inaugural Absa African Women’s special jersey champions, Candice Lill and Amy Beth McDougall (dormakaba) had a tough day and finished seventh overall, but still increased their lead to just under an hour as Hannele Steyn and Jeannie Dreyer (Nolands Spar) moved into second, overtaking Nadia Visser and Katie Lennard (Western Girls).

Team Merida Argentina extended their lead in the Virgin Active Mixed category to 9:36,9 when they won their third consecutive stage on stage two in Robertson on Tuesday.

Agustina Maria Apaza and Cesar Lettoli finished 4:53:7 ahead of South Africa’s Nicky Giliomee and Brennan Anderson (Journey by Junto) with Yolandi du Toit and Gus Klohn (Garmin Powerbar Mixed) overcoming their indifferent start to the Absa Cape Epic with a third-place finish. Marleen Lourens and Bradley Hemphill are in third place overall, just over 33 minutes in arrears.

Main picture of Fumic and Avancini  and that of the leading women racing through the vineyards courtesy of Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS


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