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Win for Stander, Sauser

Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander (Songo-Specialized by DCM), winners of four stages during last year’s Absa Cape Epic, are back in top form after winning stage three of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in a time of 4hr 36min 59.8sec on Tuesday.

They finished four minutes and 10 seconds ahead of the Fl├╝ckiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, of team Trek World Racing, who finished in second place (4:41.09.5). The Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm finished in third place (4:41.50.6), only 0.6sec ahead of team Trek-Brentjens’ Bart Brentjens and Jelmer Pietersma (4:41.51.2). The Bulls Team has now taken the overall lead.

Tuesday’s stage took riders on fast open roads, followed by a short section of smooth, flowing single track. After a leg-trashing 3km climb out of the Ceres bowl and up onto a plateau, riders were relieved to see the first water point. A rough dual track then headed through some rare fynbos and riders needed to stay alert on the challenging downhill section. Almost half of the day’s climbing was done with the first 40km and experienced athletes needed to be careful to ride within their limits, not spending too much energy too early.

After traversing the farmlands past a very inviting dam, riders hugged the foothills of Matroosberg, passed a ski hut ÔÇô dreaming of snow on such a hot day. More descending took them back down into the Ceres bowl with the first section on tar, but the next one much more technical. The last climb of the day was short but very steep and loose, forcing riders to walk. The profile looked fairly flat from here on, but if heat and rugged terrain did not break their spirits, the sandy patches and devil thorns on the last 15km easily made up for it.

Sauser and Stander are now in fourth position overall (13:40.00.1). They were followed by the Lukas and Mathias Fl├╝ckiger (Trek World Racing) who are now in sixth place overall (13:42.27.2). In third place were the Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, who have taken over the overall lead (at 13:30.06.8) from Kevin Evans and Alban Lakata who had serious technical problems along the route and lost a lot of time (finishing Stage Three in 4:52.43.8). Evans and Lakata of Team MTN Qhubeka Topeak Ergon are now in third position overall (13:36.36.8) with Trek-Brentjens now in second place overall (13:34.10,1).

Says South Africa’s Stander, winner of Tuesday’s stage: ÔÇ£It’s a huge relief to have done better than the first two days. I suffered a bit at the beginning of the stage, but felt very hungry at the first water point ÔÇô a very good sign – and had something to eat. That made me feel better and I continued fuelling my body after not being able to do so for the first two days. I started feeling better and stronger and we started pushing to catch up with the leaders. As soon as we were with them, Christoph and I decided to go for it and open the gap. As long as I can eat, my body feels good. It’s a really nice feeling to have won this stage and to know the game is back on. We’re in fourth place overall. But, you never can tell what happens in this race. It’s still a long way to go.

“This is definitely the toughest Absa Cape Epic I’ve ever done and you can see that the riders are more fatigued. Hopefully during the next couple of days we’ll feel good.ÔÇØ Sauser is very pleased that Stander is back in shape. ÔÇ£It’s lovely that Burry’s back. Every morning at the start we didn’t know if he may have to pull out. Also, if your partner’s not feeling well, you also feel bad. Today after the long technical climb, I saw that we were back in the race. We had to inflate tyres on two occasions, so lost some time, but when the Fl├╝ckiger brothers took the wrong turn, we went for it and made good time. In this race you don’t only need to pedal ÔÇô you have to keep your eyes open and your brain switched on.ÔÇØ

The first women to complete stage three were Kristine and Anna-Sofie Noergaard (Team Rothaus-CUBE) in a time of 5:41.33.6. They remain in second position overall (16:56.52.8). They were followed by the winners of the first two stages, Hannele Steyn-Kotze and Ivonne Kraft (team Sludge Ladies) in a time of 5:49.36.4. They are still the overall leaders in this category (16:53.41.7).

They were followed by Julia Skea and Carla Rowley of Team RBS Biogen in a time of 6:16.12.8 (fourth position overall ÔÇô 18:35.28,1). In fourth place Tuesday were Giuliana Vitali and Tamara Horn (Team ÔÇô Big Tree) ┬áwho finished in a time of 6:27.38.7, placing them in third position overall (18:21.13.0).

The Danish power sisters, Kristine and Anna-Sofie Noergaard, finished in first place today and are enjoying the race so far. Says Kristine: ÔÇ£We’re never the fastest at the beginning of the race, so we haven’t been disappointed with our results so far. From experience we know that it’s important to race our own race all the way and to follow our own speed. Today we didn’t decide to attack ÔÇô I asked Anna-Sofie how her legs were feeling, she said well, so I said let’s go. We’re here to have fun, do what we can and sometimes a bit more.

“We don’t put too much pressure on ourselves. Since Anna-Sofie had a baby, we’ve both realised that mountain biking is not the most important thing in the world. Of course it’s nice to be on the podium though.ÔÇØ Adds Anna-Sofie: ÔÇ£I started riding again about 4 weeks after giving birth. My son’s called Karlo and is named after one of our favourite rider Karl Platt. Karl always manages to have fun, so we think Karlo is going to be strong and also have fun. This year’s Absa Cape Epic is harder than ever ÔÇô and so many rocks and stones.

“It’s also really tough because of the heat and water. In Europe we can get water wherever we like ÔÇô even from people standing next to the road. And we really don’t enjoy getting up at 5 in the morning, but at least we’re not staying in a tent like in 2007. We promised ourselves then that we won’t do that again.ÔÇØ