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Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

South African De Groot and her German partner Sabine Spitz landed the first blows in the fight for the Hansgrohe Women’s category when they beat Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC) by 39 seconds over the 26km prologue course at Meerendal Wine Estate.

Cape Town local Mariske Strauss and Briton Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro) claimed third, another 70 seconds back, with the Spur duo of defending champion Ariane Luthi and Adelheid Morath (Spur) struggling to a disappointing fourth, over two minutes behind the leaders.

Luthi, was visibly shattered after crossing the line and virtually conceded defeat after the opening stage.

“We were just not strong enough today,” said the three-time Women’s category winner. “We did what we could but it was not enough.”

When asked if she thought the longer stages from Monday may suit them more, she shook her head and repeated: “We are not strong enough.”

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Jennie Stenerhag and Ester Suss of Meerendal CBC during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

In contrast a very relaxed and upbeat De Groot could not keep the smile off her face.

“We really enjoyed the route out there today. It was so nice doing what we love doing today. The plan was to take is at is comes and it went perfectly so we had a very good prologue today.

“For me it is such a privilege to be to be able to learn from Sabine for this week – and who can there be better to learn from?” said the multiple South African champion.

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(Left to Right) 2nd Place Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Suss of Meerendal CBC, 1st Place Sabine Spitz & Robyn de Groot of Ascends Health and 3rd Place Mariske Strauss & Annie Last of Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

In the Virgin Active Mixed race, Olympic Women’s gold medallist Jenny Rissveds and mountain biking legend Thomas Frischknecht (Scott-Sram Nextlevel) claimed the early lead and take a one minute 44 second lead into the second stage in Hermanus on Monday. Grant Usher and former World Single Speed World Champion Amy Beth Mcdougall (Joberg2c-Valencia) are second with the New Zealand paring of Willy Williams and Kate Fluker (New World St Martins) third just six seconds further back.

Monday’s Stage 1 is very different from the fast and furious 26km prologue. The riders will tackle a gruelling 101km stage that starts and finishes in Hermanus.

Absa Cape Epic Prologue Highlights