Philip Buys of PYGA Euro Steel leads the bunch during the final stage (stage 7) of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic from Oak Valley Wine Estate in Elgin to Val de Vie in Paarl. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

By doing so they also claimed the Absa African special jersey - for the first team in which both riders are from the continent - thanks to a strong overall performance, finishing seventh in the general classification.

Beukes was pleased at the race finish. Even without a stage win, this year’s Absa Cape Epic was educational for PYGA Euro Steel.

He said the team is hungry for success in 2018 at the Absa Cape Epic, hinting that a challenge for an overall win could be on.

“We obviously didn't get what we set out to get, but we definitely matured a lot and rode smartly. I think this week was incredibly tough. It’s the most I have ever learned at a Absa Cape Epic so there are a lot of good things to take home.”

The 2017 edition presented numerous mechanical challenges for the Absa African special jersey winners. Their ride was plagued by punctures, but Beukes said this didn’t cost them an elusive stage win.

“This year we had a couple of issues, but we handled them quickly and calmly. The level of the Absa Cape Epic is becoming more intense every year. A couple of year’s ago we set out to win a stage and won it comfortably. This year, there was no chance of that, you really had to put your head down.”

Of the experience, Beukes was all smiles. “We had a good time. We always enjoy riding, whether it's well or not so well, we just try and have a good time.”

Buys was also in good spirits after finishing the Absa Cape Epic seventh overall.

“It was a great Absa Cape Epic! It’s a pity we missed out on a stage win, but we really put everything out there today and we are really happy with the red jersey. We learned a lot this Epic, so I'm sure we will come back smarter.”

As for the immediate future, he said, “Firstly we want some time off - maybe a week or two. The Absa Cape Epic is actually the first event of our local season and we have a bunch of races up until August and then another short break.”

The front bunch during the final stage (stage 7) of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Although they were never quite close enough to contend for the Absa African special jersey, Nico Bell of NAD Pro MTB was pleased to cross the line in good time.

“It’s good racing - the competition was great this year, it seems like it is always picking up. We are glad to get to the finish today without any issues during the race.

“It’s a tough race. You're either strong or you're not. A lot of guys get ill, crash or break something. A lot counts on this race.”

Bell and Combrinck have much to look forward to for the rest of 2017. “Throughout the year we will be doing many South African races. We race throughout the year, but this was a key race,” said Bell.

Not happy but not unhappy either, Combrinck has higher hopes for next year’s Absa Cape Epic. “It turned out okay. We didn’t come here to finish where ended up. But the riding and racing was fun. This final stage was still sandy and dusty but thankfully quite cool.”