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Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink of team NAD Pro MTB during stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Oak Valley Wine Estate in Elgin. Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

NAD Pro MTB (Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell) finished their second consecutive stage ahead of PYGA Euro Steel (Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes) in the fight for the Absa African special jersey. On Stage 5, cooler conditions were enjoyed by all riders.

With an Exxaro special jersey lead of 1:35.58,3, Diepsloot MTB Academy have exceeded all expectations, including their own. Mokgopo said, “When we were training for the Absa Cape Epic, we set a goal to be riding in the middle of the bunch. Yes, in the first two days we did struggle, but from the third day we really found our rhythm and it was that perfect link where we had to peak at the right times.” Today they finished with a time of 4:30.28,7.

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William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona during stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

On the 84km Stage 5 the conditions suited the pair’s riding style. Making use of the trails compacted by yesterday’s welcome rain, Diepsloot MTB Academy put in a good ride on the trails in and around Elgin.

“One thing that has been so consistent for us is that we always seem to find our legs on the approach to the finish line, but today was different because we had our legs right from the start.”

His teammate Sebona said, although they hang onto such an extensive lead, they will continue to push hard on the final two stages.

“As per the last two days, we are confident we can hold onto the Exxaro special jersey right to the end, so now our big focus is putting in good stages for the general category times. We also want to be in the top five for the African teams. I’m really positive about my condition and I know William has been feeling positive about his,” said Sebona.

With stage six expected to be the toughest of all, Sebona is relishing the challenge.

“With me and William, we have great experience and we really do well when we come together. It seems as though the tougher things are, the better we do. We continue to get stronger each day.”

All-South African duo Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell enjoyed yet another successful day, finishing with a time of 3:58.58,6. Combrink says the fight for the Absa African special jersey may be a bridge too far, but remains happy after a strong stage.

“We just tried to stay with the front guys for as long as possible and then we got a little stuck in the pack a bit, so we just rode steady and rode within ourselves. It was good fun on the trails.”

PYGA Euro Steel seemed to be in contention for a stage win, but when Beukes received a puncture, the team was forced to change tactics.

“At the start we got away nicely with the two SCOTT teams and the Trek-Selle San Marco guys, but then I sliced my tyre, fixed it and then had to change the wheel. From there we just tried to save as much energy as possible without losing too much time on Nico and Gawie,” said Beukes.

“I think a podium would have been on the cards. We were feeling really good. It was my first puncture in four Absa Cape Epics – so it was a bit of bad luck.”