Men’s Category

The Men’s category of Stage 1 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic was won by the Multivan Merida team of José Hermida and Rudi van Houts in a time of 4:30.56,7. They were closely followed by Karl Platt and Urs Huber of team Bulls in 4:32.17,6. Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme of team Bulls 2 crossed the finish line 1,3 seconds after team Bulls, to claim the third place for Stage 1 in a time of 4:32.18,9. Winners of yesterday’s Prologue Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy of team Burry Stander - SONGO followed in fourth place in 4:33.46,0, placing them in second place overall with a time of 5:28.56,1. Multivan Merida leads the race with an overall time of 5:27.13,8.

Hermida and Van Houts now lead the men’s category with an overall lead time of 1 minute 42 seconds. Sauser and Jaroslav of team Burry Stander - SONGO are placed second with an overall time of 5:28.56,1 with Karl Platt and Urs Huber of team Bulls in third place overall (5:29.36,3). In fourth place overall are team Bulls 2 consisting of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme with an overall time of 5:30.10,8.

Says Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida: “I think we’re now in the lead, which is great. It’s always hard to get a stage win in the Absa Cape Epic. I’m really happy. Now we just need to focus on the overall and try and stay in front every day. Today’s stage was very sandy with loose rocks and we did a lot of running. Luckily we’re both light riders and could stay in the saddle in some sections. It was quite a technical ride.” Team mate José Hermida adds: “I have no energy left, not even to talk. Today I again realised what the Absa Cape Epic means – I gave my all to get the yellow zebra leader jersey. Rudi was unbelievable over the last 20 km. There was a tough sandy section and he brought me home. He established the pace and I was hanging in his pocket. I’m really happy though - finally after 4 Epics I have the leader jersey and will do my best to keep it for as long as possible. We’re all riding for Burry.”

Karl Platt of the Bulls says: “We expected it to be very hard, but it was a bit harder than THAT. This is the real Absa Cape Epic and we shouldn’t complain. The Epic must be hard – it’s the hardest race in the world, but after stage 8 we forget everything again. There was so much running in deep sand in between. You just need to switch off your brain and do it. Think of the prize money!”

Thomas Dietsch of the Bulls 2 team says “it went really well until I started having cramps and suffered in the last part of the race. I was riding in the wind of the three Bulls. It’s really nice to be on the podium; it’s a nice start to the Epic!” His team mate Tim Boehme adds: “Today was tough. It was a difficult stage to ride and you needed a lot of power. We’re very happy about our podium finish, but also worried about the next stage. I think it’s going to be tough.”

Says Christoph Sauser, who is now in second place overall with his team mate Jaroslav Kulhavy: “On the first downhill I hit a big rock and broke my rim. We had to wait for another wheel. After that we did a lot of chasing. Tomorrow’s going to be hard and hopefully a bit faster. The sand slowed us down today.”

A small antelope brought Robert Mennen's Absa Cape Epic quest to a premature end when he collided with the animal early in the first stage. He crashed snapping his handlebars and broke his left clavicle (shoulder). The disappointment was huge for Mennen who along with Alban Lakata were in fourth place overall and certain podium contenders.

Absa African Jersey

The Absa African Leader jersey was won by Darren Lill and Charles Keey of team Cannondale Blend (overall 5:39.45,7).

Exarro Jersey

Siphosenkosi Madolo and Azukile Simayile of team Exxaro RMB Academy-songo managed to secure the Exxaro jersey for the second day in a row with their impressive performance during stage 1. Their overall time is 5:53.52,7 and they are placed 59th overall.

Says Azukile Simayile: “It was a very hard stage and I’m not good in sand. We’re happy that we’re stilll in the lead, but my partner pushed me quite hard today.” Siphosenkosi Madolo adds: “Today was a big day for us. Yesterday we were leading by two minutes, but we lost some time today. I like competition and know it’s going to be tough. We’ll push as hard as we can tomorrow – we’re still feeling strong.”

Ladies Category

Esther Süss and Jane Nuessli of BMC Wheeler won the Ladies category in a time of 5:29.00,5 (overall 6:37.22,1), ahead of African/British duo Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson (Energas) in a time of 5:58.12,7 (overall 7:10.09,1). In third place were South Africans Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth of Pragma Volcan ladies (6:03.44,7; overall 7;19.07,6). Süss and Nuessli lead Speedy and Williamson by 32 minutes and 47 seconds.

Says Jane Nuessli of BMC Wheeler: “It was quite a hard day and we had to walk lots of times. There was a lot of sand, which made it really tough. The beginning of this stage was demanding and we’re very happy with the victory.” Adds team mate Esther Süss: “I’m very happy with our performance. It proves that my training worked this winter. There was a lot of sand today and we lost a lot of time there.”

Telkom Business Master’s Category

The Telkom Business Masters category was won by Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts (Juwi) in a time of 4:59.16,1 (overall 6:01.15). They were followed by Bart Brentjens and Robert Sim of Superior-Brentjens 2 in 5:08.43,6 (overall 6:09.58,1). In third place were Neil Bradford and Tim Osrin of HCL/Harvest Foundation 1 in 5:11.31,8 (6:18.14,7). Bresser and Boelts lead this category by 8 minutes and 43,1 seconds and are placed 15th overall.

Says Carsten Bresser of team Juwi: “It was a tough day as the first stage in the Absa Cape Epic always is. We suffered a lot and we’re very happy with our stage win. I think we’re under the first 15 overall, which is very good for us. Now I’ll get a good massage and relax, stay out of the sun and eat well, so that we’re ready for tomorrow.”

Bart Brentjens, who finished in second place, liked the first stage. “It was pretty tough with a lot of loose sand and walking. That’s part of the Absa Cape Epic. You mustn’t think about whether it’s long or not - just walk if you have to walk.”

Grand Masters

Bärti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg of Songo.info again finished in first place in the Grand Masters in a time of 5:31.54,6 (overall 6:38.07,0). They were followed by Linus van Onselen and Doug Brown (BALAMORY) in 5:45.32,8 (overall 6:55.03,0) with Paul Furbank and Chris Brand of Genesis Capital in third place in 5:52.37,7 (overall 7:01.31,5).

Says Bärti Bucher of Songo.info: “They put the hardest stage first. Tomorrow is another long one, but hopefully with not as much sand.” His partner Heinz Zoerweg agreed that it was a very difficult stage.

Doug Brown adds that Stage 1 “will go down in history as the sandiest stage. It even beats the one from 2008, which was also very sandy. I’ve never pushed my bike so much but it was the same for everybody. Tomorrow will suit us better. It’s a longer stage and there’s more opportunity for my partner to slipstream me.”

Mixed Category

The RE:CM team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won the Mixed category (5:17.44,3; overall 6:24.08,2), followed by Peta Mullens and Jarrod Moroni of Target TREK-Moronis Bikes in 5:38.24,0 (overall 6:49.46,1). In third place were Johan Labuschagne and Yolandi de Villiers in 5:42.18,4 (overall 6:54.56,0).

Says Australian Jarrod Moroni: “The second place feels very good, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I thought I was on Bondi Beach, there was so much sand. It really is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done – it’s good fun, but hell at the same time. This is my first Absa Cape Epic and I think we rode really well. We didn’t know what to expect, but would like to finish on the podium and things are looking good at the moment.” Mullens adds that it was a mentally challenging race. “We’re newbies and haven’t done many stage races. Hopefully it gets easier after tomorrow.”

Stage 1 Photo Gallery:

Stage 2: Citrusdal to Tulbagh (146 km, 2 350 m of climbing)

Riders head into the Koue-Bokkeveld, known for its spectacular sandstone formations and summer temperatures regularly in the upper-30 degrees Celsius. Riders will put mileage into their piggy banks early on when scaling Middelberg Pass, 900 meters of altitude gain over the first 18 kilometers, on tar and smooth gravel. The descent onto the plateau is fast with a few sharp bends. Riders can make up some time until just before the halfway mark, where a four-kilometer climb takes them to the highest point of the entire race (1 150 meters above sea level). Then they will be rewarded with a five-kilometer single-track section that winds through red sandstone formations. This stage will feel fast and relatively flat, until the rugged and challenging wagon trail takes the field into the Witzenberg Valley. Cleared for the race by local mountain bike-enthusiast farmers, this part of the race offers some of the finest terrain the Western Cape has to offer. The best is saved for last: a technical five-kilometer single-track, an old wagon trail opened up for the 2010 Absa Cape Epic, plummeting into the Tulbagh Valley. It’s a challenging transition onto a new playground, from the rugged and remote Cederberg to the fertile Tulbagh Valley with its quaint village and wine farms.

Follow the riders on the live site at www.cape-epic.com, the mobi site (m.cape-epic.com, on Twitter (#absacapeepic), Facebook (www.facebook.com/capeepic) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/absacapeepic.

Share in the legend!

Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida celebrate after winning the first Stage during stage 1 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Citrusdal, South Africa on the 18 March 2013

Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICs

Image Caption: Riders ascend the old Piekeniers Kloof Pass during stage 1 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Citrusdal, South Africa on the 18 March 2013

Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS