Current Cross-country World Champion, Nino Schurter, and his SCOTT Swisspower teammate, Florian Vogel, finished a frustrated eighth overall on the 22km prologue stage around Meerendal Wine Estate following a crash. They were strongly tipped as likely winners of the stage.
Nino Schurter leads his SCOTT Swisspower teammate, Florian Vogel to the top of the Meerendal climb during the prologue stage of the ABSA Cape Epic on Sunday.
Photo credit: Greg Beadle
But South Africans Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes of SCOTT Factory Racing produced a measured effort to claim ninth place overall and secure the African Leader’s Jersey. Riding SCOTT Spark 29 RCs, they were the marginal favourites going into the stage due to their strength on short, steep courses.
“The crash was my own fault. About two thirds into the stage on a very fast descent I had a brief lapse of concentration and went off the singletrack,” explained Vogel. “Luckily I wasn’t badly injured, but my saddle broke which wasn’t ideal.”
“That’s racing,” said Schurter. “We lost a bit of time, but there are still seven hard days to come. Hopefully that’s our bad luck out of the way. I was feeling really good today and I think we will need all the strength possible because there are some very rough sections coming up.”
Schurter and Vogel are riding prototype SCOTT Spark 650b bikes.
For Beukes, racing his first Cape Epic, and Buys, minimising any risk of an incident was their primary concern.
“We took it steady. We didn’t want to risk any kind of crash or mechanical. In fact that’s our mission for the whole event. We didn’t take any risks at all today, so it’s even more rewarding getting the African leader’s jersey,” said Buys.
“It’s the first time I’ve led this competition. I’ve been close before but it does make a good opening statement. We’ll do our best to defend it, but this is the Cape Epic where anything can happen, so we’ll take it one day at a time,” added Buys.
Monday’s Stage 1 is a 103km leg that starts and finishes in Citrusdal. With 2500 metres of ascent and a few sandy sections, as well as rocky descents, it promises to be a complete mountain biking test.
Brandon Stewart (front) and Neil MacDonald of the FedGroup ITEC team on their way to 18th place overall during the prologue of the ABSA Cape Epic on Sunday.
Photo credit: Greg Beadle
“It was unfortunate that Florian took a tumble today. That just shows the kind of pressure the riders are under at the Cape Epic. At least he’s uninjured and will be able to fight on,” said Brandon Els, Managing Director of SCOTT Sports Africa.
“With Philip and Matthys, it’s a case of the first objective achieved. A top 10 finish on the prologue was the goal. The African leader’s jersey is a nice bonus,” added Els.
To follow the progress of the SCOTT teams at the ABSA Cape Epic, check in daily at www.scott-sports.com.