Stage 3 started with cool temperatures in the morning.

The race started at a quite a high tempo with swollen groups of riders keeping the pace up. José Hermida and Rudi Van Houts (Multivan Merida) had a puncture quite early in the race, which killed their chances of a podium finish. Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Burry Stander - SONGO) attacked quite hard today and the only riders that could follow were Karl Platt and Urs Huber of the Bulls. Sauser and Kulhavy eventually broke free and were in the lead by 2 minutes and 45 seconds when they took a wrong turn and lost some time. Platt won his fourteenth Absa Cape Epic stage.

Men’s Category

Karl Platt and Urs Huber of team Bulls took first place in the Men’s category of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic for the second consecutive day. With an impressive stage time of 3:53.17,3 team Bulls have managed to maintain their first place position with an overall time of 14:58.25,7. Team Bulls now have an overall lead of 8 minutes and 49 seconds over team Burry Stander - SONGO.

Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy of team Burry Stander - SONGO finished in second position with a stage time of 3:54.03,3. They are also in second position overall (15:07.15,6).

In third place for Stage 3 were Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme of team Bulls 2 who successfully completed stage 3 in a time of 3:59.10,5 (ranked third overall with a time of 15:10.41,9). South African’s Charles Keey and Darren Lill of team Cannondale Blend are now in fourth place after completing Stage 3 with a time of 4:01.15,1, making their overall time 15:28.01,8.

Says Platt of the Bulls team: “Christoph (Sauser) and Jaro (Kulhavy) were a bit angry and naughty today. They tried to attack everywhere and accelerated like crazy. We could follow them on the flat section but they attacked again on the climb and we decided to just ride in our own rhythm and at a comfortable speed. Last year no one put them under pressure, but this year they’re making mistakes. We were going at the limit and if you get chased, you make more mistakes than if you’re the chaser. Today we increased our lead time which is awesome for us – it’s such a cool feeling. Urs (Huber) is like a machine. He just hammers down.

We’re very equal and it’s lots of fun to race with him. Stefan (Sahm) also worked very hard today. For the first 40km he was riding in front, setting the pace and because of that the Bulls have a great result all around. It’s also nice for the fans. We got so many tweets and emails yesterday. It took me two hours just to read them. Unfortunately I can’t answer all of them. The fans out there are unbelievable – a huge thanks to them and hopefully they support us to the end.”

Kulhavy comments that he took the wrong turn 2km’s before the finish. “We were in the lead and going really fast. We took a wrong turn and lost the lead as a result. I’m upset because it’s the second stage that we’ve lost. There are still four stages left and we’re not giving up. We still have a chance, but I’m not sure if I can give tomorrow’s stage so much energy. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Adds Sauser: “We were going so fast and realised we had made a mistake when we got to a T-junction. We had to ride all the way back and lost some time again. It’s frustrating. We were in the lead and lost time again, just 2km before the finish, instead of closing time on the Bulls. We’ll motivate ourselves again tomorrow when we race. We didn’t have game plan today – we just rode harder.”

Three-times Absa Cape Epic winner Stefan Sahm (Bulls 3) says: “It was a victory for the whole team. We tried to help as much as we can and I worked hard at the beginning to keep the guys out of the wind so that they can save energy for when the action really starts. It’s cool to see them going at the same speed as world-class riders such as Christoph and Jaro. It’s great to see that.” His team mate Simon Stiebjahn adds: “It’s a nice experience to ride the Absa Cape Epic. Sometimes it’s really hard, but it’s lovely to be here and do the race with such a great team.”

Stage Winners Karl Platt(Germany) and Urs Huber(Switzerland) of Bulls celebrate during stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Dejected Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy of Burry Stander-Songo ride to finish second after taking a wrong turn earlier to lose the lead during stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Stage winners and overall yellow jersey leaders Karl Platt and Urst Huber celebrate with local children from the Big Tree Foundation at the finish line of stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Riders make their way through the single track in the morning light of stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Absa African Jersey

The Absa African Leader jersey was won by Darren Lill and Charles Keey of team Cannondale Blend (4:01.15,1; overall 15:28.01,8) for the second day in a row. Says Lill: “We finished in fourth place today and feel very frustrated that we couldn’t finish on the podium, but we’re happy in general with our performance.”

Exarro Jersey

William Mokgopo and Luke Mashiane of Exxaro Deutsche Bank Academy won today in a time of 4:52.27,5 (overall 19:06.41,3) and will be wearing the Exarro jersey tomorrow.

Ladies Category

Yolande Speedy and Catherine Williamson (Energas) won their second stage in a row in 4:58.36,2. They now lead this category by 1 hour, 6 minutes and 45 seonds (overall 19:00.07,0). They were followed by Belgian and Dutch team Sara Mertens and Laura Turpijn in 5:24.06,4 (overall 21:13.25,7). The Pragma Volcan Ladies, Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth, finished in third place in 5:29.14,7 (overall 20:06.52,5).

Esther Süss has retired from the race due to illness. Her partner Jane Nuessli is now riding in the white Outcast jersey. The white Outcast jersey applies to UCI riders when a partner drops out - It helps other riders identify the Outcast rider. Other riders may not accept assistance from an Outcast rider. Outcast riders may not interfere with the outcome of the race.

Says Speedy (Energas): “I’m sorry that the two strongest teams are out of the race. Esther (Süss) and Jane are also out. But it’s still the Absa Cape Epic and anything can happen. Jane (Nuessli) was riding with us at the beginning – it was such an honour. It’s the first time that I’m in the leading Orange jersey and we’ll still put everything into the race.” Adds her teammate Williamson: “Anything can still happen - the race is still on. There is no bigger race than the Epic and if we win, I can retire happily at the end of the year if I want to.”

Yolande Speedy and Catherine Wilaimson, the leading ladies team stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Catherine Williamson(L) and Yolande Speedy® win stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Telkom Business Master’s Category

The Telkom Business Masters category was won by Nico Pftizenmaier and Abraao Azevedo of the Bridge team in 4:12.08,4 (overall 16:34.33,0). They were followed by Bart Brentjens and Robert Sim (Superior-Brentjens 2) in 4:21.01,1 (overall 17:16.34,0). In third place were Pascal de Kort and Bart van de Water (TECHNOFIT) of Belgium in 4:28.55,6 (overall 17:37.37,6). Pfitzenmaier and Azevedo now lead this category by 42 minutes and 1 second.

Pfitzenmaier of team Bridge says: “Today was great. We found a good rhythm and stuck with the front team for a long time. We also rode with Bart and Rob. Our legs were good and we attacked in the single-track and managed to create a gap between ourselves and Bart. Later during the stage Udo and Carsten closed in on us, but they had a slow flat. We put our heads down and went as fast as we could. We were both not feeling well yesterday, but today was a good day. Congratulastion to Abraao as well. He rode well and we’re very happy – a stage victory is always a bonus. Every day is different in the Absa Cape Epic and the Masters category is really strong this year.”

One of the favorite teams in the Telkom Business Masters class, the Germans Udo Boelts and Carsten Bresser (Team Juwi), had bad luck today. Udo Boelts is a former road racer, teammate of Jan Ulrich and participated in the Tour de France several times. The Germans took a wrong turn close to the finish and went back to water point 2 instead. When they heard voices and saw other riders they thought they were at the finish. When they discovered their error it was too late. A marshal had to take their numbers off because leaving the official race course is against the rules and leads to disqualification. Says Carsten Bresser, a former German National Mountain Bike Champion: “We had a hectic situation when having a technical, so I concentrated on Udo’s rear wheel and just followed. He was a little bit nervous and took a wrong turn. When we arrived at the track again we had taken a whole loop back to water point two – and we were out of the race. Tomorrow we have to start with a blue number, so we’re not in the competition any more. Rules are rules, there are no exceptions“.

Grand Masters

Bärti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg of Songo.info again finished in first place in the Grand Masters in a time of 4:39.08,0 (overall 17:41.12,7). They were followed by Linus van Onselen and Doug Brown (BALAMORY) in 4:42.38,7 (overall 18:14.48,8) with Paul Furbank and Chris Brand of Genesis Capital in third place in 4:56.30,3 (overall 18:50.55,5).

Says Bärti Bucher of Songo.info: "Today wasn't as hard as yesterday, but it’s still not easy. It’s never easy. My partner is so strong and we’re a good combination. I'm very happy to win another stage. We would really like to keep going like this."

Mixed Category

The RE:CM team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won their fouth stage in a row in the Mixed category in 4:36.47,7 (overall 17:27.57,7), followed by Theresa Ralph and Damian Perrin of Biogen Britehouse (4:39.59,0; overall 19:09.26,0). In third place were Johan Labuschagne and Yolandi de Villiers of Exxaro Cycle Lab 1 in 4:53.44,4 (overall 18:33.54,9). Erik and Ariane Kleinhans lead this category by 1 hour, 5 minutes and 12 seconds.

Says Erik Klienhans: “It was a good day. We didn’t have any problems. Theresa (Ralph) and Damian (Perrin) attacked from the start and managed to create a gap between us. We caught up with them later. We rode in a group for a while and there was a lot of dust. Eventutally I said to Ariane that we must get away – we couldn’t see with all the dust. The last 20 or 30 km’s we lost them. Ariane is becoming stronger every day and we’re very comfortable with our lead. We’re the only category with such a big lead on the others. But this is the Absa Cape Epic and anything can happen out there. We know from experience that you can never relax, so we’ll be riding hard for the rest of the race.” Adds Ariane Kleinhans: “I’m feeling strong. It was quite hard for me in the beginning as I’m still quite tired from yesterday, but as we got to the climbing section I started to feel stronger. We had a good finish today.”

Ariane and Erik Kleinhans, the leading mixed team make their way through the single track during stage 3 stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Riders pass an old car during stage 3 of the 2013 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 20 March 2013

Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Stage 3 Photo Gallery:

Stage 4: Tulbagh (Saronsberg Wine Estate) to Wellington (120 km, 1900 m of climbing)

Stage four is characterised by three major climbs and extremely varied terrain. The first 15 kilometers are on flat gravel and also some tar road. The route then turns onto forestry roads, gaining some elevation while skirting the side of the mountain. Riders will quickly reach water point one, but the next stretch is slow going. A five-kilometer steady climb on gravel road with an average of seven percent gradient waits at Kluitjieskraal. On the other side, the trail roughens until it becomes an eight-kilometer bike-swallowing descent. The gradient is not steep but the track is washed out, rocky (and sandy) with many ruts and holes. After water point two, a flat gravel road leads to the foot of the 16-kilometer tar climb of Bain’s Kloof Pass. On the other side, only the first bit of the descent is on tar before riders plunge into the Bain’s MTB Trails at Welvanpas: smooth flowing ups and downs, perfectly carved into the mountain side. However, there is one more big climb, most of it on forestry roads, before four kilometers of handcrafted downhill single-track through fynbos vegetation. There is one more tiny bump and the last couple of kilometers are plain sailing into the race village in Wellington.

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).

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