The misfortune to the Absa-WBR team allowed relatively unheralded team of Massimo Debertolis and Ondrej Fojtik (Wilier Force 7C 2) to take over the lead in the over-40s race, with Mornington Cycles/TRush’s Brad Clarke and Rohin Adams six minutes back in second and three minutes up on third placed Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo (CST Sandd A. Eagle AAZ).

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Massimo Debertolis drinking after stage 1 during stage 1 of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Arabella Wine Estate in Robertson, South Africa on the 19th March 2018. Photo by Nina Zimolong/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

A disappointed Vande Velde was philosophical about the outcome after they seemed to be extending their lead over the first half of the 110km stage.

“It was very hard day, given the circumstances,” said the American. “We actually were riding really good today until George got a flat on one of the rocky descents. We plugged it once, and then plugged it twice and it started working and were pretty happy with that.

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Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie during stage 1 of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Arabella Wine Estate in Robertson, South Africa on the 19th March 2018. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

“Then it started losing air and went down again and he pretty much rode a flat to the second water stop and we had a mechanic fix it. We thought we were good to go but the plug came out. We then put a tube in – it was just unbelievable. Every time we fixed it and worked really hard to catch back up, it would go flat again.

“My legs are just destroyed and for no result whatsoever. We were on the side of the road for 20 minutes today – no exaggeration.”

In the Grand Masters category, South African Roberts Sim and former Giro d’Italia stage winner Udo Boelts from Germany (Robert Daniel) extended their lead when they beat Barti Bucher and Hans Juerg Gerber (Meerendal CBC 2) by over seven minutes and are now more than 10 minutes clear.

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Robert Sim and Udo Boelts during stage 1 of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Arabella Wine Estate in Robertson, South Africa on the 19th March 2018. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Cycle Lab KTM’s Andrew Mclean and Joel Stransky finished third and have moved up to third overall, but are a distant 31 minutes behind the leaders.

In the Virgin Active Mixed category, the Argentinian pair of Agustina Maria Apaza and Cesar Lettoli (Merida Argentina) fought back over the closing kilometres of the stage to win for the second day in a row.

Midway through the stage, Journey by Junto’s Nicky Giliomee and Brennan Anderson were making inroads into the Argentinian’s lead, but the South Africans’ could not keep up the pressure and ended the stage 38 seconds behind and are now over four minutes back on general classification. Meerendal CBC’s Heinz Posch and Nina Brenn are a distant third, 18 minutes behind the leaders.