Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes of PYGA Euro Steel during stage 3 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

They finished Stage 3 well ahead of BCX (Hendrik Kruger and Waylon Woolcock) and NAD Pro MTB (Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink).

In the chase for the Exxaro special jersey, the 78km stage wasn’t enough to displace the ever-steady Diepsloot MTB Academy riders, William Mokgopo and Phillimon Sebona.

Many pundits speculated that Buys and Beukes would chase the stage for their first win of this year’s race, but they ended the day in seventh position overall (3:10.42,7).

Beukes said there were lots of positives to take from the day. “We tried to set the pace in the front like yesterday, but my legs didn't feel quite so fresh. We can still be proud because we were the only South African team in the lead group.”

Although shorter distances suit the boys in red, Beukes explained that Stage 3 wasn’t a missed opportunity for a stage win. “There is still definitely more to come from us as we don’t rely solely on the short stuff. Three years ago we won a stage that was 110km long. Everyone is getting tired now, so perhaps if we are strong we can take advantage.”

He added that, even though the pace wasn’t quite there yet, PYGA Euro Steel will continue their fight at the front. “We’re not the types to sit up and recover, we like going hard.”

Waylon Woolcock of BCX during stage 3 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS
BCX finished 14th overall on the stage. Kruger and Woolcock seem settled in second in the hunt for the Absa African special jersey.

Gawie Combrink of NAD Pro MTB feels his team is too far adrift to challenge for the jersey.

“The start was very dusty and with the sun behind, it made things quite tricky. But the stage itself was actually great and quite a lot of fun.”

In the Exarro special jersey race, Diepsloot MTB Academy dominated the third stage with an impressive time of 3:43.10,3.

Sebona admits he and Mokgopo are feeling confident to look beyond the Exxaro Jersey. “We have changed our focus. We have stopped going solely for the Exxaro special jersey because we feel we are strong enough to really go for a good general classification time and this is where we are putting our energy now.

“But this won’t be an easy task, so we will be relying on our collective experience. With these difficult conditions, you need to be sure when you should go slow and when you have to push.”

A very relaxed Mokgopo said the heat was bearable today and the riding was smooth and seamless. He believes the best is yet to come.

“In the past two days we haven’t gone too deep into our red zone. We are just following our own gameplan and letting it unfold naturally. At the end we rode consistently and actually rode away from teams, so we are looking forward to tomorrow.”

Candice Lill and Vera Adrian during stage 3 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

Meanwhile, the leading all-African womens team of South Africa’s Candice Lill and Namibia’s Vera Adrian (dormakaba) are experiencing an excellent debut Absa Cape Epic. The two finished with a strong fourth position on Stage 3, coming in only six minutes behind the Hansgrohe Women’s category stage winners Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) with an impressive time of 3:47.24,4. Adrian and Lill currently lie fifth in their category and 61st overall.