Sauser (36ONE-Songo-Specialized) competed as Stander’s teammate for the past four editions the ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race, the last two of which they won. On Saturday the Swiss also broke the Attakwas course record, clocking a time of 04hrs56min29sec for the 121km race, which has an accumulated vertical ascent of 2900 metres. The previous record was 05:01:50.

A surprise second place finish went to 21-year-old South African racer, Lourens Luus (Team RE:CM) who also broke the previous record in a time of 04:58:06. Luus’s Team RE:CM teammate, Erik Kleinhans secured third place, with the Cannondale Blend Properties pair of Charles Keey and Darren Lill claiming fourth and fifth places respectively.

The women’s race was also won by a Swiss rider. Ariane Kleinhans of Team RE:CM became the first woman to win the race three times after claiming the coveted title in 2011 and 2012. Kleinhans, who is married to men’s race third-place finisher, Erik, and lives in South Africa, clocked a winning time of 05:42:29, which is also a new record.

Finishing second was current British road race champion and former Cape Epic winner, Sharon Laws (Momentum Toyota) with former two-time Attakwas winner, Yolande de Villiers (Toyota Supercycling), rounding out the top three.

Sauser’s race wasn’t as straightforward as he’d have liked. He had two punctures, the first after 30 minutes and the second at around two hours into the race.

“I managed to plug the first one and still felt I was in with a chance of the win. But the plug came out later and then I had no more CO2 bombs, so had to use a pump. Then I thought my chances of winning were gone,” explained Sauser.

“I just decided to ride a steady tempo because the last half was mostly into a headwind. I passed quite a lot of riders on the technical descent of Attakwas and then I started to see Max Knox (Specialized) and Lourens up ahead. They were about 15 seconds apart from each other for ages, so I set about catching them. Once I caught them it was great to have a small group for a bit, especially with that headwind. Erik was about a minute ahead in the lead at that stage and I thought then I could still get the win.”

Knox was struggling with a leaking tyre after a series of problems earlier in the race and dropped out of contention and then out of the race, while Kleinhans punctured just before the fourth water point, losing his lead to Luus and Sauser. The Swiss then attacked the young South African on the penultimate climb and set off alone to claim the win.

“I thought that was actually the last climb when I attacked and I realised with five kilometres to go that I could actually beat the record, so I went for it,” explained Sauser.

“I was thinking about Burry a lot today. Max’s national marathon champion’s jersey is almost the same as Burry’s national XC champion’s jersey; and a few times, when Max was up ahead, it felt like I was chasing Burry. It has been a crazy two weeks with Burry’s death and I think today it was, more than ever for me, a good feeling to be alive.”

In the women’s race, Laws set a fast pace from the start and rode with some of the leading men. But she later dropped back and was joined by Kleinhans, who then rode clear of her at the 50km mark just before the King of the Mountain ascent.

“I must have been quite a bit quicker than Sharon on the long, quite technical descent, because I had quite a good gap on her by halfway. Every so often I would catch some men, but I spent most of the last 20km on my own riding into that headwind. It was one of those races you just could not wait for the finish to come,” said Kleinhans.

The top 10 men and women each received gold medals. There were 33 riders that completed the race in under six hours and they were awarded silver medals.

A total of 608 men and 46 women completed the event within the 11-hour cut-off. Among those were members of the ABSA Cape Epic Celebrity Team, including actress and model, Vanessa Haywood (08:53:34), TV presenter, Dr Michael Mol, (08:53:35) motor rally driver, Gugu Zulu (09:09:52) and former Springbok rugby players, Joel Stransky (06:54:58), Tiaan Strauss (07:19:54) and Corne Krige (07:19:58).

According to Carel Herholdt of Dryland Events, the organisers, there was an 84% finisher rate.

“This is a little lower than the 88% finisher rate we got last year, but it could be as a result of 55% of the participants being first-timers at Attakwas,” he said.

ATTAKWAS EXTREME CHALLENGE 2013

Leading results

Men:

1 Christoph Sauser SUI (36ONE-Songo-Specialized) 04hrs56min29sec

2 Lourens Luus RSA (Team RE:CM) 04:58:06

3 Erik Kleinhans RSA (Team RE:CM) 05:02:49

4 Charles Keey RSA (Cannondale Blend Properties) 05:05:05

5 Darren Lill RSA (Cannondale Blend Properties) 05:09:10

6 Renay Goustra RSA 5:10:17

7 Waylon Woolcock RSA (Team RE:CM) 05:11:11

8 Matthys Beukes RSA (Contego) 05:11:38

9 Dominic Calitz RSA 05:14:07

10 Timo Cooper RSA 05:19:15

Women:

1 Ariane Kleinhans SUI (Team RE:CM) 05:42:29

2 Sharon Laws GBR (Momentum Toyota) 05:50:46

3 Yolande de Villiers RSA (Toyota Supercycling) 06:09:03

4 Hanlie Booyens RSA (Team Jeep) 06:15:15

5 Andrea Huser SUI 06:15:19

6 Ischen Stopforth RSA (bizhub FCF) 06:22:04

7 Hannele Steyn RSA 06:24:39

8 Lara Woolley 06:32:20

9 Esther Lategan RSA 06:39:42

10 Katerina Slegrova RSA 07:00:42

Veteran men (40-49 years):

1 Nico Pfitzenmaier GER 05:29:06

2 Craig Gerber RSA 05:48:19

3 Dennis du Toit RSA 05:50:28

Master men (50-59 years):

1 Doug Brown RSA 05:31:35

2 Joao Mendes RSA 06:04:17

3 Paul Furbank RSA 06:07:16

Grand Master men (60 years plus):

1 Peter Barber RSA 06:01:39

2 Henry Fagan 06:46:50

3 Hasie Lourens 06:48:28

Veteran women (40-49 years):

1 Yolande de Villiers RSA (Toyota Supercycling) 06:09:03

2 Hanlie Booyens RSA (Team Jeep) 06:15:15

3 Andrea Huser SUI 06:15:19

Master women (50 years plus):

1 Colleen Jacobs RSA 07:45:06

For full results, visit www.atta.co.za

Christoph Sauser charges to a record-breaking overall victory.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

South African marathon champion, Max Knox (no. 4) and 2012 Attakwas champion, Matthys Beukes (no. 1) lead the front group up a stony ascent.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

Close to 800 riders tackles South Africa's toughest marathon race.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

Eventual women's category winner, Ariane Kleinhans, leads eventual runner-up, Sharon Laws, during the first half of the race.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

Christoph Sauser lead Max Knox through a river crossing.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

Twenty-one-year-old Attakwas debutante, Lourens Luus, surprised many with his second place finish.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

Top three overall from left: Erik Kleinhans (third), Lourens Luus (second) and Christoph Sauser (first) have a post-race chat.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

First three men overall, from left: Lourens Luus (second), Christoph Sauser (first) and Erik Kleinhans (third).

Photo: www.oakpics.com

Carel Herholdt of Dryland Events, presents the prizes to the first three women overall, from left: Yolande de Villiers (third), Ariane Kleinhans (second) and Sharon Laws (second).

Photo: www.oakpics.com

British road race champion, Sharon Laws, on her way to second place in the women's race.

Photo: www.oakpics.com

The Attakwas Extreme Challenge takes in some of the Western Cape's most scenic roads.

Photo: www.oakpics.com