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  1. Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss celebrate winning a stage of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS When the day of the Prologue finally dawned on Sunday 19 March, Stenerhag and Süss were itching to race. In Stenerhag’s case, there was added motivation; in 2016, she was forced to withdraw with a heart condition and underwent heart surgery after the race. And so began the long road to winning the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Once on the road to recovery, Stenerhag sent Süss a message which said: “Would you like to race the Absa Cape Epic with me? But only if you want to win!” While the media focus was elsewhere, Stenerhag and Süss’ focus was very definitely on the winning the race. The 2017 Absa Cape Epic got off to a good start for Meerendal CBC on the trails of Meerendal Wine Estate. Perhaps the first good omen of the event was the fact that it started on Esther Süss’ birthday. On the racing front, the pair crossed the line with the second fastest time of the day, 40 seconds down on stage winners Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz. On the 101 kilometre long Stage 1, Stenerhag and Süss decided to lay down a marker. On the steep and rugged climb to the Hansgrohe Women’s Hotspot, Stenerhag attacked and Süss soon followed, distancing the rest of the women’s field. They went over the hotspot with a 30 second lead, but rather than sitting up and waiting for the pack to regroup on the undulating trails beyond, they maintained a high tempo which saw the rest of the women’s field distanced. The move was a stage racing classic; putting the race favourites, de Groot and Spitz, and Ariane Lüthi and Adelheid Morath, on the back foot. The pressure soon told and Team Spur’s Lüthi and Morath chose to rather ride at a more conservative pace, than give chase beyond their limit on the very technical trails; where the smallest mistake could lead to a crash or a mechanical. The Ascendis Health team, of de Groot and Spitz had to defend their leaders’ jerseys however, and had to do everything they could to reel in the Meerendal CBC women. Their frantic pursuit saw them make two crucial mistakes. First, a mechanical cost them time and then Spitz crashed – leaving her with a cut above her eye which would need seven stitches. By putting their rivals under pressure with a timely attack, Stenerhag and Süss had ridden themselves into the lead by 8 minutes and 52 seconds. Esther Süss and Jenny Stenerhag were doused in Méthode Cap Classique as they crossed the finish line to secure victory in the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS With the heat and rocky trails of Stage 1 playing havoc with the safety of the Absa Cape Epic entrants, and more scorching temperatures predicted for Stage 2 – the last 40 kilometres of which offered no easy access for rescue personnel in the case of riders collapsing with heat stroke en masse – the stage was shortened. The race organisers decided to shorten the stage to 62 kilometres, with the stage finish brought forward to water point two at the Caledon Botanical Gardens. de Groot and Spitz had to go on the offensive, and with a comfortable lead and more tough stages to follow, Stenerhag and Süss were content to shadow their key rivals. The stage came down to a sprint finish, which proved tricky without the Absa Cape Epic’s usual series of arches signalling the exact finish line from a distance. Stenerhag and Süss proved the more capable at adapting to the difficult sprint though, adding just over five seconds to their lead as Spitz coasted across the line once it was clear she could not match either Meerendal CBC rider’s kick. Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss proved repeatedly that they were the strongest pairing on the many climbs of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Stage 3 proved to be another brutally hot stage for the non-elite riders, while in the UCI women’s race, the 78 kilometre stage was again nullified by the strengths of Stenerhag and Süss. de Groot and Spitz again went on the offensive, but could not distance the Meerendal CBC duo. The stage came down to a sprint finish again and though de Groot and Spitz took the stage honours, the Meerendal CBC lead was trimmed by just two tenths of a second. The longest stage of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic was the 112 kilometre long Stage 4. It had been pencilled in as one of the potentially decisive stages of the race. After two stages in which Stenerhag and Süss aimed to conserve energy they were both feeling strong ahead of the stage. But with head winds and district roads facing riders from Elandskloof to the foot of the Botrivier Pass climb, 85 kilometres into the stage, they once again decided to race intelligently and conserve energy. On the lower slopes of the climb, they ratcheted up the intensity until only de Groot and Spitz could follow; until Spitz punctured near the top of the climb, slashing the sidewall of her front tyre. The puncture handed Meerendal CBC the stage victory and another 3 minutes and 42 seconds on their nearest rivals. Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss hoist the Hansgrohe Women’s category trophy as 2017 Absa Cape Epic champions. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS By the start of Stage 5 Meerendal CBCs lead was 12 minutes and 40 seconds. Stenerhag and Süss were pushing thoughts of overall victory out of their minds; they had to remain focused on the task at hand. Again, de Groot and Spitz went on the offensive, and once again Stenerhag and Süss proved they were equal to anything the favourites could throw at them. 7 kilometres from the finish, the first moment of bad luck, or loss of concentration, for Meerendal CBC occurred. A male rider had stopped to allow the leading women past on a section of singletrack, but he did not realise there were two teams rather than just one. After de Groot and Spitz had passed him, he stepped out into the trail, knocking Süss off the singletrack into a tree on the downhill side of the trail. She crashed chest first into the trunk of the tree, winding herself and managing to get tangled and pinned between the bike and the tree. The rapid assistance of Stenerhag freed her from the situation in seconds and the Meerendal CBC pair were soon back on their bikes and chasing the leaders. With Stenerhag putting in a massive effort on the front, they managed to catch de Groot and Spitz with a kilometre to go, and even contested for the third sprint finish of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic, though they lost out on the line. The crash on Stage 5 illustrated just how quickly the Absa Cape Epic can be lost so on the Queen Stage, Stage 6. Stenerhag and Süss decided that offence would be the best defence of their overall lead. The stage featured the notorious Groenlandberg climb in the first 30 kilometres followed by three more significant climbs, to produce a total of 2 750 metres of vertical ascent in the 103 kilometre long route. On the Groenlandberg, Stenerhag and Süss once again showed themselves to be the strongest climbers in the race, distancing the rest of the women’s field. Five-time Absa Cape Epic winner, Christoph Sauser, is fond of reiterating that the Epic cannot be won on the downhills, but it can be lost; and so it proved. Chasing Stenerhag and Süss; de Groot and Spitz had to take more risks, which eventually proved their undoing. A relatively mild crash on a loose and rocky jeep track broke the carbon handlebar of Spitz’s bike. The Ascendis Health team lost nearly 35 minutes and their second place on the Hansgrohe Women’s classification in that moment. The long days in the saddle eventually told on Stenerhag and Süss too, as the pair eased up slightly upon hearing about Spitz’s crash, which allowed the Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro team of Mariske Strauss and Annie Last to catch them in the closing kilometres of the stage. With Strauss and Last over thirty minutes behind on the general classification, Stenerhag and Süss could afford to let the young duo go rather than contest another energy-sapping sprint for stage honours. Heading into the final stage of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic, both Stenerhag and Süss were clearly nervous. They had worked so hard and raced so intelligently to lead the Hansgrohe Women’s category ahead of the final stage of the race, but they were all too aware that a potentially dangerous 85 kilometres still separated them from the Grand Finale at Val de Vie Estate. They allowed the stage win chasing de Groot and Spitz, and Strauss and Last to set the pace though much of the stage; which summited the scenic Franschhoek Pass before taking riders through the Drakenstein Correctional Centre. From there, the trails became cruelly sandy, but while the teams of de Groot and Spitz and Strauss and Last distanced Stenerhag and Süss ever so slightly in the final kilometres, their overall victory was never in doubt. Crossing the line 15 seconds after the fourth dramatic sprint finish (which was won by de Groot and Spitz) of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic women’s race, Stenerhag and Süss were elated to be crowned champions of the Hansgrohe Women’s category. Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss are joined on stage by their fellow overall leaders’ jersey wearers, including Grand Masters champions Bärti Bucher & Heinz Zoerweg of Meerendal CBC 3, at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic final prize giving. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The women’s race was arguably the most dramatic yet, and proved once again that with the support of events like the Absa Cape Epic, and the backing of sponsors like Hansgrohe, Meerendal Wines and Cape Brewing Co, that women’s mountain biking can thrill as a spectator sport. Though the first post-race task for Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss is to allow the magnitude of their victory to sink in, followed by enjoying the sensations which come with that; their attention will soon turn to the 2018 Absa Cape Epic and planning their title defence. With the display of racing they and the other elite women put on this year there is no doubt the 2018 women’s field will be stronger than ever. And as the title holders, they will not have the luxury of coming into the race as a dark horse team, but that will not throw the level headed combination off their game plan… 2018 beware, Stenerhag and Süss will be back to defend their Absa Cape Epic title! Absa Cape Epic | General Classification – Hansgrohe Women’s Category1) Meerendal CBC: Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Suss (31:39:43.7) 2) Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro: Annie Last & Mariske Strauss (+35:19) 3) Ascendis Health: Sabine Spitz & Robyn de Groot (+47:02) 4) Team Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Adeleid Morath (+1:10:05) 5) Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab: Carmen Buchacher & Michelle Vorster (+1:22:59) 6) dormakaba SA: Candice Lill & Vera Adrian (+1:35:17) 7) Meerendal CBC 2: Hielke Elferink & Cornelia Hug (+2:17:33) 8) Merchants: Jeannie Bomford & Samantha Sanders (+2:17:33) 9) LIVBeyond: Fienie Barnard & Dalene van der Leek (+3:42:41) 10) Spur Foundation: Alice Pirard & Sabrina Enaux (+3:54:37)
  2. Esther Suss & Jennie Stenerhag of Meerendal CBC celebrate winning the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “I can’t stop crying. I am so happy … it is just unbelievable,” said Swede Stenerhag. “I don’t know what date it is today, but I think it is four days until exactly a year after my heart operation.” Stenerhag pulled out of the race while lying second in 2016 and then had surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat. “Since that day my biggest goal was to try and come back to win this race,” said Stenerhag. “To pull it through is something completely unreal. I cannot believe that I am standing here as the winner.” Experience and consistency were key to that win when Süss from Switzerland and Stenerhag crossed the line as third women’s team at the final stage to Val de Vie Estate near Paarl, but having done enough to claim a convincing victory overall in the Hansgrohe Women’s category. The Meerendal CBC team’s total time was 31 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds, 35 minutes and 19 seconds ahead of Sunday’s runners up, Mariske Strauss and Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro), with the final stage winners Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) a further 12 minutes back. Sabine Spitz from team Ascendis Health during the final stage (stage 7) of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “It has been a tough week. It has not been an easy week,” added Stenerhag. “But Esther and I have been in such good form that I have not found it as tough as I expected. I think that was because we have been so good this week that it did not seem so hard. “Obviously (Spitz and De Groot) had some bad luck, but on the day they had the biggest bad luck we had ridden away from them, so I want to believe we could have beaten them anyway … and staying on your bike is part of the game. “I think we won by keeping everything smooth and consistent. We just kept calm and never thought we could win until now when we crossed the line. I think that helped because we never stressed about anything – just kept it smooth. “It is a fairytale. I put so much into it. Everything I have done for the last three months has been to just with this as a goal. It is just amazing.” Mariske Strauss during the final stage (stage 7) of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Süss was ecstatic about the win. “I am only happy, happy, happy!” said the 2010 Marathon World Champion. “It was quite tough and fast and you had to really be focussed because something can happen so fast. I am only happy.” Stage 7 from Grabouw to Val de Vie was a tense three-way battle with the three podium finishers locked in a struggle for the stage win. De Groot and Spitz, after their bad luck the previous day which saw them lose second position overall following a broken handlebar, were probably the most motivated and just edged Strauss and Last in the sprint, with the race winners crossing the line third. Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag celebrate winning the 2017 Absa Cape Epic during the final stage (stage 7) of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “Yeah, we did not allow the troubles to get us down this week,” said a disappointed De Groot after the finish. “We did not give up and focussed on the stage win today, and it worked out.” “Our riding has been good all week but we just had bad luck, but that is sport and you have to pick yourselves up from those moments and to experience these things. I think Sabine and I will never forget this week. “We have ended up being very good friends and get on very well. We looked at each other last night and said shall we come back next year. I think we need a few days and then we will probably commit to it.” In the Virgin Active Mixed category the Scott-Sram Nextlevel duo of 22-year-old Rio Olympic Champion and 1996 world champion, 47-year-old Thomas Frischknecht were in a class of their own. On Sunday they finished off a clean sweep of eight victories in eight days as they cruised to a massive 65-minute win overall over Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (joBerg2c-Valencia), with Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (RBI Tech – Mitas) a further 45 minutes a back in third. 2017 Stage 7 Women Stage Results 1. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 3:34.27,0 2. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 3:34.27,5 +0,5 3. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 3:34.41,9 +14,9Overall Results 1. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 31:39.43,7 2. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 32:15.03,0 +35.19,3 3. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 32:26.46,0 +47.02,3 4. Spur 50-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 50-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 32:49.49,2 +1:10.05,5 5. Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab 138-1 Carmen Buchacher (South Africa) 138-2 Michelle Vorster (Namibia) 33:02.42,8 +1:22.59,1 6. DormaKaba SA 55-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 55-2 Vera Adrian (Namibia) 33:15.00,7 +1:35.17,0 7. Meerendal CBC 2 53-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 53-2 Cornelia Hug (Switzerland) 33:57.00,1 +2:17.16,4 8. Merchants 438-1 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa) 438-2 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 33:57.17,3 +2:17.33,6 9. LIVBeyond 667-1 Fienie Barnard (South Africa) 667-2 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 35:22.25,5 +3:42.41,8 10. Spur Foundation 57-1 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 57-2 Sabrina Enaux (France) 35:34.21,4 +3:54.37,7
  3. Mariske Strauss and Annie Last of Team Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro win stage 6 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Oak Valley Wine Estate in Elgin, South Africa on the 25th March 2017. Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Mariske Strauss and Annie Last from Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro may have won the battle for the 103km Queen Stage on Saturday, but the crash and resultant broken handlebar to Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) means Süss and Stenerhag have all but won the war for the Hansgrohe Women’s category. The crash, about 75km into the stage, was the final devastating blow to a tough campaign for De Groot and Spitz and after another big crash and mechanicals on Stage 1 it means any meagre hope of victory for them has finally been snuffed out. The massive amount of time it took to firstly make a series of temporary repairs to Spitz’s handlebar with sticks, and then a more permanent one to get them to the finish at the technical repair zone, meant the Ascendis Health pair finished way down in seventh, 35 minutes behind Strauss and Last. Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot during stage 6 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The time gap also means the stage winners moved up to second overall, 35 minutes behind Suss and Stenerhag and 12 minutes ahead of De Groot and Spitz. As De Groot and Spitz crossed the line, Spitz summed up the feelings of the team when she said with resignation that she “had about all the (trouble) I can take on this race”. A massively disappointed De Groot simply said she “had no words today … it was a disaster” before going and crying on the shoulders of her parents near the finish line. Stenerhag had mixed feelings about the day’s result. “It is never nice to hear that someone else has crashed, but when I was so tired it did mean I could slow down a bit because we knew they were not coming back at us. Annie Last and Mariske Strauss during stage 6 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “At about 14km to go Mariske and Annie came and we rode with them for a while, but I did not have the extra edge today and they have also been riding so well this week that we felt they were worth a win. “But taking nothing for granted, this race is not over until it is over. Nothing is finalised until it is finished.” Suss added another word of warning. “I am extremely happy and it is nice that we have the bigger gap but we know with their handlebar that broke that it can happen to us as well. We still have to be safe until the finish line.” Strauss and Last seemed a bit overwhelmed by their victory. “We just kept it consistent,” said Strauss. “Annie was an amazing teammate today and it is really, really cool to have taken the win and the stage – this is a really special feeling. “The plan was to just not lose time to Spur and then on the way up Groenlandberg we thought OK lets just crack on and keep it consistent. And then we caught Robyn and Sabine on the climb up Die Nek and so powered it a bit and never saw them again. “My dad was on course and he was giving up splits so we knew we were catching Esther and Jennie. “When we caught them we just kind of wound our way up to them. We have got seven days of riding in our legs so the fire to race is not as potent. Annie Last and Mariske Strauss during stage 6 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “After we passed them, I tried to just take it a metre at a time and not think about winning the stage, and with about a kilometre to go I finally thought ‘OK we can do this’. “This is stunning. It is one of the biggest wins I have had.” In the Virgin Active Mixed category, Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds and Thomas Frischknecht (Scott Sram Nextlevel) won their seventh stage in a row and are now a massive 54 minutes ahead of Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (joBerg2c-Valencia) with Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (RBI Tech-Mitas) 37 minutes further back. 2017 Stage 6 WomenStage Results 1. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 5:16.18,4 2. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 5:16.49,3 +30,9 3. Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab 138-1 Carmen Buchacher (South Africa) 138-2 Michelle Vorster (Namibia) 5:22.10,0 +5.51,6 Overall Results 1. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 28:05.01,8 2. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 28:40.35,5 +35.33,7 3. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 28:52.19,0 +47.17,2 4. Spur 50-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 50-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 29:08.59,2 +1:03.57,4 5. Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab 138-1 Carmen Buchacher (South Africa) 138-2 Michelle Vorster (Namibia) 29:24.18,2 +1:19.16,4 6. DormaKaba SA 55-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 55-2 Vera Adrian (Namibia) 29:24.29,6 +1:19.27,8 7. Merchants 438-1 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa) 438-2 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 30:18.24,6 +2:13.22,8 8. Meerendal CBC 2 53-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 53-2 Cornelia Hug (Switzerland) 30:18.33,1 +2:13.31,3 9. LIVBeyond 667-1 Fienie Barnard (South Africa) 667-2 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 31:33.10,6 +3:28.08,8 10. Spur Foundation 57-1 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 57-2 Sabrina Enaux (France) 31:38.01,4 +3:32.59,6
  4. Sabine Spitz, Robyn de Groot, Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag during stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Oak Valley Wine Estate in Elgin. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Suss was left lying on the ground tangled up in her bike just seven kilometres from the finish of Stage 5 after the crash. Meerendal CBC teammate Stenerhag had to help untangle her and eventually Suss was able to get up and rejoin the fight for a stage victory. They eventually caught up with South African Robyn de Groot and her German partner Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) and the race ended in a sprint for the line. In spite of their third stage victory on Friday, time is running out for De Groot and Spitz to challenge for the Hansgrohe Women’s category title. On the day De Groot and Spitz did everything they could – and even had some help from the unwitting male rider who caused Suss’s crash – but they could not make a significant dent in Meerendal’s almost 13-minute leed. Saturday’s 103km Queen Stage, with a brutal 2 750m of vertical climbing, will be Ascendis Health’s last chance to haul themselves back into contention, but with just one short stage after that it seems likely Meerendal CBC will be crowned as champions at the finish in Sunday. “It was quite tough out there today,” said Stenerhag after the finish. “Sabine and Robyn really put some pressure on us from the start, but we still managed to get the hotspot. After that it was very up and down. Sometimes they went super hard and then they eased off. Ariane Lüthi and Adelheid Morath during stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “We were all together near the end with about seven kays to go and we passed a group of men who had started ahead of us. They had stopped on the side to let us pass but the last guy, after Robyn had gone through, decided he was going to get back on to the singletrack and he got on right in front of Esther. “She had no chance and tumbled with her bike on top of her. “I thought it was the end of our race. We had to stop there and try to tangle her out of her bike first of all, and then get going. She is a little bit sore on her chest. “We then had to go really hard and I put down everything I had to try and get back. We got back on with two kays to go and I am just really happy we came in together and did not lose any time after that crash.” Suss said she expects to be ready for Saturday’s tough Queen Stage: “I think I will be okay. My chest is sore and shoulder is a bit stiff, I but will get a massage tonight and see how it is in the morning.” Sabine Spitz & Robyn de Groot during stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS De Groot was philosophical after the stage. “We had no choice but to do our best to put them under pressure today. We have time to make up and we did our best. It was a really hard stage … from the start it was pretty intense. “We hoped we would get away and we did away a couple of times, but not enough to make anything stay away.” Stenerhag, while optimistic, was not prepared to take the victory of granted. “Nothing is done until the end. I thought it was the end of our race out there today so you just never know. We have to wait until it really is over. We just have to stay with them and then try and not lose any time tomorrow and we will see. “Absolutely I would have taken this lead at this point if we had been offered it at the start.” Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag during stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS In the Virgin Active Mixed category, Jenny Rissveds and Thomas Frischknecht (Scott-Sram Nextlevel) enjoyed a huge victory on the stage and only a major disaster looks able to prevent them from taking that title when the race finishes at Val de Vie on Sunday. Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (joBerg2c-Valencia) are second, but with a 42-minute gap they have little realistic hope of a victory. Jenny Rissveds and Thomas Frischknecht during stage 5 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS 2017 Stage 5 WomenStage Results 1. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 4:28.51,0 2. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 4:28.51,3 +0,3 3. Spur 50-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 50-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 4:31.43,2 +2.52,2 Overall Results 1. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 22:48.12,5 2. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 23:00.52,3 +12.39,8 3. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 23:24.17,1 +36.04,6 4. Spur 50-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 50-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 23:41.53,2 +53.40,7 5. DormaKaba SA 55-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 55-2 Vera Adrian (Namibia) 23:59.48,2 +1:11.35,7 6. Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab 138-1 Carmen Buchacher (South Africa) 138-2 Michelle Vorster (Namibia) 24:02.08,2 +1:13.55,7 7. Meerendal CBC 2 53-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 53-2 Cornelia Hug (Switzerland) 24:19.27,6 +1:31.15,1 8. Merchants 438-1 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa) 438-2 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 24:33.13,8 +1:45.01,3 9. LIVBeyond 667-1 Fienie Barnard (South Africa) 667-2 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 25:39.03,3 +2:50.50,8 10. Spur Foundation 57-1 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 57-2 Sabrina Enaux (France) 25:42.22,8 +2:54.10,3
  5. Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag of team Meerendal CBC win stage 4 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic from Elandskloof in Greyton to Oak Valley Wine Estate in Elgin, South Africa.Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The Meerendal CBC pair were able to take advantage of some bad luck at a crucial point in Thursday’s race when Sabine Spitz sliced the sidewall of her front tyre and she and partner Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) were forced to let the race leaders ride off into the distance. Ascendis Health’s problems also allowed the young Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro team of Mariske Strauss and Annie Last to claim second position on the stage, three minutes behind the race leaders, and consolidate their third position overall. The disaster happened about 85km into the stage near the beginning of the long 15km Botrivier Pass, the main climb of the day just as the leading teams were starting to make their push for victory. Sabine Spitz had a mechanical costing team Ascendis Health a few minutes during stage 4 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “We had a really bad sidewall cut pretty much on the pressure point on the day,” said Spitz’s partner, South African Robyn de Groot. “It was just really bad luck and our day changed from a matter of trying to gain anything we could on the leaders, to rather trying to limit our losses. “The first portion of the climb was quite sandy with some sharp rocks and Sabine must have hit one at just the wrong angle. Her tyre was cut badly and went flat straight away. “I don’t know how much time we lost. We were just too busy trying to get it right so we did not have to stop again.” Stenerhag was content to take the win and even more pleased to have extended their overall lead to a solid 12 minutes 40 seconds with just three stages remaining. “Obviously we are happy with the win,” said Stenerhag. “It is not that nice to win because of somebody else’s bad luck, but it is all racing and we have to be happy with the win and extend our lead a little bit. “The stage wasn’t as hard as I expected. Almost all the ladies teams were together for the first 70km or something so it wasn’t that fast. But then obviously at the end with all the climbing that was hard.” The leading ladies bunch during stage 4 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Although in a strong position with just three days of racing left, the Swede, who was forced to withdraw last year with health problems, is all too aware that things can still go wrong. “We always want to win the stages and extend the lead as much as we can so we will keep riding hard tomorrow and not ride conservatively. It is mountain biking and you saw what happened to the others today – you are never safe.” 2017 Stage 4 WomenStage Results 1. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 5:05.58,2 2. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 5:09.00,7 +3.02,5 3. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 5:09.40,5 +3.42,3 Overall Results 1. Meerendal CBC 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 18:19.21,2 2. Ascendis Health 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 18:32.01,3 +12.40,1 3. Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro 54-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 54-2 Annie Last (England) 18:46.45,8 +27.24,6 4. Spur 50-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 50-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 19:10.10,0 +50.48,8 5. DormaKaba SA 55-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 55-2 Vera Adrian (Namibia) 19:15.33,6 +56.12,4 6. Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab 138-1 Carmen Buchacher (South Africa) 138-2 Michelle Vorster (Namibia) 19:29.05,8 +1:09.44,6 7. Meerendal CBC 2 53-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 53-2 Cornelia Hug (Switzerland) 19:33.35,4 +1:14.14,2 8. Merchants 438-1 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa) 438-2 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 19:42.21,8 +1:23.00,6 9. LIVBeyond 667-1 Fienie Barnard (South Africa) 667-2 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 20:38.35,2 +2:19.14,0 10. Spur Foundation 57-1 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 57-2 Sabrina Enaux (France) 20:39.23,6 +2:20.02,4
  6. Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Suss of Meerendal CBC takes victory during stage 1 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Hermanus High School in Hermanus, South Africa on the 20th March 2017. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS At the end of the stage that started and finished in Hermanus, Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Suss of the Meerendal CBC team had sweated their way to a healthy overall lead in the category and now have nearly a nine-minute advantage over Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health). The Ascendis Health duo, who started the stage with a 39-second lead after winning the Prologue on Sunday, had a tough day with a mechanical giving their rivals an early advantage, and then just as they starting clawing their way back, Spitz fell down a crevice and cut her head badly. Sabine Spitz after stage 1 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The German former Olympic gold medallist arrived at the finish with blood on her face and went off to the medics for potential stitches to close the wound. Mariske Strauss and Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro) finished third and are now 13 minutes off the lead, but the big tears were from Ariane Lüthi and Adelheid Morath (Spur), whose hopes of victory seem to have almost certainly disappeared. The pre-race favourites are a massive 23-minutes behind Stenerhag and Suss and after two disappointing days in the saddle do not look to be able to mount any sort of a challenge against the top teams. Jennie Stenerhag, who last year was forced to withdraw from the race with an elevated heart-rate, was cautiously optimistic. “I was in the same position last year at this point so I am not going to be taking anything for granted,” said the Swede, who rode with De Groot in 2016. “I did not know how far ahead we were but we were in front so we could take it a bit more carefully and not take any risks.” Jennie Stenerhag take the QOM during stage 1 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Suss was relieved to have survived a tough stage in intense heat that reached into the high 30s. “It was really a tough day. Early on it was windy and it was hard to fight against the winds. In the beginning I was not so fine, I had a high heart-rate but after the Hansgrohe Women’s Hotspot my rate was much better and we were able to race. “I think it was more a mental thing. I was worried after what happened to Jennie last year and I was a little bit scared about what could happen with my heart rate so high. “Then my heart rate went down by ten beats and I could push hard,” said Suss. Mariske Strauss and Annie Last during stage 1 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “We are now in the lead but so much can happen through the whole race. We must look after ourselves and not worry about the other riders and how they are riding. “Tomorrow we will do what we can do and must go fast as we can but not overturn (crash). We must not take too many risks on the downhills. You can lose more in the downhills if you crash or whatever than you can make up by going quickly.” There was also drama in the Virgin Active Mixed category with Olympic gold medalist Jenny Rissveds collapsing at the finish. With partner Thomas Frischneckt (Scott Sram Nextlevel), she had fought back to beat South Africans Grant Usher and Amy Beth Mcdougall (joBerg2C-Valencia) by just seven seconds in a brutal duel in the heat. Jenny Rissveds during stage 1 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Rissveds crossed the line and then collapsed and had to be taken to the medical tent by the race medics. They now hold a one-minute 51-second lead overall. Johan Labuschagne and Catherine Williamson (RBI Tech-Mitas) are third, 12 minutes behind the leaders.
  7. South Africans Mariske Strauss and Yolande de Villiers won the final stage of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, on Sunday. But the Swiss/Swedish duo of Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag claimed the overall victory after three days of fierce racing in the rugged Kouebokkeveld region of South Africa’s Western Cape province. Click here to view the article
  8. After winning Stages 1 and 2 quite convincingly, fate struck Süss and Stenerhag (Meerendal/CBC) after 18km of the 89km stage when they had to stop to repair a puncture sustained by Süss. This opened up the racing for the final-stage podium and Strauss and de Villiers (OMX Pro) and Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (dormakaba) were ready to oblige, tackling the stage’s signature singletrack sections with renewed intent. Yolande de Villiers (left) and Mariske Strauss celebrate winning the final stage of the Momemtum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Sunday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za For de Villiers and Strauss, the General Classification was also a consideration. Even though they started the day with a 13-minute deficit to the Meerendal/CBC pair, they’re experienced enough to know that mountain bike mechanicals can rob riders of huge chunks of time. With generous prize money and International Cycling Union rankings points up for grabs, there was a lot at stake. Süss and Stenerhag repaired the tyre with a plug and then found themselves in pursuit mode for the rest of the stage. Strauss is the current national XCO champion and she led de Villiers smoothly and swiftly through the long sections of singletrack that wove its way through the rocky landscape. Jennie Stenerhag – along with Esther Süss (left) – won her third consecutive title at Momemtum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Sunday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Although Süss and Stenerhag managed to catch and pass, the dormakaba duo, they fell short of closing down the OMX Pro pair, who crossed the finish line in a time of 03 hours 30 minutes 23 seconds. Süss and Stenerhag were second, almost two minutes later with Lill and Adrian rounding out the podium places another four minutes later. “It all came together for us on the final day. I dropped my chain about 15km in. We paced back hard to the leading women and just as we reached them, Esther got a flat. Along with Candice and Vera we then pushed the pace and at some point we rode clear of them. Then it was a matter of just hanging on to our lead because we heard time gaps and knew that Esther and Jennie were catching. But we held on and we are really happy with the win,” smiled Strauss. “It was very tough!” exclaimed de Villiers. “Mariske is like an Energizer Bunny! So much energy and she knows how to ride a bike. The fast pace and the pressure of trying to get into the singletrack first really made it a hard stage. But the trails today were awesome. This is a proper mountain bike race route. It was hard but we enjoyed it so much,” said De Villiers. Riders tackle a sandy gravel road during the early kilometres of Stage 3 of the Momemtum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Sunday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za “Esther’s puncture came on the open road, where we were in bunches with the men. The pace there was fast and a lot of bunches passed us while we were repairing the tyre, which took longer that it probably should have,” said Stenerhag. “But it was a good test for us as a team to see how we cope with this kind of thing and it prepares us well for the Cape Epic. Staying calm and chasing back became our priorities. This is the fifth time I’m doing this race and I know this final day route quite well. As we got near the first section of singletrack we caught a huge bunch. I said to Esther we HAVE to get past them or else we’ll get held up. We rode super hard and managed to get around them just before the singletrack started, giving us a mostly clear run,” explained Stenerhag. “The next really long section of singletrack wasn’t as open for us, but most riders had seen we’d flatted earlier and we very kind in letting us past. After that section we could see the other women and by the final water point our gap was down to 1:30. We decided to change Esther’s wheel there because she was losing pressure in the tyre. I thought we’d be able to still catch OMX Pro but they rode really well. We are still very happy to get the overall win though,” added Stenerhag. Candice Lill makes her way through a rock formation section during the final stage of the Momemtum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Sunday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za “We plugged and pumped my tyre and really had to work hard to fight back. We were on our own and I think we did really well. As we were approaching the last water point, where I changed my wheel, I noticed my dropper seatpost was broken and wasn’t returning to the normal height. I had it fixed it at the tech zone and from there on I was worried it would break again, so had to be careful for the rest of the stage. Luckily it held and we were able to finish okay,” said a relieved Süss. Süss and Stenerhag collected R80 000 (5600 Euro) for their overall victory, the same amount as the men’s overall winners, courtesy of Anderson Transport, which boosted the women’s prize purse to match that of the men. Strauss and de Villiers finished second overall with Lill and Adrian completing the final overall podium. The win was the third successive Tankwa Trek for Stenerhag, who won the previous two editions with South African Robyn de Groot, who won the 2017 Mixed category with her Ascendis Health teammate, Gert Heyns. Runners-up in the Mixed division were Team Valencia’s Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall with Charles Mcfall and Carmen Buchacher (Velocity Sports Lab) rounding out the podium places. In the Solo women’s division, Jeannie Dreyer was dominant, winning all three stages and the overall title ahead of Dalene van der Leek and Reinette Geldenhuis respectively. Esther Süss (left) and Jennie Stenerhag celebrate winning the overall title of the Momemtum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Sunday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za For extensive photo galleries and daily video summaries of the world’s most prestigious three-day mountain bike race, visit the Tankwa Trek Facebook page. For more information on the event or to enter the 2018 Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, visit www.tankwatrek.co.za. For the extended stage 3 highlights: Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen Roll of Honour – Women: 2013: Ischen Stopforth (RSA) and Hanlie Booyens (RSA) 2014: Cherise Stander (RSA) and Ariane Lüthi (SUI) 2015: Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) and Robyn de Groot (RSA) 2016: Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) and Robyn de Groot (RSA) 2017: Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) and Esther Süss (SUI)Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen 2017 Stage 3, 89km – leading results: Open Women 1. Yolande de Villiers (RSA) / Mariske Strauss (RSA) OMX Pro 03:30:23 2. Esther Süss (SUI) / Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) Team Meerendal / CBC 03:32:17 3. Candice Lill (RSA) / Vera Adrian (NAM) dormakaba 03:36:10 4. Cornelia Hug (SUI) / Hielke Elferink (NED) Meerendal / CBC-1 03:43:00 5. Yolandi du Toit (RSA) / Theresa Ralph (RSA) Garmin Galileo Risk 03:55:17 Mixed Teams 1. Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) Team Ascendis Health 03:23:19 2. Grant Usher (RSA) / Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 03:29:39 3. Charles Mcfall (RSA) / Carmen Buchacher (RSA) Velocity Sports Lab 03:30:10 4. Katie Lennard (RSA) / Oliver Lennard (RSA) The Gear Change 03:42:46 5. Henning Blauw (RSA) / Louise Ferreira (RSA) Globeflight 03:48:44 Solo Women 1. Jeannie Dreyer (RSA) 03:41:44 2. Dalene van der Leek (RSA) 03:50:43 3. Reinette Geldenhuis (RSA) 04:03:16 4 Collette Bastard (RSA) 04:06:16 5. Marietjie Lutz (RSA) 04:34:08 Final General Classification Open Women 1. Esther Süss (SUI) / Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) Team Meerendal / CBC 12:28:40 2. Yolande de Villiers (RSA) / Mariske Strauss (RSA) OMX Pro 12:40:19 3. Candice Lill (RSA) / Vera Adrian (NAM) dormakaba 12:58:37 4. Cornelia Hug (SUI) / Hielke Elferink (NED) Meerendal / CBC-1 13:20:39 5. Yolandi du Toit (RSA) / Theresa Ralph (RSA) Garmin Galileo Risk 13:42:24 6. Ann Harrison (RSA) / Marleen Lourens (RSA) Speed Structures 15:24:21 7. Jeanie de Villiers (RSA) / Kylie Hanekom (RSA) CITRICOM 16:19:13 8. Cherise Stander (RSA) / Mikayla Webb (RSA) CansaActive 16:53:38 9. Anneke Viljoen (RSA) / Louise Bezuidenhout (RSA) Anderson Transport 17:21:25 10 Hildegarde Cronje (RSA) / Auralia Edwards (RSA) Cycloworx 19:22:04 Mixed Teams 1. Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) Team Ascendis Health 11:52:57 2. Grant Usher (RSA) / Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 12:23:01 3. Charles Mcfall (RSA) / Carmen Buchacher (RSA) Velocity Sports Lab 12:53:44 4. Katie Lennard (RSA) / Oliver Lennard (RSA) The Gear Change 13:22:11 5. Henning Blaauw (RSA)/Louise Ferreira (RSA) Globeflight 14:02:28 Solo Women 1. Jeannie Dreyer (RSA) 13:06:05 2. Dalene van der Leek (RSA) 14:10:45 3. Reinette Geldenhuis (RSA) 15:03:43 4. Collette Bastard (RSA) 16:00:00 5. Rentia Denissen (RSA) 17:02:34 For full results of all categories, visit www.tankwatrek.co.za
  9. Urs Huber and Karl Platt turned the screws a little tighter on Saturday’s Queen Stage when they increased their grip on the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, winning the stage and extending their overall lead. Not to be outdone, Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag did the same in the women’s category. Click here to view the article
  10. Urs Huber leads the front group early on during Stage 2 of the the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Platt and Huber, sporting bright yellow jerseys in place of their new all-black Team Bulls racing kit, used the infamous Merino Monster, a 20km climb that ascends 1000 metres, to make their race-winning move. They timed their attack perfectly, initially increasing the pace on the lower slopes and then surging hard at the base of the main climb to ride off the front and make their way over the summit first, securing the R10000 King of the Mountain prize. Both skilled riders, Platt and Huber plunged rapidly, but without any real pressure down the tricky 10km descent before opening up their lead even more on the mostly gravel roads at the end of the 87km leg to cross the finish with a comfortable lead in a time of 03 hours 46 minutes 36 seconds. Second place on the stage went to the Telkom BCX pair of Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger, 4:15 behind the Bulls. Woolcock and Kruger finished off a well-calculated stage by outsprinting compatriots Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (Team NAD Pro). Urs Huber leads Karl Platt up the Merino Monster on their way to winning Stage 2 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Bell and Combrinck went over the summit of the Merino Monster 50 seconds behind the Telkom BCX pair, but closed them down on the long descent and then helped pace to the finish line. Woolcock said afterwards that they descended conservatively to avoid potential problems and to allow Team NAD Pro to catch them so they could share the work along the flat roads towards the finish. At the start of the stage it was confirmed that Christoph Sauser’s Investec-Songo-Specialized teammate, Sam Gaze, had withdrawn from the race, leaving the five-time Cape Epic champion to ride on alone and finish unofficially, using the race for training. During the stage the Swiss pair of Nicola Rohrbach and Lukas Flückiger (Goldwurst Power –BMC) dropped away from second place overall, with Flückiger dealing with a puncture just before 35km covered then later withdrawing with a stomach bug. Topeak-Ergon also endured more than their fair share of drama when Alban Lakata broke a jockey wheel while in the lead group. A quick replacement off the bike of fellow squad member, Jeremiah Bishop, saw the 2015 Marathon World Champion chase hard to rejoin the leaders, paced by another stablemate, Erik Kleinhans and his own teammate, Kristian Hynek. With 1000 metres of elevation in 20km, the Merino Monster once again played a significant role in the outcome of Stage 2 at the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za They did rejoin the leaders, but the chase to close down a more than three-minute gap proved costly and Lakata and Hynek limited their losses as best they could to finish fourth, 6:19 behind the stage winners. “The early kilometres were a bit hectic. You want to be in front – you don’t want to queue when you get to Du Toit Drop. But the speed wasn’t as high as Stage 1. We had some rain early on, which was good for the trail surface,” said Platt. “Our Bulls teammates, Simon Stiebjahn and Tim Bohme were great today. They rode on the front a lot and sheltered us from the wind. Then we were able to attack at the Merino Monster,” added Platt. “Today was different to yesterday. We could control everything from the beginning. It was really a nice stage today and we felt really good. We climbed a nice speed, but not on the limit, so we hope we can have a safe stage tomorrow and win the Tankwa Trek,” said Huber. The women’s race was also decided on the Merino Monster. The top three teams – Süss and Stenerhag (Meerendal/CBC), OMX Pro’s Mariske Strauss and Yolande de Villiers and dormakaba’s Candice Lill and Vera Adrian, spent the first 45km close together, but as they approached the water point near the base of the behemoth ascent, Lill and Adrian dropped off. Esther Süss (left) and Jennie Stenerhag celebrate their victory on Stage 2 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za At the water point, at 56km, Stenerhag, the Swedish Marathon Champion, and Süss, former Marathon World Champion, broke clear. Süss is an exceptional climber and Stenerhag did well to hold onto her teammate as they steadily increased their lead, snapping up the R10000 Queen of the Mountain prize and then going on to win the stage in a time of 4:31:37. Strauss and De Villiers were second, almost eight minutes later with Lill and Adrian just over three minutes further back in third. “The start was quite tactical. Not so fast. I had a little tumble on the way down the Du Toit drop, but nothing serious. The top ladies teams were together for longer today, which was quite nice,” said Stenerhag. The top three women’s teams raced together for more than half of Stage 2 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za “I must say that Esther helps me a lot on the climbs. She always looks around for me and is constantly asking me if it’s the right pace. The rain this morning packed the sand, which was good to calm the dust and made things cooler too,” added Stenerhag. “I am very happy with this stage. I really enjoyed the big climb. Jennie and I work well together. This is a good test of our partnership for the Cape Epic. We communicate a lot and race together, not separately. This is very important,” said Süss. Yolande de Villiers leads the front women’s group during Stage 2 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Sunday’s final stage is over a total distance of 89km with 1250m of ascent. More than 30km of that is pure singletrack, mostly through dramatic rock formations, which will make positioning essential for riders aiming for podium success. Huber and Platt hold a relatively comfortable eight-minute advantage over Woolcock and Kruger going into the final day. However, the 63-second gap between second and third overall could see Bell and Combrinck foraging for opportunities to move up a place on the final leg. Süss and Stenerhag have a very healthy 13-and-a-half-minute lead going into the final day. Only disaster is likely to crush their shot at a victory. Riders head through a fruit storage warehouse during Stage 2 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za For live race updates, follow @TankwaTrek on twitter. The stage will start at 06h30 on Sunday. Women’s podium after Stage 2 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Satuday. From left: Mariske Strauss and Yolandi du Toit (second), Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss (first) and Candice Lill and Vera Adrian (third). Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Men’s podium after Stage 2 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday. From left: HB Kruger and Waylon Woolcock (second), Karl Platt and Urs Huber (first) and Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (third). Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen 2017 Stage 2, 87km – leading results: Open Men 1. Karl Platt (GER) / Urs Huber (SUI) Team BULLS 03:46:36 2. Waylon Woolcock (RSA) / Hendrik Kruger (RSA) Team Telkom BCX - 03:50:51 3. Nico Bell (RSA) / Gawie Combrinck (RSA) NAD Pro Mtb 03:50:54 4. Kristian Hynek (CZE)/Alban Lakata (AUT) Topeak-Ergon Racing-1 03:52:55 5. Martin Gluth (GER) / Martin Frey (GER) OMX Bulls 03:53:27 Open Women 1. Esther Süss (SUI) / Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) Team Meerendal / CBC 04:31:37 2. Yolande de Villiers (RSA) / Mariske Strauss (RSA) OMX Pro 04:39:33 3. Candice Lill (RSA) / Vera Adrian (NAM) dormakaba 04:42:53 4. Cornelia Hug (SUI) / Hielke Elferink (NED) Meerendal / CBC-1 04:49:59 5. Yolandi du Toit (RSA) / Theresa Ralph (RSA) Garmin Galileo Risk 04:57:50 Mixed Teams 1. Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) Team Ascendis Health 04:15:32 2. Grant Usher (RSA) / Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 04:26:17 3. Charles Mcfall (RSA) / Carmen Buchacher (RSA) Velocity Sports Lab 04:36:35 4. Katie Lennard (RSA) / Oliver Lennard (RSA) The Gear Change 04:52:42 5. James Hagen (RSA)/Kyle Nell (RSA) Woolworths DUTOIT 04:54:50 Veteran Men 1. Hannes Hanekom (RSA) / Ben Melt Swanepoel (RSA) Tru-Cape/Garmin 04:22:24 2 Thorsten Keller (GER)/Udo Bölts (GER) Craft-Rocky Mountain 04:22:26 3. Igna de Villiers (RSA) / Paul Theron (RSA) SlenderWonder-Midas 04:28:32 4. Neil Swarts (RSA) / Rikus Visser (RSA) Western Racing 04:38:12 5. David Cooke (RSA) / David de Lima (RSA) Cycle Lab 04:41:32 Master Men 1. Greg Anderson (RSA) / Deon Kruger (RSA) Bus Boys Masters 04:30:42 2. Landon la Grange (RSA) / Peter Winn (RSA) CLASS OF 82 04:46:44 3. Marius Nel (RSA) / Waleed Baker (RSA) PitstopSport24hrs 04:55:38 4. Dawood Osman (RSA) / Ahmed Zaid Mahomed (RSA) Pitstop-2 05:26:11 5. Felix Prinz (GER)/ Frank Schmähling (GER) Epic Fighters 05:32:02 Solo Women 1. Jeannie Dreyer (RSA) 04:44:47 2. Dalene van der Leek (RSA) 05:03:04 3. Collette Bastard (RSA) 05:24:16 4. Reinette Geldenhuis (RSA) 05:27:42 5. Rentia Denissen (RSA) 05:56:13 Solo Men 1. Frans Claes (BEL) 03:51:03 2. Dylan Rebello (RSA) 04:01:36 3. Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse (RSA) 04:12:41 4. Andrew Mclean (RSA) 04:16:13 5 Jason Peach (RSA) 04:22:03 General Classification after Stage 2 Open Men 1. Karl Platt (GER) / Urs Huber (SUI) Team BULLS 07:33:46 2. Waylon Woolcock (RSA) / Hendrik Kruger (RSA) Team Telkom BCX 07:42:09 3. Nico Bell (RSA) / Gawie Combrinck (RSA) NAD Pro Mtb 07:43:12 4. Martin Gluth (GER) / Martin Frey (GER) OMX Bulls 07:45:56 5. Kristian Hynek (CZE)/Alban Lakata (AUT) Topeak-Ergon Racing-1 07:48:29 Open Women 1. Esther Süss (SUI) / Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) Team Meerendal / CBC 08:56:23 2. Yolande de Villiers (RSA) / Mariske Strauss (RSA) OMX Pro 09:09:56 3. Candice Lill (RSA) / Vera Adrian (NAM) dormakaba 09:22:27 4. Cornelia Hug (SUI) / Hielke Elferink (NED) Meerendal / CBC-1 09:37:39 5. Yolandi du Toit (RSA) / Theresa Ralph (RSA) Garmin Galileo Risk 09:47:07 Mixed Teams 1. Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) Team Ascendis Health 08:29:38 2. Grant Usher (RSA) / Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 08:53:22 3. Charles Mcfall (RSA) / Carmen Buchacher (RSA) Velocity Sports Lab 09:23:34 4. Katie Lennard (RSA) / Oliver Lennard (RSA) The Gear Change 09:39:25 5. Henning Blaauw (RSA)/Louise Ferreira (RSA) Globeflight 10:13:44 Veteran Men 1. Hannes Hanekom (RSA) / Ben Melt Swanepoel (RSA) Tru-Cape/Garmin 08:46:37 2 Thorsten Keller (GER)/Udo Bölts (GER) Craft-Rocky Mountain 08:50:58 3. Igna de Villiers (RSA) / Paul Theron (RSA) SlenderWonder-Midas 08:59:37 4. Neil Swarts (RSA) / Rikus Visser (RSA) Western Racing 09:06:49 5. David Cooke (RSA) / David de Lima (RSA) Cycle Lab 09:21:12 Master Men 1. Greg Anderson (RSA) / Deon Kruger (RSA) Bus Boys Masters 09:06:10 2. Landon la Grange (RSA) / Peter Winn (RSA) CLASS OF 82 09:35:34 3. Marius Nel (RSA) / Waleed Baker (RSA) PitstopSport24hrs 09:51:31 4. Dawood Osman (RSA) / Ahmed Zaid Mahomed (RSA) Pitstop-2 10:57:53 5 Felix Prinz (GER)/ Frank Schmähling (GER) Epic Fighters 11:07:46 Solo Women 1. Jeannie Dreyer (RSA) 09:24:21 2. Dalene van der Leek (RSA) 10:20:02 3. Reinette Geldenhuis (RSA) 11:00:27 4. Collette Bastard (RSA) 11:53:44 5. Rentia Denissen (RSA) 12:13:16 Solo Men 1. Frans Claes (BEL) 07:45:32 2. Dylan Rebello (RSA) 08:06:25 3. Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse (RSA) 08:24:07 4. Andrew Mclean (RSA) 08:38:05 5 Jason Peach (RSA) 08:46:19 For full results of all categories, visit www.tankwatrek.co.za.
  11. Team Bulls riders, Karl Platt and Urs Huber, charged to a dominant victory on Stage 1 of the 2017 Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday, getting their title defence of the world’s most prestigious three-day mountain bike race off to the perfect start. The first women home were Sweden’s Jennie Stenerhag and Switzerland’s Esther Süss. Click here to view the article
  12. There was a high volume of singletrack during Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Hot, dusty conditions greeted more than 700 riders, including some of the world’s best mountain bike racers that tackled the 89km stage, which included a total of 1 990m of ascent through the rugged Kouebokkeveld landscape near Ceres in South Africa’s Western Cape province. German Platt and Swiss Huber, who are also the current holders of the Absa Cape Epic title, were seldom far from the front of the lead group from the outset and responded with composure to a number of petulant early attacks. In the end though, it was their experience and combined strength that ensured they were able to ride clear of their rivals to clock a winning time of 03 hours 47 minutes 10 seconds. Karl Platt leads teammate Urs Huber down a rough descent on their way to winning Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Runners-up more than two-and-a-half minutes later were the Swiss duo of Nicola Rohrbach and Lukas Flückiger (Goldwurst Power – BMC) in 3:49:51 with the Telkom BCX pair of Waylon Woolcock and HB Kruger third, just over four minutes after the winners. Two of the more fancied teams failed to make an impact on the podium. Last year’s overall runners-up, Swiss legend Christoph Sauser and New Zealand’s Under-23 XCO World Champion, Sam Gaze (Investec-Songo-Specialized) finished ninth as a result of Gaze struggling with illness during the latter half of the stage, while the Topeak-Ergon pairing of Alban Lakata (AUT) and Kristian Hynek (CZE) limped across the finish line in eighth place, both experiencing tyre trouble during the stage. Kristian Hynek prepares to descend after a long climb during Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za “This was the first race for me this year. The start was fast and for the first hour I was really fighting and on the limit. But then I found a good rhythm and got stronger and stronger,” said Huber. “On the long climb in the second half of the race we got away a bit and managed to stay away to the finish. We are very happy to have won the stage. It’s a great start!” added the Swiss marathon champion. “We have a new bike this year and it’s very agile. I liked riding it hard on the front and pushing it. It was really fun and to be leading when the bike is feeling so good, you enjoy it even more,” smiled Platt, who was among the riders setting the rapid early pace. “Early on lots of young riders were pushing hard and taking their chances. For us it’s difficult because you have to stick with them because you don’t know who is strong and who might get away. But the older you are, the better your endurance. We proved that we are still there,” added Platt. Waylon Woolcock (front) and HB Kruger on their way to third place on Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za In the women’s race, pre-race favourites Ariane Lüthi (SUI) and Adelheid Morath (GER) of Team Spur saw their hopes of a good result fade shortly after the start. Lüthi was ill and pulled out of the race at the first water point. That left early leaders, Stenerhag and Süss of the Meerendal CBC team with fewer rivals to consider. But the pair led for virtually the entire stage, crossing the finish line in a time of 4:24:46. The South African pairing of Yolande de Villiers and Mariske Strauss (OMX Pro) were second in 4:30:23 with the dormakaba duo of Candice Lill (RSA) and Vera Adrian (NAM) rounding out the top three in 4:39:34. The Elite women had their own start group to ensure their contest was unhindered by other riders on Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za “We didn’t know what to expect. We wanted to be first into the singletrack, but it only came after a 10km so the start was really fast for me. Once in the singletrack we got a gap. I was a bit surprised Ariane wasn’t with us, but I wasn’t sure what her tactics were and she has to also ride with her partner. We just focussed on ourselves though,” said Süss. “After the third water point we heard we had a lead of about seven minutes. But we didn’t know who was behind, so we just rode as steady and hard as we could to stay in the front. We have a reasonable gap after stage 1, which is always good,” added Süss. “We had our own women’s start group which made it a different race for us. It was not as hard from the start as it would be with the men – a bit more tactical. After about 10km we got away in the first section of singletrack. We had a really good day, worked well together and really nice to get the win,” said Stenerhag. Esther Süss (front) and Jennie Stennerhag led from early on and won the women’s category on Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za “We went as hard as we could without overdoing it. We still have two days to go so you have to find the balance. The trails on this stage were absolutely amazing! This is my fifth time here and it’s nice to see the new section, but I absolutely love it here,” added Stenerhag. Saturday’s Stage 2 is the Tankwa Trek’s Queen Stage. While at 87km it’s a little shorter than Stage 1, it’s got more climbing. There’s a total of 2 200m of ascent with more than 1000 metres of that on just one climb, the massive Merino Monster. The 20km ascent starts just after 45km at around 700 metres above sea level and ends at 65km at 1750m above sea level. If the weather is clear, the views across the surrounding valleys are spectacular. The top riders are unlikely to have time to notice though and the Merino Monster is expected to shake up the general classification in most categories. “Tomorrow is the big climb. We saw today that we are in good shape so we are looking forward to tomorrow,” said Huber. “We will do our best tomorrow. We need to stay focussed with no falls. We need to be cautious to protect our lead,” said Süss. For live race updates, follow @TankwaTrek on twitter. The stage will start at 06h30 on Saturday. Men’s podium after Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. From left: Lukas Flückiger and Nicola Rohrbach (seconnd), Karl Platt and Urs Huber (first) and HB Kruger and Waylon Woolcock (third). Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Women’s podium after Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen on Friday. From left: Mariske Strauss and Yolandi du Toit (second), Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag (first) and Vera Adrian and Candice Lill (third). Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za Momentum Health Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen 2017 Stage 1, 89km – leading results: Open Men 1. Karl Platt (GER) / Urs Huber (SUI) Team BULLS 03:47:10 2. Lukas Flückiger (SUI) / Nicola Rohrbach (SUI) Goldwurst Power – BMC 03:49:51 3. Waylon Woolcock (RSA) / Hendrik Kruger (RSA) Team Telkom BCX - 03:51:18 4. Nico Bell (RSA) / Gawie Combrinck (RSA) NAD Pro Mtb 03:52:18 5. Martin Gluth (GER) / Martin Frey (GER) OMX Bulls 03:52:29Open Women 1. Esther Süss (SUI) / Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) Team Meerendal / CBC 04:24:46 2. Yolande de Villiers (RSA) / Mariske Strauss (RSA) OMX Pro 04:30:23 3. Candice Lill (RSA) / Vera Adrian (NAM) dormakaba 04:39:34 4. Cornelia Hug (SUI) / Hielke Elferink (NED) Meerendal / CBC-1 04:47:40 5. Yolandi du Toit (RSA) / Theresa Ralph (RSA) Garmin Galileo Risk 04:49:17 Mixed Teams 1. Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) Team Ascendis Health 04:14:06 2. Grant Usher (RSA) / Amy Beth McDougall (RSA) Valencia 04:27:05 3. Katie Lennard (RSA) / Oliver Lennard (RSA) The Gear Change 04:46:43 4. Charles Mcfall (RSA) / Carmen Buchacher (RSA) Velocity Sports Lab 04:46:59 5. Christoff Botha (RSA) / Thorkild Nielsen (RSA) Ball & Chain 04:56:45 Veteran Men 1. Nico Pfitzenmaier (RSA) / Nic Lamond (RSA) Team Spur/dormakaba 04:16:16 2. Hannes Hanekom (RSA) / Ben Melt Swanepoel (RSA) Tru-Cape/Garmin 04:24:13 3. Neil Swarts (RSA) / Rikus Visser (RSA) Western Racing 04:28:37 4. Igna de Villiers (RSA) / Paul Theron (RSA) SlenderWonder-Midas 04:31:05 5. David Cooke (RSA) / David de Lima (RSA) Cycle Lab 04:39:40 Master Men 1. Greg Anderson (RSA) / Deon Kruger (RSA) Bus Boys Masters 04:35:28 2. Landon la Grange (RSA) / Peter Winn (RSA) CLASS OF 82 04:48:50 3. Doug Brown (RSA) / Robert Sim (RSA) 04:50:02 4. Marius Nel (RSA) / Waleed Baker (RSA) PitstopSport24hrs 04:55:53 5. Dawood Osman (RSA) / Ahmed Zaid Mahomed (RSA) Pitstop-2 05:26:11 Solo Women 1. Jeannie Bomford (RSA) 04:39:34 2. Dalene van der Leek (RSA) 05:16:58 3. Geldenhuis Reinette (RSA) 05:32:45 4. Marietjie Lutz (RSA) 06:16:25 5. Yvette Roberts (RSA) 06:16:52 Solo Men 1. Frans Claes (BEL) 03:54:29 2. Dylan Rebello (RSA) 04:04:49 3. Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse (RSA) 04:11:26 4. Andrew Johnson (RSA) 04:16:54 5. Andrew Mclean (RSA) 04:21:52 For full results of all categories, visit www.tankwatrek.co.za.
  13. Starting from Delvera Farm outside Stellenbosch the spectator point for Saturday is at Marianne wine estate and Sunday at Muratie Wine Estate. Prizemoney will be equal for the ladies and men with a total of R35000 for overall long distance winners of the two-day stage race. Other local names to watch would be Mari Rabie and Tania Raats. In the Men’s event team Topeak Ergon are confirmed with Alban Lakata, Kristian Hynek and Jeremiah Bishop leading the charge.With a trophy going to both ladies and men for the King of the mountain competition, it will be interesting to see who walks away with the titles. “I look forward to ride some of the most flowy trails of Stellenbosch around my favourite mountain here!” says Ariane Luthi from Team Spur. Fairtree Capital added: "We are very proud to be associated with the Fairtree Simonsberg Contour and are very excited to welcome riders for the second edition of the ‘Fire Ride’. After recently testing the trails ourselves, we can attest that the Dirtopia team and the landowners have done an incredible job in preparing the trails and that all participants are in for two fantastic days of mountain biking!” Riders that are fortunate enough to be part of the second Fairtree Simonsberg Contour two-day stage race on 4 & 5 February, will have a special experience on the trails, prepared by route designer Meurant Botha of Dirtopia. “The route team has been working hard to finalise the first stage for the 2017 Contour with lots of construction on stage 2.” The aim for day 1 is to create a faster and technically easier day before Sunday’s single-track extravaganza. In a complete redesign of last year’s first stage, riders will head northeast and explore the farms on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg between Klapmuts and Simondium. Riders who participated in the 2016 Absa Cape Epic will catch glimpses of the final day’s Stage 7 as riders cross from Niel Joubert Wines to Delvera. Apart from various single-track sections around Klapmutskop, most of the routing is on farm roads and will make for fast riding. In terms of elevation, long route riders can expect a relatively easy day with around 1280m of climbing according to Google Earth, with a distance of 58km. Short route riders can expect around 950m of climbing for the 40km option. On day 2 the route heads into the trails with the Contour being the only event that utilises the ‘Never Say Neverending Again’ Trail on the Simonsberg, that at 10km is one of the longest continuous pieces of trail in the Western Cape and offers unsurpassed views of the Boland and Peninsula. ‘We have also added more flow in the Knorhoek region of Day 2’s route to eliminate some of the stinging ascents and replacing them with single-track.” With more than 26km of single-track on Day 2, just shy of 50% of the days riding will be on the narrow stuff! Race distance for day two is approximately 57km and elevation between 1500 and 1600m. Due to the high volume of single-track, rider numbers to this race are limited to ensure a premium rider experience. At the finish line, riders can look forward to a free bike wash, craft beer, lunch, massage, warm shower and chill out areas with kiddies entertainment. BOS Sport will support the refreshment stations as hydration partner on the routes and at the finish line for both weekends. Follow the event on Twitter @FairtreeContour or see Facebook page Fairtree Simonsberg Contour. Results will be live on www.trailtag.co.za although provisional on the day. Race information: www.dirtopia.co.za
  14. With names like Esther Suss, Ariane Luthi and Jennie Stenerhag on the start line tomorrow, the Fairtree Simonsberg Contour event is going to be the stage race to watch this coming weekend of 4 & 5 February. Click here to view the article
  15. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie | Sportspics The Team Meerendal CBC riders have excellent endurance pedigrees. Süss has won the Absa Cape Epic Hansgrohe Women’s category twice and finished the event seven times, while Stenerhag has a second place among her three finishes. The latter is the reigning Swedish marathon champion. And 42-year-old Süss is unequivocal when asked what her ambitions are for the 2017 event: “Our goal will be to win the Cape Epic … but it will be hard as there are a lot of strong teams.” Stenerhag, 41, explains how their partnership had come about: “I have known Esther since 2009 when she came to South Africa for a training camp and happened to be my neighbour. Since then we have stayed in contact and we always catch up when she is in SA. We had spoken about doing European stage races together earlier but it has not worked out, so when I was looking for a partner for this year’s Cape Epic it was a given to ask her first.” Both enthused about the Cape Epic’s recent emphasis on the Hansgrohe Women’s category. Photo credit: Ewald Sadie | Sportspics “I have done the Cape Epic eight times (she fell ill and withdrew from the race in 2013) and I’ve seen how the women’s race is growing and growing,” Süss says. “We get better prize money now and also points in the UCI ranking, which also makes it attractive for cross country riders” Stenerhag adds: “The competition gets tougher and tougher every year and it makes it really hard to finish on the podium. The Cape Epic is setting the benchmark for women’s racing in a lot of ways, which leads to other races following it. I have even seen some changes happening in Sweden due to the Cape Epic.” Meerendal CBC will also have a second team in the race in Hielke Elerink from the Netherlands and Switezerland’s Cornelia Hug. Elferink, 30, has two finishes and a fourth place to her name but Hug is a newcomer. Elferink comes off a good 2016 in which she won the Dutch national marathon title and showed strongly in a number of marathons and stage races. Hug won one of the UCI marathon series races and was on the podium for others. The Swiss rider explains: “I have heard a lot about the Cape Epic ... hot, beautiful landscape, hard, top organisation, friendship. I think it will be a great experience and I look forward to coming to South Africa.” “I think we will go for a Top 5 in the General Classification and podiums in one or more stages if everything goes well,” Elferink adds. “The competition will again be very good, so it will be a tough battle.” “I am looking forward to it,” says the Durch rider. “It seems like it will be a super hard edition, with quite a few 100-plus kilometre stages. It will take everything from the riders.” She adds: “It's cool that we, as team Meerendal-CBC riders, can start with the prologue at our 'home farm’.” Photo credit: Ewald Sadie | Sportspics Asked what keeps her coming back to the Cape Epic, Elferink laughs: “I keep asking myself that question as well. Every year, right after the finish I say ‘Okay, that's it, no more.’ But a few days later I am starting to think about the possibilities, the options, improvements. I think the Cape Epic is the ultimate challenge – if you do good here it really means something. A world-class field in a world-class, super-tough mountain bike race.” Asked the same question, Stenerhag says: “I just love the excitement of the training and preparation leading up to it, as well as being part of the event, it is bigger than any other event in so many ways!”
  16. Swiss mountain biking legend Esther Süss and Swedish champion Jennie Stenerhag will joined forces for the first time at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic, and might just have a surprise or two up their sleeves. Click here to view the article
  17. New Zealand’s Samuel Gaze (S-Racing XCO) and Switzerland’s Esther Süss (Wheeler) placed their racing prowess in the spotlight when they won the Pro-Elite Men and Women’s races respectively by a large margin at Helderberg Farms in Somerset West on Saturday for the second round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series. Click here to view the article
  18. 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Samuel Gaze (NZL) of the S-Racing XCO team had a good start and led the seven-lap Elite Men's race from the get-go during round two of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series at Helderberg Farms, Somerset West, on Saturday 27 February. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock Riders from across the world took part, representing countries such as New Zealand, Netherlands, USA, Denmark, Namibia, Switzerland and Germany with a strong field of Elite riders. Not to be outdone, the Junior, Youth, Sprogs and Nippers classes were equally well supported as they took to the 4.90 kilometre course with an elevation gain of just over two hundred metres. Gaze, the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, had a good start and led the seven-lap race from the get go, finishing in a time of 01:30:18, with Philip Buys (Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB) and Danish rider Simon Andreassen (S-Racing XCO) jostling for second position. At the end of the fifth lap of the seven-lap race, Alan Hatherly (Kargo Pro MTB Team) launched an attack, which would ultimately see him claim second place 01:32:36), which was a fantastic result considering he worked his way through the field from 10th place in the opening lap. During the final lap, Buys managed to put some space between himself and Andreassen, finishing in third place (01:33:31) with Andreassen fourth (01:33:51) and Team Spur’s James Reid (01:34:08) chasing hard and settling for fifth place. A strong field of Pro-Elite Men riders from across the world took part, representing countries such as New Zealand, Netherlands, USA, Denmark, Namibia, Switzerland and Germany during round two of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series at Helderberg Farms, Somerset West, on Saturday 27 February. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock “The race went great for me, I felt in control from start to finish,” said Gaze. “It’s a great stepping stone for me, obviously, being the main preparation for the first of my selection races for the Olympic Games this year. I felt great the whole day and I’m really happy with how things are tracking along. My coach, Christoph Sauser, and me have been working pretty hard to get things right. As for the rest of the race, it was run amazingly and the course was great. The guys put a great effort into the trails and I’ll be back here training again sometime soon.” In the Elite Women’s race, 41-year-old Süss – a former Mountain Bike Marathon World Champion and multiple winner of the Absa Cape Epic – claimed the victory in 01:32:35 after a solid performance over six laps when she passed South African National Champion, Cherie Vale (Novus OMX Pro Team) on the first lap. Vale worked hard to maintain the gap to under one minute in the following few laps, finishing overall under two minutes off the winning pace. 41-year-old Esther Süss (SUI) – a former Mountain Bike Marathon World Champion and multiple winner of the Absa Cape Epic – claimed the Elite Women's victory in 01:32:35 during round two of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series at Helderberg Farms, Somerset West, on Saturday 27 February. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock For Vale, who fell ill just prior to the opening round of the Series at Mankele, she looked back to her usual self and had a strong start with equally strong competition, finishing in 01:34:26. Kargo Pro MTB team riders Frankie du Toit and Hayley Smith, both unfortunately took a tumble in the opening lap, which set them back and saw them working through the field as the race progressed. Genevieve van Coller put on an excellent performance to finish in third place (01:39:47), holding off a rampant Du Toit. “I’m super chuffed with my result today,” said Vale. “I was looking forward to the race at Helderberg because it is pretty much my home ground, well for now, because I’m moving to Pietermaritzburg tomorrow. I’m still on a high from getting married last week and then having such amazing support this week. John Wakefield helped immensely with my preparations, taking us out on the track on Tuesday and doing some hot laps. I’ve really been able to just focus on racing this week and my heart was set on doing well. I was focussed on the start and Esther was strong. I wanted to see how long I could stay. It’s great to see so many more women racing and I’m especially happy for Genevieve’s 3rd place today.” South African National Champion, Cherie Vale (Novus OMX Pro Team) leading eventual race winner Esther Süss (Wheeler) of Switzerland during round two of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series at Helderberg Farms, Somerset West, on Saturday 27 February. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock Don’t miss the third round of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series, to be hosted by the Tshwane Metropole and taking place at Wolwespruit Mountain Bike and Trail Park in Erasmuskloof, Pretoria, on 27 March. More details of the Stihl 2016 National Cup Series can be found here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-cup-series Pro-Elite Men's podium from left: Philip Buys (Scott Factory Racing powered by LCB - 3rd), Samuel Gaze (S-Racing XCO - 1st) and Alan Hatherly (Kargo Pro MTB Team - 2nd) with Specialized Performance Director Christoph Sauser during round two of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series at Helderberg Farms, Somerset West, on Saturday 27 February. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock Pro-Elite Women's podium from left: Genevieve van Coller (3rd), Esther Süss (Wheeler - 1st) and Cherie Vale (Novus OMX Pro Team - 2nd) during round two of the Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series at Helderberg Farms, Somerset West, on Saturday 27 February. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock Summary of Results – Stihl 2016 SA XCO Cup Series #2 [Helderberg Farms] Full results are available here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/s/20160227_SA-MTB-XCO-Cup-Series-2-2016-Results-1.pdfPro-Elite Men (7 laps) 1.Samuel Gaze (NZL) 01:30:18 2.Alan Hatherly (RSA) 01:32:36 3.Philip Buys (RSA) 01:33:31 4.Simon Andreassen (DEN) 01:33:51 5.James Reid (RSA) 01:34:08 6.Michiel Van Der Heijden (NED) 01:34:28 7.Gert Heyns (RSA) 01:35:57 8.Martin Gujan (SUI) 01:37:20 9.Arno Du Toit (RSA) 01:38:35 10.Stuart Marais (RSA) 01:38:44 Pro-Elite Women (6 laps) 1.Esther Süss (SUI) 01:32:35 2.Cherie Vale 01:34:26 3.Genevieve Van Coller 01:39:47 4.Frances Du Toit 01:40:29 5.Hayley Smith 01:44:26 6.Candice Neethling 01:45:35 7.Mandy De Beer 01:51:13 8.Hanli Cilliers 01:53:56 Junior Men (5 laps) 1.Jarrod Van Den Heever 01:08:49 2.Matthew Keyser 01:09:19 3.Andrew Sparks 01:10:16 Junior Women (4 laps) 1.Danielle Strydom 01:02:49 2.Christie Hearder 01:05:15 3.Kristen Louw 01:06:32 Youth Men (5 laps) 1.Michard Meets 01:14:06 2.Mulder Oosthuizen 01:14:21 3.Daniel Van Der Walt 01:14:21 Youth Women (4 laps) 1.Tiffany Keep 00:58:31 2.Zandri Strydom 01:06:06 3.Azulde Britz 01:08:20 Sub Junior Boys (4 laps) 1.Luke Moir 00:55:27 2.Matthew Lochner 01:01:30 3.Pierre Le Roux 01:01:41 Sub Junior Girls (3 laps) 1.Chloe Bateson 00:44:13 2.Stèfke Tolmay 00:45:54 3.Julia Marx 00:50:54 Sprog Boys (4 laps) 1.Alec Coleske 00:38:32 2.Jooste Coetzee 00:38:48 3.Hendre De Villiers 00:41:00 Sprog Girls (4 laps) 1.Kayleigh Stevenson 00:47:58 2.Anna Marx 00:48:52 3.Kayleigh Scholtz 00:49:58 Nipper Boys (3 laps) 1.Matt Laughton 00:30:29 2.Matthew Jones 00:31:58 3.Alessandro Fanicchi 00:33:26 Nipper Girls (3 laps) 1.Marili Nel 00:42:50 2.Chloe Chesterton 00:47:55 3.Jesse Munna 00:54:36 Sub Vet Men Overall (5 laps) 1.Darryn Stow 01:13:44 2.Dion Froneman 01:14:15 3.Graeme Dale Kuys 01:17:03 Sub Vet Women Overall (4 laps) 1.Liesl Lourens 01:11:16 2.Leorine De Wet 01:12:07 3.Kylie Hanekom 01:13:28 Vet Men Overall (5 laps) 1.Nico Pfitzenmaier 01:12:22 2.Mark Moir 01:16:20 3.Xavier Scheepers 01:17:59 Vet Women (4 laps) 1.Diana Carolin 01:06:57 2.Michelle Lombardi 01:07:13 3.Tandi Kitching 01:07:43 Master Men Overall (4 laps) 1.Corrie Muller 01:02:41 2.Jimmy Mills 01:03:07 3.Bob Schuiling 01:04:46
  19. Swiss stars, Mathias Fluckiger and Esther Suss confirmed their good early-season form when they won the men and women’s titles respectively at the opening round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series held at Meerendal, outside Cape Town, South Africa at the weekend. Click here to view the article
  20. Fluckiger, who races for the Stockli team, was in no mood to be patient and along with compatriot, Konny Looser (IXS Wheeler), went on the attack on the first major climb early in the race. Looser fell victim to a mechanical though, which initially eliminated him from the action and eventually the race. But Fluckiger’s aggression was contagious and no sooner had Looser fallen out of the podium hunt than another Swiss racer, Nicola Rohrbach (Goldwurst Power/Felt), recent bronze medallist at the Swiss Cyclo-cross championships, was helping Fluckiger keep the pressure high. They were joined upfront by Germany’s Simon Stiebjahn (Team Bulls) and the trio managed to open an early gap on the splintering field. Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting. South African Gert Heyns (SCOTT LCB Factory Racing) used his descending skills to close down and join the leaders. Making a big effort to also bridge the gap was Waylon Woolcock (USN Purefit) and the Team NAD duo of Nico Bell and South African marathon champion, Gawie Combrinck. Not far behind them were Darren Lill (USN Purefit) and HB Kruger (Team Telkom). But Fluckiger was in no mood for consolidation and as soon as the group reached the next steep climb, he attacked. Rohrbach responded and Stiebjahn tried too, but the pace was relentless and the pitched gradients, loose surfaces and challenging sections of singletrack suited the two Swiss racers, both of whom are XCO specialists. They surged ahead to secure the first two podium spots. Fluckiger, currently ranked 11th on the UCI World Rankings, clocked a winning time of 4h22m31s, while Rohrbach rolled home in 4h25m36s with a flat tyre. Bell finished strongly to force Stiebjahn into a sprint for the bronze medal spot, the German just nailing it, with Heyns rounding out the top five. “It was really tough but I’m super happy with the win. Having events like these to prepare with is great, you never get to push quite that hard in training. It was perfect conditions for training and conditioning in an Olympic year," said a delighted Fluckiger. “Lukas (Fluckiger) and I are here in Stellenbosch for a training camp and we decided at the last minute to come do this event. It is great to race in these conditions to acclimatise before the Cape Epic,” said Rohrbach. In the women’s race, over the shorter 70km distance, there were two sprint finishes, the first between Suss and Jennie Stenerhag (Ascendis Health) for the gold and the second between Ariane Kleinhans (Team Spur) and Robyn de Groot (Asendis Health) for the bronze. It was the second year in succession that Suss, the current Swiss marathon champion, has won the Meerendal round of the Ashburton Investments National Series and she dedicated the win to Herman Coertse, the owner of Meerendal and one of her sponsors. The performance by Stenerhag, the Swedish marathon champion, was impressive, forcing Suss, the 2010 marathon world champion, into a race-long fight for the win and confirming her good early-season form. Photo Credit: ZC Marketing Consulting. Kleinhans, runner up at Meerendal in 2015, edged ahead of De Groot to secure the bronze medal, with Namibian ace, Vera Adrian (Time Freight) rounding out the top five. “It’s a perfect day here and the route at Meerendal is ideal for Cape Epic preparation. It’s always exciting to have so many big names in the sport competing at our events and we’re looking forward to having another loaded field of top international racers at the second round of the series in Sabie in a few weeks,” said Fritz Pienaar of Advendurance, the company that organises the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series. Leading results Elite men – 101km Ultra-marathon:Mathias Fluckiger (SUI) Stockli 4h22m31s Nicola Rohrbach (SUI) Goldwurst Power/Felt 4h25m36s Simon Stiebjahn (GER) Team Bulls Nico Bell (RSA) Team NAD Gert Heyns (RSA) SCOTT LCB Factory Racing Darren Lill (RSA) USN Purefit Waylon Woolcock (RSA) USN Purefit HB Kruger (RSA) Team Telkom Erik Kleinhans (RSA) Topeak Ergon Andrew Hill (RSA) TIB Elite women – 70km marathon: Esther Suss (SUI) Wheeler IXS 3h12m46s Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) Ascendis Health 3h13m26s Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) Team Spur Robyn de Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health Vera Adrian (NAM) Time Freight For full results, visit www.saseeding.org.
  21. In 2016 they will be riding together in yet another of the power combinations that are set to make the women’s race one of the most intriguing ever. In 2011 Süss and countryman Barti Bucher dominated the Mixed category and a year later she joined forces with another Briton, Sally Bigham, to win the Women’s category. But Süss has had mixed fortunes in the world’s premier mountain bike stage race since then and will be hoping that all that will change in 2016 when she partners with Williamson (Team Meerendal Wheeler). They are already a proven combination, having triumphed together in the 2015 Cape Pioneer Trek. But 41-year-old Süss and her 33-year-old partner were both playing down their chances against defending Epic champions Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans. “We will try to get podiums as much as possible,” Süss said. “I think an overall win will be very difficult.” Williamson added: “I hope we can achieve an overall podium position and maybe even a stage win. The Epic is attracting the best field in the world of stage races now so I know it’s a tall order to even get on the podium. But I think with a lot of training, a little bit of luck and such a strong partner as Esther it is possible.” Their modesty aside, they will be fancied by most fans to be at the sharp end of the field and to challenge the leading women’s teams. Süss is a strong rider over longer distances and also has a marathon world championship to her name. Williamson is a stage race specialist and finished first in the 2013 Absa Cape Epic with Yolande Speedy. Williamson was fulsome in her praise of Süss: “She is an amazing athlete and I have a huge amount of respect for her as she is also a fun person to ride with. I spent most of the Pioneer trying to sit on her wheel but I was never made to feel under pressure and we were consistent the whole week through.” Williamson is already in the Cape to train in South African conditions: “I have increased my strength work this winter so I'm hoping that will help with the steep climbs in the Epic,” she said. “I love every thing about mountain bike stage races, from the challenge of the terrain to the friendships you make along the way. My strongest asset I think is not only my endurance for multi-day races, but also being able to accept and deal with whatever is thrown in your path – and during such a tough race as the Epic there are always lots of things thrown everywhere.” What brings them back to the Absa Cape Epic? “The ambiance, the challenge, the country,” said Süss. Williamson added: “It is always different from other stage races as it attracts so many competitors and spectators and at some point the weather also throws in its own challenges, be it by turning freezing cold and raining or blowing a gale. These things always make for a memorable and super challenging week. To miss it would feel like missing out.”
  22. Switzerland’s Esther Süss has graced the top step of countless mountain bike podiums over the years, with two Absa Cape Epic wins being foremost among her successes. And Briton Catherine Williamson has similarly savoured victory in the Women’s category of the world’s premier mountain bike stage race. Click here to view the article
  23. The seventh edition of the Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race ended on Saturday with South Africans Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns of SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 1 claiming the overall victory. Switzerland’s Esther Suss and Great Britain’s Catherine Williamson of Sasol Racing claimed the women’s title. Click here to view the article
  24. Matthys Beukes (left) and Gert Heyns of SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 1 celebrate their overall victory at the end of Stage 6 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn, South Africa. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon Beukes and Heyns won a total of three stages. Their combination of power and skill on Stage 3 from Oudtshoorn to De Rust, which they won comfortably, was the defining day for them. And a win on Stage 4 at the summit of the Swartberg Pass confirmed their superiority in a race that delivered tight podium battles daily. Stage 3 also proved the defining stage in the women’s race when the powerful pairing of Suss and Williamson conceded their increasingly solid lead due to punctures. But a gritty Stage 4 effort saw them climb back into the lead with a stunning ascent of the Swartberg Pass. Philip Buys (left) and Arno du Toit of SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 2 on their way to winning Stage 6 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn, South Africa. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon Philip Buys and Anro du Toit of SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 2 won the final stage, a 68km haul from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn to secure their third stage win of the seven-day event. Dylan Rebello and Thinus Redlinghuys of Team Jeep finished second for their best stage result of the week with the Dutch duo of Bram Rood and Mos Gerben (KMC-Mitsubishi-Koga-Stauwdam Assen) rounding out the podium places for the day. Italian brothers Roberto and Emanuele Crisi (Celeste Kento Avvenia) were second in the overall race, 14:33 down on Beukes and Heyns, with Rood and Gerben rounding out an international podium blend. In the women’s race on Saturday, Suss and Williamson secured their fifth stage win to grab their first overall title by what is the closest ever victory margin in the women’s division. After seven days and 541km of racing, their lead was a relatively slim 7min14sec over the Team Ascendis Health pairing of Robyn de Groot (RSA) and Jennie Stenerhag (SWE). South Africans Marlene Lourens and Desiree Loubser (Fair Cape) were third. Esther Suss (left) and Catherine Williamson celebrate winning the overall women's race and Stage 6 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn, South Africa. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon With six stage wins, including the final leg, South Africans Rob Sim and Doug Brown (Trek Robert Daniel) dominated the Veteran’s category, while Waleed Baker and Joao Mendes (PitstopSport24hrs), stage winners on the final day, secured the Masters’ crown with a measured consistency that saw them claim five stage wins. The Mixed category saw Oudtshoorn residents Kobus and Fienie Barnard (Klein Karoo Mixed) claim a comfortable overall victory, neatly concluded with a win on the final stage, which finished in their home town. It was their sixth stage win of the event underlining their superiority in the division. Riders descend beneath the red stone rock formations during Stage 6 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn, South Africa. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon Lara-Ann Everts-Van de Venter made the Solo women’s race her own, with four stage wins, while Craig Uria triumphed after a race-long battle in the competitive Solo men’s category, securing victory on the final stage too. A total of 78 two-rider teams and 27 solo competitors completed the seven-day race, which took place in mostly warm to hot, dry conditions and included some of the Western Cape’s most dramatic landscapes, ranging from the beaches of Mossel Bay to the forests in George to the monstrous climb of the Swartberg Pass, which separates the Small Karoo and the Great Karoo semi-deserts. Riders from 15 nations contested the event, which holds an International Cycling Union grading offering rankings points to the top 25 overall finishers in the men and women’s team divisions, a useful boost for nations in their quest to secure Rio Olympic Games quota allocations. The leading riders get to grips with a tight left turn on Stage 6 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn, South Africa. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon For more information on the Cape Pioneer Trek, visit www.capepioneer.co.za and for photo galleries, find Cape Pioneer Trek on Facebook. Cape Pioneer Trek 2015 Stage 6, 68km from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn Leading results Men: 1 Philip Buys (RSA) / Arno du Toit (RSA) – SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 2 2:25:21 2 Dylan Rebello (RSA) / Thinus Redlinghuys (RSA) – Team Jeep 4:13:16 3 Bram Rood (NED) / Mos Gerben (NED) – KMC-Mitsubishi-Koga-Stauwdam Assen 2:27:25 4 Roberto Crisi (ITA) /Emanuele Crisi (ITA) – Celeste Kento Avvenia 2:30:10 5 Erik Kleinhans (RSA) / Chris Wolhuter (RSA) – Asrin Pro Cycling 2:33:02 Women: 1 Catherine Williamson (GBR) / Esther Suss (SUI) – Sasol Racing 2:44:25 2 Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) / Robyn de Groot (RSA) – Ascendis Health 2:44:33 3 Marlene Lourens (RSA) / Desiree Loubser (RSA) – Fair Cape 3:29:18 Veteran men: 1 Rob Sim (RSA) / Doug Brown (RSA) – Trek Robert Daniel 2:38:21 2 Frank Schmaehling (GER) / Felix Prinz (GER) – Epic Fighters 2:44:15 3 Greg Anderson (RSA) / Deon Kruger (RSA) Bus Boys 2:47:44 Master men: 1 Joao Mendes (RSA) / Waleed Baker (RSA) – PitstopSport24hrs 2:52:10 2 Dirk Labuschagne (RSA) / Andre Taylor (RSA) – Rothwell-Risksolve 3:00:59 3 Anton Terblanche (RSA) / Hein Giliomee (RSA) – Seattle 3:03:15 Mixed: 1 Fienie Barnard (RSA) / Kobus Barnard (RSA) – Klein Karoo Mixed 2:49:39 2 Monica Glover (RSA) / Danny Fowler (RSA) – The Bicycle Service Company 2:52:03 3 Dalene van der Leek (RSA) / Igna de Villiers (RSA) – Sasol Mixed 2:52:13 Solo men: 1 Craig Uria (RSA) 2:34:07 2 Shane Daniel (RSA) 2:38:00 3 Raoul de Jongh (RSA) 2:38:31 Solo women: 1 Carmen Andrews (RSA) 3:04:56 2 Lara-Ann Everts-Van de Venter (RSA) 3:08:28 3 Katja Steenkamp (RSA) 3:18:18 Thinus Redlinghuys (left) and Dylan Rebello of Team Jeep on their way to second place on Stage 6 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn, South Africa.Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon General Classification after Stage 5 Leading results Men: 1 Matthys Beukes (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) – SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 1 21:46:10 2 Robert Crisi (ITA) /Emanuele Crisi (ITA) – Celeste Kento Avvenia 22:00:44 3 Bram Rood (NED) / Mos Gerben (NED) – KMC-Mitsubishi-Koga-Stauwdam Assen 22:06:22 4 Philip Buys (RSA) / Arno du Toit (RSA) – SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 2 22:15:57 5 Dylan Rebello (RSA) / Thinus Redlinghuys (RSA) – Team Jeep 22:17:02 Women: 1 Catherine Williamson (GBR) / Esther Suss (SUI) – Sasol Racing 24:51:42 2 Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) / Robyn de Groot (RSA) – Ascendis Health 24:58:57 3 Marlene Lourens (RSA) / Desiree Loubser (RSA) – Fair Cape 31:16:53 Veteran men: 1 Rob Sim (RSA) / Doug Brown (RSA) – Trek Robert Daniel 23:27:15 2 Greg Anderson (RSA) / Deon Kruger (RSA) – Bus Boys 25:11:04 3 Frank Schmaehling (GER) / Felix Prinz (GER) – Epic Fighters 25:38:22 Master men: 1 Joao Mendes (RSA) / Waleed Baker (RSA) – PitstopSport24hrs 26:30:25 2 Jozef de Meyer (BEL) / Renaat Verbeke (BEL) – L4 L5 28;24:08 3 Dirk Labuschagne (RSA) / Andre Taylon (RSA) – Rothwell-Risksolve 29:07:55 Mixed: 1 Fienie Barnard (RSA) / Kobus Barnard (RSA) – Klein Karoo Mixed 25:27:53 2 Dalene van der Leek (RSA) / Igna de Villiers (RSA) – Sasol Mixed 26:28:19 3 Monica Glover (RSA) / Danny Fowler (RSA) – The Bicycle Service Company 26:31:51 Solo men: 1 Craig Uria (RSA) 23:10:38 2 Richard Damant (RSA) 23:33:29 3 Raoul de Jongh (RSA) 23:58:45 Solo women: 1 Lara-Ann Everts-Van de Venter (RSA) 29:26:27 2 Carmen Andrews (RSA) 30:08:43 3 Katja Steenkamp (RSA) 30:52:41 For full results visit www.capepioneer.co.za.
  25. Riders climb the magnficent Swartberg Pass to the mountain-top finish on Stage 4 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from De Rust to Swartberg Pass, South Africa on Thursday. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon. After punctures robbed them of their ability to defend their lead on Wednesday’s Stage 3, Suss and Williamson used their superior climbing strength on Thursday’s 66.3km leg from De Rust to the Swartberg Pass summit to reclaim the race lead from Ascendis Health’s Robyn de Groot (RSA) and Jennie Stenerhag (SWE). In the men’s race, South Africans Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns (SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 1) confirmed their status as the strongest team in the race when they won their third stage and extended their overall lead. Mountain-top finishes are rare in mountain bike racing, but the summit-finish on the Swartberg Pass, a tourism icon, has become a signature stage in the Cape Pioneer Trek over the past few years. At 66.3km, the stage was short, but with 2150m of climbing, it was always going to favour the strong ascenders. There were a number of climbs to be conquered during Stage 4 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from De Rust to Swartberg Pass, South Africa on Thursday. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon. With almost an eight-minute deficit to De Groot and Stenerhag at the start, Suss and Williamson were focussed on pulling as much of that back as they could on Thursday. Their time of 03 hours 15 minutes 59 seconds was just more than 10 minutes quicker than the Ascendis Health pair, giving them the lead again by fairly slim 2:28 margin with two days remaining. “We had nothing to lose. We felt we could try to make up half our deficit today and the other half tomorrow. But we were quite motivated when we realised on the last climb that we had a decent gap on Robyn and Jennie. So we just gave all we had to the top and it really paid off,” explained Williamson. “We have a very small lead now so we will just be cautious and go hard on the climbs. Esther is so strong on the climbs, which gives us an advantage, but I’m not sure how much today’s effort took out of us. Hopefully, we’ll be able to defend this lead tomorrow,” added Williamson. Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns of SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 1 head towards the stage victory during Stage 4 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from De Rust to Swartberg Pass, South Africa on Thursday. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon. With a lead of almost 19 minutes over the Italian brothers, Emanuele and Roberto Crisi (Celeste Kento Avvenia) at the start, Beukes and Heyns simply had to sit on and let their rivals make the racing. And the siblings were game for the challenge, never far from the front on the early slopes and then setting the pace most of the way up the final climb. Using their local knowledge, the tall South Africans waited for the start of the steep last kilometre to make their move, surging past their rivals to claim the stage win in a time of 2:50:32. The Crisi siblings crossed the line 25 seconds later with Team Jeep’s Dylan Rebello (RSA) and Thinus Redlinghuys (RSA) rounding out the top three in 2:52:03. “We rode a tactical race today and it worked out well because we got the win. We pushed the pace in the lead group every time we hit rough terrain to tire our rivals out as much as possible before the big climb and gradually the lead bunch thinned out. I must say the Italian brothers were strong and they climbed well, but we put in our move with about a kilometre to go and it was perfect,” said Beukes. Catherine Williamson (left) and Esther Suss of Sasol Racing head towards stage victory in the women's race during Stage 4 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from De Rust to Swartberg Pass, South Africa on Thursday. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon. “I think tomorrow’s stage will be the hardest, partly because everyone is tired and also because of the technical sections later on in the stage, which need a lot of power and focus. Gert and I have a decent lead, but we will take no risks and just try to maintain that lead now,” added Beukes. In the Veteran men’s race, Rob Sim and Doug Brown won their fourth stage, over 17 minutes ahead of Germans Frank Schmaehling and Felix Prinz (Epic Fighters), who achieved their first podium place of the race. Sim and Brown still have a healthy overall lead over Greg Anderson and Deon Kruger (Bus Boys) with Schmaehling and Prinz now up to third place. The Master’s race suffered a blow when double stage-winners and the second placed overall team of Izak Visagie and Lieb Loots (Wilde Masters) had to withdraw on Wednesday due to Visagie suffering illness. That opened up the race for the podium somewhat behind Joao Mendes and Waleed Baker (PitstopSport24hrs), the category leaders, who won Wednesday’s stage. Italian brothers Roberto and Emanuele Crisi of Celeste Kento Avvenia (numbers 100-1 and 100-2) lead the front pack during the early part of Stage 4 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from De Rust to Swartberg Pass, South Africa on Thursday. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon. Second place was taken by the Belgian pairing of Jozef De Meyer and Renaat Verbeke (Team L4L5), with South Africans Dirk Labuschagne and Andre Taylor (Rothwell-Risksolve) claiming third. In the overall, race PitstopSport24hrs have a commanding lead over Team L4L5. The Mixed category race on Wednesday was a four-way tussle, which was decided only on the upper slopes of the Swartberg Pass. Kobus and Fienie Barnard (Klein Karoo Mixed) claimed the win – their fourth – but were just half a minute faster than Katja Cauwenbergh and Ken van den Bulke (Topbike) with the Sasol Mixed pair of Daleen van der Leek and Igna de Villiers grabbing the final podium spot just over two minutes later. In the overall, Klein Karoo Mixed hold a solid lead over Danny Fowler and Monica Glover (The Bicycle Service Company), who in turn are just 18 seconds up on De Villiers and Van der Leek. The Solo men’s race continues to be closely contested with Richard Damant winning the stage and clawing back some time on overall leader, Craig Uria, who was 47 seconds down in second at the mountain-top finish. Uria still holds more than an 11-minute advantage over Damant in the General Classification with two days to go. Lara-ann Everts-Van Deventer maintained her command of the Solo women’s division with another stage win and a lead extension over nearest rival, Carmen Andrews. Catherine Williamson (right) holds onto the pocket of Sasol Racing teammate, Esther Suss, for a tow up the final climb during Stage 4 of the Cape Pioneer Trek from De Rust to Swartberg Pass, South Africa on Thursday. Photo credit: Zoon Cronje/Nikon. Friday’s Stage 5 over 108km from Prince Albert to Calitzdorp will take the riders over the Swartberg Pass again, this time from the opposite direction. Dubbed #SwartbergSequel, the stage will have the added incentive of R50 000 in prize money for the fastest teams or solo riders to cross the summit of the Swartberg Pass. The distance to the summit from the start of the stage is approximately 20km, with more than half of that up the big climb. The Open Men, Women’s, Veteran and Master categories will have to continue to observe the UCI rule of riders being no more than two minutes apart, but the rule will be relaxed for the Mixed category. And Solo riders will be included in the dash-for-cash contest. The first team or rider across the summit will earn R15000, the second team or rider will earn R7000 and the third team or rider will pocket R3000. This will apply to both men and women. For more information on the Cape Pioneer Trek, visit www.capepioneer.co.za. For race updates, follow @CapePioneerTrek on twitter and for photo galleries, like Cape Pioneer Trek on Facebook. Cape Pioneer Trek 2015 Stage 4, 66.3km from De Rust to Swartberg Pass Leading results Men: 1 Matthys Beukes (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) – SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 1 2hrs50min32sec 2 Roberto Crisi (ITA) /Emanuele Crisi (ITA) – Celeste Kento Avvenia 2:50:58 3 Dylan Rebello (RSA) / Thinus Redlinghuys (RSA) – Team Jeep 2:52:58 4 Erik Kleinhans (RSA) / Chris Wolhuter (RSA) – Asrin Pro Cycling 2:53:03 5 Bram Rood (NED) / Mos Gerben (NED) – KMC-Mitsubishi-Koga-Stauwdam Assen 2:54:16 Women: 1 Catherine Williamson (GBR) / Esther Suss (SUI) – Sasol Racing 3:15:59 2 Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) / Robyn de Groot (RSA) – Ascendis Health 3:26:17 3 Marlene Lourens (RSA) / Desiree Loubser (RSA) – Fair Cape 4:20:17 Veteran men: 1 Rob Sim (RSA) / Doug Brown (RSA) – Trek Robert Daniel 3:08:23 2 Frank Schmaehling (GER) / Felix Prinz (GER) – Epic Fighters 3:25:53 3 Greg Anderson (RSA) / Deon Kruger (RSA) Bus Boys 3:26:50 Master men: 1 Joao Mendes (RSA) / Waleed Baker (RSA) – PitstopSport24hrs 3:37:05 2 Jozef de Meyer (BEL) / Renaat Verbeke (BEL) – L4 L5 3:51:44 3 Dirk Labuschagne (RSA) / Andre Taylor (RSA) – Rothwell-Risksolve 3:53:02 Mixed: 1 Fienie Barnard (RSA) / Kobus Barnard (RSA) – Klein Karoo Mixed 3:25:11 2 Katja Cauwenbergh (BEL) / Ken van den Bulke (BEL) – Topbike 3:25:43 3 Dalene van der Leek (RSA) / Igna de Villiers (RSA) – Sasol Mixed 3:28:13 Solo men: 1 Richard Damant (RSA) 3:05:06 2 Craig Uria (RSA) 3:05:54 3 Sven Kleine (RSA) 3:11:56 Solo women: 1 Lara-Ann Everts-Van de Venter (RSA) 4:04:14 2 Carmen Andrews (RSA) 4:09:26 3 Katja Steenkamp (RSA) 4:31:25 General Classification after Stage 4 Leading results Men: 1 Matthys Beukes (RSA) / Gert Heyns (RSA) – SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 1 14:58:23 2 Roberto Crisi (ITA) /Emanuele Crisi (ITA) – Celeste Kento Avvenia 15:17:31 3 Bram Rood (NED) / Mos Gerben (NED) – KMC-Mitsubishi-Koga-Stauwdam Assen 15:26:00 4 Philip Buys (RSA) / Arno du Toit (RSA) – SCOTT Factory Racing LCB 2 15:27:02 5 Alan Gordon (RSA) / Ben-Melt Swanepoel (RSA) – Navworld-Squirtlube 15:36:01 Women: 1 Catherine Williamson (GBR) / Esther Suss (SUI) – Sasol Racing 17:16:31 2 Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) / Robyn de Groot (RSA) – Ascendis Health 17:18:58 3 Marlene Lourens (RSA) / Desiree Loubser (RSA) – Fair Cape 21:35:48 Veteran men: 1 Rob Sim (RSA) / Doug Brown (RSA) – Trek Robert Daniel 16:11:07 2 Greg Anderson (RSA) / Deon Kruger (RSA) – Bus Boys 17:23:11 3 Frank Schmaehling (GER) / Felix Prinz (GER) – Epic Fighters 17:51:06 Master men: 1 Joao Mendes (RSA) / Waleed Baker (RSA) – PitstopSport24hrs 18:22:54 2 Jozef de Meyer (BEL) / Renaat Verbeke (BEL) – L4 L5 19:56:32 3 Anton Terblanche (RSA) / Hein Gilomee (RSA) – Seattle 20:22:33 Mixed: 1 Fienie Barnard (RSA) / Kobus Barnard (RSA) – Klein Karoo Mixed 17:37:31 2 Monica Glover (RSA) / Danny Fowler (RSA) – The Bicycle Service Company 18:26:14 3 Dalene van der Leek (RSA) / Igna de Villiers (RSA) – Sasol Mixed 18:26:32 Solo men: 1 Craig Uria (RSA) 16:03:23 2 Richard Damant (RSA) 16:14:48 3 Sven Kleine (RSA) 16:34:23 Solo women: 1 Lara-Ann Everts-Van de Venter (RSA) 20:33:38 2 Carmen Andrews (RSA) 17:14:56 21:24:29 3 Katja Steenkamp (RSA) 23:13:59 For full results visit www.capepioneer.co.za.
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