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  1. The Queen Stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, saw the Team Spur/Red-E combination to Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers distance NAD Pro MTB in the final meters to claim a potentially decisive stage win. The sixth stage of the race, on Friday the 20th of October, featured a mammoth 2 700 metres of climbing and was won by the Team Ascendis Health duo of Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz in the UCI women’s competition. Click here to view the article
  2. The Swartberg Pass is an iconic feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek and after its absence in 2016, Dryland Event Management took the decision to reinclude the grand old dame in the 2017 event. The 95 kilometre long stage might have ended on the Swarberg Pass, but the National Monument’s roads – which date back to 1886 – only accounted for 800 metres of the total elevation gain, making the stage exceptionally brutal. Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers distanced Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink in the final 300 metres of the Swartberg Pass climb to claim victory on the Queen Stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. Once again the NAD Pro MTB team did their best to drive up the pace in the early phases of the race, but without a second equally strong general classification team to counter punch and put Team Spur/Red-E under pressure they could not force a split from the yellow jersey wearers. Despite crossing some typically technical Klein Karoo terrain, which shook off the other UCI men’s teams Spur/Red-E and NAD Pro started the final climb together. “I tried to set a tough pace in the hope of dropping Alan [Hatherly]” Bell explained at the top of the Swartberg Pass. “It is impossible to set the pace and attack so Gawie [Combrink] tried to attack a few times, with the idea of me riding across to him if he got away. But Alan [Hatherly] and Matt [beers] were too strong and could follow every move” he concluded. “My legs felt terrible on the final climb, but somehow I hung in there. Then in the last 500 metres they started to feel better, miraculously, so I thought we might as well go for it and see if we could gain a few seconds” Beers said. “Alan [Hatherly] is like a little rat, he climbs so fast” he laughed, “and I’m like an ogre, so I just have to hang in there.” Matt Beers looks back as he makes the decisive attack on the upper reaches of the Swartberg Pass. Photo by Hayden Brown. The sixth stage win of 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, for Team Spur/Red-E saw them cross the line 8 seconds ahead of NAD Pro MTB and extend their general classification lead to 1 minute and 43 seconds. The third placed team on the general classification, KMC Fruit to Go, crossed the finish line on the summit of the pass 6 minutes and 41 seconds behind the stage winners. The result sees Bram Rood and Gerben Mos slip to 17 minutes and 31 seconds down on the overall time sheets. In the women’s race Team Ascendis Health made the going brutally tough for Team Spur/Valencia. By the 45 kilometre mark De Groot and Spitz had established a lead of 2 minutes and 45 seconds. It looked for all money as if Ariane Luthi and Amy-Beth McDougall would falter, allowing the pink jerseys to slip from their shoulders. Robyn de Groot reaches across to congratulate her Ascendis Health teammate, Sabine Spitz, on another stellar stage. Photo by Hayden Brown. After three stages of struggling to match her partner’s pace McDougall put in a race saving ride on stage 6. The Valencia rider was the dominant partner in the team on the stage and rescued Team Spur/Valencia’s Cape Pioneer Trek title hopes. “Amy [McDougall] was so strong today, she really helped me so much” a grateful Lüthi said. “We gave it our all today” a visibly spent De Groot accounted from the top of the Swartberg Pass. “But it was not to be.” “That is racing” her partner Spitz concluded. An exhausted Ariane Lüthi recovers while Amy-Beth McDougall smiles in the knowledge that the Team Spur/Valencia pairing did enough to hang on to their pink leaders’ jerseys going into the final stage of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. Both the men’s and women’s races are far from decided however; the final stage, which takes in 1 150 metres of climbing in its 64 kilometre distance, dished up drama in last year’s edition of the Cape Pioneer Trek. The loose shale surfaces of Chandelier Game Farm provide for exhilarating mountain biking, but they can lead to serious mechanicals and spectacular implosions too. In 2016 both the Team Spur and Cape Brewing Co Elite squads lost their podium positions; after a side wall puncture for Julian Jessop, of Team Spur, and a complete draining of his energy reserves for Daniel Gathof saw both teams lose massive chunks of time. It remains all to race for then, with NAD Pro MTB and Team Ascendis Health afforded one final opportunity to topple Team Spur/Red-E and Team Spur/Valencia from the top of the men’s and women’s general classifications. To follow the action as it unfolds mountain biking fans can follow the event’s Twitter handle, @CapePioneerTrek, from 07:30 on Saturday morning. In addition to the live coverage on Twitter the highlights from every stage of the race can be viewed on the Cape Pioneer Trek Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, daily. For more information on the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, please visit www.capepioneer.co.za. Results: 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by BiogenUCI Men | Stage 6 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (4:07:08) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (4:07:17 | +00:08) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (4:13:50 | +06:41) 4. Kelly’s Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (4:14:09 | +07:00) 5. KTM Pro Team, Moritz Bscherer & Manuel Pliem (4:22:57 | +15:48) UCI Women | Stage 6 1. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (4:33:12) 2. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (4:35:50 | +02:38) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (5:41:41 | +1:08:29) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (5:44:29 | +1:11:17) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (6:02:16 | +1:29:04) UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 6 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (19:27:51) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (19:29:35 | +01:43) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (19:45:23 | +17:31) 4. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (20:01:56 | +34:04) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (20:13:33 | +45:41) UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 6 1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (21:42:30) 2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (21:45:00 | +02:29) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (25:09:30 | +3:27:00) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (26:18:35 | +4:36:05) 5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (27:57:59 | +8:30:08) For all the results from the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen please click here.
  3. “We did what we had to do,” was Robyn de Groot’s understated description of Team Ascendis Health’s victory in the opening stage of the Absa Cape Epic on Sunday. Click here to view the article
  4. Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS South African De Groot and her German partner Sabine Spitz landed the first blows in the fight for the Hansgrohe Women’s category when they beat Esther Suss and Jennie Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC) by 39 seconds over the 26km prologue course at Meerendal Wine Estate. Cape Town local Mariske Strauss and Briton Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro) claimed third, another 70 seconds back, with the Spur duo of defending champion Ariane Luthi and Adelheid Morath (Spur) struggling to a disappointing fourth, over two minutes behind the leaders. Luthi, was visibly shattered after crossing the line and virtually conceded defeat after the opening stage. “We were just not strong enough today,” said the three-time Women’s category winner. “We did what we could but it was not enough.” When asked if she thought the longer stages from Monday may suit them more, she shook her head and repeated: “We are not strong enough.” Jennie Stenerhag and Ester Suss of Meerendal CBC during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS In contrast a very relaxed and upbeat De Groot could not keep the smile off her face. “We really enjoyed the route out there today. It was so nice doing what we love doing today. The plan was to take is at is comes and it went perfectly so we had a very good prologue today. “For me it is such a privilege to be to be able to learn from Sabine for this week – and who can there be better to learn from?” said the multiple South African champion. (Left to Right) 2nd Place Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Suss of Meerendal CBC, 1st Place Sabine Spitz & Robyn de Groot of Ascends Health and 3rd Place Mariske Strauss & Annie Last of Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro during the Prologue of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 19th March 2017. Photo by Shaun Roy/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS In the Virgin Active Mixed race, Olympic Women’s gold medallist Jenny Rissveds and mountain biking legend Thomas Frischknecht (Scott-Sram Nextlevel) claimed the early lead and take a one minute 44 second lead into the second stage in Hermanus on Monday. Grant Usher and former World Single Speed World Champion Amy Beth Mcdougall (Joberg2c-Valencia) are second with the New Zealand paring of Willy Williams and Kate Fluker (New World St Martins) third just six seconds further back. Monday’s Stage 1 is very different from the fast and furious 26km prologue. The riders will tackle a gruelling 101km stage that starts and finishes in Hermanus. Absa Cape Epic Prologue Highlights
  5. Photo credit: ZC Marketing Consulting Part of being a professional sportsperson is coping when things don’t go to plan. 2016 had some ups and downs for you, including losing your Epic partner after a very promising start, and a shoulder injury that saw you off the bike for several weeks, missing some big races. How did you deal with these setbacks, and did you manage to find a positive side to these events? 2016 certainly threw some difficult times my way, it is part of being an athlete I guess. I never really dwell too much on disappointments, but rather use them to grow, learn and find motivation.In terms of Epic last year I decided to continue as an outcast, which was the best decision I could have made. It kept my mind positive, it kept my heart free from disappointment, and by the time I reached Meerendal on the final day I had enjoyed a “pressure-less” ride at Epic. I got to see the event from a perspective that one doesn’t usually get to enjoy when you have your head in race mode. My shoulder injury tested me properly, however. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I learned to be patient, and funnily enough, it all happened during a time when I needed to focus my energy on my family - which I was then able to do. Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag winning stage 1 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS You will be riding the 2017 Cape Epic with Sabine Spitz, whom you raced against last year. What characteristics do each of you bring to the team that might see you take the win? Yes, I am extremely excited and honoured to be racing Epic with Sabine. I don’t know her well, but we did have some interactions at last year's Epic. Her personality, energy, and mannerisms were things I certainly noticed as a drawcard. We are both professional and serious, yet relaxed. I only rode a few days of last year's Epic alongside Sabine, but I feel we will compliment one another’s riding style. She has so much experience and I have no doubt that I will learn a lot riding with her. Team dynamics are very important for stage racing: are you looking forward to racing with Sabine, and will the two of you be doing any races together as preparation? Yes, I am looking forward to racing with Sabine. I am not a partner that requires a lot of maintenance, or pre-race interaction and it seems that Sabine is the same in this regard. At this point in time, we will be doing our own separate preparation. Photo credit: ZC Marketing Consulting Has your training been going well? Will you be doing any special preparation during the build up to Epic? Yes, my coach tells me we are on track, and I have absolute faith in him. I guess there is always specific preparation leading up to an event like the Epic. Who are the other women’s teams to watch this year, and who will you be keeping an eye on at the start line? I believe that we are in for another thrilling women’s race this year - there are some really strong ladies teams that have been made public, and I am certain there will be more to come within the next few weeks. It is wonderful for the sport and for women's cycling. I hope not to leave any names out, but for now these names come to mind:Ariane Lüthi & partner Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Süss Sally Bigham & partner Hielke Elferink & Cornelia Hug Candice Lill (nee Neethling) & Vera Adriaan Yolandi du Toit & Theresa Ralph What do you think of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic route? Will it play to your strengths and which stages might you see as key? I’ve taken a brief look at the route. My approach, as always, is just to prepare, remain focused and be able to adapt and overcome the route as the race unfolds. My coach looks into the routes in more detail and prepares me accordingly. I actually keep my mind off the route itself until just before the race, and then I take one day at a time. Beyond Epic, what are your goals for 2017? You have unfinished business with SA Marathon Champs and World Marathon Champs, will these be an area of focus for you? It is always such a gamble as to what state the Epic leaves you in: it can leave you completely broken, or relatively unscathed, so we will have to see how it goes this year.Beyond Epic, we have a National XCM series (Ashburton Marathon series) which offers one-day races and an entire series country wide which I will focus on. It suits the format of Team Ascendis Health this year for me to focus on these kinds of events. National Champs has, and always will be a goal, as I am sure it is for many others. Marathon Worlds qualification is an objective for sure, as my plans for last year's Marathon Worlds came to an abrupt end with my crash and shoulder injury. Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag on their way to winning the Prologue of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Your Ascendis Health teammate from last year, Jennie Stenerhag will be riding for CBC this year, which means you no longer have a female teammate for local stage races. Do you have a partner in mind for the year, or will you be taking it race by race? That is correct, at this stage I do have some ladies in mind to team up with for various stage races throughout the year. I think as the season develops, I will get a better idea as to my form, and other ladies form, and we can take it from there in terms of forming a compatible team. So if there are any ladies looking for a partner, they are more than welcome to chat to me or my management at Lange Sports: for now the door is open…. You are riding the new Scott Spark RC 900, which has seen some serious design changes from 2016. How are you enjoying the updated design and geometry so far? There have been some major changes, and it has been an absolute pleasure to ride, with a noticeable improvement in terms of the suspension, stiffness, and responsiveness of the bike. I am proud to be associated with the Scott brand and very thankful for the support the provide to me and the team.
  6. Robyn de Groot is a multiple South African marathon champion, with an impressive array of titles under her belt. 2016 was a mixed year for her: a shoulder injury kept her off the bike and forced her to miss Marathon World Champs, where she had been selected to represent South Africa. She was also knocked out of contention for the women’s overall jersey at the 2016 Absa Cape Epic, after her partner Jennie Stenerhag was forced to withdraw due to illness. This year she will be racing the 2017 Absa Cape Epic with German veteran Sabine Spitz, who finished second at last year’s Cape Epic, alongside teammate Yana Belamoina. The two will be riding as Team Ascendis Health, and look set to be strong contenders in the battle for the women’s podium. We asked Robyn some questions about her plans for 2017, hopes for the Absa Cape Epic, her new bike, and the obstacles she faced last year. Click here to view the article
  7. A health scare to Jennie Stenerhag forced her and partner Robyn de Groot to withdrawal from the 2016 ABSA Cape Epic however the duo have confirmed they will be out to replicate their 2014 victory when they take on this year’s KAP sani2c after the Stenerhag was given a clean bill of health following heart surgery recently. Click here to view the article
  8. Despite the disappointment of the Cape Epic, Stenerhag has put it behind her and is firmly focused on being in top form for the three-day sani2c from Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg to Scottburgh on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. The Team Ascendis Health star has been in recovery following her surgery and has been waiting patiently to begin her journey back to full fitness, despite the Swedish star being cautious not to commence with flat-out training just yet. The formidable Team Ascendis Health pair of Jennie Stenerhag (left) and Robyn de Groot (right) will be out to repeat their 2014 win at the 2016 KAP sani2c starting from 12-14 May. CAPCHA Photography/Gameplan Media “I managed to go for my first ride since the operation on Wednesday,” the 41 year-old said. “The operation all went well and my ride was surprisingly good but sani2c is still over a month away so I am not putting any pressure on myself to get into top shape too quickly.” “I’m just taking it day by day and although I plan on riding every day, if I don’t feel up to it I’m not going to put pressure on myself to ride.” The recovery process is a gradual one with Stenerhag eyeing a return to competitive racing in a few weeks’ time. “We have a Nissan Trail Seeker Western Cape event on 7 May – which will be my first race back – and it will be the week before sani2c, which I think should be more than enough time to get myself back into good form,” she explained. Stenerhag forms a formidable duo with De Groot, who had to pull out of the 2015 edition of the sani2c due to post viral fatigue syndrome, and the pair will hope that they are on top of their game when they leave Glencairn Farm. “I had worked out that before this year’s Epic, Robyn and I had ridden in nine stage races together – that’s a lot of riding and it means that we have got to know each other really well. “We are similar sorts of riders so we share the same strengths which I see as a positive to our partnership. “We have been through a number of ups and downs and we have become really good friends on and off the bike. It has been a tough few weeks for Team Ascendis Health star Jennie Stenerhag who had to undergo heart surgery following the ABSA Cape Epic however the 41 year-old star is at the KAP sani2c starting from 12-14 May. CAPCHA Photography/Gameplan Media “Robyn has been in great form this year and with the South African Marathon Championships being her next target, she should be hitting top form by the time we get on the start line at the sani2c,” she added. The KAP sani2c throws a number of obstacles at the riders throughout, including a back-breaking climb out of the uMkomaas Valley to end the second stage. Stenerhag however singles out the first day as being her toughest challenge. “I battle with the altitude on the first day, which makes the opening stage of the race the most difficult for me! “I always feel that the race gets easier and easier as we get closer to the sea – it might just be the mind-set but it helps me get through!” Stenerhag said. Team Ascendis Health's Robyn de Groot will be back for the first time since 2014 as she joins partner Jennie Stenerhag for another shot at the title at the 2016 KAP sani2c starting from 12-14 May. CAPCHA Photography/ Gameplan Media As the elite women’s entries are finalised, the aim for Stenerhag and De Groot is to keep themselves focused on their own race as opposed to worrying about what the other ladies pairings are doing. “We just want to control what we can control and concentrate on our own race,” she mentioned circumspectly. “The goal is definitely to win the title but we are not going to do that if our attention isn’t in the correct place so keeping that maintained focus is going to be of vital importance to us.” For more information on KAPsani2c®: Info@KAPsani2c.co.za or www.sani2c.co.za.
  9. Current three-time Mountain Bike Marathon National Champion Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health) is looking to defend her title at the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens – from 16-17 April. Click here to view the article
  10. De Groot retired from road racing at the end of 2012 after competing in the London Olympic Games that year, wanting to settle down and embark on a lifestyle change. But the lure of cycling was too strong to leave behind and she pursued cycle racing once again, this time it was off-road and with a balance to her lifestyle. Current three-time Mountain Bike Marathon National Champion Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health) is looking to defend her title at the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series – which plays host to the 2016 South African Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Clarens – from 16-17 April. Photo credit: Craig Dutton The Olympian very soon went on to claim three consecutive Marathon National Championship titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In terms of her endurance racing, De Groot was looking strong during this year’s Absa Cape Epic when disaster struck her partner, Swede Jennie Stenerhag, who withdrew from the race after the third stage. Despite her partner’s withdrawal, De Groot continued in the “Outcast” jersey. “I had prepared pretty well for the Cape Epic and things were looking good,” said De Groot. “Jen’s health was not her fault – it was no negligence on her part and was just one of those things. Continuing as an Outcast provided me with a different experience of the race, and I enjoyed it for what it was. I was a bit disappointed to be out of contention, but I just kept going.” De Groot feels optimistic about her form ahead of the National Championships, despite not having taken a break from racing yet this year. “I felt broken after last year’s Epic, but this year I am feeling good. My training is going well and I remained focused and followed my training goals on each stage. I was concerned that National Champs had moved so soon after the Epic as I wasn't sure if I would come out okay or not. I’m looking forward to a break after Nationals,” she said. Speaking of the importance of the National Championship jersey, the George resident said: “It’s one of those big goals for me each year. It is such a privilege to wear that jersey and have that title. I cherish the moment each time I race in the jersey. It is an important goal on my race calendar and a title that I’d like to hang on to.” The route in Clarens is one that De Groot calls “unique” and different to the previous National Champs events. “It’s a very different route because the trails go over the slickrock and the scenery is so unique. I guess that’s the challenge of racing in the marathons – it is how you are able to adapt to different terrains. The past four years of the Marathon Champs’ venues have all been so different from each other.” While the 2016 SA National MTB Marathon Championships is targeted at the Elite Men (Ultra Marathon) Elite Women (Marathon) and Junior and Youth Men and Women (Half Marathon) for National Championship status, the race event is the third round of the Ashburton Investments National MTB Series, which caters for all age groups and fitness abilities. Not only does the picturesque Free State village boast exquisitely breath-taking mountain views, but also offers a range of activities such as golf, horse riding and hiking, a selection of coffee shops, cafes, art galleries and pubs. The event also offers child minding facilities, hospitality, bike wash and complete medical centre with a doctor on site. For more information and to enter, visit: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-mtb-marathon-champs/.
  11. Robyn de Groot [L] and Jennie Stenerhag [R] Win stage 1 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 14th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “We saw the helicopter, then we saw Ariane [Kleinhans] and thought maybe we can go for a stage win,” said De Groot of their passing manoeuvre on the Spur-Specialised pair of Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad. Up until that dramatic moment, in the final 2km of Monday’s 108km stage, the South African-Swedish pair of De Groot and Stenerhag feared for their Sasol Women’s category leader’s jersey. “We thought we had lost it,” said De Groot. “We didn’t expect to catch up to them after we all split.” Stage 1 was the first time in Absa Cape Epic history where the UCI-registered women’s teams started in their own batch, taking off five minutes after the UCI men on Monday morning. De Groot believes that it added an interesting element to the racing among the women. “It was very nice and gave us all a fair chance to leverage off the start. Once we were caught by the men who started behind us we then rode tempo,” said De Groot, the reigning South African Marathon champion. Langvad and Kleinhans came home in second place, losing 39.9 seconds on the day, and the pain was etched on the Swiss rider’s face. “It was actually a very good day,” recalled Langvad, speaking for the pair while Kleinhans struggled through the day’s exertions. “We got away on the first climb when the Grand Masters caught up with us. Up until that stage it was actually very slow. When the men caught us I think they expected us to do the work but it didn’t really happen. We knew today would be interesting with the new start and nobody had an idea how it would go.” Ariane Kleinhans [R] and Annika Langvad [L] during stage 1 of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh, South Africa on the 14th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS. Langvad, provided insight to where the the tide turned for her and her teammate – their lead at one stage had grown to over four minutes. “It was a little bit of a shame. Suddenly, in the last 20km Ariane started struggling and her pace dropped. She said she was quite tired.” Despite now being 58 seconds behind overall, Langvad remained positive of Kleinhans recovering sufficiently for Stage 2 and beyond… “Obviously we feel the pressure of being caught today, especially because we rode a very strong race up until that point, but there is a long race ahead…” The podium today was rounded off by Sally Bigham and Adel Morath of Topeak Ergon, who arrived home 5:50.4 behind the stage winners. “It was very dusty today but there was nice singletrack. We knew it was going to be hot today so we weren’t surprised by that,” said Bigham of today’s conditions. The Brit called the new women’s batch “better, for sure” adding that the racing became a little different when the Grand Masters caught up with the UCI Women. “When they came past, the women’s race opened up and from then on we were by ourselves.” Tuesday’s Stage 2, 93km out and back at Saronsberg, is the 100th of the Absa Cape Epic. Will the leader’s make it three-from-three or will the prestige of the stage see another team take it?
  12. When Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag of Team Ascendis Health crossed the finish line first in a time of 5:22.18,4 on Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic, the most surprised people at Saronsberg Wine Estate were the two of them. Click here to view the article
  13. In partnership with LEADout, a cycling academy, which aims to nurture and hone the skills of aspiring young cyclists, Ascendis Health, is adding their unique touch, with the help from their premier health and care brands, to better train, inspire and empower these young cyclists. Marchall Hendricks and Shannique Loggenberg with Eden Cycling team mates. The sponsorship program is still in its initial phase however, two recently matriculated girls and two recently matriculated boys from the Oudtshoorn district and Grassy Park have been selected. LEADout closely guides these cyclists through a four-step process, which includes, identifying their talent and exposing them to a road-racing career, evaluating their discipline and commitment as well as matching their academic goals with their cycling racing opportunities. LEADout aims to bridge the gap between just “putting bums on bikes” to nurturing performers that can compete in the national and international arena. LEADout Managing Director Barry Austin, a South African former pro cyclist on the European circuit and Commercial Relations manager, South African cycling icon Malcolm Lange remain realistic when it comes to achieving and sustaining these goals however. In their experience, they have seen less than 10% of juniors per year make it on a professional domestic level and only 2% per year on an international level. “We know the ratio of youngsters turning professional in sport is low and whilst we hope to increase this and that some of our identified talent bridge that gap, we know some are not. The idea is that those that do not make it still walk away winners in the sense of gaining extra education whilst chasing their dreams.” These goals align with Ascendis Health’s vision, which is to build a remarkable business of synergistic human, plant and animal health brands across the value chain, that all aim to enhance certain aspects of the user’s life. These groups of product brands include health, beauty and sporting performances products such as Solal, Nimue, PharmaNatura, Evox, Supashape, Bolus and SSN; products that would be advantageous in most upcoming and professional athletes’ hands. “Supporting pinnacle-performers in such a fast-growing, health-focused and prominent sport is a carefully considered alignment of our company, our brands and our vision,” says company CEO, Dr Karsten Wellner, himself a keen sportsman and somebody who also loves to keep Ascendis Health on a winning track. Through a dedicated program and the right performance enhancing products, together Ascendis Health and LEADout Cycling make a winning team when it comes to supporting and developing South Africa’s young cycling talent.
  14. Health and care brands company Ascendis Health is striving to elevate and develop young cyclists through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program; the Ascendis Academy initiative. After the ongoing successful two year sponsorship of two of South Africa’s top female mountain bikers; Robyn de Groot and Jennie Stenerhag with Team Ascendis Health the company has now set its sights on the promotion of young road racing athletes from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Click here to view the article
  15. “It is amazing to see how it has grown since the first edition in 2004. When I worked as a volunteer at that first one I did not even dream that I would stand on the podium of this race one day, so it makes it special for me.” This year she will be back with De Groot (Team Ascendis Health) on the starting line on March 13. In recent years De Groot has dominated South African women’s marathon mountain biking while Stenerhag has done much the same in Sweden. The latter lives and spends much of her time in South Africa, where the two of them have become good friends and regular stage race partners. Stenerhag believes that their friendship is key to their successes: “Robyn and I make a very good team since we get along very well both on and off the bike and we are good friends, which helps when racing. We have done a lot of stage races together and know each other very well. We do have different strengths and complement each other in a good way.” De Groot concurred: “Jen and I have been fortunate enough to race a number of stage races together, and develop a really good friendship and understanding over the years. She got me through the Epic last year when I hit some very low times on a bicycle, and wouldn’t leave my side.” On a bike “Jen’s strengths would be that she never gives up, always gives 100% to the partnership and is highly motivated to perform … she is also able to keep everything in perspective and smile at the end of every day.” De Groot laughed when asked what her objective might be: “To survive again. No … well not just that: if opportunities arise to go for stage wins that would be something we would aim towards. If these opportunities arise and put us in a winning position overall, that would be a wonderful bonus.” Stenerhag said: “Our goal for the 2016 Absa Cape Epic is to finish on the podium after the eight days. We managed to do so last year and it would be a great achievement to get back on to that same podium.” “Watching the route launch certainly got my heart beating faster,” admitted De Groot. “With an increase in the amount of singletrack in the 2016 route, I have no doubt we will need to work harder. The route looks extremely challenging, which is what the Absa Cape Epic is all about.” Stenerhag added: “As much as I have seen of the route it looks like a very nice one, a bit shorter but more intense with more single tracks … which I think will make for a more fun race, but it will be tough.” De Groot was looking forward the seeing the impact the new starting batch for women would have on the racing: “From what I understand it may change the racing a little, and potentially lead to longer days out on the bike.” Both said they had been training well and their first (De Groot) and second finishes at the Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge earlier this month was a “good sign since it means that we are on the same track for the Epic,” said Stenerhag. They were 12th and 13th overall and only minutes apart in that 121km race, suggesting that they are in excellent shape as the Absa Cape Epic approaches. And what keeps them coming back each March for eight days of gruelling riding? “It’s the ultimate MTB challenge,” explained De Groot. “You suffer out there, but the sense of accomplishment at the end of it all is worth it.”
  16. In 2004 Sweden’s Jennie Stenerhag worked as a volunteer on the first ever Cape Epic. Eleven years later she was standing on the stage race’s podium, having finished second overall in the Women’s category with South African Robyn de Groot. Click here to view the article
  17. Team RECM’s Erik Kleinhans and James Reid closed their racing season off on a high note on Sunday, 08 November 2015 by claiming gold at the FNB Wines2Whales (W2W) Three Day Mountain Bike (MTB) Stage Race. Seen here (from left to right): Johann Rabie and Gawie Combrinck of Team EAI South Africa with James Reid and Erik Kleinhans of Team RECM in action on the day. Photo Credit: Volume Photography. Although Stage Three saw Team RECM crossing the finish line in second place, a mere 59 seconds behind Gawie Combrinck and Johann Rabie of Team EAI South Africa, their combined efforts over the three days firmly placed them on the top step of the podium, with an impressive overall finishing time of 08 hours 17 minutes 19 seconds. “Hats off to Gawie and Johann for giving us a good go today,” said Kleinhans. “From the start it was clear that Team EAI had a plan to make up the two minute gap to secure the overall second place position. With about 5km to go we accepted that they were the stronger team, and just focused on enjoying the last kilometres to the finish. This is our last race in the RECM colours. It’s been a great journey with our sponsors who have actually become friends. W2W is the best race. From the trails, to the food and organisation, the organisers have everything perfectly dialled. ” Gawie Combrinck and Johan Rabie of Team EAI South Africa came in second, while Adriaan Louw and Hendrik Kruger of Team CONTEGO Pro MTB finished third. Robyn De Groot and Jennie Stenerhag of Team Ascendis Health set the pace in the women’s race claiming victory in a well-deserved combined time of 09 hours 46 minutes 19 seconds. “Stage Three was fast from the start,” said De Groot. “Although Jennie and I struggled on Stage Two, we had a good day today as partners, working well together. It was really nice competing against Candice and Ariane. With Ascendis Health sponsoring the ladies MTB team this year, it is really special for us to claim the top spot on the podium. W2W is mountain biking candy. It doesn’t get better than this.” Candice Neethling and Ariane Kleinhans of Team RECM Ladies came in second, while Theresa Ralph and Samantha Sanders of Team Galileo Risk Valencia finished third. Power couple Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Carl Pasio of Team Bigla claimed victory in the mixed team category with a combined finishing time of 10 hours 07 minutes and 05 seconds. “Today I realised that a lack in mountain bike training will definitely cost you,” laughed Moolman-Pasio. “The stage was really tough. Carl rode really well today and pulled me through it. W2W is a great race and a fun way to finish the year.” Andreas Studer and Carmen Buchacher of Team Craft cycling came in second, while Yolandi Du Toit and Gordon Alan finished third. “The camaraderie, spectacular route and intense competition make the FNB Wines2Whales one of the sought-after races in South Africa. This competition is rapidly becoming a flagship event for cyclists in and outside of South Africa, and FNB Business is delighted to be in a position to enable this experience for the participants, including our clients. We would like to congratulate the winners of the three stages and every cyclist who took part in this year’s race,” said Mike Vacy-Lyle, CEO FNB Business. The prize purse for the 2015 FNB W2W MTB Race was increased by R31 500, taking the overall total to a whopping R381 500. The overall men’s and women’s teams took home a prize purse of R65 000 after Stage Three. Runners up were awarded R30 000, while the final team on the podium won R17 500. The 2015 FNB W2W MTB Events attracted an impressive field of 3900 riders (1950 teams of two) over the three events (Adventure, Ride and Race). Kicking off at the picturesque Lourensford Wine Estate (Somerset West) teams had to cross through (and over) 13 wineries, 26 private farms, six mountains, historic roads and mountain passes, nature conservation areas (including the Kogelberg Biosphere) before finishing within sight of the famous whales of Hermanus! FNB Wines2Whales MTB Race Sunday, 08 November 2015Top 5 Results / Stage Three: Men 1 Gawie Combrinck and Johann Rabie / EAI South Africa 02:41:40, 2 Erik Kleinhans and James Reid / 02:42:39, 3 Adriaan Louw and Hendrik Kruger / CONTEGO Pro MTB Team 02:49:52, 4 Konny Looser and Christoph Sauser / Investec Songo 02:49:53, 5 Matthew Beers and Stephan Senekal / Red-E 02:50:55 Women 1 Robyn De Groot and Jennie Stenerhag / Ascendis Health 03:12:46, 2 Candice Neethling and Ariane Kleinhans / RECM Ladies 03:13:48, 3 Theresa Ralph and Samantha Sanders / Galileo Risk Valencia 03:20:22, 4 Janine Rawlinson and Carla Van Huyssteen / Time Freight E Team 03:36:24, 5 Michelle Lombardi and Hanlie Booyens / Tiletoria Ladies 03:44:06 Mixed 1 Andreas Studer and Carmen Buchacher / Craft cycling 03:14:37, 2 Ashleigh Moolman and Carl Pasio / Bigla 03:14:40, 3 Kobus Barnard and Fienie Barnard / Kromco Barnards 03:17:10, 4 Yolandi Du Toit and Gordon Alan / Garmin Navworld 03:20:22, 5 James Lennard and Katherine Lennard / Team Lennard 03:24:47 Top 5 Results / GC: Stage One, Two and Three combined: Men 1 Erik Kleinhans and James Reid / Team RECM 08:17:19, 2 Gawie Combrinck and Johann Rabie / EAI South Africa 08:27:37, 3 Adriaan Louw and Hendrik Kruger / CONTEGO Pro MTB Team 08:34:03, 4 Konny Looser and Christoph Sauser / Investec Songo 08:35:07, 5 Matthew Beers and Stephan Senekal / Red-E 08:36:42 Women 1 Robyn De Groot and Jennie Stenerhag / Ascendis Health 09:46:19, 2 Candice Neethling and Ariane Kleinhans / RECM Ladies 09:50:12, 3 Theresa Ralph and Samantha Sanders / Galileo Risk Valencia 10:19:43, 4 Janine Rawlinson and Carla Van Huyssteen / Time Freight E Team 11:07:53, 5 Michelle Lombardi and Hanlie Booyens / 11:21:01 Mixed 1 Carl Pasio and Ashleigh Moolman / Bigla 10:07:05, 2 Andreas Studer and Carmen Buchacher / Craft cycling 10:12:07, 3 Yolandi Du Toit and Gordon Alan / Garmin Navworld 10:15:55, 4 Kobus Barnard and Fienie Barnard / Kromco Barnards 10:18:38, 5 James Lennard and Katherine Lennard / Team Lennard 10:36:18
  18. Team RECM’s Erik Kleinhans and James Reid closed their racing season off on a high note on Sunday, 08 November 2015 by claiming gold at the FNB Wines2Whales (W2W) Three Day Mountain Bike (MTB) Stage Race. Click here to view the article
  19. The women’s race of the 92km Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic came to a dramatic conclusion late in the day at the Oak Valley Wine Estate race village. Click here to view the article
  20. Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad during stage 2. // Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Although finishing the day in a blistering time of 4:37.31.1, Team RECM Specialized’s Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad had to wait until the very end of the day to hear their race fate, this after they took an unintentional detour close to the finish line and in doing so cut almost 5km off their race distance. The race commissaire was left with a difficult decision to make after listening to explanations from Team RECM Specialized (For a full statement on the decision, see below). The teams turned left when they should have gone straight, eventually joining the course again unaware that they had lopped off around 5km of the stage distance. After reviewing the situation for a number of hours, including analysing “on-board” GoPro footage of the incident, the commissaire decided 13 minutes and 39 seconds would be added to Team RECM Specialized’s stage time because they rode 5km less than the rest of the field. In addition, an extra hour was added to their stage time for not following the route markings. The time penalties mean Team RECM Specialized finished 11th on the day. This now takes Kleinhans and Langvad out of the category leader’s jerseys and into fourth place on the standings, with Team Ascendis Health’s Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot moving into first place in the standings. Robyn de Groot leaves the starting line during stage 2. // Photo by Damien Schumann/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS Team RECM Specialized now find themselves 27.06,8 behind the new leaders. Third-place finishers of the women’s race on Stage 2, Sally Bigham and Christina Kollman of Team Sellaronda Hero, moved into second for the day and third in the overall standings. Earlier in the day, however, and for much of the stage’s 92km, it was business as usual for Team RECM Specialized. With daylight between them and the rest of the women’s field it appeared that a daylight savings clock would be the only way the chasing pack could reel in Kleinhans and Langvad – or a costly error. “We weren’t very comfortable in the beginning because it was very windy,” said Kleinhans. “But once we got going we were straight into the racing. We like to race hard from the start because you can pull away from the field and that lessens your chances of getting caught up in an accident.” Esther Suss and Alice Pirard during stage 2. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS. Elsewhere in the field, former Cape Epic winner Sally Bigham and Christina Kollman of Team Sellaronda Hero rode into some form, taking third-place on the day (before being bumped up to second). Kollman was a late call-up to Bigham’s team, discovering just a week before the event that she would be taking part after Blaža Klemenčič pulled out through injury. “Christina was so brave to take on this challenge at such short notice,” said Bigham, “so we are delighted to get on the podium today.” It was all the more impressive considering Kollman was in some discomfort before the day started. “My back was really sore during the warm up and again just before we started, so we decided to just ride the first 20km and see how it went,” said Kollman. “It’s an unbelievable result for us. I just got better and better during the day.” Tomorrow riders will leave Elgin and ride 128km towards Worcester, eventually finishing at HTS Drostdy in the town. Kleinhans and Langvad find themselves chasing the orange jersey once more, which should prove to be a demanding test of character for the new chasers and the new leaders. Stage 2 results1 Ascendis Health 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (SA) 5:02.48,1
 2 Sellaronda Hero 52-1 Sally Bigham (England) 52-2 Christina Kollmann (Austria) 5:03.45
 3 Meerendal Wheeler C'dale 54-1 Milena Landtwing (Switzerland) 54-2 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 5:06.03,3 Overall1 Ascendis Health 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (SA) 11:49.42,5
 2 Meerendal Wheeler 51-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 51-2 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 12:01.27,1 
 3 Sellaronda Hero 52-1 Sally Bigham (England) 52-2 Christina Kollmann (Austria) 12:09.25,1
 4 RECM Specialized 50-1 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 50-2 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 12:16.49,3 
 5 Meerendal Wheeler C'dale 54-1 Milena Landtwing (Switzerland) 54-2 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 12:17.34,0 
 6 SasolRacing 56-1 Yolande de Villiers (South Africa) 56-2 Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia) 12:23.23,1 
 7 RBS 137-1 Theresa Ralph (SA) 137-2 Jeannie Bomford (SA) 12:29.52,9 
 8 World Bicycle Relief 53-1 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Norway) 53-2 Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland) 12:35.36,5 9 Novus OMX Pro 79-1 Mariske Strauss (SA) 79-2 Cherie Vale (SA) 13:00.18,1 
 10 SasolRacing 2 59-1 Leana de Jager (SA) 59-2 Yolandi du Toit (SA) 13:13.09,7 Decision relating to race protest against RECM SpecializedTeam RECM Specialized went off the course towards the end of today’s Stage Two of the Absa Cape Epic, short cutting the route by approximately 4.5km before rejoining the course. This became evident through irregularities in the timing and a race protest. The short cut was verified through various means, including the timing and tracking records and also by the admission of the riders. The route was clearly signposted at the point where RECM Specialized exited the course. It was however deemed to not be a deliberate breach and therefore did not warrant a disqualification. It is the responsibility of the riders to ensure that they do not leave the course and therefore an hour penalty has been applied. This was based on the time penalties for other misdemeanors in the Absa Cape Epic rules. In addition to the one hour penalty, an additional time adjustment compensating for the time gained by riding a shorter distance has been added. This adjustment has been based on the time Team RECM Specialized gained over 2nd placed Team Ascendis Health over the distance between the last water point and the finish line. RECM Specialized were 11m38s ahead at water point three – the last point on the course where the teams were timed before RECM Specialized went off the course – and 25m17s ahead at the finish line. The time gained over that part of the route was therefore 13m39s. The total penalty against RECM Specialized is therefore 1h13m39s. Peter Blakey
  21. The sharp improvement in the strength of the women’s field for the 2015 Absa Cape Epic will inevitably give rise to an intense battle for the podium positions. Can a South African woman get on to one of those steps when the race finishes at Meerendal on 22 March? Click here to view the article
  22. The best bet might be an Epic newbie, Robyn de Groot. Although relatively new to mountain biking she has already won the marathon national championships twice, and finished sixth at the marathon world championships last year. She will be riding with Sweden’s Jennie Stenerhag, herself a two-times national champion, in Team Ascendis Health. How does De Groot fancy her chances? “With this being my first Absa Cape Epic and such a strong women’s field it is hard to say. I guess (our objective) will be to ride our bikes to the best of our ability as a team. Like any competitive athlete the podium will be an objective and something we will be striving towards.” Stenerhag, who has two Epic finishes to her name, concurred: “The goal is to try to get on to the podium. But Epic is Epic and the competition is tough, so anything can happen.” In September of last year De Groot and Stenerhag convincingly won the PE to Plett four-day mountain bike stage race. “I feel Jennie and I compliment one another as riding partners,” said De Groot. “We both operate professionally, seem to make similar decisions and share ways of thinking during both the good times and bad times. We did three stage races together last year so we know that the partnership works and we know each other well,” added Stenerhag. “We have a very similar riding style, which makes for a perfect combination.” She added that Annika Langvad (Denmark) and Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) will be the favourites “since they won last year and also won the Swiss Epic together. But there are many teams this year which stand a good chance of winning. Sally Bigham (Great Britain) and Esther Suss (Switzerland) are coming back with different partners and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Norway) is one of the best mountain bikers in the world: we cannot count her out even if she does not have experience of stage races.” Asked about the team dynamic in an event of this nature, De Groot said: “If other stage races are anything to go by it is a huge factor. This sport is incredibly harsh, it tests your limits in so many ways … that dynamic may even become the fuel within the team when the going gets tough.” Stenerhag again shares her teammate’s sentiments: “The team dynamic is very important, almost more important then having two strong riders in the team. You must be able to help each other no matter what happens, and also understand each other when the going gets tough! It is also important that you get along well off the bike.” And their choice of bike? “We have just been spoilt with the most beautiful looking Scott Spark RC 29er,” said De Groot. “It is dual-suspension which will certainly be a great option for the Epic terrain. The best description of the ride: it makes me want to play on the trails.” Stenerhag paid tribute to the race’s standing: “The Absa Cape Epic is seen as one of the highest profile mountain bike races in the world, and it is prestigious to be standing on that podium after eight days of hard racing! The organisation has done a phenomenal job to build up such an event from scratch. I was working as a volunteer at the first Epic in 2004 and it is amazing to see how it has grown!” This year’s race takes place from 15 to 22 March and will once again take 1 200 riders through some of the Western Cape’s most unspoilt territory. The race kicks off with a prologue on Table Mountain, starting from the University of Cape Town, and finishes eight days later at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville. Meerendal will host the finish of the race and the Grand Finale celebrations for the first time. The Grand Finale will kick off with live entertainment, a farmer’s market, great food and wine and glorious scenery. Vantage points will be accessible to the general public. Entrance is free.
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