CAPE TOWN – The all-Swiss pairing of Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing won the 111km stage one of the 2019 Cape Epic in emphatic fashion on Monday.
Nino Schurter and Lars Forster finished in a time of four hours 24 minutes and four seconds (4:24.04) to extend their overnight lead to 3.33 over Manuel
Fumic and Henrique Avancini of Cannondale Factory Racing, who finished second.
The Team Bulls Legends outfit of Alban Lakata and five-time champion Karl Platt, rounded out the podium.
“I’m very happy with the win,” Schurter said after the finish on another cloudy and cool day which made for fast racing. “It was a good day out. I hurt a bit toward the end, but now we have time to recover for tomorrow,” he said.
Jaroslav Kulhavy and Sam Gaze of Investec-songo-Specialized crossed the line at Hermanus High School in the chasing bunch not too far behind, to limit their losses and climb up to third place on the GC.
A fierce battle developed throughout the stage between the front two teams.
A group of around 20 riders, featuring all the top contenders stayed together until the Dimension Data Hot Spot at 37km in.
From there, the bunch began to split apart after Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing (who took the hot spot) pushed the pace.
Cannondale Factory Racing were able to stay in the mix as were Investec-songo-Specialized, one of the Trek Selle San Marco outfits, Canyon and the two senior Bulls teams.
It stayed like this until Henrique Avancini went up the road to drop his much-storied hydration vest at water point three. This acted as something of a catalyst and the real fireworks started.
At around 74km, Sam Gaze washed out his wheel in a sandy section and went down hard. He was able to recover the rejoin the chase, but by then though Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing and Cannondale Factory Racing had already opened a gap on the chasing teams.
It wasn’t long after this that Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing went out alone. “The guys didn’t really want to work so we attacked them,” Schurter explained. “That’s how it works.”
Fumic added: “Everyone in the bunch was a bit nervous, and it was hectic in the beginning, but then the racing really started after that water point.
“Scott was playing a few games and we didn’t really want to get involved in that. So, we just kept riding consistent and it’s all good. It’s a long week, and you need to be strong at the end.”
In the women’s event, the Investec-songo-Specialized duo of Annika Langvad and Anna van der Breggen have already opened up a massive five-minute 42-second lead over Kross-Spur Racing’s Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) and Maja Wloszczowska (Poland).
After crossing the line following the gruelling 111km stage one that started and finished in Hermanus, Wloszczowska made it clear their strategy for the day was aimed more at defending second place rather than closing the gap on the leading pair.
“We did not even try and stay with (Langvad and Van der Breggen),” said the 2010 cross country world champion.
“If we had tried to go with them at the beginning, we would have killed ourselves.”
Langvad, a five-time mountain bike marathon world champion, and her equally proficient road-riding specialist partner Van der Breggen were allowed to ride away from their rivals on the early climbs out of Hermanus.
They built such a big gap so early that the only other riders they saw for almost 100km were the male riders they caught and passed from the elite male batch, which started 10 minutes earlier.
At the finish, after five hours, nine minutes and 11 seconds of riding, the Danish/Dutch combination had extended their stage lead to 3:07 with a controlled ride.
Tuesday’s stage two promises to take even more out of the riders, with some 2 250m of climbing over the 90km from Hermanus to Oak Valley.
African News Agency (ANA)