“Long shot” pays off for South Africans
Published: 2015-03-19 16:48:13
South Africans Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes notched up the first South African win in the 2015 Absa Cape Epic after an audacious early break on Wednesday’s rugged 111km Stage 4.
The looped route – starting and finishing in Worcester – included some back-breaking climbs and rocky surfaces, giving rise to many tyre problems throughout the field. The sunny day also made conditions difficult for some of the backmarkers.But the top contenders for the overall win all managed to get through without much drama and the yellow zebra jersey remained on the shoulders of the Investec-Songo-Specialized team of Swiss Christoph Sauser and his Czech teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy.
An elated Buys admitted after crossing the finish line that he and Beukes (Scott Factory Racing) had taken a “long shot” gamble by breaking away inside the first hour.“We went hard from the start,” he said. “I said to Matthys that I couldn’t hold the pace for another three hours, so we backed off.”“But then I started feeling better and the gap just kept growing. Towards the end we controlled it … accelerating when we felt good,” said Buys.
At one stage the lead had grown to over six minutes, but the big guns behind them – not too concerned about Buys and Beukes because they are not a threat in the overall general classification – closed it down a bit over the three closing “Skyscraper” climbs.Topeak Ergon’s Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic and Austrian Alban Lakata finished together with Sauser and Kulhavy, three-and-a-half minutes behind the South Africans.
Sauser and Kulhavy generally rode conservatively and to protect the yellow zebra jersey on the day: “Every day wearing the yellow is like winning a break point in tennis and today was another set point,” smiled Sauser.Hynek and Lakata remain in second place overall, with Spain’s Jose Hermida and Dutch partner Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida) in third. Four time winner Karl Platt of Germany and Swiss partner Urs Huber are fourth after losing another two minutes to the leading teams on Wednesday.
In the Sasol Women’s category Team RECM Specialized continue to dominate at the Absa Cape Epic. They strengthened their grip on the orange leader's jersey with another powerhouse display on the 111km loop of the Worcester countryside.
Second over the line for Stage 4, more than 20 minutes after Team RECM Specialized, was a much happier looking Team Ascendis Health, with both Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot finishing with grins instead of grimaces. Third in the Sasol Women’s category on Stage 4 were Esther Suss and Alice Pirard of Team Meerendal Wheeler.
“It was really sandy again, and so rocky at the start,” said Kleinhans. “It was also real Karoo riding out there today, so you had to watch for thorns and sharp stones.” The pair are riding slightly heavier and thicker tyres than normal, and it’s a strategy that appears to be paying off.
“They are only slightly heavier than our usual tyres,” said Kleinhans, “but it really gives you the confidence to push on, especially when you are slightly tired towards the end of the day and you aren’t able to dodge obstacles quickly. With these you can go over stones feeling confident that you won’t puncture.”
From this stage of the race riders start to tire and mistakes can derail a charge for victory and ruin months of training. “That’s the nature of stage races,” said Kleinhans. “Everyone starts to get tired from now but you just have to push on.”
RED-E Blend’s Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock wore the red Absa African special jersey on Wednesday’s stage but had to give it up after finishing eight-and-a-half minutes behind Buys and Beukes. They are now two minutes behind in the overall standings. KwaZulu Natal’s Rourke Croeser and Travis Walker (USN) are lying third in the race for red. “We finally got the red jersey … that is what we came for,” said Buys.
Meanwhile, the race for the Dimension Data Masters category continues to be a thrilling one, with Dutch mountain biking legend Bart Brentjens and his Brazilian teammate Abraao Azevedo (BETCH.nl-Superior) just one minute and 26 seconds ahead of South Africans Nico Pfitzenmaier and Robert Sim (Dorma/Robert Daniel).
The local team won Wednesday’s category race by just 12 seconds and have battled to shake off the Dutch/Brazilian combination.
“It was so tough today … we tried to get away the whole time,” said Pfitzenmaier. “On the uphills and downhills we tried to drop them, but Bart just kept going. It is really hard racing this.”
The Grand Masters race was again dominated by Swiss strongman Barti Bucher and Austrian Heinz Zoerweg (Meerendal BIXS KTM), who now lead by nearly 50 minutes from South Africans Greg Andersen and Andrew Mclean (Ascendis Health).
The Mixed category again went to ETIS’s Peter Vesel of Slovenia and Ivonne Kraft of Germany, with South African Nizaam Essa and his British partner Catherine Williamson (Asrin Cycling) having an excellent day to come home second. The Slovenian/German combination are now 22 minutes ahead overall in the category.
In the Exxaro special jersey contest Phillimon Sebona and Jan Motshioa (Exxaro PWC) have extended their lead over Exxaro/EOH’s Rilamulele Gadabeni and Tovhawani Mavundavhi to nearly 19 minutes.
1. Scott Factory Racing 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 4:19.19,0
2. Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 4:22.50,5 +3.31,5
3. Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 4:22.50,6 +3.31,6
1. Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 19:05.20,4
2. Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 19:12.42,2 +7.21,8
3. Multivan Merida 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 6-2 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) 19:18.05,9 +12.45,5