Absa Cape Epic: Gordonīs Bay to Villiersdorp
Burry Stander proved he could compete with the best by finishing first with his teammate, reigning Cross Country World Champion Christoph Sauser in the first stage of the world renowned Absa Cape Epic.
Songo.info crossed the finish line of Stage 1 in a time of 04:50:11. They are the overall leaders of the race with a time of 05:31:09. The German Bulls team Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm finished in second place in a time of 04:52:23, which also secured them the second place overall (05:35:15).
In third place were Tim Böhme and Thomas Dietsch (Bulls 2) in a time of 04:54:42, finishing in fourth place overall (05:38:28). Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard (Trek-Brentjens) finished in 4th place today, but secured the third overall position (05:37:44).
Brentjens and Jongewaard together with Sauser and Stander broke away from the rest of the riders early on in the race when riders had to tackle the first climb at Steenbras Dam. They soon gained a time advantage with Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm leading the chasing pack and on the 200 meter single track downhill and technical part, they were able to maintain their comfortable lead. After they passed the second water point, Jongewaard suffered from severe muscle cramps after which he and Brentjens rode at their own pace, keeping a close following distance with visual contact.
One of the rules of the race is that team members cannot be more than 2 minutes apart so as not to be penalised. They had to let Sauser and Stander take the lead in the early stages of the 5km climb up to Groenlandberg, when Jongewaard started feeling too weak. Following the treacherous downhill, Sauser and Stander still maintained their lead and charged down towards the final section of stage 1, followed by Trek-Brentjens and team Bulls who had caught up with them. Seven kilometres before the finish, Platt and Sahm (Bulls) overtook Brentjens and Jongewaard, who pushed too hard during the early stages of the race.
Twenty one year-old Stander of South Africa says that mentally he found the first stage of the race a lot easier than last year: “After the first hard climb, Christoph did 90% of the pacing on the flat road. Towards the end my legs came back and I could help again.” Says Sauser: “Although one can’t really pre-empt what all could happen during a stage race, today went very much according to plan. We decided to stay with whichever team would attack and maintain their pace until the finish. We managed to overtake Bart and Chris in the climb at Groenlandberg. Unfortunately we had a flat 10 km before the finish which we repaired with paper – a quick fix - so that we didn’t lose too much time and could maintain our lead.”
Sauser says they are very different riders. “I’m a diesel and Burry is very explosive - if you know your strengths, you can ride smart and work with it. The long downhill off Groenlandberg was very rocky and that woke us. There was also one stretch when we thought we’re almost there, only to realise we had to do another loop. One had to really be strong mentally to carry on. Our four minute lead in a stage race is nothing – one small technical issue can even the playing field. We’ll continue to ride strong.”
Commenting on whether he was surprised when Platt’s shoulder dislocated yesterday during the prologue, Sahm (Bulls) says that it was nothing new. “I’ve experienced it a couple of times before with Karl. Whenever there’s an obstacle in the road, which twists his bike – his shoulder always pops out, but he knows what to do by now.” Platt fell during a race at Fort William in Scotland at 50km/h during a mass start, whereafter the entire field of riders rode over him. His shoulder, which he built up with weight training, was good for a couple of years, but recently started giving problems again whenever his bike makes any jerking moves. Sahm says that he could see this morning that Platt was not feeling well, while he in turn was feeling great. “In the flat and sandy parts I could be strong and lead us. But I also recalled from last year that I get weaker as time goes by, so it was actually ideal that we weren’t pushing so hard today. I was relieved when Karl felt better later in the day and took over at the second waterpoint before Groenlandberg. In the end, we entered the typical Platt terrain – hilly, vast and fast.”
Completely overwhelmed that they completed Stage 1 in third place behind their fellow team mates (Bulls) and coach Karl Platt were Tim Boehme and Thomas Dietsch (Bulls 2). “While we were completing the stage today, someone told us on the route that we were in seventh position. So when we crossed the finish line to find out that we actually made the podium today, we were ecstatic and couldn’t believe it,” says Boehme. Referring to their prologue race the day before as a “disaster” when they came in at eleventh place, Boehme explains that they didn’t know each other before the race. “We only trained together for five hours before the event. So after the prologue, we sat down and talked, and today during the longer ride we had time to get to know each other. I’m a classic cross country rider and used to short distances while going strong. After today’s long and gruelling stage, I’m a bit anxious about the next six days. We don’t see the other teams as our competitors, rather the course, the heat and getting up so early. But stage racing is the best training to make you an experienced racer. After eight days you know yourself, your body, your limits and your strengths. I was a bit surprised that Thomas was a bit weaker than I thought he would be, but it is logical – I’m a cross-country racer, and his endurance will no doubt come in at a later stage when I’m tired and will have to rely on his stamina.”
Dietsch says that their achievement of securing a third position during Stage 1 was amazing. “What an unbelievable race! It’s my first time participating in the Absa Cape Epic after wanting to do so for a long time, and also my first visit to South Africa. Apart from the wonderful riding experience, the views are just breathtaking! And then to finish third during the first stage? It couldn’t get better.”
Karl Platt, team manager of the Bulls team, says that he refers to Dietsch and Boehme as “Tim and Tom” after a short story that he is reading to his own kids about two unintelligent frogs who cross the street due to their ignorance. “In the story, one frog says to the other, ‘Careful, there’s a car’. The other replies ‘Where? Pffff’ SPLAT! I am joking with Thomas and Tim that they are like the two frogs in the story as they are now ‘Pffff’ after Stage 1”.
The second prologue in the six-year history of the Absa Cape Epic, which is a common feature in grand tours on the road, set the seeding order for Stage 1 of the magical untamed mountain bike stage race.
In two days, on Saturday, 21 March 2009, the Absa Cape Epic, now in ist sixth year, will kick off with a prologue on the slopes of Table Mountain and will finish 8 days and 685km later at the Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West.