Cape Epic under way, with tight finishes the order of the day

Cape Epic under way, with tight finishes the order of the day
Nino Schurter and Sebastian Fini retain the yellow jersey during Stage 1 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Saronsberg Wine Estate to Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh. (Photo: Nick Muzik / Cape Epic)

There were tight finishes in the rough terrain of the Cape Epic as the prologue and Stage 1 of the annual mountain bike stage race concluded.

Buff-Megamo’s Hans Becking and Wout Alleman won Stage 1 in the men’s elite race at the 2024 Cape Epic on Monday, while Ghost Factory Racing’s Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller were Stage 1 winners in the women’s category at Saronsberg Cellar in Tulbagh. 

Alleman was in complete control of stage one from start to finish, guiding the team home in 3:38:48, two seconds ahead of World Bicycle Relief’s Nino Schurter and Sebastian Fini — the winners of Sunday’s Cape Epic prologue race. 

“I’m superhappy with the stage win,” said Becking, who finished third on Sunday, after Monday’s win. 

“Yesterday we started on a high with the podium and then after about 30km today I told Wout it was going to be a very good day for us. 

“We paced it well and it worked out perfectly — Nino and Sebastian were just too strong to drop though. Still, six days to go and I’m thrilled to already have two podiums in the pocket.” 

It was a tight race to the finish with the four cyclists neck-and-neck heading into the home stretch when Fini’s chain snapped, allowing the Buff-Magamo men to surge ahead and claim the lead. 

Despite Monday’s mishap, the World Bicycle Relief men kept the overall leaders’ yellow jersey, one minute and 10 seconds ahead of second-placed Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Matt Beers and Howard Grotts) and 90 seconds ahead of third-placed Buff-Magamo. 

The Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne men had their own problems on Monday, with Grotts crashing twice, allowing the World Bicycle Relief team and Buff-Magamo to sprint for the finish. However, they finished well enough to claim third place. 

“We had our challenges today,” Beers said. “There were a few crashes and we just fought our way back every time. 

“To be honest, it would have been nicer to be able to save a little bit of energy today, but all things considered, we didn’t lose that much time. We’re still on the podium, still in the hunt.” 

Nicole Koller and Anne Terpstra win Stage 1 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic. (Photo: Nick Muzik / Cape Epic)

Riders during Stage 1 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic. (Photo: Sam Clark / Cape Epic)

Factory favourites 

In the women’s category in Stage 1, there was little to separate Ghost Factory Racing’s Terpstra and Koller and Cannondale Factory Racing’s Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner until the final few metres. 

With the finish at Saronsberg in sight, a two-team sprint finish loomed; Lill powered ahead, but Terpstra and Koller were again the stronger team on the day, claiming their second stage win in as many days. 

They retain the overall leaders’ orange jersey in the women’s category, with Lill and Mitterwallner only a minute behind in the general classification (GC). 

Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, third-placed in the GC, are six minutes behind the leaders. 

“We weren’t too sure what to expect today,” Terpstra said. 

“It was very different being in orange but I think all in all we did a really good job. We were on a very similar level with Cannondale — we did some more work in the beginning, and they did some more work in the end. 

“We rode at our own pace in the beginning, then Cannondale were quite strong but we made a bit of a gap at the end and had a very exciting finish.” 

Her teammate, Koller, added, “It’s very cool to wear the orange jersey. Everybody wants to wear it and it gives us motivation and confidence going into the rest of the week.” 

Stage 2 of seven of the Cape Epic is another Saronsberg Cellar start and finish day, in which participants will tackle 97km, with 2,200m of climbing. The bulk of the stage will take place in the Witzenberg Valley, where the sandy and rocky terrain will test the abilities of the riders. DM


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