Posted by Editoress on 03/26/09
Stage 5: Greyton To Oak Valley, 111 km
Songo.Info Make Up For Lost Time In This Year's Absa Cape Epic: You Can't Keep A Good Team Down
Sheer determination and an enormous amount of experience and talent have ensured yet another podium win in Stage 5 of this year's Absa Cape Epic for the Songo.info team of Burry Stander (RSA) and Christoph Sauser (SUI). They made up for lost time after yesterday's technical problems and time penalty of 15 minutes by crossing the finish line first in a time of 04:15:51,1 minute and 14 seconds ahead of the second team of Trek-Brentjens. Songo.info is now placed 3rd overall (22:00:57), moving up from yesterday's 4th position overall.
The participants in yesterday's drama, Max Knox and Brandon Stewart (DCM Chrome), received a time penalty of 1 hour and are now placed 16th overall (25:10:19). They finished in 14th place today (04:36:48).
There was some friction between the leading teams today after Bart Brentjens (Trek Brentjens) rode passed the second water point without stopping, dishonouring the unspoken code of conduct amongst mountain bike riders.
Although most riders enjoyed today's beautiful scenery tremendously, it was still challenging as the leading teams left Greyton to finish 111km and 2 233m of climbing later at Oak Valley in Elgin/ Grabouw.
The Songo.info team of Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander claimed their fourth stage win in this year's Absa Cape Epic in a time of 04:15:51 (3rd place overall – 22:00:57). In second place were Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard (Trek-Brentjens) in a time of 04:17:05. They are now placed second overall (21:52:18). In third place, with their second podium finish in this year's Absa Cape Epic, were Swedish-Swiss team Emil Lindgren and Andreas Kugler (Felt Factory 2) in a time of 04:20:00. They are in 5th position overall (22:05:07).
The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm maintain their overall leader position in the Men's (21:46:46). They finished in 4th place today (04:21:09) and will again be wearing the Yellow Leader jersey out of Oak Valley, Elgin/ Grabouw, tomorrow.
The South African team of Kevin Evans and David George (MTN Energade) finished 5th today in 04:23:21, and now hold the 4th position overall (22:03:17).
To the questions of how he feels about the decision of the UCI Commissaires to give them a 15 minute penalty yesterday, Burry Stander says: "Christoph and I discussed it last night and he said we should forget about it right away. This is our chance to race all out again. We don't have to worry about tactics any longer, just race our bikes as hard as we can and enjoy it. We were mentally prepared that today's stage would involve some hard racing, so we really had fun. We basically saw it as our opportunity to start fresh again."
Stander continues: "Trek Brentjens attacked at the second water point and you just don't do that, not at water points or during mechanical issues. Yesterday the Bulls didn't capitalise when we had mechanical problems, so today we rode with them at first and tried to minimise the gap when Bart attacked. Then in Lebanon Forest when we caught Trek Brentjens on the bottom of the climb, we put the hammer down. We wanted to win this stage and took over the lead. On the last 2 or 3 climbs, I was struggling a bit. Luckily the last single-track section pulled me through. It was so much fun - I really enjoyed today's stage. It was definitely the best part of all the courses we've been riding so far."
On whether Songo.info would attack the leaders in the upcoming stages, Stander simply answers that unless the Bulls are struggling to keep up with them, they would not go for it. "We won't ever attack when they're having mechanical difficulties. We'll do our best to win some more stages and just try to have fun."
Team ethics are a really important issue among these pro riders – there is an 'unwritten' code of conduct that is passed onto the younger riders and mountain biking is seen by many as a gentleman's sport. Stander continues: "You learn about this code from the older riders that you respect. If you don't attack when others have a mechanical, they will repay that favour. If you don't stick to the 'rules', nobody will ever look after you. On the first climb we already had a gap so I could feel that my legs were good today. However, we decided not to escape. The route was very flat today, therefore we didn't pace for the first 60 to 70 km and rode a steady tempo while drafting. We all wanted to save energy for later. Bart and Chris broke away on the flat stretches. They usually try to make up time before the climbs. We were told that they had a gap of 4 minutes which is easy for us to close. In Lebanon, at the bottom of the climb we caught up with them and passed flat out."
Songo.info's Christoph Sauser's comment on the time penalty was simply that he usually accepts things pretty fast. "All you think about is getting to the finish. We lost a lot of time, received a penalty on top, but our spirits are high and we want to finish the race. I understand that it's difficult to make a rule book for such a race as so many unforeseen things can happen. But I really believe the strongest team should win the race. I also know that I did something wrong and therefore got a penalty, but it's a pity that the rules can change the outcome of the race. Perhaps one needs to look at the rules again and adjust them based on the experience of the last few days."
He continues: "The terrain is so rough in South Africa, so your equipment will suffer. The pro teams spend a lot of money to get here and that's why I think they should have the chance to replace parts when necessary. But again, the decision doesn't matter. We changed our focus of the race to have fun on our bikes and actually today we had the most fun so far. After the first climb it was a holiday compared to yesterday. We were riding in good spirits, racing to win the stage and not just chasing down time like yesterday. The last few kilometers were a real Cross-country ride - we loved it!
When asked whether they would still attempt to win the race, his answer is truthfully: "It's in our blood to never give up. The race is only over when we get to Lourensford Wine Estate. We'll go for stage wins and see what happens to our GC (General Classification)."
Stander adds: "Yesterday we gave the other teams 39 minutes in total. If you deduct that from our current time, we'd be leading by 30 minutes. That gives us some confidence." Adds Sauser: "I really appreciate what DCM Chrome has done for us yesterday. We partly couldn't even keep up with them, but without Max and Brandon we wouldn't be in the top 10." Commenting on Stander, Sauser says he was already strong last year: "To be honest, if he makes such a performance gap every year it will be impossible to beat him in the future," He adds jokingly. "I hope that development also has an end."
Stefan Sahm of the Bulls Team, the overall leaders in the race, says: "Songo.info took off at the first climb, but later when we had a flat they waited for us. Since Karl is not 100% healthy he's worried about the last 2 stages. He is riding with extreme pain and definitely doesn't want to risk a crash."
His partner, Karl Platt, felt a bit weak today after dislocating his shoulder for the 2nd time yesterday. "I think my body used up a lot of energy to heal my shoulder and that energy was missing today". Platt was also upset with Bart Brentjens today. "Off the bike he's a great guy, but on the bike he's a different person. He attacks no matter what."
In his defence, Brentjens says that the MTN Hotspot and the water point were in the same place today. "I made a mistake and didn't see it. I was so focused on sprinting through the Hot Spot and didn't remember that we had to stop there. Then I noticed that Chris wasn't behind me and turned around. He was riding towards me with water bottles as he had stopped at the water point." Says Jongewaard: "When Bart carried on riding, I just shook my head. I had no idea what he was doing. We already passed the first water point and really needed water, so I stopped to fetch some."
Brentjens continues: "I probably want the first place too much. If you want something really badly, you often don't get it. I was actually surprised at how well we did. We made up 4 minutes. Chris was very good close to the finish and I was suffering a bit. It definitely suits him when the distances are shorter. I heard that the Bulls are angry about me not stopping at the second water point. It really happened by mistake and it happened during the race. We still had 50 km to go. They were together so they could catch us."
Jongewaard says the last stretch of single track was loads of fun. "It brought me home. Also, Bart's passion is infectious. We've talked a lot about winning this race. It would be really nice and if there's an opportunity, we'll definitely go for it."
Andreas Kugler of the Felt Factory 2 team, says every day they hope to win the next stage. "Once again we have to hope for tomorrow. Today was really hard for me and after the last water point I was extremely tired." Adds Lindgren: "To win the Epic is probably not possible for us – our focus is still Cross-Country racing – but our goal really is to do well in the stages."
In the Mixed category, Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor (Adidas Big Tree) are hanging onto their lead by winning their category yet again. They finished in a time of 04:58:10 (overall time – 24:49:45). They were again followed by Marcel Bartholet and Esther Süss (Wheeler – IXS Pro) in a time of 05:02:01. They maintain their overall 2nd position (25:32:52). Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC/ Momentum GT/ Activeworx) finished in third place (05:06:26) and maintain their 3rd position overall (26:06:49).
Nico Pfitzenmaier, of the leading Mixed team, Adidas Big Tree, has been coaching Robert Sim, Corrie Muller's partner and was very happy that they were riding so well. He was devastated when he learned that the team had to withdraw due to Muller's broken shoulder today. Says Pfitzenmaier: "You actually have to appreciate every day that you reach the finish line without an injury. Due to the dynamics of mountain biking, crashes and injuries are very likely – it's just the nature of the sport.
"We had a great stage today – the single track was unbeatable. Alison always likes to ride with the leading men after the start. They're more experienced and she doesn't want to risk a crash as last year she really hurt herself. Keeping up with the front guys is extremely tiring though. Today we were very lucky – we didn't have any technical issues like yesterday and despite the length of the stage and the gruelling steep climbs towards the end, it was actually a very 'relaxing' stage for us. To arrive in Oak Valley was absolutely stunning. This camp ground is so beautiful, one can feel that the pressure is slowly dissipating and the atmosphere is great."
Absa Ladies Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws continued their winning streak by winning their division for the sixth day in a row (05:38:03), and remain in the overall lead (28:56:56). They were again followed by Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) in a time of 06:27:01, placing them second overall as well (33:11:36). The Tread Magazine Ladies, Nolene Saunders and Sarah Wielopolska, secured their third podium finish in a time of 06:45:47, placing them in third position for this stage and overall (27:24:09).
Says Sharon Laws of the Absa Ladies: "Today we started a bit slower and were passed by many riders, but caught up with all of them again later. I really enjoyed today's ride and the beautiful scenery." To the question of why they were still going so fast, Sharon says: "On these long stages, the faster you go, the sooner it's over and you can recover. And on some of these climbs you can only go fast, because they're so loose. The guys pedal up there with power. I have to spin up, so I'm riding faster." Her partner Booyens adds: "Even though we don't have real competition at the moment, we try to race hard, to stay in a bunch and check out the Mixed categories. We don't want to stay in the back and take it easy just because we have a big lead time over the runners-up. In fact, I couldn't go much faster even if someone was chasing us."
Laws continues: "During the first stage I was very worried about my riding, because I haven't trained enough on my mountain bike. And after the first stage when I struggled so much, I was really nervous because I thought I had lost all my riding ability. Now the fun starts coming back and I enjoy riding again. This Cape Epic is just what I needed to feel confident." Booyens adds: "Now that Sharon's feeling so good, she's killing me. She's always been an exceptional climber. In road racing she was climbing with the top and beating them, so it's not too bad if I fall behind. I blew on these sharp little climbs towards the end today, they were 10 km too long! After two not so great Absa Cape Epics (she had flu in 2005 and in 2008 simply had a bad race), it's great to come back feeling that you can still ride your bike. It's great to see the Epic through Sharon's eyes who only did the inaugural event. You so easily get used to the high standards. It makes me more aware of how far this race has come and how privileged we are to have such a great race in our country."
Shan Wilson and Andrew Mclean (Cycle Lab Toyota) finished in first place (04:44:58), giving them their third stage win in a row in this year's Absa Cape Epic. They remain second overall in their category (24:30:09). The Absa Masters Doug Brown and Barti Bucher finished second (04:45:10) and are still the overall leaders (24:08:43). In third place with their first podium finish were Eduardo Soares and Daniel Aliperti of Team Epic Brazil in 05:26:04, are in sixth place overall (28:04:08). Corrie Muller and Robert Sim (Van Loveren/ SAND) finished in 05:55:29 today, but maintain their 3rd overall position in this category (27:21:13).
The Van Loveren/ SAND team only finished in 17th position today, after making it to the podium in 3 of the previous 4 stages. Corrie Muller broke his shoulder bone, but decided to continue riding the last 25 km of today's stage in sheer agony. Unfortunately they had to withdraw and Muller has been taken to the hospital for X-rays.
They were participating for a very worthy and personal reason this year. Forty four year-old Muller has taken part in every Absa Cape Epic since the inaugural event in 2004, but bad news prevented him from participating last year. "My son Richard, was diagnosed with leukaemia in October of 2007 when he was only three years old. It was the ultimate test for us as a family during the time that he was battling with his illness for more than a year," he says. Thankfully, young Richard recovered, and the family was extremely grateful.
It was while sitting at the hospital during one of the many visits that he noticed another six year old boy, Nico Smit, who was suffering from the same condition as his own son. "Unfortunately, Nico comes from a family of alcoholics and abuse. They are not able to take care of him, and when he is released from the hospital, he won't be able to be placed in his own family's care as they aren't able to look after him."
Moved by the experience, Muller has established a trust called 'beitel' after the title of N.P van Wyk Louw's famous poem, which will benefit young Nico Smit and other children like him. "Even if we are just able to get him a proper medical aid, send him to a good school, and making sure he gets the medical treatments he requires, then it will all be worth it."
Says Muller: "It was while we were riding on a straight stretch when my front wheel gave in I hit the ground at 45km/h. I decided to complete today's stage as it would impact on the funds we raise. I basically finished with the use of only one arm. I feel so sorry for my team mate who has been doing extremely well. And it's uncanny that today's was our best one so far. Although I decided that this would be my last Epic, I still enjoyed the experience tremendously."
The second last stage (Stage 6) of the Absa Cape Epic, will take riders on an 86km journey with 1 546m of climbing. This stage is the most technical in the Absa Cape Epic's history, confirmed by Route Designer Leon Evans. A neutral convoy takes the field to the N2, after which riders are set free on the 6km tracks towards the water tower. The field will spread out on the roads through the quarry and back towards the Steenbras Dam. At the 15km mark they pass the tower and soon follow the steep and technical descent of Wolfkloof – a rare privilege bestowed upon the 1 200 riders passing through. Thanks to Cape Nature Conservation, participants will visit Kogelberg - a world-famous biosphere featuring some radical descents and narrow tracks with unique Fynbos grabbing at the handlebars. Over a river crossing, through a farm and up to Houwteq, riders once again find themselves in the single-track heaven of Lebanon. They return to Oak Valley to cap off a very demanding day in the saddle.
|1 Team songo-info (Christoph Sauser/Burry Stander)||4:15.50|
|2 Trek-Brentjens (Bart Brentjens/Chris Jongewaard)||4:17.05|
|3 Felt Factory 2 (Emil Lindgren/Andreas Kugler)||4:20.00|
|4 Team Bulls (Karl Platt/Stefan Sahm)||4:21.09|
|5 MTN Energade (Kevin Evans/David George)||4:23.20|
|89 Gasdocs (Rouan van der Leek/Werner Folscher)||6:00.07|
|68 Bow-Scape (Greg Stevenson/Jeff Neilson)||5:50.56|
|192 Red Road (Blaine Monaghan/Grant Prenevost)||7:01.31|
|220 Terranauts (Wynand Viljoen/Michael Elvidge)||7:25.43|
|267 Murderous Velocity (Faizan Dhanani/Paul Robertson)||8:08.25|
|295 Brothers Grimm (Issac Pretorius/Koos Pretorious)||8:38.37|
|1 Adidas Big Tree (Alison Sydor/Nico Pfitzenmaier)||4:58.09|
|2 WHEELER - iXS Pro (Esther Süss/Marcel Bartholet)||5:02.01|
|3 IMC/Momentum GT/Activeworx (Yolande Speedy/Paul Cordes)||5:06.25|
|4 Cycle Lab Toyota Mixed (Johan Labuschagne/Yolandè De Villiers)||5:17.50|
|5 Haikbike-VMT (Ivonne Kraft/Lucas Kubis)||5:23.25|
|31 SchmoeScape (Alana Heise/Steve Walsh)||6:56.52|
|1 Absa Ladies (Hanlie Booyens/ Sharon Laws)||5:38.02|
|2 WSP – Jeep Girls (Robyn Adendorff/Sarah van Heerden)||6:27.00|
|3 TREAD Mag Ladies (Nolene Saunders/Sarah Wielopolska)||6:38.34|
|4 Coega Ladies (Anthea Gould/Andrea von Holdt)||6:47.05|
|5 Swiss Epic Girls (Sarah Koch/Daniela Hartmann)||6:53.09|
|1 CycleLab Totota (Shan Wilson/Andrew McLean)||4:44.57|
|2 ABSA Masters (Doug Brown/Barti Buchar)||4:45.10|
|3 Epic Brazil (Eduardo Soares/Daniel Aliperti)||5:26.03|
|4 Block /GeoLadders.com (Doug Andrews / Rich Bartlett)||5:27.28|
|5 Energade Masterclass (Greg Anderson / Glenn Williams)||5:31.17|
|76 Alberta Clippers (George Hardisty/Matthew Hillhouse)||7:11.23|
|101 Hades (Dan Wray/Lake Arapakis)||7:55.46|
|112 Kimo and The Gator (Kim Odland/Drew Bell)||8:25.06|
|1 Team Bulls (Karl Platt/Stefan Sahm)||21:46.45|
|2 Trek-Brentjens (Bart Brentjens/Chris Jongewaard)||21:52.18|
|3 Team songo-info (Christoph Sauser/Burry Stander)||22:00.56|
|4 MTN Energade (Kevin Evans/David George)||22:03.16|
|5 Felt Factory 2 (Emil Lindgren/Andreas Kugler)||22:05.06|
|71 Bow-Scape (Greg Stevenson/Jeff Neilson)||30:32.19|
|98 Gasdocs (Rouan van der Leek/Werner Folscher)||31:34.54|
|210 Red Road (Blaine Monaghan/Grant Prenevost)||38:05.14|
|219 Terranauts (Wynand Viljoen/Michael Elvidge)||38:31.01|
|273 Murderous Velocity (Faizan Dhanani/Paul Robertson)||41:51.56|
|300 Brothers Grimm (Issac Pretorius/Koos Pretorious)||44:19.33|
|1 Adidas Big Tree (Alison Sydor/Nico Pfitzenmaier)||24:49.45|
|2 WHEELER - iXS Pro (Esther Süss/Marcel Bartholet)||25:32.52|
|3 IMC/Momentum GT/Activeworx (Yolande Speedy/Paul Cordes)||26:06.48|
|4 Haikbike-VMT (Ivonne Kraft/Lucas Kubis)||26:45.14|
|5 Cycle Lab Toyota Mixed (Johan Labuschagne/Yolandè De Villiers)||27:22.03|
|27 SchmoeScape (Alana Heise/Steve Walsh)||35:04.02|
|1 Absa Ladies (Hanlie Booyens/ Sharon Laws)||28:56.55|
|2 WSP – Jeep Girls (Robyn Adendorff/Sarah van Heerden)||33:11.35|
|3 TREAD Mag Ladies (Nolene Saunders/Sarah Wielopolska)||34:02.43|
|4 Coega Ladies (Anthea Gould/Andrea von Holdt)||35:22.45|
|5 Swiss Epic Girls (Sarah Koch/Daniela Hartmann)||36:25.34|
|1 ABSA Masters (Doug Brown/Barti Buchar)||24:08.43|
|2 CycleLab Totota (Shan Wilson/Andrew McLean)||24:30.08|
|3 Van Loveren / SAND (Corrie Muller/Robert Sim)||27:21.13|
|4 Block /GeoLadders.com (Doug Andrews / Rich Bartlett)||27:21.36|
|5 2XtremeMasters (Dirk Rossignol/Ronny Roelandt)||28:00.54|
|77 Alberta Clippers (George Hardisty/Matthew Hillhouse)||37:47.54|
|104 Kimo and The Gator (Kim Odland/Drew Bell)||41:30.34|
|114 Hades (Dan Wray/Lake Arapakis)||42:40.42|
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