Win for Burry, Christoph | SASCOC - SASCOC

Win for Burry, Christoph

South African Burry Stander and his Swiss teammate, Christoph Sauser, on the 36ONEÔÇôSongoÔÇôSpecialized team, blitzed their way to a dominant victory on the opening stage prologue time trial of the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in Tokai, Cape Town on Sunday.

The short, technical 27 kilometre opener to the world’s highest profile mountain bike stage race suited Stander, 23, and Sauser, 34, both former cross-country mountain bike racing world champions, who clocked a fast time of 1hr 02min 40sec on the trails through Tokai Forest and Silvermine.

Second place went to the German pair of Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess (Multivan Merida 2) with three-time winners Team Bulls, Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt (both of Germany) in third place.

Starting third from last in a field of over 600 two-rider teams, Stander and Sauser wasted no time in closing down the two-minute gap to Stander’s compatriots, Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank 360Life), who are more at home over longer stages with more open terrain.

Said Stander: ÔÇ£This course definitely suited us. It’s the best stage we’ve ever had – we’re cross country riders. It also suited our bikes. We were riding full suspension 29’ers which helped us close time on the flat section. Susi (his team-mate Christoph Sauser’s nickname) was hurting me today and I had to slow him down a few times. Usually I lead at the start, but as soon as we hit the first climb he was leading and did so for about 80% of the way.”

Sauser adds that winning the prologue was incredible. ÔÇ£We’ve never been as well-balanced and strong as a team. To date I suffered through every time trial, but today went really well. We’re obviously using the right equipment which helped.ÔÇØ

George and Evans, aiming to be the first ever South African team to win the gruelling race, ended fourth overall, 2min 10sec behind Stander and Sauser; a relatively small deficit in such an unpredictable event, which has seven days and 680km remaining. Evans and George did earn the right to wear the leader’s jerseys denoting the top African team. But after a third and a fourth place in previous editions, they’re more interested in the overall leaders’ jerseys.

In the other categories, Swiss riders Nathalie Schneitter and Eva Lechner (Colnago Arreghini S├╝dtirol) were the top women’s team; Germans, Udo Boelts and Carsten Bresser (Team Juwl) won the Masters division; and Esther Suss and Barti Bucher (Wheeler ÔÇô BIXS), both of Switzerland, were the fastest Mixed team.

Monday’s Stage One is a relatively short 89km circular route, starting and finishing at Saronberg in the Boland town of Tulbagh. But with 2050m of vertical ascent up mostly steep, rocky ascents, is being touted as one of the toughest in Cape Epic history.