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Stander, Sauser stay tops

South African Burry Stander and his Swiss 36One-Songo-Specialized teammate, Christoph Sauser asserted their dominance on the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic by winning Friday’s gruelling fifth stage to make it their fifth stage victory in six days.

Stander and Sauser simply powered away from their rivals in the final two kilometres to record a winning time of 5hr 19min 30sec for the 143 kilometre haul from Worcester to Oak Valley.

ÔÇ£It was a really long stage, but it allowed us to ride tactically, letting an early breakaway take the pressure off us while we just watched our rivals,ÔÇØ said Stander. ÔÇ£For the first time in this year’s race I was able to drink and eat a lot today because I could actually take my hands off the bars! The terrain has been rugged and the intensity high.ÔÇØ

Second place on the stage went to the Swiss Fluckiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias (Trek World Racing), who were 11 seconds slower than the winners. Third place went to the German Multivan Merida pair of Jochen Kaess and Hannes Genze a further 10 seconds back.

Belgians Jelmer Pietersma and Jukka Vastarana of the Milka-Trek 2 team broke away shortly after the start in search of a stage win. But the race’s longest stage, with three significant climbs, took its toll on them and they were caught on the final ascent, 37km from the finish.

Stander and Sauser extended their overall lead slightly to 8min 9sec over Kaess and Ganze. Platt and Sahm are third another seven minutes back.

Defending champions, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm (Bulls) were fifth, losing even more time and any hope of claiming a fourth win as teammates. Sahm is struggling to find the form required to challenge for the win, but the Germans are still aiming to finish on the final podium.

In the women’s race, the all-South African pair of Hanele Steyn-Kotze and Leana de Jager (Attix5) claimed their first stage win of 2011 in a time of 6hr 28min 32sec. The Team USN South African/British pair of Karien van Jaarsveld and Sally Bigham finished second, just under three minutes later, but they extended their overall lead to a solid 39 minutes over Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth (ABSA aBreast).

ÔÇ£Today was long, but the terrain a bit smoother with a lot of open road riding. We’re more focused on staying out of trouble and maintaining our overall lead, but we did start to hurt a bit near the end today,ÔÇØ said Van Jaarsveld.┬á ÔÇ£Two more days to go and lots of racing to be done. We’re not taking anything for granted and will stay focused on our main goal.ÔÇØ

In the Master’s division, South Africans Robert Sim and Doug Brown managed to upstage category leaders Carsten Bresser and Udo Boelts (Team juwi) to win the stage in a time of 05hr 40min 41sec. Boelts and Bresser crossed the line three seconds later but maintained their dominant overall lead.

The Swiss pair of Esther Suss and Barti Bucher (Wheeler BiXS) won their sixth consecutive stage and extended their overall lead in the Mixed category. South African Erik Kleinhans and his Swiss teammate, Ariane Luthi were second on the stage and remain second overall.

Namibia’s Mannie Heymans and Rwanda’s Adrien Nyonshuti (Garmin adidas MTN) finished 11th on the stage, but moved up a place to ninth overall in their effort to defend their lead in the African team category. Heymans won the inaugural edition of the Cape Epic with Platt, but is now focused on helping younger riders achieve success.

Saturday’s penultimate stage is another tough one, taking the riders over 128km on a route that starts and finishes at Oak Valley and climbs a total of 2700 metres.


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