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Olympians win Epic in tribute to Burry Stander
- Updated: March 25, 2013
Defending champion Christoph Sauser, riding with the Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy as the Burry Stander-SONGO team, duly wrapped up the 10th Absa Cape Epic, taking fourth place in the final stage from Stellenbosch to the Lourensford Wine Estate on Sunday for an overall lead of 7min 10sec.
Sauser, who won the two previous Epics with Burry Stander, the brilliant young South African rider who was killed in a training ride in January, called it his “most special win”. This was the first time in his four wins that he had to come from behind.
He said he was inspired by the Stander family and the children supported by the Songo charity for disadvantaged township youngsters. “In all my other wins, I had the yellow jersey on day one and kept it,” he said.
“But this was hard. When we were nine minutes behind on the third stage, we weren’t riding for the Epic anymore, we were riding for Burry’s family, and all the kids who sent us messages of support. We had to push all the way, there were no free rides.”
Kulhavy, who rode with Stander for Team Specialized, recalled getting the call from Sauser, after Stander’s death. “He wrote to me, saying ‘let’s win the Cape Epic for Burry’. I could not refuse.”
It proved to be a formidable team, with Kulhavy particularly strong on the flat and Sauser dragging his team-mate up the climbs.
Starting the day with a lead of 6min 21sec, the Stander-SONGO team were not going to take any chances, and their nearest rivals, the Bulls 1 team of Karl Platt and Urs Huber, by their own admission, “didn’t have any bullets left”.
The stage took on an added poignancy when the all-South African team of Philp Buys, who rode with Stander in the last Olympics, and his team-mate Matthys Beukes (Scott Factory Racing) found themselves contesting the stage win with Multivan Merida, made up of former world champion Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts.
“We felt good and strong, so we decided to give it a go and we were amazed to find ourselves out on our own with Merida,” said Buys.
The South African made the break and stretched the lead on the gruelling 9km climb up Helderberg and then raced with Merida to the finish line on a fast, but technical 25km descent. Buys was able to edge ahead in the final 100m straight, but Beukes was shut out and the stage win was lost.
“It’s amazing. We set out to win the Absa African Jersey and anything else was a bonus,” said Buys. “We got two podium finishes and ended in the top 10, so we are happy.”
They also became the inaugural holders of the Burry Stander memorial trophy which was commissioned for the top African riders. They were worthy winners, despite the fact that their nearest rivals, Darren Lill and Charles Keey (Cannondale Blend), had been hampered by illness.
The Cannondale team had led by 15 minutes going into stage four when Lill was struck by a stomach bug which affected many riders.
Completing the South African picture, Yolande Speedy, nursing an agonising shoulder injury which she received when she crashed on Saturday, battled on bravely to take fifth place on the stage.
But she and her English team-mate Catherine Williamson (Energas) had enough of a cushion to still win the women’s category by 1hr, 34min.
Results from the seventh and final stage (54km, 1 550m climb) of the Absa Cape Epic from Stellenbosch to Lourensford on Sunday:
1 J Hermida & R van Houts (Multivan Merida) 2h 22m 20.2s
2 P Buys & M Beukes (Scott Factory) +0.01s
3 N Schurter & F Vogel (Scott-Swisspower MTB) +3.43.4
4 C Sauser & J Kulhavy (Burry Stander Songo) +4-58.7
5 M Fontana & M Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) +5-27.2
6 K Platt & U Huber (Bulls 1) +5-47.9
7 T Dietsch & T Boehme (Bulls 2) +5-48.0
8 H Becking & J Novak (Superior Brentjens) +8-07.9
9 S Sahm & S Stiebjahn (Bulls 3) +8-56.3
10 R Paulisson & Y Zoli (Torpado Surfingshop) +10-48.9
1 C Sauser & J Kulhavy 29h 40h 44.9s
2 K Platt & U Huber +7-10
3 T Dietsch & T Boehme +26-51
4 J Hermida & R van Houts +39-10
5 M Fontana & M Fumic +1-06-24
6 P Buys & M Beukesl +1-06-58
7 S Sahm & S Stiebjahn +1-29-34
8 H Becking & J Novak +1-41-18
9 D Lill & C Keey (Cannondale Blend) 2-04-06
10 R Paulisson & Y Zoli 2-29-13
1 S Mertens & L Turpijn (C-Bear) 3h 18m 57.9s
2 H Booyens & I Stopforth (Pragma Volcan Ladies) +2-38.2
3 4 S Van Heerden & J Church ( Aspen) +9-41.1
4 A Harrison & M Lourens (Dawn Wing) +24-47.8
5 Y Speedy & C Williamson (Energas) +28-45.7
1 Y Speedy & C Williamson 38h 58m 51.9s
2 H Booyens & I Stopforth +1-34-04
3 S Mertens & L Turpijn +2-12-21
4 S Van Heerden & J Church +3-39-16
5 A Harrison & M Lourens +4-28-30