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Dramatic day in the wind at Cape Epic
- Updated: March 18, 2015
Strong and cold winds turned Tuesday’s Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic into an exceptionally tough one and all the talk afterwards was of how Czech strongman Jaroslav Kulhavy powered through it.
This is day three of the world’s leading mountain bike stage race, which takes riders from a prologue on Table Mountain and around the Western Cape to the Elgin Valley, Worcester, Wellington and Durbanville over eight days. It covers 739 kilometres in total.
Kulhavy and four-times Absa Cape Epic winner Christoph Sauser of Switzerland (Investec-Songo-Specialized) won their second stage in a row Tuesday, extending their overall lead to more than six minutes.
‘Jaro was super, super strong and did a lot of work,’ said Sauser about Kulhavy’s riding in front and taking the brunt of the wind.
Second-placed Czech Kristian Hynek, riding with Ausrtian Alban Lakata (Topeak Ergon) also paid tribute to Kulhavy: ‘Jaro is a machine … it was amazing how he was working on the front,’ said the defending champion.
He added though that he had not given up hope: ‘Jaro’s engine is unbelievable, but even he can have a bad day.’
Kulhavy was typically reserved, saying only that ‘that wind was crazy, but it was good stage and there were some really nice trails over the last 20kms’.
The 92km stage started and finished at the Oak Valley Wine Estate in Durbanville and took riders through the area’s extensive network of mountain bike trails.
In a day of thrilling racing, Hynek and Lakata managed to break away with Sauser and Kulhavy at the top of the tough Nuweberg climb about 20km into the ride. For the rest of the day they were chased by the Bulls’s German/Swiss combination of Karl Platt and Urs Huber and Mutivan Merida’s Jose Hermida of Spain and Dutchman Rudi van Houts.
The latter two teams had closed the gap to a few seconds by 45km but their effort appeared to take it out of them and Kulhavy pulled the leading two teams away across the second half of the 92km stage. About 12km from the finish
Hynek and Lakata could not hold on and dropped back, eventually finishing two minutes and 18 seconds behind the rampant Sauser and Kulhavy.
The Bulls finished fourth on Tuesday but still lie second overall – only 11 seconds ahead of Hynek and Lakata. Hermida and van Houts are 35 seconds further back, and thefight for the second and third podium places is sure to be fierce in the remaining five stages.
Platt said ‘conditions were unbelievable … the wind was very hard’. He had a ‘bad day’ and could not contribute much to the chase.
Fifth place yesterday went to Swiss pair Martin Gujan and Fabian Giger (Novus OMX Pro), who also lie fifth overall.
Next home was the first South African pair, Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill, who put a poor Stage 1 behind them to finish strongly. USN’s Rourke Croeser and Travis Walker were ninth yesterday, but retain the red Absa African special jersey, with Scott factory Racing’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes behind them.
Meanwhile the women’s race came to a dramatic conclusion late in the day.
Although finishing the day in a blistering time of 4:37.31.1, Team RECM Specialized’s Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad, pictured above, had to wait until the very end of the day to hear their race fate, this after they took an unintentional detour close to the finish line and in doing so cut almost 5km off their race distance.
The race commissaire was left with a difficult decision to make after listening to explanations from Team RECM Specialized.
The teams turned left when they should have gone straight, eventually joining the course again unaware that they had lopped off around 5km of the stage distance.
After reviewing the situation for a number of hours, including analysing ‘on-board’ GoPro footage of the incident, the commissaire decided 13 minutes and 39 seconds would
be added to Team RECM Specialized’s stage time because they rode 5km less than the rest of the field.
In addition, an extra hour was added to their stage time for not following the route markings. The time penalties meanTeam RECM Specialized finished 11th on the day.
This now takes Kleinhans and Langvad out of the category leader’s jerseys and into fourth place on the standings, with Team Ascendis Health’s Jennie Stenerhag and Robyn de Groot moving into first place in the standings.
Team RECM Specialized now find themselves 27.06,8 behind the new leaders. Third-place finishers of the women’s race on Stage 2, Sally Bigham and Christina Kollman of Team Sellaronda Hero, moved into second for the day and third in the overall standings.
Earlier in the day, however, and for much of the stage’s 92km, it was business as usual for Team RECM Specialized.
With daylight between them and the rest of the women’s field it appeared that a daylight savings clock would be the only way the chasing pack could reel in Kleinhans and Langvad – or a costly error.
‘We weren’t very comfortable in the beginning because it was very windy,’ said Kleinhans. ‘But once we got going we were straight into the racing. We like to race hard from the start because you can pull away from the field and that lessens your chances of getting caught up in an accident.’
Elsewhere in the field, former Cape Epic winner Sally Bigham and Christina Kollman of Team Sellaronda Hero rode into some form, taking third-place on the day (before being bumped up to second).
Kollman was a late call-up to Bigham’s team, discovering just a week before the event that she would be taking part after Blaža Klemenčič pulled out through injury.
‘Christina was so brave to take on this challenge at such short notice,’ said Bigham, ‘so we are delighted to get on the podium today.’
It was all the more impressive considering Kollman was in some discomfort before the day started. ‘My back was really sore during the warm up and again just before we started, so we decided to just ride the first
20km and see how it went,’ said Kollman. ‘It’s an unbelievable result for us. I just got better and better during the day.’
Wednesday will see riders will leave Elgin and ride 128km towards Worcester (the longest stage of the tour), eventually finishing at HTS Drostdy in the town.
Kleinhans and Langvad find themselves chasing the orange jersey once more, which should prove to be a demanding test of character for the new chasers and the new leaders.
Stage 2 results
1 Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 4:06.50,8
2 Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 4:09.09,1 +2.18,3
3 Multivan Merida 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 6-2 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) 4:12.49,0 +5.58,2
Overall after Stage 2
1 Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 9:41.12,6 +6.44,6
2 Bulls 4-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 4-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 9:47.57,2
3 Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 9:48.08,7 +6.56,1
4 Multivan Merida 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 6-2 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) 9:48.43,8 +7.31,2
5 Novus OMX Pro 23-1 Martin Gujan (Switzerland) 23 -2 Fabian Giger (Switzerland) 10:01.53,2 +20.40,6
6 Meerendal Centurion Vaude 5-1 Jochen Kaess (Germany) 5-2 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 10:09.53,2 +28.40,6
7 USN #111-1 Rourke Croeser (South Africa) 11-2 Travis Walker (South Africa) 10:12.55,0 +31.42,4
8 Scott Factory Racing 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 10:14.27,1 +33.14,5
9 RED-E Blend 36-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 36-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 10:15.02,4 +33.49,8
10 EAI South Africa 33-1 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 33-2 Johann Rabie (South Africa) 10:18.10,9 +36.58,3
Stage 2 results
1 Ascendis Health 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (SA) 5:02.48,1
2 Sellaronda Hero 52-1 Sally Bigham (England) 52-2 Christina Kollmann (Austria) 5:03.45
3 Meerendal Wheeler C’dale 54-1 Milena Landtwing (Switzerland) 54-2 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 5:06.03,3
1 Ascendis Health 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (SA) 11:49.42,5
2 Meerendal Wheeler 51-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 51-2 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 12:01.27,1
3 Sellaronda Hero 52-1 Sally Bigham (England) 52-2 Christina Kollmann (Austria) 12:09.25,1
4 RECM Specialized 50-1 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 50-2 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 12:16.49,3
5 Meerendal Wheeler C’dale 54-1 Milena Landtwing (Switzerland) 54-2 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 12:17.34,0
6 SasolRacing 56-1 Yolande de Villiers (South Africa) 56-2 Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia) 12:23.23,1
7 RBS 137-1 Theresa Ralph (SA) 137-2 Jeannie Bomford (SA) 12:29.52,9
8 World Bicycle Relief 53-1 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Norway) 53-2 Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland) 12:3 5.36,5
9 Novus OMX Pro 79-1 Mariske Strauss (SA) 79-2 Cherie Vale (SA) 13:00.18,1
10 SasolRacing 2 59-1 Leana de Jager (SA) 59-2 Yolandi du Toit (SA) 13:13.09,7
Picture by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS