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Epic stage win for Olympian Buys and partner Beukes
- Updated: March 20, 2015
South Africa’s 2012 Olympian Philip Buys and countryman Matthys Beukes notched up the first South African win in the 2015 Absa Cape Epic after an audacious early break in Thursday’s rugged 111km Stage 4.
The looped route – starting and finishing in Worcester – included some back-breaking climbs and rocky surfaces, which gave rise to many tyre problems throughout the field. The sun also made conditions difficult for some of the backmarkers.
But the top contenders for the overall win all managed to get through without much drama and the yellow zebra jersey remained on the shoulders of the Investec-Songo-Specialized team of Swiss Christoph Sauser and his Czech team-mate Jaroslav Kulhavy.
An elated Buys admitted after crossing the finish line that he and Beukes (Scott Factory Racing) had taken a ‘long shot’ gamble by breaking away inside the first hour.
‘We went hard from the start,’ he said. ‘I said to Matthys that I couldn’t hold the pace for another three hours, so we backed off”.
‘But then I started feeling better and the gap just kept growing. Towards the end we controlled it … accelerating when we felt good,’ said Buys.
At one stage the lead had grown to over six minutes, but the big guns behind them – not too concerned about Buys and Beukes because they are not a threat in the overall general classification – closed it down a bit over the three closing ‘Skyscraper’ climbs.
Topeak Ergon’s Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic and Austrian Alban Lakata finished together with Sauser and Kulhavy, three-and-a-half minutes behind the South Africans. Sauser said he had been ‘worried about this stage … there are very sharp rocks and you have to be careful’. He added that there had also been a lot of thorns on the course: ‘At one stage I could see more thorns in my tyre than tyre.’
Sauser and Kulhavy generally rode conservatively and to protect the yellow jersey on the day: ‘Every day wearing the yellow is like winning a break point in tennis and today was another set won,’ smiled Sauser.
Hynek and Lakata remain in second place overall, with Spain’s Jose Hermida and Dutch partner Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida) in third. Four time winner Karl Platt of Germany and Swiss partner Urs Huber are fourth after losing another two minutes to the leading teams on Wednesday.
Lakata said they had been happy with second ‘but we want to be more happy and win a stage. We tried to put the Specialized guys under pressure … but unfortunately it didn’t work,’ said Lakata.
Buys and Beukes’s heroics put them ahead of the rest of the other teams from the continent and into the Absa African special jersey. Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (RED-E Blend) had been leading the race for the jersey before the stage but lost more than eight minutes on the Scott pair. They are now two minutes behind them in the overall standings.
EAI South Africa 33-1 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 33-2 Johann Rabie (South Africa) 20:08.08,6 +1:02.48,2
In the women’s race with Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad of Team RECM Specialized crossing the line first, well ahead of the chasing pack in the women’s race.
Second over the line, more than 20 minutes after Team RECM Specialized, was a much happier looking Team Ascendis Health, with both Jennie Stenerhag and 2012 Olympian Robyn de Groot finishing with grins instead of grimaces. Third in the Sasol Women’s category were Esther Suss and Alice Pirard of Team Meerendal Wheeler, who just pipped the leading South African ladies, Jeannie Dreyer and Theresa Ralph of Team RBS, to the final podium place.
There were no tears this time from the leaders, just big smiles and high fives as the two continued their phenomenal dominance of this race. Still, it’s no pleasure cruise at the Absa Cape Epic and Langvad will be nursing a few bruises after a fall near the end of the stage.
‘It was really sandy again, and so rocky at the start,’ said a browner than usual Kleinhans. ‘It was also real Karoo riding out there today, so you had to watch for thorns and sharp stones.’ The pair are riding slightly heavier and thicker tyres than normal, and it’s a strategy that appears to be paying off.
‘They are only slightly heavier than our usual tyres,’ said Kleinhans, ‘but it really gives you the confidence to push on, especially when you are slightly tired towards the end of the day and you aren’t able to dodge obstacles quickly. With these you can go over stones feeling confident that you won’t puncture.’
From this stage of the race riders start to tire and mistakes can derail a charge for victory and ruin months of training. ‘That’s the nature of stage races,’ said Kleinhans. ‘Everyone starts to get tired from now but you just have to push on.’
Pushing on is exactly what Stenerhag and De Groot did on Stage 4. No smiles on Stage 3 turned to all smiles on Stage 4 as the pair regrouped well. ‘Today is a much nicer feeling,’ beamed Stenerhag. ‘We’ve been second a few times at this year’s Cape Epic, but today was the best ‘second’ we’ve had. It was important to bounce back after yesterday and we did that.’
In their fifth stage race together Stenerhag and De Groot are working well together, De Groot adding that they rarely talk on the route but that when they do it’s to convince each other that they are doing ‘really well’.
‘We don’t say much,’ said a smiling De Groot, ‘but when we do it’s usually to give ourselves and ego boost!’
An interested spectator at the finish line was South African Olympian and rising cross country star Candice Neethling. She was watching on in awe as the leading ladies sprinted for the line and offered some insight into what makes Team RECM Specialized so good. ‘These guys are inspiring,’ said Neethling. ‘I rode Tour de Boland with Ariane and seeing first-hand how she prepares for a race taught me a lot.’
Neethling says that it’s Kleinhans and Langvad’s preparation and professionalism that sets them apart. ‘Annika is the world champion, and she is the best. Both Annika and Ariane are also so smart,’ said Neethling, ‘they leave nothing to chance and go into every race as well-prepared as they can be.’
Both will know, then, that Stage Five is another long day in the saddle as riders head from HTS Drostdy in Worcester to CPUT’s campus Wellington. The trek is 117km and features 2 500m of climbing, including dips into the Wolseley Valley and a climb up Bain’s Kloof Pass.
Some of the best trails in the country lie in wait at Welvenpas, but before getting there riders will have to tackle the 3km Full Monty climb.
Photo of Beukes (left) and Buys in yesterday’s action courtesy of Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS
1 Scott Factory Racing 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 4hr 19min 19,0sec
2 Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 4:22.50,5 +3.31,5
3 Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 4:22.50,6 +3.31,6
1 Investec-Songo-Specialized 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 19:05.20,4
2 Topeak Ergon 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 19:12.42,2 +7.21,8
3 Multivan Merida 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 6-2 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) 19:18.05,9 +12.45,5
4 Bulls 4-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 4-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 19:20.10,9 +14.50,5
5 Novus OMX Pro 23-1 Martin Gujan (Switzerland) 23-2 Fabian Giger (Switzerland) 19:49.31,3 +44.10,9
6 Meerendal Centurion Vaude 5-1 Jochen Kaess (Germany) 5-2 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 19:52.48,0 +47.27,6
7 Scott Factory Racing 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa) 19:53.09,7 +47.49,3
8 RED-E Blend 36-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 36-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 19:55.14,8 +49.54,4
9.USN #1 11-1 Rourke Croeser (South Africa) 11-2 Travis Walker (South Africa) 20:03.07,5 +57.47,1
10 EAI South Africa 33-1 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 33-2 Johann Rabie (South Africa) 20:08.08,6 +1:02.48,2
Sasol Women’s category stage results
1 RECM Specialized 50-1 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 50-2 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 4:55.57,4
2 Ascendis Health 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn de Groot (South Africa) 5:16.33,3 +20.35,9
3 Meerendal Wheeler 51-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 51-2 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 5:19.24,5 +23.27,1
Sasol Women’s category overall results
1 RECM Specialized 50-1 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 50-2 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 22:59.08,0
2 Ascendis Health 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (South Africa) 23:29.02,5 +29.54,5
3 Meerendal Wheeler 51-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 51-2 Alice Pirard (Belgium) 23:36.55,4 +37.47,4
4 SasolRacing 56-1 Yolande de Villiers (South Africa) 56-2 Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia) 24:08.52,2 +1:09.44,2
5 RBS 137-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 137-2 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa) 24:12.30,4 +1:13.22,4
6 Novus OMX Pro 79-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 79-2 Cherie Vale (South Africa) 25:43.41,3 +2:44.33,3
7 SasolRacing 2 59-1 Leana de Jager (South Africa) 59-2 Yolandi du Toit (South Africa) 26:08.37,2 +3:09.29,2
8 Lovechock Specialized 57-1 Sanne van Paassen (Netherlands) 57-2 Jolien Janssen (Netherlands) 27:32.00,4 +4:32.52,4
9 Dawn Wing/Momsen 78-1 Ann Harrison (South Africa) 78-2 Marleen Lourens (South Africa) 27:43.22,9 +4:44.14,9
10 Central Family Practice 381-1 Genevieve Weber (South Africa) 381-2 Wanda Tattersall (Namibia) 29:37.03,4 +6:37.55,4