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Dolimiti grab first Cape Epic stage … with one stage to ride
- Updated: March 20, 2016
Periklis Ilias and Tiago Ferreira notched up a thrilling debut Absa Cape Epic stage win on the trails of Stellenbosch on Saturday as Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina fired another shot across the bows of the women leaders.
Greece’s Ilias and Portuguese teammate Ferreira (Dolomiti Superbike) became the fourth team to claim a stage win at the 2016 Absa Cape Epic after boldly gambling on an early break.
By 45 kilometres and the day’s second water point the duo, in their debut race, had a 40-second lead. In spite of riding ahead of a chasing pack for most of the 72km course, Ilias and Ferreira managed to stretch that lead to one minute and 20 seconds by the finish at Boschendal Wine Estate, claiming Stage 6 in a time of 3:16.01,0.
Second over the line were Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing), with overall race leaders Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls) wrapping up the podium places for the stage. Four-time winner Platt and partner Huber now sit comfortably in first place overall, 15-minutes ahead of nearest rivals Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2, who battled home in eighth place on the day after reportedly battling with mechanicals.
Dolomiti Superbike’s win proved to be a popular one in the Absa Cape Epic winners’ lounge, with Fumic, Avancini, Platt and Huber all warmly congratulating the triumphant pair. All week long the debutants have raced hard, often pulling the lead bunch before either suffering mechanicals or dropping off the pace as the finish line approached.
An emotional Ferreira took a moment to absorb the victory, sitting with his head in his hands before exclaiming: ‘So good, so good. This feels so good. We’ve been trying to win a stage all week. We’ve gone out hard all week, worked hard at the front, but dropped off… until today. I’m super tired now, but super happy. To win a stage at the biggest mountain bike race in the world is incredible.’
According to Ilias, the race stage strategy only kicked in after 10 minutes of riding. ‘Yesterday Tiago wasn’t feeling his best, but today we were both feeling good, so we decided to give it a go. We went off and just kept pushing.’
Cross-country specialist Fumic was pushing hard behind Ilias and Ferreira on a day that suited his style, but said at the finish that he just couldn’t catch the pair. ‘I saw Dolomiti just ahead of me, and I thought now I’ll catch them. But I came around a corner and they were gone. They raced really well today.’
After toiling in Tulbagh, riders have been enjoying the trail networks of Wellington and Stellenbosch. ‘Today was really nice,’ said Ilias. ‘Today was really good. It helps that we won the stage too. It’s fantastic.’
For the overall leaders at the Cape Epic it was a case of ‘keep it simple’. The Team Bulls outfit have controlled the race from start to finish and can almost taste victory. Barring disaster, Platt should notch up his fifth win on Sunday and Huber his first.
Platt said he could sense that the lead pack was feeling the strain of seven days of hard riding, with the pace down at the start of stage. ‘Everyone has pushed hard all week, but today it felt like nobody wanted to push,’ said Platt. ‘Urs and I just wanted to get from A to B without doing anything silly. In the end, it was a great day of riding. It was a ‘lekker’ route.’
The first South African rider home on Stage 6 was Topeak Ergon Racing 2’s Erik Kleinhans, riding alongside Jeremiah Bishop this year. They finished fourth behind Platt and Huber. The top South African team was once again USN Purefit, Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock finishing seventh on the stage.
‘I probably felt my best of the entire race today,’ said Woolcock. ‘Darren was still feeling ill, but he pushed through like he always does. In the end it was another successful day, and actually really cool in parts. I know the trails well here, so it was really nice to ride in my own ‘backyard’.’ With a 23-minute lead over the second-placed Africa challengers, Lill and Woolcock will almost certainly get their hands on the red Absa African special jersey at Meerendal on Sunday.
German Spitz and Ukranian Belomoina may well be in the market for shares in Boschendal after winning consecutive Absa Cape Epic stages at the Stellenbosch wine estate.
Saturday saw the Sport for Good pairing crossed the line first in a time of 3:53.32,7 to not only beat Spur-Specialized over the 72km course, but also move ahead of Topeak Ergon for second place in the Sasol Women’s category.
‘It was amazing… we didn’t expect to come here and get two stage wins,’ said a beaming Spitz. ‘We had lots of fun around Stellenbosch. After last night’s rain, the conditions were a little bit muddy but it reminded me of the forests back home in Germany.’
Belomoina, for her part, couldn’t believe how their fortunes had turned around this week.
‘When I finished the first and second stage I didn’t think it would be possible to get any wins. Those stages were so hard for me, but I’ve been getting better and better and today was fantastic.’
Going into Stage 6, Spitz and Belomoina trailed Topeak Ergon by five minutes and seven seconds, so were surprised that they were able to overhaul that margin during a short stage.
‘We were all together at Water Point 1 but at Water Point 3 we heard that we were almost seven minutes ahead… to hear that was great,’ revealed Spitz. ‘Tomorrow we’ll have to hang on and if Topeak make a move we’ll stay on their heels.’
Splitting those two teams today was the Spur-Specialized pairing of Annika Langvad and Ariane Kleinhans.
‘It was a very good stage with lots of nice trails. We were really treated well today, especially the bermed area which was quite dark and and the pine needles on the ground made it quite beautiful,’ said Langvad. ‘It was good to not lose any time, even though it’s now Sport for Good in second place. They have been very consistent but are now comfortable with the terrain.’
Kleinhans revealed that she was on the rivet today. ‘On paper it was a shorter stage but it was a not a holiday, it was tough. As we get to the last few stages you have less power in the legs so I was definitely pushed to the limits today… especially when Sabine and Yana rode away from us.’
Kleinhans and Langvad can now focus on Sunday’s Grand Finale, with their 15.43 advantage over Spitz and Belomoina meaning only a disaster can stop them claiming their third straight title at Meerendal.
‘We’ve entered the closing phase of the race and we definitely want to win it,’ said Langvad. ‘There’s been pressure on us to live up to our previous results, but our competitors have been quite strong. That said, we go into the final stage with lots of confidence because we have a good gap, which shows we have been the strongest team this week. Now we just have to get to the finish line.’
Picture of Ilias and Ferreira enjoying Saturday’s single-track racing comes courtesy of Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS
Stage 6 Results
1 Dolomiti Superbike 11-1 Periklis Ilias (Greece) 11-2 Tiago Jorge Ferreira Oliveira (Portugal) 3:16.01,0
2 Cannondale Factory Racing 14-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 14-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 3:17.20,7 +1.19,7
3 Bulls 3-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 3-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 3:19.23,9 +3.22,9
1 Bulls 3-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 3-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 24:57.10,1
2 Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 17-1 Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland) 17-2 Matthias Pfrommer (Germany) 25:12.30,1 +15.20,0
3 Trek-Selle San Marco A 13-1 Samuele Porro (Italy) 13-2 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 25:20.29,7 +23.19,6
4 Cannondale Factory Racing 14-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 14-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 25:25.34,1 +28.24,0
5 Dolomiti Superbike 11-1 Periklis Ilias (Greece) 11-2 Tiago Jorge Ferreira Oliveira (Portugal) 25:34.25,6 +37.15,5
6 USN Purefit 7-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 7-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 25:46.42,5 +49.32,4
7 Bulls 2 10-1 Simon Stiebjahn (Germany) 10-2 Tim Boehme (Germany) 25:46.42,5 +49.32,4
8 Trek-Selle San Marco B 18-1 Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Spain) 18-2 Fabian Rabensteiner (Italy) 25:53.29,5 +56.19,4
9 Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 4-1 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 4-2 Hermann Pernsteiner (Austria) 26:02.10,1 +1:05.00,0
10 Topeak Ergon Racing 2 16-1 Jeremiah Bishop (United States of America) 16-2 Erik Kleinhans (South Africa) 26:03.15,4 +1:06.05,3
1 Sport for Good 54-2 Yana Belomoina (Ukraine) 54-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 3:53.32,7
2 Spur-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 3:56.27,1 +2.54,4
3 Topeak Ergon 53-1 Sally Bigham (England) 53-2 Adel Morath (Germany) 4:02.20,7 +8.48,
1 Spur-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland) 29:36.29,5
2 Sport for Good 54-2 Yana Belomoina (Ukraine) 54-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 29:52.13,1 +15.43,6
3 Topeak Ergon 53-1 Sally Bigham (England) 53-2 Adel Morath (Germany) 29:56.08,1 +19.38,6
4 Meerendal Wheeler 52-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 52-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 31:00.45,2 +1:24.15,7
5 Galileo Risk 55-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 55-2 Yolandi du Toit (South Africa) 32:27.07,6 +2:50.38,1
6 Energade Racing 202-1 Dalene van der Leek (South Africa) 202-2 Sharon Laws (England) 32:43.37,9 +3:07.08,4
7 Meerendal Rocky EBE 56-1 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands) 56-2 Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) 32:47.37,2 +3:11.07,7
8 Asrin Cycling 71-1 Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia) 71-2 Sandra Santanyes Murillo (Spain) 33:00.02,9 +3:23.33,4
9 Liv – MTB Pro 59-1 Muriel Bouhet (France) 59-2 Merce Pacios Pujado (Spain) 36:27.07,4 +6:50.37,9
10 Speed Structures 68-1 Marleen Lourens (South Africa) 68-2 Nicky Giliomee (South Africa) 38:41.54,0 +9:05.24,5