AMERICA’S BATTEN AND GOMEZ VILLAFANE TIGHTEN GRIP ON CAPE EPIC TITLE

Christopher Blevins and Matt Beers slip to third overall, with only one day left in race

RACE NEWS

Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman of Wilier Pirelli won stage 6 of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

UPSET IN ELITE MEN’S STAGE 6 BATTLE

Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman (Wilier-Pirelli) rode a flawless race to win Stage 6 of the Absa Cape Epic. Speed Company Racing (Lukas Baum and Georg Egger) finished second on the day, but more importantly, they did some damage to the overall lead of Canyon Northwave MTB. Baum and Egger will start the Grand Finale on Sunday just 02:45 behind the yellow jersey leaders. The race for the Absa Cape Epic is wide open going into the final day.

On Stage 6 Wilier-Pirelli looked strong from the start. They attacked on the first climb, taking Speed Company Racing and Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized (Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins) with them. Beers and Blevins soon dropped off the pace with Wilier-Pirelli also able to pull away from Speed Company Racing. The yellow jersey leaders Canyon Northwave MTB (Andreas Seewald and Martin Stošek) appeared to be struggling, particularly Andreas Seewald, who is battling a rib injury.

Andreas Seewald raced in the yellow jersey again, with Christopher Blevins and Matt Beers behind him here, but they couldn’t catch the leaders. Wilier-Pirelli was able to pull away from the chasers, riding to the finish without much pressure for the final 30km. Seewald and teammate Martin Stosek will get to keep their yellow jerseys for the start of the final stage tomorrow. Photo © Dominic Barnardt / Cape Epic

“That was a really good day for us,” said Fabian Rabensteiner. “We were feeling good this morning so we decided to attack on the first climb. We kept a good pace, but the Speed Company Racing guys matched us and were really strong again. We were in a group for a while and that helped us save some energy; Speed Company Racing attacked at the second water point but we felt strong and got in front of them. From that moment we never looked back and just rode at our own pace to the finish. The stage was excellent, with lots of technical singletrack, which is what we like. Of the six Absa Cape Epics I have done, this is probably the best stage ever.”

Wout Alleman added, “We knew Stellenbosch would be better for us as we like the trails here. We planned to attack today because we have not had the race we wanted this week; we wanted to get a result today. Tomorrow is another chance to show our ability and we will race hard again.”

With overall leaders Canyon Northwave MTB seemingly faltering with the Val de Vie end in sight, Speed Company Racing has forced themselves into contention through sheer willpower and thrilling, attacking mountain biking. They’ve earned some new fans during the week, which Lukas Baum has detected.

“That was a good ride after a few mishaps earlier in the week. We are second overall, but I think we are in the leader jersey in the hearts of the South Africans! Today I just took a ticket on the speed train that is Georg and I held on to the finish. It was a great ride.”

Egger added that the trails of Stellenbosch, and their pre-Absa Cape Epic training in the area, made the ride a lot of fun. “We tried hard to get away in the beginning but it just didn’t happen for us. But we knew the trails from our training here so that made the race super nice. We have one day to go; we will definitely give it everything.”

Georg Egger and Lukas Baum finished second in stage 6. Photo Sam Clark/Cape Epic

With one stage to go, Canyon Northwave MTB sits on a total time of 24:54:46.6, with Speed Company Racing on 24:57:32.2. Beers and Blevins are third in the general classification, almost eight minutes behind the leaders.

The Trail To Val de Vie is a relatively short 68km from Stellenbosch to Val de Vie Estate; it’s no polite procession, though. The racing is still on and Canyon Northwave MTB will be looking over their shoulders all day for the purple haze of the Speed Company Racing jerseys.

Tune in to the Live Broadcast of the final stage of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic from 08:30 on www.cape-epic.com/.

Stage 6 Results:
1) Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman / Wilier-Pirelli: 03:16:04.9
2) Georg Egger and Lukas Baum / Speed Company Racing: 03:17:20.3
3) Daniel Geismayr and Cameron Orr / Wilier-Pirelli Factory: 03:19:55.4

 

ELITE WOMEN:

AMERICA’S HALEY BATTEN AND SOFIA GOMEZ VILLAFANE WIN STAGE SIX, EXTENDING THEIR LEAD

Sofia Gomez Villafane and Haley Batten, in Stage 6. Photo Sam Clark/Cape Epic

The NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team of Sofia Gómez Villafane and Haley Batten won their third stage in the CM.com Women’s category at the Absa Cape Epic, tightening their grip on the overall lead in the process. They now lead Faces Rola (Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss) by over 16 minutes in the general classification going into Sunday’s Grand Finale.

It was another two-team tussle in the CM.com Women’s category on Stage 6, with NinetyOne-songo-Specialized and Faces Rola riding away from the other women’s teams early into the day’s racing. BMC MTB Racing finished third on the stage, 11 minutes behind the winners.

The two leading teams traded places throughout the 76km stage that showcased the Stellenbosch trail network, with NinetyOne-songo-Specialized finally managing to shake off Faces Rola with about 10km to go. Attacking the twisting singletrack descents as a unit, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized was composed and comfortable on the final few kilometers.

Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss of Faces Rola finished 40 seconds behind the leaders in Stage 6. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Batten said that she could see Faces Rola meant business right from the start. “It was just ‘go, go, go’ the minute the race started today. Candice and Mariske were really moving; it was such a good battle out there, we really enjoyed it. But it was pretty dang hard!”

A beaming Gómez Villafane said the pre-Absa Cape Epic preparation of riding in Stellenbosch paid off. “The other teams have had the advantage all week because they know the trails. But we spent time in Stellenbosch the week before the Epic. It was great to finally ride some trails we knew! The race was tight again today but on that last flow section we were just ‘let’s go, let’s go’ and we managed to create a gap. That final kicker was awful, but I had a great teammate to get me home.”

Second on the stage and second overall in the CM.com Women’s category, Faces Rola’s Candice Lill said the penultimate stage was an exciting race from start to finish. “It was a super hard race again with Sofia and Haley. It was a real duel out there, but we enjoyed it. It’s great to have good competition in the women’s race. We did our best for the stage win today, but we came off second best.”

With only the 68km Trail To Val de Vie, from Stellenbosch to Val de Vie Estate, to come, Lill said she and Strauss will give it everything they have on the last day. “It’s one more day of racing and we have nothing to lose. We will definitely go flat out from the start tomorrow in search of the stage win.”

Amy Wakefield and Ariane Lüthi of team Symbtech ZA . Photo © Dominic Barnardt / Cape Epic

See how the CM.com Women’s category unfolds by tuning in to the Live Broadcast from 08:30 on www.cape-epic.com/ and Supersport.

Stage 6 Results:
1) Sofia Gómez Villafane and Haley Batten / NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: 04:01:04.8
2) Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss / Faces Rola: 04:01:44.6
3) Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Robyn de Groot / BMC MTB Racing: 04:12:16.4

 

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