CAPE EPIC STAGE 4 RESULTS AND FULL STAGE VIDEO

Sprint finish marks men’s and women’s races on Stage 4 of Absa Cape Epic

(CAPE EPIC PRESS RELEASE)

The top three teams in both the men’s and women’s races on Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic could only be separated in the final meters of the 73km race.

Nino Schurter and Sebastian Fini (World Bicycle Relief) won the stage in the Men’s Category in a sprint finish, as did Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) in the Aramex Women’s Category.

World Bicycle Relief pipped Matt Beers and Howard Grotts (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) to the line, while in the Aramex Women’s Category on Stage 4 Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard) also had to make do with second place when they were outpaced to the line by the GHOST Factory Racing team of Terpstra and Koller.

 

Sofia Gomez during Stage 4 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 21 March 2024. Photo by Max Sullivan/Cape Epic

With temperatures soaring in the Cape all week long, race organisers enacted Extreme Weather Protocols on Wednesday evening and reduced the initial 88km Stage 4 to 73km, removing around 400m of climbing at the same time.

While the changes to the Queen Stage provided some respite for a scorched field, the daunting stage still featured four fearsome climbs and a technical switchback descent named the Cliffhanger – today’s Toyota Tough Section – to the finish that allowed little margin for error.

In the men’s elite race, the pace was hot from the get-go, with BUFF – MEGAMO’s Hans Becking and Wout Alleman attempting an early attack. They were soon reeled in, though, and the stage became a three-way street fight between Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, World Bicycle Relief and Stage 3 winners, Canyon SIDI (Andreas Seewald and Marc Stutzmann). BUFF – MEGAMO, already dropping back, lost further time with a minor mechanical issue.

 

Riders during Stage 4 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 21 March 2024. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic

Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne’s Howard Grotts enjoyed a good day on the climbs, with the larger-framed Matt Beers playing second fiddle to his American teammate on the steep ascents. “I’m carrying the weight of a small labrador here,” joked Beers at the finish. Andreas Seewald of Canyon SIDI made the initial surges, roaring up the climbs in the first half of the route.

The lead chopped and changed between the three teams throughout the stage until the critical Aap d’Huez switchback climb. Schurter moved to the front, taking Fini with him; the pair then entered the narrow, twisting, turning Cliffhanger singletrack descent together and descended joyously, like two unattended minors with a day pass for the local waterslide park.

Grotts and Beers managed to haul them in on the flat, final kilometres, the four riders turning into the race village side-by-side. Ultimately, though, Schurter and Fini crossed the line first, by the finest of margins. Still, with both BUFF – MEGAMO riders enduring the worst day on the bike at this Absa Cape Epic, it was a good day for Beers and Grotts as they moved into the overall Yellow Leaders Jerseys – taking a healthy two-minute gap over second-placed World Bicycle Relief with them.

 

The UCI Mens Podium during Stage 4 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 21 March 2024. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

“Canyon went super hard from the start and we had to hang on,” said Schurter. “We eventually found our legs and we knew the last climb would suit us quite well, so we went to the front and then also on the downhill we tried to force the pace a bit. It was nice, a good race. We gained some time and now I think we’re in for a tough battle with Specialized. We are back in the overall battle. We lost a lot of time the past two days with bad luck. I hope from now on we have luck on our side.”

New overall Yellow Jersey leader Matt Beers also found the pace hard to start but eventually got into the rhythm of the stage. “It was just a real nice, hard stage. I mean, we had proper climbing, I knew it would be selective and I’m glad me and Howard both had the legs to make that group early. Andreas Seewald really pushed the pace like crazy during the first two hours. We were just hanging on and I’m just glad we could stick with it.”

In Yellow for the first time at this year’s Cape Epic, Beers said team tactics won’t change much for the remaining stages. “Being in Yellow is awesome motivation. It won’t change our tactics though. We’re still going to attack. We’re still going to race from the front. That’s the only way you can do this race, otherwise you’re in trouble.”

The Famous Five
Two riders accustomed to riding at the front this week once again kept their composure to take their fifth win out of five (the Prologue and four stages) in the Aramex Women’s Category.

Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) have barely put a pedal stroke wrong all week; and just when it looked like Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) might have something to say about the GHOST Factory Racing dominance, Terpstra and Koller pounced when it mattered most.

The Aramex Women’s Category race on Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic was characterised by the three top teams jostling for position all day long. Punch and counter-punch from start to finish of the stage, there was absolutely nothing separating the six leading riders in the women’s race. On the climbs, on the descents, through the water points, they were closer than a six-bladed shave.

All three of GHOST Factory Racing, Cannondale Factory Racing and Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne made it up the final climb together and then all rolled onto the final Cliffhanger descent together.

 

Riders during Stage 4 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 21 March 2024. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic

The race exploded into life, though, when New Zealander Samara Sheppard launched an attack with a few kilometres to go. Weaving across the trail and narrowly heading over a bridge when disaster seemed the more likely outcome, Sheppard nipped ahead of Terpstra and Koller.

Not to be denied another stage win, though, the GHOST Factory Racing pair quickly responded and doused the flames of the Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne fire. Three teams made it onto the home stretch together, but no one could outpace the overall Orange Jersey leaders.

“I was prepared for more attacks to be honest,” said Terpstra. “I think both Specialized and Cannondale wanted to make the pace high from the beginning but it turned out that actually Nicole and I were the fastest, which was nice! It was nice to know that they could try, but we’re still there, we’re hanging on. It was a very cool stage and a lot of fun.”

 

The UCI womens podium during Stage 4 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 21 March 2024. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

With three stages to come, second-placed Cannondale Factory Racing are only two-and-a-half minutes behind the overall leaders; the finish promises to be explosive, especially if Mitterwallner lives up to her fighting words. “That was one of the hardest races of my life. I’m not on top of my game, which is frustrating but Candice is super strong. Still, there are only two minutes in it; I won’t give up, I will fight to the last second!”

Men’s Category, Stage 4
1 Nino Schurter & Sebastian Fini (World Bicycle Relief) 3:22:39
2 Matt Beers & Howard Grotts – Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne 3:22:39
3 Andreas Seewald & Marc Stutzmann (Canyon SIDI) 3:23:49

Men’s Category GC after Stage 4
1 Matt Beers & Howard Grotts – Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne 15:54:04
2 Nino Schurter & Sebastian Fini (World Bicycle Relief) 15:56:04
3 Hans Becking & Wout Alleman (BUFF – MEGAMO) 15:59:07

Aramex Women’s Category, Stage 4
1 Anne Terpstra & Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) 4:08:50
2 Sofia Gomez Villafane & Samara Sheppard (Toyota-Specialized-Ninetyone) 4:08:52
3 Candice Lill & Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory Racing) 4:08:52

Aramex Women’s Category GC after Stage 4
1 Anne Terpstra & Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) 19:31:44
2 Candice Lill & Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory Racing) 19:34:15 +2:31
3 Sofia Gomez Villafane & Samara Sheppard (Toyota-Specialized-Ninetyone) 19:39:40 +7:56

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