MORE SURPRISES ON FRIDAY IN CAPE EPIC

South Africans storm Stage 5; Americans continue to battle for overall titles

Press Release from the Absa Cape Epic

South Africans Marco Joubert and Pieter DuToit of Imbuko {Type} DEV win stage 5. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

South Africa’s Marco Joubert and Pieter du Toit (Imbuko {Type} DEV) won the 115-kilometer Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic after a thrilling break 70km into the stage from Greyton to Stellenbosch.

The South African riders, already wearing the Absa African Men’s jerseys as the leading African men’s team at the event, rode the last 45km of the stage alone upfront with the chasing pack unable to hunt them down.

It was their first-ever stage win at the Absa Cape Epic.

“This is just a surreal feeling,” said Marco Joubert. “Halfway into the stage there were two climbs where I was nearly dropped, but I managed to hang in, and we pushed on. It’s unreal and totally unexpected. I’m so happy with that ride.”

Imbuko {Type} DEV made their move when a gap opened among the lead bunch after the third waterpoint. Pieter du Toit spotted the opportunity and roared ahead. “I said to Marco, ‘let’s go, let’s go’. After that, I was just on the rivet all the way to the finish. I was in the red for most of that ride, just chewing gels as much as I could.”

Joubert added that they had limited tactics towards the finish. “To be honest, we didn’t think too hard about strategy. It was just flat box from the minute we broke. We had some luck with tailwinds, but there were also hectic crosswinds and headwinds on parts; we just put heads down and hoped for the best!”

Earlier in the stage, the race exploded into life on the Rusty Gate climb out of the Elandskloof race village. As expected, Speed Company Racing went hell for leather from the get-go. They dropped off shortly after the climb but then darted back into the front on the first descent.

Martin Stošek and Andreas Seewald power up a long climb with Nino Schurter and Lars Forster right behind them. Photo Sam Clark/Cape Epic

 

From there, they yo-yoed to the front and the back of the lead pack before dropping back for a final time around 75km in the stage, thus allowing a lead bunch of Canyon Northwave MTB, Imbuko {Type} DEV, Bulls, Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized, Wilier-Pirelli, and Wilier 7C Force 1 to form. Imbuko {Type} DEV then made their break for glory shortly after the 69km checkpoint.

After Joubert and Du Toit made their stage-defining move, Canyon Northwave MTB and Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized worked well together to ride as a four-man chasing pack. They decided against chasing too hard, focusing instead on putting more time on Speed Company Racing.

Nino Schurter and Lars Forster had to stop to fix a mechanical problem, one of many for them in the race action this week. Photo:© Dom Barnardt / Cape Epic

 

“The plan was to keep Speed Company Racing in check today,” said yellow jersey wearer Andreas Seewald. “But they were taking lots of risks and they managed to get away. We had to work hard to catch them, and it was stressing us out a bit. After a while, everyone was back together, and their attacking was neutralized. We rode well towards the end and we’re happy to take second and put some more time on the other teams in the general classification.”

Matt Beers, now second in the general classification with partner Christoper Blevins, was happy with another solid ride but clearly delighted for a South African team to win the stage. After rolling over the finish line he rode straight across to Joubert and Du Toit to congratulate them. “That was a good ride. I’m happy for the boys. It’s important that South African riders win stages of the Absa Cape Epic.”

Saturday’s Stage 6 is a Stellenbosch trail day, where riders will tackle Banhoek, Idas Valley, and Jonkershoek trails. Passing opportunities will be limited, so tactics will be key on the penultimate stage of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic.

Tune in to the Live Broadcast from 08:30 on cape-epic.com and on Supersport.

Stage 5 Results:
1) Marco Joubert and Pieter du Toit/Imbuko {Type} DEV: 04:04:45.7
2) Martin Stošek and Andreas Seewald/Canyon Northwave MTB: 04:06:51.7
3) Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins/Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized: 04:06:56.1

THE ELITE WOMEN’S RACE

Sofia Gómez Villafane and Haley Batten (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) won Stage 5 in the CM.com Women’s category at the 2022 Absa Cape Epic, tightening their grip on the overall leader orange jerseys at the same time. They now lead the event by more than 15 minutes ahead of Faces Rola (Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss), the second-place finishers on Stage 5.

Haley Batten and Sofia Gomez Villafane took the win in stage 5 of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic. They now lead the event by more than 15 minutes ahead of Faces Rola (Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss), the second-place finishers on Stage 5.Photo Sam Clark/Cape Epic

 

On the steep Rusty Gate climb out of the Elandskloof race village, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized and Faces Rola went guns blazing. The other CM.com Women category teams tried gamely to match the pace but soon started to drop back. “That was such an awesome effort by the four of us,” said Batten. “After that, it was like we were one four-women team!”

By the 5km checkpoint at the top of the climb, the two leading teams of NinetyOne-songo-Specialized and Faces Rola had already built a minute lead over third-placed Private Client Holdings (Mari Rabie and Hayley Preen).

From then on, it was a two-horse race in the CM.com Women’s category with Gómez Villafane, Batten, Lill, and Strauss sharing the workload throughout the 115km stage as they battled headwinds and crosswinds, particularly when riding around the dams on the route.

To make their ride easier, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized attempted a move their men’s team had carried off successfully on Stage 4. “I needed to get some chain lube on Hayley’s bike,” said Villafane. “I had seen the men do it, so I tried. But they made it look so easy. I don’t think I got anything on Hayley’s chain!”

As the Stellenbosch finish drew near, it became a tense, tactical game, with both teams waiting for the right moment to strike. Candice Lill was the first to attack, racing ahead of NinetyOne-songo-Specialized at the base of the Botmanskop climb.

The advantage was short-lived as Strauss was unable to follow.

NinetyOne-songo-Specialized counter-punched and looked to have the stage sown up until Strauss attacked on the tar at the 5km mark. This time Lill was unable to go with, allowing Batten and Gómez Villafane to put some daylight between them and Faces Rola up the final, short, steep Coetzenburg climb. The orange jersey leaders sped home for another CM.com Women’s category stage win.

“On paper that course looked pretty tough,” said Sofia Gómez Villafane, “but for some reason, we kept it pretty fast from the start. We don’t know the trails that well, so the whole time we were thinking ‘where do we make our move, where do we attack’. On the final climb, we just went as hard as we could and held on.”

As hard as they were racing, the overall leaders and Stage 5 winners still had time to appreciate their support along the route. As they made their way to the finish, children from the songo foundation had lined the route to cheer on NinetyOne-songo-Specialized. It wasn’t missed by Gómez Villafane and Batten, who had already met their young fans ahead of the Absa Cape Epic. “We saw all the kids from songo at the final water point, and that was such a special moment. It really gave us a boost for the final few kilometers.”

Rabie and Preen finished third on the stage, Rabie was inspired by finishing in her hometown to push on for the team’s third third-place finish in a row. “I said to Hayley, we have to finish on the podium here. This is my town, we need to finish well.” Stage 4 winners BMC MTB Racing (Robyn de Groot and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot) finished fourth on Stage 5.

Strauss and Lill should have the home-ground advantage on Saturday’s penultimate Stage 6, but NinetyOne-songo-Specialized won’t let them have it all their own way as they strive to continue their Absa Cape Epic domination. BMC MTB Racing, with their apparent one-day-on, one-day-off approach might also fancy an attack on the hills in and around Stellenbosch.

To watch the racing in the CM.com Women’s category, tune in to the Live Broadcast from 08:30 on cape-epic.com and Supersport.

Stage 5 Results:
1) Sofia Gómez Villafane and Haley Batten/NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: 04:53:08
2) Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss/Faces Rola: 04:53:13.8
3) Rabie and Preen/Private Client Holdings: 05:02:00.1

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