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Swiss riders Fabian Giger and Martin Gujan (Novus OMX Pro) sprung something of a surprise as they swept into the yellow zebra jersey in Sunday's Absa Cape Epic Prologue.

Most of the big guns kept their powder dry on a day that favoured cross country specialists, but four-times winners Karl Platt and Christoph Sauser were second and third with their teammates.

Defending Sasol Women's category champions Ariane Kleinhans of Switzerland and Annika Langvad of Denmark (RECM Specialized) took a convincing 3 minute and 35 second lead, blasting past many of the top professional women who started ahead of them in the time trial.

Giger and Gujan were delighted with their performance: "I didn't expect it at all but I'm very happy to get the win," said Giger. "We left quite early (before the favourites for the stage) and had a good time out there." They finished in 46 minutes and 18 seconds, an exceptionally quick time for the 20km Table Mountain course.

Many of the top riders described the course as being tough and without any opportunities to rest. There was a lot of dust on the surface too after a long and dry Western Cape summer.

Team Bulls's Platt (German) and Urs Huber (Swiss) were second, 18 seconds behind the Swiss pair.

"We didn't start full gas," said Platt. "We kept it steady and I think it worked out."

He said there had been one scary moment when he rode into a dust cloud as he entered a steeply descending singletrack: "I went 'whoa! where's the track?', but then it was fine."

Swiss Sauser and Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy (Investec-Songo-Specialized) finished third, five seconds behind Platt and Huber.

"It was hard for me," said Sauser. "I struggled with the climbing."

Defending champion Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic and Austrian Alban Lakata (Topeak Ergon) finished seventh overall, 51 seconds behind the leaders.

But Hynek made the point later: "We didn't want to take any big risks because you can't win it on the Prologue ... you can only lose it."

The top South African finishers were sixth-placed Rourke Croeser and Travis Walker (USN), who will wear the Absa African special jersey on Stage 1. Three seconds and two places behind them were Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (RED-E Blend).

Kleinhans and Langvad were the leading Sasol Women in a time of 53.38,7. Sweden's Jennie Stenerhag and South Africa's Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) raced into an impressive second place in a time of 57.14,5, with Milena Landtwing and Hielke Elferink (Meerendal Wheeler Cannondale) rounding out the podium with a time of 57.25,8.

"It feels amazing to win the Prologue," said a beaming Kleinhans. "We felt very good going into the day and our preparation had been excellent. Everything went super smooth today, as well. Plus, it's great to ride with Annika on a stage like this. She's a great time trialist and she really pushed it on the short tar section."

Langvad said it was good to be back in South Africa and straight into the Cape Epic groove. "I feel like we just carried on from last year – but even better!" said Langvad. "Everything felt natural and I think that our tactics have gotten so good that we don't need to change anything," she added. "We wanted to get into the leaders' jersey as quickly as possible and we've achieved that."

Stenerhag and De Groot, riding as a team at the Cape Epic for the first time, were somewhat surprise second-placed finishers.

De Groot, lining up at the Cape Epic for the first time, said: "I don't think I've been this nervous on a bike since the Olympics. But the Prologue is done now and the nerves should be settled from tomorrow. It's vital to stay calm at this race."

The all-South African pairing of Nico Pfitzenmaier and Robert Sim (Dorma/Robert Daniel) took a minute-and-a-half lead in the Dimension Data Masters category over last year's winners Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) and Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) and the competition in this category is sure to be fierce over the next week.

As expected, Barti Bucher (Swiss) and Heinz Zoerweg (Austrian) of Team Meerendal BIXS KTM were first home in the Grand Master category, more than three minutes ahead of Nampak's South African pairing of Izak Visagie and Linus van Onselen.

Former Tour de France rider Rene Haselbacher and his fellow Austrian Sabine Sommer (ENS RH77) were first in the Mixed category, 38 seconds ahead of Germans Carsten Bresser and Hanka Kupfernagel (Dietrich/Rocky Mountain).

The race moves on to Elgin tomorrow, where riders will start Stage 1 at Oak Valley Wine Estate. They face 113km of truly epic riding with 2800m of climbing to keep things interesting.

Men's category

1. Novus OMX Pro; 46.18,3 23-1; Martin Gujan (Switzerland); 23-2 Fabian Giger (Switzerland)

2. Bulls; 46.36,7; 4-1 Karl Platt (Germany); 4-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland)

3. Investec-Songo-Specialized, 46.42,1; 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland); 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic)

4. Kargo Pro MTB, 46.49,0; 15-1 Emil Lindgren (Sweden); 15-2 Brendon Davids (South Africa)

5. Multivan Merida; 47.00,4; 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain); 6-2 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands)

6. USN; 47.08,1; 11-1 Rourke Croeser (South Africa); 11-2 Travis Walker (South Africa)

7. Topeak Ergon; 47.10,1; 1-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic), 1-2 Alban Lakata (Austria)

8. RED-E Blend; 47.10,8; 36-1 Darren Lill (South Africa); 36-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa)

9. Topeak Ergon 2; 47.39,5; 8-1 Robert Mennen (Germany); 8-2 Jeremiah Bishop (United States of America)

10. Scott Factory Racing; 47.49,4; 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa); 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa)

Sasol Women's category

1. RECM Specialized; 53.38,7; 50-1 Ariane Kleinhans (Switzerland); 50-2 Annika Langvad (Denmark)

2. Ascendis Health 57.14,5 55-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 55-2 Robyn Lee de Groot (South Africa)

3. Meerendal Wheeler C'dale; 57.25,8; 54-1 Milena Landtwing (Switzerland) 54-2 Hielke Elferink (Netherlands)

4. Meerendal Wheeler; 58.24,0; 51-1 Esther Suss (Switzerland) 51-2 Alice Pirard (Belgium)

5. SasolRacing; 59.10,0; 56-1 Yolande de Villiers (South Africa) 56-2 Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia)

6. Sellaronda Hero; 59.14,8; 52-1 Sally Bigham (England) 52-2 Christina Kollmann (Austria)

7. World Bicycle Relief; 1:00.17,7; 53-1 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja (Norway) 53-2 Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland)

8. Lovechock Specialized; 1:01.11,7; 57-1 Sanne van Paassen (Netherlands) 57-2 Jolien Janssen (Netherlands)

9. RBS; 1:01.14,6; 137-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 137-2 Jeannie Bomford (South Africa)

10.Novus OMX Pro; 1:01.36,4; 79-1 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 79-2 Cherie Vale (South Africa)

Dimension Data Masters category

1. Dorma / Robert Daniel; 49.45,0; 61-1 Nico Pfitzenmaier (South Africa) 61-2 Robert Sim (South Africa)

2. BETCH.nl-Superior; 51.22,6; 60-1 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 60-2 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil)

3. GoldNutrition/Portugal; 52.09,2; 487-1 Vitor Gamito (Portugal) 487-2 José Rosa (Portugal)

Grand Masters category

1. Meerendal BIXS KTM; 54.38,5; 65-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 65-2 Heinz Zoerweg (Austria)

2. Nampak; 57.55,9; 67-1 Izak Visagie (South Africa) 67-2 Linus van Onselen (South Africa)

3. Ascendis Health; 59.01,6; 66-1 Greg Anderson (South Africa) 66-2 Andrew Mclean (South Africa)

Mixed category

1. ENS RH77; 57.52,5; 77-1 Rene Haselbacher (Austria) 77-2 Sabine Sommer (Austria)

2. Dietrich/Rocky Mountain; 58.31,1; Carsten Bresser (Germany) 73-2 Hanka Kupfemagel (Germany)

3. Open-Kappius Components; 58.56,7; 75-1 Jean-Francois Bossler (France) 75-2 Coralie Redelsperger (France)

Absa African special jersey

6. USN; 47.08,1; 11-1 Rourke Croeser (South Africa) 11-2 Travis Walker (South Africa)

8. RED-E Blend; 47.10,8; 36-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 36-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa)

10. Scott Factory Racing; 47.49,4; 7-1 Philip Buys (South Africa) 7-2 Matthys Beukes (South Africa)

Exxaro special jersey

34. Investec-Songo-Specialized 2; 52.39,4; 22-1 Siphosenkosi Madolo (South Africa) 22-2 Azukile Simayile (South Africa)

42. Exxaro PWC; 53.43,5; 82-1 Phillimon Sebona (South Africa) 82-2 Jan Motshioa (South Africa)

68. Exxaro / RMB; 57.18,5; 83-1 Lucky Mlangeni (South Africa) 83-2 Tshepo Tlou (South Africa)

*This year's race takes place from 15 to 22 March and will once again take 1 200 riders through some of the Western Cape's most unspoilt territory. The race kicks off with the Prologue in Table Mountain National Park, starting from the University of Cape Town, and finishes eight days later at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville.

Meerendal will host the finish of the race and the Grand Finale celebrations for the first time. The Grand Finale will kick off with live entertainment, a farmer's market, great food and wine and unmatched scenery. Vantage points will be accessible to the general public. Entrance is free.