Finishing the Absa Cape Epic requires a world-class fitness level, the alignment of any number of lucky stars and, most importantly, a partner with whom you can travel the journey of highs and lows that only the Untamed African MTB Race can throw at you.
For most teams, the choice is one of friendship: Riding buddies, training partners, business connections... There is no hard and fast rule where you must find somebody brave enough to share this with. For some, though, the selection process happens a whole lot closer to home, if not actually in it.
The Virgin Active Mixed category is littered with same-surname teams, spearheaded by German-Capetonians Sebastian and Laura Stark. They lead the fourteen teams who admitted in the entry process that they were married (to each other), as well as the Virgin Active Mixed category overall. Relative newcomers to the blissfully-wed thing, the pair are veteran stage racers, having met on one in 2012 before finally tying the knot in 2018.
“It has been great so far, we are riding well,” says Laura at the end of Stage 2. “We never really fight about anything on the ride; I think you need to just be really aware of the other person, and how they are feeling. We communicate a lot.”
For Sebastian, as the stronger half, that means making sure he doesn’t get carried away. “Especially on this race, the trails are so much fun, so I must always keep in the back of my mind what Laura’s needs are. The only time we did actually fight, was on the Tankwa Trek Prologue, where I wasn’t concentrating and kept riding five metres ahead. I didn’t realise Laura was struggling; I lost concentration. I learnt from that.”
Jeannie and Martin Dreyer are no strangers to the extremes of mountain biking, and beyond. As a husband-and-wife super-team, they own both records for the Freedom Challenge, which traverses South Africa east to west, via every mountain imaginable, and they won the mixed K2 at the Duzi Canoe Marathon in February, a race Martin has won a record seven times in the solo category.
“We left the kids locked in a room, with some food. They are Dreyers, they should cope,” jokes Jeannie. In reality, eight-year-old Callum and five-year-old Ruby are back home with granny – so maybe the Epic is a bit of a holiday too for mom and dad? “A little, I guess”, says Jeannie. “They come to some events with us, but the Absa Cape Epic is so intense, on and off the bike, that it is a relief not to have to manage them, too.”
Martin looks on and nods.
“We have done so many adventure races together, and other endurance events, that Mart knows when I get a little jumpy, I am getting tired and he needs to back off a little,”
Martin then added, “there is always one weaker and one stronger, one struggling when the other is comfortable. I just try to remind myself – at the Absa Cape Epic, and any team event – that I am only there because of my partner, and that I need to nurture that relationship for us both to finish.”
Is the experiment working, is the Absa Cape Epic a place for a husband and wife to strengthen their relationship? “I think we are still in the test phase,” grins Jeannie. Martin nods his crooked-helmet nod, and they tuck back into their kid-free lunch.
The Swiss pairing of Nino Schurter and Lars Forster (Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing) once again left no doubt that they have the strongest legs at the Absa Cape Epic when they picked up their third win in three days on Tuesday.
After their tactical masterclass in Monday’s long Stage 1, the Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing pairing used raw power to generate the decisive stage-winning break on the 90km ride from Hermanus to Oak Valley on Tuesday.
Schurter and Forster launched a brutal attack up a steep climb 10km from the finish on Stage 2 and then powered away to a 30-second lead over the KROSS-SPUR team of Sergio Guiterrez and Ondřej Cink with Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) a second further back.
Schurter and Forster now hold a four minute and four second lead over the Cannondale pair with Trek Selle San Marco’s Damiano Ferraro and Samuele Porro moving up to third, eight minutes behind the leaders.
The big losers of the day were former World Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy and Commonwealth Champion Sam Gaze (Investec-songo-Specialized). After starting the day in third position, Gaze felt the after-effects of his big crash on Stage 1 and they finished nearly 30 minutes off the pace to slide down to 19th overall.
In the Women’s category Annika Langvad and Anna van der Breggen (Investec-songo-Specialized) won the stage and extended their lead by another two minutes, despite their plans to use the day as a recovery ride.
They are now just under eight minutes clear of Ariane Lüthi and Maja Wloszczowska (Kross-Spur Racing) with Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath (Summit Fin) a distant 18 minutes behind the leaders.
In other racing categories, the only change to the leaders was in the fiercely competitive Exxaro Jersey race where Exxaro Pepto Sport’s Sean Baloyi and Anele Mtalana became the third jersey-wearers in three days. They won the stage by nearly six minutes to move four minutes ahead of Luyanda Thobigunya and Baphelele Mbobo (BMT Fairtree).
The husband and wife team of Sebastian and Laura Stark (TBR Werner) added another 12 minutes to their lead in the Virgin Active Mixed category, although the MMR Mixed team of former road riding world champion Oscar Freire Gomez and his partner Natalia Fischer Egusquiza moved up to third overall by finishing the stage in second place. Team Miller Paneling (David Miller and Shayna Poweless) slipped down to third after they finished the stage third.
Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill (Galileo Risk) won the stage in the Absa African Women’s Special Jersey race but overall are still 38 minutes behind Sam Sanders and Amy Mcdougall (dormakaba Ladies). In the equivalent Absa African Men’s Special Jersey race, Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers (SpecializedFoundationNAD) finished seventh overall for the day and now lie sixth overall on GC, leading the race for red by 17 minutes over Imbuko Giant’s Marco Joubert and Nicol Carstens.
Spanish joker Jose Hermida and his compatriot Joaquim Rodriguez (Merida Factory Racing) extended their lead in the Dimension Data Masters category and now lead Erik Dekker and Maarten Tjallingii (IBS Capital Allies) by 16 minutes, while Abraao Azevedo and Bart Brentjens (CST Sandd Bafang) did the same in the Grand Masters and are almost 20 minutes clear of Barti Bucher and Hans Juerg Gerber (Meerendal).
Tomorrow’s Stage 3 is a 107km out-and-back loop from Oak Valley and takes in the famed Groenlandberg climb and its treacherous descent.
Dimension Data Masters
- Merida Factory Racing 59-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 59-2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) 04:00.48,9
- IBS Capital Allies 64-1 Erik Dekker (Netherlands) 64-2 Maarten Tjallingii (Netherlands) 04:03.46,4 +2.57,5
- MITAS HEAD NEW RACE 63-1 Ondrej Fojtik (Czech Republic) 63-2 José Silva (Portugal) 04:11.21,7 +10.32,8
- Merida Factory Racing 59-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 59-2 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) 09:34.57,7
- IBS Capital Allies 64-1 Erik Dekker (Netherlands) 64-2 Maarten Tjallingii (Netherlands) 09:51.54,0 +16.56,3
- MITAS HEAD NEW RACE 63-1 Ondrej Fojtik (Czech Republic) 63-2 José Silva (Portugal) 10:11.53,4 +36.55,7
- CST Sandd Bafang 66-1 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 66-2 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 04:11.18,2
- Meerendal 65-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 65-2 Hans Juerg Gerber (Switzerland) 04:22.31,6 +11.13,4
- Progressive Livestock 274-1 Shaun Portegys (New Zealand) 274-2 Timothy OLeary (New Zealand) 04:27.54,0 +16.35,8
- CST Sandd Bafang 66-1 Abraao Azevedo (Brazil) 66-2 Bart Brentjens (Netherlands) 10:13.35,6
- Meerendal 65-1 Barti Bucher (Switzerland) 65-2 Hans Juerg Gerber (Switzerland) 10:33.19,1 +19.43,5
- Progressive Livestock 274-1 Shaun Portegys (New Zealand) 274-2 Timothy OLeary (New Zealand) 10:41.41,3 +28.05,7
- Cycle Lab 317-1 Andrew Mclean (South Africa) 317-2 David De Lima (South Africa) 10:58.06,1 +44.30,5
Virgin Active Mixed Stage Results
- TBR-Werner 72-1 Sebastian Stark (Germany) 72-2 Laura Stark (Germany) 04:23.21,5
- MMR MIXED 70-1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain) 70-2 Natalia Fischer Egusquiza (Spain) 04:28.49,9 +5.28,4
- Miller Paneling 226-1 David Miller (United States of America) 226-2 Shayna Powless (United States of America) 04:35.21,3 +11.59,8
- TBR-Werner 72-1 Sebastian Stark (Germany) 72-2 Laura Stark (Germany) 10:38.46,8
- Miller Paneling 226-1 David Miller (United States of America) 226-2 Shayna Powless (United States of America) 11:12.06,5 +33.19,7
- MMR MIXED 70-1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain) 70-2 Natalia Fischer Egusquiza (Spain) 11:19.28,7 +40.41,9
Absa African Men Stage Results
- SpecializedFoundationNAD 13-1 Alan Hatherly (South Africa) 13-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 03:41.16,8
- IMBUKO GIANT 35-1 Marco Joubert (South Africa) 35-2 Nicol Carstens (South Africa) 03:48.41,2 +7.24,4
- DSV Pro Cycling 28-1 Julian Jessop (South Africa) 28-2 Arno Du Toit (South Africa) 03:50.57,2 +9.40,4
- SpecializedFoundationNAD 13-1 Alan Hatherly (South Africa) 13-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 08:59.21,7
- IMBUKO GIANT 35-1 Marco Joubert (South Africa) 35-2 Nicol Carstens (South Africa) 09:16.46,9 +17.25,2
- DSV Pro Cycling 28-1 Julian Jessop (South Africa) 28-2 Arno Du Toit (South Africa) 09:21.43,7 +22.21,10
Absa African Women Stage Results
- Galileo Risk 56-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 56-2 Sarah Hill (South Africa) 04:37.41,9
- dormakaba Ladies 55-1 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 55-2 Amy Mcdougall (South Africa) 04:41.52,9 +4.11,0
- Land Rover Jaguars 46-1 Hannele Steyn (South Africa) 46-2 Katja Steenkamp (South Africa) 05:31.02,6 +53.20,7
- dormakaba Ladies 55-1 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 55-2 Amy Mcdougall (South Africa) 11:04.54,0
- Galileo Risk 56-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 56-2 Sarah Hill (South Africa) 11:42.55,7 +38.01,7
- Land Rover Jaguars 46-1 Hannele Steyn (South Africa) 46-2 Katja Steenkamp (South Africa) 13:27.05,3 +2:22.11,3
- Exxaro Pepto Sport 81-1 Sean Baloyi (South Africa) 81-2 Anele Mtalana (South Africa) 04:34.57,5
- EXXARO/PWC 1 82-1 Lucky Mlangeni (South Africa) 82-2 Tshepo Tlou (South Africa) 04:40.49,8 +5.52,3
- THESELE Velokhaya 275-1 Mthetheleli Boya (South Africa) 275-2 Loyiso Fulu (South Africa) 04:47.30,7 +12.33,2
- Exxaro Pepto Sport 81-1 Sean Baloyi (South Africa) 81-2 Anele Mtalana (South Africa) 11:07.52,0
- BMT Fairtree 446-1 Luyanda Thobigunya (South Africa) 446-2 Baphelele Mbobo (South Africa) 11:12.20,1 +4.28,1
- EXXARO/PWC 1 82-1 Lucky Mlangeni (South Africa) 82-2 Tshepo Tlou (South Africa) 11:20.32,0 +12.40,0