Competitions

Absa Cape Epic 2024 (RSA) – Stage 1: Sprint finish decides UCI categories

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ABSA Cape Epic

Hans Becking and Wout Alleman (BUFF-MEGAMO) won Stage 1 in the men’s elite race atthe 2024 Absa Cape Epic, while Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) were Stage 1 winners in the Aramex Women’s category at Saronsberg Cellar in Tulbagh.

Both the men’s and the women’s races concluded with thrilling sprint finishes after a fairamount of cat and mouse in the closing kilometres.

He was in complete command of the BUFF-MEGAMO Stage 1 race strategy from start tofinish, coolly guiding the team home in 3:38:48, two seconds ahead of Nino Schurter andSebestian Fini (World Bicycle Relief).

As the four riders entered the home stretch, Alleman surged to the line with Schurter in hotpursuit. Unfortunately for the World Bicycle Relief pair, Fini’s chain snapped, allowingBUFF-MEGAMO to race over for a well-deserved stage win. Schurter and Fini remain in theoverall leaders' Yellow Jersey, one minute and 10 seconds ahead of second-placed Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Matt Beers and Howard Grotts) and 90 seconds ahead of third-placedBUFF-MEGAMO in the GC.

“I'm super happy with the stage win,” said Becking. “Yesterday we started on a high with thepodium and then after about 30km today I told Wout it was going to be a very good day forus. We paced it well and it worked out perfectly - Nino and Sebastian were just too strong todrop though. Still, six days to go and I'm thrilled to already have two podiums in the pocket.”

Alleman added, “I always tried to stay out in front of the racing today and managed that prettywell. In the beginning, the Speed Company guys went really hard up until the big climbs. Wedidn’t try to race them but rather just managed our pace. It takes me a bit longer to get goingthese days, but today I felt good all the way.”

The men’s elite race on Stage 1 started in dramatic fashion with a multiple-bike pile-up in thefirst few kilometres as the elite field left Saronsberg Cellar. Thankfully, no riders, bikes orbicycle components were injured in the prang and the field was able to regroup and startracing again.

Alleman looked focussed from the start, but as soon as the pack turned off the tar road andinto the trails, Georg Egger and Lukas Baum (ORBEA LEATT Speed Company) attacked.

BUFF-MEGAMO, World Bicycle Relief, Imbuko (Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha), WilierVittoria Factory (Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuele Porro), Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOneand Pyga Euro Steel (Philip Buys and Pieter Du Toit) were all able to stay with Egger andBaum until the climbing started around the 57km mark of the 88km stage.

Alleman put in a surge to shake loose the field, attacking again up the steep Fanti’s Pass climbat 69km. At this point, only Schurter and Fini could respond and it looked like a two-horserace to the finish until Beers and Grotts surprisingly reappeared like long-lost twin brotherscoming to claim a family inheritance with 10km to go.

Grotts, racing well despite two crashes on the day, dropped off again, leaving BUFF-MEGAMO and World Bicycle Relief alone to contend the sprint finish.

“We had our challenges today,” said Beers. “There were a few crashes and we just fought ourway back every time.” Grotts added, “To be honest, it would have been nicer to be able tosave a little bit of energy today, but all things considered, we didn't lose that much time.We’re still on the podium, still in the hunt.”

Factory FavouritesIn the Aramex Women’s category on Stage 1, there was little to separate GHOST FactoryRacing (Teprstra and Koller) and Cannondale Factory Racing (Candice Lill and MonaMitterwallner) until the final few metres, though earlier in the day it appeared that ablockbuster finish was on the cards.

Up until the 50km mark, it was neck and neck between the GHOST, Cannondale, Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard) and Efficient InfinitiSCB SRAM (Vera Looser and Alexis Skarda) teams. At one stage ahead of the climbing,Villafane put in an attack, but GHOST and Cannondale both responded, with Lill charginginto the front and staying there up until the very end (even with a slight wrong turn in theclosing kilometres).

With the finish at Saronsberg in sight, a two-team spring finish loomed; Lill powered ahead,but Terpstra and Koller were again the stronger team on the day, claiming their second stagewin in as many days.

They retain the overall Orange Leaders jersey in the Aramex Women’s category, with Lill andMitterwallner only a minute behind in the GC. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, third-placed inthe GC, now sits six minutes behind the leaders.

“We weren’t too sure what to expect today!” said Anne Terpstra “It was very different beingin Orange but I think all in all we did a really good job. We were on a very similar level withCannondale - we did some more work in the beginning, and they did some more work in theend. We rode at our own pace in the beginning, then Cannondale were quite strong but wemade a bit of a gap at the end and had a very exciting finish.”

GHOST teammate Nicole Koller added, “It’s very cool to wear the Orange jersey. Everybodywants to wear it and it gives us motivation and confidence going into the rest of the week!”

Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic is another Saronsberg Cellar start and finish day, whereparticipants will tackle 97km and 2200m of climbing. The bulk of the stage will take place inthe Witzenberg Valley, where the sandy and rocky terrain will test the abilities of the entirefield.