ABSA Cape Epic Stage 1: Platt/Huber looking pretty fast.


The Team Bulls pair of Karl Platt and Urs Huber, along with Cape Epic first-timers Periklis Ilias and Tiago Ferreira (Dolomiti Superbike), went out hard from the start, with the small bunch of four leading practically from start to finish on the 108km Tulbagh to Tulbagh Stage 1. The tactic paid off for Platt and Huber, with the pair claiming victory in a time of 4:32.12,5.

Dolomiti Superbike finished third on the day, after a wrong turn towards the end allowed Topeak Ergon Racing's Alban Lakata and Kristian Hynek to shoot into second place, 38,5 seconds after Team Bulls.

For Platt, it was a celebratory birthday victory a day before the Absa Cape Epic celebrates its 100th stage – the EPIC100. "The beginning was tough in the dust, but the middle section was unbelievable," said Platt. There was lots of great singletrack that really made the racing enjoyable. I'm happy with the win on my birthday, though I could think of a few more relaxing things to be doing – maybe a nice glass of wine instead of racing."

Topeak Ergon Racing, after a disappointing prologue, arrived at the Stage 1 finish looking relaxed and happy with their ride, a major shift from the post-prologue grumbles. Lakata and Hynek both felt that the pace was too fast at the start, and so held back before striking. "Team Bulls and Dolomiti went out hard, but we didn't panic," said Lakata. "Our plan was always to be steady all day."

Lakata said the heavy dust at the start of the stage was nerve-wracking. "It was very dry and dusty in the beginning. It felt very dangerous because we couldn't see anything for a while, and at one point I was actually quite scared."

At one point trailing the two leading teams by over two minutes, Lakata and Hynek decided to attack from Water Point 3. "We chose to put the hammer down and gave it a lot of gas. In the end, it was a perfect ride for us and well-paced. It didn't feel like we were in the red zone at all today and second is a very good result after the Prologue."

Looking somewhat disappointed with a third-place finish, but still managing a smile on the podium, Greece's Periklis Ilias and Portugal's Tiago Ferreira made a strong statement in their debut Cape Epic. Ilias, the 2012 marathon world champion, was taken by surprise with the dusty conditions, but still managed to race hard from the start. "Today was the real Cape Epic. It was so dusty at the start that we decided to go out with the Bulls to get ahead of the dust," said Ilias. "We worked hard and I'm happy with the result. There is no pressure on us to perform because we are new, but Tiago and I feel like there is a good pressure because we can just go out there and ride."

In the race for the Absa African special jersey, USN Purefit's Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock made a move to the front, finishing almost nine minutes ahead of next African challengers, NAD Pro MTBs Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell.

The USN Purefit team had a good day on the bike overall, finishing the stage in seventh place.

Gert Heyns of Team Spur, who started the day in the red Absa African special jersey alongside James Reid, was forced to withdraw from the race with flu.

Tomorrow, riders will set out from Saronsberg Wine Estate in Tulbagh in what will be the 100th stage of the Absa Cape Epic. The stage is 93km long.