Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) won the Stage 4 Time Trial of the Absa Cape Epic, their fourth stage victory in five days, while Vera Looser and Kim le Court (Efficient Infiniti Insure) won in the CM.com Women’s category.
The Stage 4 win for Beers and Blevins pushed them up to third in the Men’s general classification. They now sit five minutes behind race leaders Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing).
Of more immediate concern for Schurter and Frischknecht, though, will be the overall progress made by Lukas Baum and Georg Egger (ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company).
The defending Absa Cape Epic Champions had a superb day on the bike, finishing second on the 47km Time Trial stage. In doing so, they managed to eat away at the overall lead of Schurter and Frischknecht. With three tough stages to come, Baum and Egger are just a minute and 11 seconds off first place.
As good as Baum and Egger were, the short, punchy stage played to the strengths of Blevins and the American was in no mood to mess around. He set the pace from the word go.
“I felt amazing,” he said. “I don’t know why, but today was just one of those days when I felt great. The wind made it tricky, but I had a lot of fun out there. I hope the legs I had today stick around for the next three days because that’s where this race will be won. We’re happy with these stage wins, but we definitely want that yellow jersey.”
Beers added that Blevins was the engine and the conductor on Stage 4. “We went out really hard but I realised very quickly that I wasn’t feeling so great. Chris was amazing though. He just pushed on and got me through it. That’s where teamwork is essential at the Absa Cape Epic.”
Overall leaders in the Men’s race Schurter and Frischknecht were happy with their efforts, too. “Our goal was always to go out at a good pace and not work too hard on the stage,” said Schurter. “We are still in the lead and I think we didn’t leave as much out there today as some of the other riders. We have three days of good racing to come and we’re ready for it.”
In the CM.com Women’s category on Stage 4, Le Court and Looser were determined from start to finish.
Starting ahead of Sofia Gomez Villafane and Katerina Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) and e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo in the Time Trial format, the Mauritius-Namibia team looked comfortable throughout.
The nature of the format is such that teams on the route have no idea what their nearest rivals are up to. Le Court and Looser raced almost flawlessly on the 47km stage, despite Looser's slight stumble on loose gravel.
“That was an amazing way to celebrate Kim’s birthday,” said Looser. “It was hard out there, two hours of full gas riding, but we hung on. We were riding along and we heard we had a one-minute lead and couldn’t believe it. Kim was in front and saying ‘come Vera, come on, come on, let’s go!’ I was saying ‘wait, wait my legs are killing me’. But we pushed on and it was a great feeling to pull it off. It’s been a very special day.”
Le Court said it was a dream to win on her birthday. “We raced at another Epic Series event and we won a stage there on Vera’s birthday, so now it was my turn! It’s been long days prior to today, so we are thrilled and slightly surprised with the stage victory.”
Wakefield and Lill were last to leave the start chute and managed to overtake Villafane and Nash, who had started two minutes ahead of them. While Wakefield and Lill didn’t set the course alight, they were still able to build on their overall lead with a smooth ride.
Once again, Villafane and Nash appeared to struggle as the stage wore on. They sit second overall in the CM.com Women’s category, more than 10 minutes behind Wakefield and Lill.
Tune in to Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic live broadcast from 08:30 on Friday 24 March on the Absa Cape Epic Facebook page or the Epic Series YouTube channel.
2023 Absa Cape Epic Stage 4 Results:
1. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne - Matthew Beers, Christopher Blevins – 01:45:09.5
2. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 01:45:32.1 (+00:00:22.6)
3. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 01:47:33.5 (+00:02:23.9)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 02:09:32.1
2. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 02:12:24.7 (+00:02:52.6)
3. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 02:14:45.5 (+00:05:13.4)
2023 Absa Cape Epic General Classification After Stage 4:
1. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 15:20:31.2
2. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 15:21:42.7 (+00:01:1.5)
3. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne - Matthew Beers, Christopher Blevins – 15:25:47.5 (+00:05:16.3)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 18:58:09.3
2. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 19:08:51.6 (+00:10:42.2)
3. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 19:14:39.2 (+00:16:29.9)