The defending Champions of the Absa Cape Epic, Georg Egger and Lukas Baum (ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company), raced to victory on Stage 5 at Lourensford Wine Estate, moving into the yellow leader jerseys at the same time on Friday, 24 March.
ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company go into Stage 6 with a minute-and-a-half lead over Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) in the Men’s race at the 2023 Absa Cape Epic.
In the CM.com Women’s category, Vera Looser and Kim le Court (Efficient Infiniti Insure) claimed back-to-back stage victories, winning Stage 5 two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo). Le Court and Looser also jumped into second place overall in the CM.com women’s race.
Wakefield and Lill remain in the orange leader jerseys after Stage 5. They hold a lead of 14 minutes over Looser and Le Court. Sofia Gomez Villafane and Katerina Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) dropped to third overall and are almost 30 minutes off the lead.
The 2023 Absa Cape Epic field went to bed after Stage 4 in stormy weather and woke to grey skies, heavy rain and the prospect of a long, wet day in the saddle. In the Men’s race, the riders battled intense downpours and a drenched course for the first 30km. It wasn’t enough to douse the fire of Egger and Baum, though.
The German duo, who won the 2022 Absa Cape Epic on the final day of the event and so only wore the yellow Ciovita leader jerseys at prize giving, have been determined all week to race in yellow. Their decisive move to claim the overall lead came on Stage 5. Sensing weakness in the field, they attacked on the Tierkop climb and never looked back.
By 41km, they’d raced over Groelandberg and held a commanding 50-second lead over the chasers. As the race progressed, the lead continued to grow with neither SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing nor Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins) able to respond.
The surprise package of the day, Singer Racing (Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn), was happy to sit in the chasing pack. Frey and Stiebjahn ultimately finished second on Stage 5 but didn’t get involved in the general classification bunfight.
Egger and Baum’s only misstep on the stage came when Baum hit a large puddle at full speed and disappeared underwater. Other than the unexpected swim, their race tactics and execution were spot-on throughout.
“We felt really good from the start,” said Baum. “I wanted to control the pace up Tierkop, which we were able to do, and then at the highest point we were able to create a gap between us and the rest.”
Baum added that the conditions in the first half of the stage made the racing treacherous. “That must be one of the most brutal days I’ve had on the bike. I was suffering out there in the conditions. The ground was loose and with every climb we were riding through these little rivers. When I hit that puddle and went for a swim, I thought I was in the ocean. It was super deep.”
Now in yellow for the first time when racing at the Absa Cape Epic, Egger said the plan is for cool heads over the next two days. “It’s great to wear the yellow jersey. There are two tough days to come and we just need to stay calm and ride well this weekend.”
In the CM.com Women’s category, Vera Looser and Kim le Court must have been reading from the same playbook as Baum and Egger. The Stage 4 winners also made their move on a climb, attacking on the Groenlandberg climb and cruising past Wakefield and Lill in the process.
Earlier on the stage, Looser was accidentally knocked over by another rider and fell into a puddle, the collision damaging a shoe. It was duct tape to the rescue again at the 2023 Absa Cape Epic, though this instance was slightly less dramatic than Wakefield’s tape moment. Looser was able to race back quickly to her partner Le Court and from there they rode steadily to the front.
“We thought this morning that today could be another good day for us,” said Le Court. “But then we had a really bad start and we were actually last going up the Tierkop climb. At that point we decided to do our own race and not worry about anything - then we just started catching everyone.”
Looser said she was cramping at the start but eventually recovered. “I was really struggling with my leg. I just tried to stay calm and collected because I knew that would count in our favour towards the end. We got really strong as the ride went on and now I think we can target that orange jersey with two days to go!”
For the CM.com Women’s category leaders, it was another tough day for Wakefield. “I can’t lie,” she said, “I am counting down the days until the finish! That was another dark day for me. There are two days to go and I am hanging in. I need to thank my partner again for helping me so much today. Vera and Kim rode really well. I think tomorrow they will attack again and it will cause some exciting racing.”
Tune in to Stage 6 of the Absa Cape Epic live broadcast from 08:30 on Saturday 25 March on the Absa Cape Epic Facebook page or the Epic Series YouTube channel.
2023 Absa Cape Epic Stage 5 Results:
1. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 04:13:46.5
2. Singer Racing: Simon Stiebjahn, Martin Frey – 04:16:18.8 (+00:02:32.2)
3. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 04:16:27.3 (+00:02:40.7)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 05:23:46.5
2. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 05:26:23 (+00:02:36.5)
3. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 05:42:47.2 (+00:19:00.7)
2023 Absa Cape Epic General Classification After Stage 5:
1. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum– 19:35:29.3
2. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 19:36:58.6 (+00:01:29.2)
3. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne - Matthew Beers, Christopher Blevins – 19:42:38.3 (+00:07:08.9)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 24:24:32.4
2. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 24:38:25.8 (+00:13:53.3)
3. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 24:52:48 (+00:28:15.5)