Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins (Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized) won Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic with an unintentionally brilliant tactical finish to the 82km stage.
With 5km to go Beers raced away from his partner Blevins, Speed Company Racing's Lukas Baum and Georg Egger, and Canyon Northwave MTB's Martin Stošek. Canyon Northwave MTB's Andreas Seewald went with Beers and the two rode alone towards the finish. With the finish line in view, Beers slowed to a crawl as he looked back for his partner. Blevins was stuck behind Speed Company Racing, but timed his attack perfectly on the grass and pulled away dramatically with a kilometre to go. He dropped Baum and Egger, with Canyon Northwave MTB's Martin Stošek also unable to match his power.
Beers crossed the line at a dawdle ahead of Seewald, but Blevins came racing around the final corner to make sure Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized was the first team home. "That was perfectly executed," said Blevins. "I wish we could say we planned that but Matt just rode off with Andreas. I was licking my lips though because I knew a sprint was coming and that's my strength. I timed it well and got away from the guys. I really enjoyed that!"
Beers added that he was slightly worried about the time gap, but had faith in the sprint skills of Blevins. "I was suffering a bit at the start of the stage but Chris then put in a monster effort on the top of the climb and we were able to catch the leaders. From there we knew it was three teams in it to the finish. We just waited and made our move when the time was right."
Andreas Seewald, still in the yellow leader jerseys with partner Stošek for Stage 5, said that he and Beers did have a discussion on the rules as they both raced to the finish. "Matt and I spoke, and we couldn't remember if we were allowed a one-minute or two-minute gap from our partners. I was sure it was two minutes so then I was happy to go; Matt and I knew it would be the guys behind who decided the stage. It was a funny and scary finish at the same time!"
From the start of Stage 4, it was tight, tense, and tactical. Speed Company Racing blazed a trail from the off, but around 50km into the day, they were joined by Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized; soon after, yellow jersey leaders Canyon Northwave MTB joined the front of the race.
The three teams matched each other pedal stroke for pedal stroke until the final 5km where Beers and Seewald raced away. It was a unique end to a stage at an Absa Cape Epic that continues to provide thrilling mountain bike action.
In the general classification, Canyon Northwave MTB still leads, with Speed Company Racing in second. Speed Company Racing's Georg Egger said they attempted to pull away again, as they did on Stage 3, but just couldn't get away on the day. "We wanted to lead from the front again, but Lukas had a little crash and that gave the rest a chance. Once the others went in front we just rode together.”
Canyon Northwave MTB's Martin Stošek said another day in yellow is what matters most. "We didn't lose any time today. We had no major issues and the ride went smoothly. We start another stage in yellow and that's a great feeling."
Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic takes the race from Elandskloof in Greyton to Stellenbosch. The route is 115km long and features the infamous Rusty Gate climb straight from the start and then the scenic yet demanding Franschhoek Pass halfway through the day. As riders love to say of the Absa Cape Epic, anything can happen.
Tune in to the Live Broadcast of Stage 5 from 08:30 on cape-epic.com.