Stander and Sauser continue their Epic domination
Switzerland’s Christoph Sauser and his South African team mate Burry Stander (36ONE Songo Specialized) dominate this year’s Absa Cape Epic by securing their 5th stage win in stage 5 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in 5:19.30,7. They were followed by the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, of Trek World Racing in 5:19.41,2 with the Multivan Merida team, Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss, in third place (5;19.51,1).
Sauser and Stander now lead overall by 8 minutes and 8 seconds with an overall time of 21:03.45,6. In second position overall are Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss of Multivan Merida Biking in 21:11,54,4, followed by the Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in 21:19.04,4. In fourth place overall are the Versluys-Evenza team of Nicolas Vermeulen and Kevin van Hoovels (21:39.22,6). They have moved up from fifth place overall yesterday. Andreas Kugler and Markus Kaufmann of the Multivan Merida Biking 2 team are now in fifth position overall (21:54.36,0).
The difference in time between the leaders and last year’s winners, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm is 15 minute and 18 seconds.
Says Burry Stander of 36ONE Songo Specialized: “Today was a long stage, but for most of the way we could take it easy. The first 100km we rode in a big group into Groenlandberg with both Multivan Merida and Trek World Racing riding with us. We broke away in the last 2,5 km. Every day we get closer to the finish. We still have a long day tomorrow and the next day is the final stage. If we can finish tomorrow without any mechanicals and with our lead intact, we have a good chance of winning. But as always we’ll wait for the finish line to be sure. We’ve lost this race too many times to take it for granted.” His team mate Christoph Sauser adds: “The Milka-Trek 2 team of Pietersma and Vastaranta were in front for most of the day, but we knew we’d say hello to them again. It was just a matter of time until we caught up with them. We pretty much know tomorrow’s route and feel quite confident. Our legs are good, but something could still happen – this is the Cape Epic.”
Says Mathias Flückiger of the Trek World Racing team: “It’s nice to be on the podium today. The last 15km was a bit of a tactic race today. I felt really good today, but Lukas wasn’t feeling as strong. It was our goal to win today and we tried to follow Burry and Susi (Sauser). We were 5 seconds behind them for most of the race, but in the end they were too strong.”
Hannes Genze of Multivan Merida Biking says the Bulls team tried to get them into a defending position. “But we managed to hold onto second place and stay in front. We were more careful on the downhills than the Songo team as we didn’t want to get a flat.”
Tim Böhme of the Bulls 2 team finished in fourth place today. “Stefan was struggling today and we tried to help him. It was a tough race and Thomas and I were in good shape. We had no mechanicals, but it was still a long and tough stage. The competition is extremely tough this year and if you even lose 2% of your power, as is the case with Stefan, it’s going to be hard.”
Stefan Sahm of the Bulls team says: “My team mates were really working for me today. They put in so much effort to bring me back and keep me protected from the wind. They were just amazing – a big, big thanks to them, because without them I don’t know how I would’ve finished this stage. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me and will have blood tests back home. I’ll fight to the bitter end and give it my best. I’m definitely not in the same shape as previous years. I don’t know why and will need to finish and then see – all I do know is that man is not machine.” His team mate Karl Platt says they will continue to fight for second or third place. “This year is pretty easy for me and I’m in very good shape. I have the energy to ride with the leaders and feel that I’m getting stronger. I feel sorry for Stefan because we’re squeezing him like an orange every day. It must be very tough for him as he feels he is the weakest link. But it’s not like that – Stefan is my brother and we go through this together. We’re a team.”
Belgian champion Nicolas Vermeulen (team Versluys-Evenza) is happy with his team’s performance. “The first 90km was not so fast for us, but we tried to follow Sauser and Stander. We knew at the longest climb they would break away. We also had a flat. But we’re very happy – we moved up one place in the overall ranking to number 4.”
Jelmer Pietersma and Jukka Vastaranta of the Milka-Trek2 team broke away at the beginning of the race: Says Pietersma: “My partner was feeling better today and we decided last night that it would be a nice challenge to break away from the beginning. We had lots of wind and were ahead of the group for about 105km. They passed us in the climb. It was worth a try and fun to give it a go.” Vastaranta adds: “I’ve been having problems with my back but I feel like a new man. I only discovered on the Absa Cape Epic that the reason for my problem is that my posture created a difference of 2cm in my legs and yesterday the chiropractor of adidas fixed it. I could finally race with the top guys today. Two days ago I was riding at the back like a granny. Today we tried to break away. It was very windy and maybe nobody else wanted to do the work. On the long climb the best riders passed us and in the end we finished with the rest of the group.”
The Beast as the Absa Cape Epic is often called by the riders claimed another victim today. Konny Looser of Switzerland’s Stöckli Pro team crashed on a downhill, hurt his shoulder and what is even worse, broke his frame. The two Swiss, who were in fourth position overall, are devastated. Says Konny Looser: “We were in 4th place and on top of last climb I crashed into a ditch. My bike was broken and I couldn’t ride anymore. The last 20 km I could ride at 10km per hour, so I walked a lot as well. We wanted to make it to the finish. Tomorrow, if my shoulder and head is okay, we want to perhaps go for a podium finish again. We definitely want to finish the race.”