Hermida and Näf win their first stage, Stander and Sauser lead by more than 10 minutes
The Spanish/Swiss team of José Hermida and Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida Biking 3) finally secured their first stage win in this year’s Absa Cape Epic. Hermida boasts a number of titles including the Elite World Champion (2010), fourth place at the Sydney Olympic Games, six World Cup round victories, runner-up in the European Championships and five times Spanish National Champion. Näf was the European Champion in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010, World Marathon Champion in 2006, and second in the World Championships in 2007. They finished today’s stage of 128km in a time of 5:00.47,0. They were followed by the 36ONE Songo Specialized team of Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser in 5:01.38,7, with the Flückiger brothers, Lukas and Mathias, in third place in 5:04.06,0.
Sauser and Stander (overall 26:05.24,3) continue their winning streak and now lead the second team of Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss (Multivan Merida Biking) by 10 minutes and 51 seconds. Genze and Käss maintain their second place overall in 26:16.15,7. In third place overall are the Bulls, Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm, in 26:23.37,4. They finished in 6th place today and are 18 minutes and 13 seconds behind the leaders and 7 minutes and 22 seconds behind Multivan Merida Biking.
Says José Hermida: “It was our goal to win a stage, so we’re very happy. We worked for our team mates Hannes and Jochen for most of the stage and near the end they saw we could have a chance of winning and gave us the green light to go. We pushed to the end and Susi (Christoph Sauser) and Burry (Stander) seemed to accept the situation and let us go. It was a difficult stage with the most climbing of all the stages. The terrain varied a lot from rocky to sandy and some really nice single track, which was good. It was great fun.” Hermida, who gives the amateur riders a witty summary of the day’s events in the evenings, comments jokingly: “Today I was in the front and finally saw the top riders, so I can tell everyone about it.” Adds Ralph Näf: “It was a great day for us and we’re really happy. For most of this year’s Absa Cape Epic we’ve been helping our team mates to maintain their overall position. They were also strong today. We’re not here for the overall win but rather as final training for the season, so the stage win really means a lot. Of course we’ll try again tomorrow!”
Says Burry Stander of 36ONE Songo Specialized: “Today’s stage was hard, especially after yesterday. Hermida and Näf broke away and our motivation was not so high to catch them. They’re not a threat to us as they’re not close to us on the overall. We’re happy for them. We’ll take some extra parts tomorrow and ride hard to the climbing section. We’ll be more cautious on the descent as we want to get to Lourensford and ensure that we win.” His team mate Christoph Sauser adds: “It was an advantage for me because I know this area quite well. I knew we had to get to the single track first as it’s so tight there, but I didn’t know how all the trails were connected. It was very long towards to the end with lots of twists and turns in typical Dr Evil (route planner Leon Evans’ nickname) style. We’ll keep on riding like this tomorrow. I know the first climb is super hard, but once we get over the pass it’s okay. I hope we can hang on to our lead without killing ourselves. It’s better to ride safe than over the limit and make mistakes. This has been one of my best weeks ever in racing. I feel comfortable and still have some reserve. It feels like 2006 when I won the race and I’m sure next year will be really hard again.”
Karl Platt of the Bulls team also says it was a tough day. “We tried to stay with the front group and fell off, came back, fell off, came back. It was hard for me to find a nice rhythm for Stefan, but we survived. Hopefully we can maintain our third position on the GC (General Classification). I think we’re pretty safe.”
Says Mathias Flückiger of the Trek World Racing team: “Today’s stage was a killer and perhaps the hardest stage of the race for Lukas. The second stage was the hardest one for me. I’m always stronger near the end of the race. I like the uphills. Near the finish I became quite tired. José (Hermida) and Ralph (Näf) attacked and Sauser and Stander followed. I tried but Lukas was riding in the back of the group so we couldn’t follow. We’re very happy with our podium finish.”
Hannes Genze of Multivan Merida Biking comments: “Our team tactic came together this year. We planned to go fast from the start and force the others to spend some energy. But unlucky for us they didn’t and we ended up suffering the most. This has been my worst day in this year’s Absa Cape Epic. We maintained our overall position, and I’m very happy about that.”
For Nicolas Vermeulen (team Versluys-Evenza) this was his worse day physically. “I suffered the whole day and tried to stay in the top 10, but I’m happy we’re still in fourth position overall (26:46.14,8.)”