Stage six took riders from Oak Valley back to Oak Valley over a distance of 83km with 2 200m of climbing, but do not be fooled by the distance of this stage. It was a hard day of climbing and Nuweberg was the first big challenge with the dangling carrot of stunning vistas at the top. On the penultimate day, nearing the climax of race week, the grand old lady Groenlandberg appeared. Deep into this highly unique and remote landscape, riders would savour the solitude of the 30-kilometre of dual tracks through the pristine Cape Nature reserve as they tackled her in two parts. The first steady rise brought them to a rutted descent. From here the path contoured along the side of this beautiful mountain, then it was the final ascent towards the saddle, followed by yet another tricky, washed-out descent. Again, riders got to enjoy the twisting single track on Paul Cluver before finishing off with fast and flat single-track on Oak Valley.
Kevin Evans and David George of 360Life showed their true form by winning Stage 6 of this year’s Absa Cape Epic in a time of 3:38.05,8 (overall 29:37.36,3), 6 minutes and 44,5 seconds ahead of South African–Swiss duo, Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser of Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized (3:44.50,3; overall 29:11.39,0). Alban Lakata and Robert Mennen of Topeak Ergon Racing finished in third place in 3:47.01,6 (29:43.14,0), with Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler of Multivan Merida Biking in fourth place in 3:47.05,3 (overall 29:40.26,0). In fifth place were the Bulls 2 team of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme who finished in a time of 3:47.29,5 (overall 29:42.25,5) with the Bulls 1 team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in sixth place in 3:50.34,9 (overall 30:24.39,5).
Stander and Sauser (Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized) remain in the lead in this category by 25 minutes and 57,3 seconds. Kevin Evans and David George of 360Life have moved back onto the podium in second place overall, with Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler of Multivan Merida Biking in third place overall.
Kevin Evans and David George of 360Life retain the Absa African leader jersey four the fourth consecutive day.
Siphosenkosi Madolo and Azukile Simayile of Exxaro Academy 9 remain in the lead for the Exxaro Development jersey.
Says today’s winner Kevin Evans of 360Life: “At least today my wife’s not stressed! And she’s not here even though I asked her to come. I'm very happy. It’s really good to get a win but even better to be on the overall podium. This year was such a rollercoaster ride for us. We’ll be happy with finishing in second place and will work with that. The cheering and support are amazing. Today was very tough and hard, but we’re feeling positive and will definitely have enough in the tank to get to Lourensford Wine Estate. What we’ve been through made us very strong.” Adds team mate David George: “ “We’re ecstatic with the victory. It was so emotional - winning the stage meant so much. We came out fighting for the win - it was our intention to win this stage. But there is still one stage to go and it’ll be important to race, but at the same time ride within ourselves.”
Burry Stander of Team 36ONE-Songo-Specialized comments: “We didn't set the pace today and just followed. They wanted to prove something and it’s always hard to beat a team with a mindset like that. We just kept our own pace. We’re still feeling strong and look forward to a cracker of a last day to Lourensford. We don't know if we’ll win the stage, but we’ll definitely try. Maybe we can help Max and Kohei. It would be great to help them win a stage.” Christoph Sauser adds: “We just rode at our own pace today. We didn't need to take any chances and the most important part was to get back safely today and to finish tomorrow. I think it’s only big mechanicals that can rob us of an overall victory now. We’ll be focused to finish safely and will definitely try to help Max and Kohei to win at Lourensford Wine Estate.”
Alban Lakata of Topeak Ergon Racing says the Absa Cape Epic is a rollercoaster. “Every day I feel different. One day I feel strong and the next day I'm suffering. We’re very happy to be on the podium again and really look forward to a strong finish at Lourensford tomorrow.” His team mate Robert Mennen adds: “I’m feeling better than I expected and I’m also happy. Tomorrow is our last chance to try and get on the overall podium because that was our goal from the start.”
The Bulls 2 team of Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme dropped off the overall podium today. Says Tim Boehme: “Today was just not my day. I suffered the whole day. When 360Life attacked, we just couldn't do anything about it." Adds Thomas Dietsch: “I suffered at the start and it was only on Groenlandberg that I found my legs. It’s disappointing to have lost our spot in the GC (General Classification), but it’s just so tough this Cape Epic."
The Ladies category was again won by Sally Bigham and Esther Süss of Wheels4Life in 4:35.45,3 (35:19.59,6), securing their sixth stage win in this year’s Absa Cape Epic. They were followed by the Biogen Britehouse team of Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler in 4:43.57,9 (overall 36:07.01,0). Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nüssli of MTN Qhubeka finished in third place in a time of 4:49.50,3 (overall 36:47.14,5).
Bigham and Süss (Wheels4Life) lead the Biogen Britehouse team Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler by 47 minutes and 1,4 seconds. MTN Qhubeka’s Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nüssli remain in third place overall.
The amateur team of Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler of Biogen Britehouse has done exceptionally well at this year’s Absa Cape Epic, competing against some of the world’s most experienced professional female riders. Says Nina Gässler of Biogen Britehouse: “I can smile again today. I enjoyed the stage with its nice trails so much. We just wanted to finish on the podium in one stage – that was our dream beforehand and we’ve surpassed that. To be second behind Sally and Esther is like first place for us. They are my idols.” Adds Theresa Ralph: “We had so much fun and it was much better than yesterday. We knew parts of today’s route and that made it all the more enjoyable. We enjoyed racing today - yesterday was survival and not racing. Getting safely to the finish and enjoying the feeling is the only plan for tomorrow.”
Karien van Jaarsveld of MTN Qhubeka adds: "We just want to get safely to the finish line tomorrow. It was a hard race."
Telkom Business Master’s Category
Bart Brentjens and Jan Weevers of World Bicycle Relief secured their second stage win in 4:07.22,9 (overall 32:46.34,1). They were followed by the Jag Craft team of Adrian Enthoven and Delaney Impey in 4:42.31,2 (overall 34:04.15,1). Dennis du Toit and Noel Droomer of Samaritan’s Feet 2 secured their first podium finish today in 4:45.38,0 (overall 36:53.13,8)
Nico Pfitzenmaier and Robert Sim of Robert Daniel Momsen decided not to withdraw after Pfitzenmaier’s bad fall and injuries yesterday, but to ride at an easy pace and try to complete this year’s event.
Bart Brentjens and Jan Weevers now lead the Masters category by 1 hour, 17 minutes and 41 seconds. Adrian Enthoven and Delaney Impey of Jag Craft moved up to second place with Warren Squires and Scott Mckenzie of Complete Cyclist in third place overall.
Bart Brentjens of World Bicycle Relief says he it was great to win this stage. “But an easy stage it wasn't. Every day at the Absa Cape Epic is hard and today was no different. It was a beautiful stage though. I'm glad we kept the lead and we’re now looking forward to the finish." Adds Jan Weevers: “I now realise that I wasn't ready for the Cape Epic at all. It’s getting better though. I found my rhythm and can enjoy it. I've done lots of races in my career, but the Cape Epic has become one of my favourites."
Showing no strain after yesterday’s tough stage in which Ariane Kleinhans developed hyperthermia, the Contego 28E team of Erik and Ariane Kleinhans won the Mixed category for the sixth day in a row in 4:36.42,8 (overall 34:26.29,2). They were followed by Udo Boelts and Milena Landtwing of Centurion Vaude in a time of 4:46.13,7 (overall 36:19.49,0), followed by Klaas Vanmoortel and Inne Gantois of BAiK-Peak Performance Brugge in 4:52.04,7 (overall 37:13.58,9).
Erik and Ariane Kleinhans of Contego 28E lead Udo Boelts and Milena Landtwing of Centurion Vaude by 1 hour, 53 minutes and 19 seconds. Klaas Vanmoortel and Inne Gantois of BAiK-Peak Performance Brugge remain in third place overall.
Says Udo Boelts of Centurion Vaude: "We’re feeling good again but the Absa Cape Epic only finishes at Lourensford Wine Estate tomorrow and we’ll relax then. Today was so much better after all the mechanicals and suffering of the previous days. I must be honest, we’re very happy with our second place overall. It’s Milena’s first Absa Cape Epic and it’s very tough for her. She said that the TransAlp is kids’ stuff compared to this event. Riding in the Mixed category is totally different and harder than racing in the Masters, but all in all this was a special experience for both of us.” Adds Milena Landtwing: “Today was a good day. I'm not going to say that I'm enjoying the experience... maybe tomorrow, but this was so hard. I just want to get to the finish now.”
STAGE SEVEN – FINAL STAGE
Start and finish: Oak Valley/Elgin to Lourensford Wine Estate (64km, 1350m of climbing)
Dr. Evil has found a new way to the Champs Elysees of mountain biking, again reminding riders there’s no easy day at the Absa Cape Epic. Lourensford Wine Estate awaits the tired athletes as they make their way from Oak Valley over Twin Peaks above the Elgin Dam and down the ever-familiar portage section of Gamtouw Pass. Once again, participants follow the footsteps of the Voortrekkers, their tyres tracing the wagon-wheel grooves down to Journeys End Winery. The last water point offers a final reward, before a last test of resolve – a few steep ascents with magnificent views of False Bay and Table Mountain. Once again, Lourensford Wine Estate hosts the Grand Finale festivities as riders experience that bitter-sweet feeling at the end of the arduous, yet epic journey of the Absa Cape Epic.