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Cape Town – The Multivan Merida team of Jose Hermida and Rudi van Houts won the first stage of the Absa Cape Epic on Monday, withstanding a concerted attack by the two Bulls teams over the final 20 kilometres in Citrusdal.
They used their experience of previous Epics to stay with the leading riders from the start of the 96km stage, and then put the hammer down just after the second water point at 52km to stretch out a lead of one minute, 20 seconds and take over the yellow jersey.
The Bulls teams of Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls 1) and Thomas Dietsch and Tim Boehme (Bulls 2) had set the pace from the start and led through the first half.
Defending champion Christoph Sauser and his partner, Olympic cross country champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, who won Sunday's prologue, struggled in the early stages and at one point were nearly five minutes down on the leaders.
But as the terrain levelled out in the final stages, they raised the tempo and started closing the gap, eventually finishing fourth, nearly three minutes off the pace.
Tuesday's 143km second stage starts in Citrusdal and ends in Tulbach. – Sapa