Nino Schurter (left) and Matthias Stirnemann enter the home straight to take victory in Stage Six of the Cape Epic on Saturday. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA

ELGIN – Scott-SRAM MTB Racing’s Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann took the victory on stage six of the Cape Epic at Oak Valley near Elgin on Saturday.

The Swiss duo claimed their second stage win of the race in 4:26:38 to finish ahead of South Africa’s Max Knox and Colombia’s Hector Leonardo Paez of Kansai Plascon (4:26:54) after 103km of racing.

Third were Centurion Vaude’s Nicola Rohrbach and Daniel Geismayr, who crossed the line in 4:27:51.

Former champions, Swiss ace Christoph Sauser and Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy of Investec-Songo-Specialized, finished just off the podium after suffering a flat on the first major downhill in the stage.

Schurter said he was delighted with how the day went for them. “The plan was basically to stay with Investec-Songo-Specialized the whole day and make sure they didn’t get away from us,” he said.

“We thought they might make a move today, but after Christoph got a flat, we were able to attack and get away.

“From there we just went like it was another cross-country race. We felt really good and were able to go hard all the way to the finish.”

Sauser said he was disappointed with their situation. “I just had no energy on the bike, especially after the puncture,” he said.

“It will be hard, but I will have to get up to race again in the morning.

“Unless there is a major catastrophe, our chances of winning are over. Nino and Matthias are too strong, and I don’t think we can catch them now.”

Schurter and Stirnemann lead the general classification on a total time of 23:37:13, giving them a buffer of 6:49 over Sauser and Kulhavy.

In third overall, 14:46 off the pace, are Knox and Paez.

In the women’s race, Mariske Strauss from South Africa and Annie Last from England took their first stage win of the race in 5:16:18.

Meerendal CBC’s Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag finished second in 5:16:48, with Hollard-Velocity Sports Lab’s Carmen Buchacher and Michelle Vorster rounding out the day’s podium in 5:22:09.

Süss and Stenerhag remain at the head of affairs in the overall standings with a time of 28:05:01.

In second, 35:33 behind the leaders, are Strauss and Last, with Spur’s Ariane Luthi and Adelheid Morath third, 1:03:57 behind.

Süss said she was happy with maintaining the lead. “It is nice that we have the bigger gap, but we still have to be safe until the finish line.”

African News Agency (ANA)