Nino Schurter (left) and Matthias Stirnemann celebrate at the finish line at Val de Vie on Sunday after winning the 2017 Cape Epic. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

PAARL – Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann claimed the men’s title in the Cape Epic after taking third on the final stage, which finished at Val de Vie on Sunday.

Scott-Sram Young Guns’ Michiel van der Heijden and Andri Frischknecht took their second stage win in 2:57:14, with Trek-Selle San Marco 2’s Damiano Ferraro and Fabian Rabensteiner in second.

Going into this race, the Scott-SRAM MTB Racing pair said that their aim was to gather experience together and go for the win in 2018.

However, the win came a year earlier for the team, who finished in an overall time of 26:35:06.

“I’m really happy. We were so lucky we got through without any mechanicals. We had the strongest back-up team, and all this together made it that we are successful. And it’s amazing to win this race,” said Schurter.

“I can’t believe I have won the Cape Epic in my first race; it’s very special,” said Stirnemann.

“But I think it will only sink in tonight or maybe tomorrow. Today, the plan was just to get to the finish. We didn’t want to do anything stupid.

“It was quite emotional for me, because anything can happen and at the beginning, we thought Christoph and Jaroslav would attack, so we just wanted to stay with him.

“But then right after the start, we noticed that Christoph wasn’t doing so well; then I started to relax and we just rode sensibly so that there were no punctures or crashes.”

Asked if they would be coming back next year, they said that it is a bit early, and having won it already, they did not know if they would defend it.

“I really like this race. It’s so cool to race in a team, and it’s a really great event,” said Schurter.

Asked what the Cape Epic stage win meant for Van der Heijden, he said it meant a lot and as a mountain biker, you need to do the race once in your life.

“It’s such a big event and such a great experience. And then to win two stages the first time we are competing, and even winning the overall (event) with the team – that’s something we didn’t dream of last week, but we made it happen this week,” said Van der Heijden.

Investec-Songo-Specialized’s Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy claimed second overall eight seconds behind, while Centurion Vaude 2’s Nicola Rohrbach and Daniel Geismayr ended 19 seconds adrift.

Pyga Euro Steel’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes took the African Jersey for the 2017 race. “We were looking for a stage win, and we made the pace hard from the beginning,” said Buys.

“We had the Scott guys with us and they had the yellow jersey, but they weren’t backing off. The last 5km we struggled a bit, but we’re super glad to take the African Jersey, and I think we got a good position overall.”

In the women’s race, Meerendal CBC’s Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag were crowned the 2017 champions and finished third on the stage with an overall time of 31:39:43.

“To win the Grand Finale was amazing. Quite excited to have won today’s stage,” said Süss.

This time last year, Stenerhag was being treated for a heart condition after having to pull out of the Cape Epic. Today, she celebrated a great win.

“I think we won by keeping everything smooth and consistent,” said Stenerhag. “We just kept calm and never thought we could win it until now when we crossed the line… and I think that we never stressed about anything. Just kept it smooth.”

The seventh stage was won by Ascendis Health’s Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz, who took the sprint just ahead of Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro’s Mariske Strauss and Annie Last – they are third and second on the overall standings respectively.

African News Agency (ANA)