Dust and dreams
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and Natasha Prince
YESTERDAY’S prologue of the ninth Absa Cape Epic gave the 1 200 riders a taste of what to expect on the gruelling eight-day challenge.
Today’s Stage One was expected to be a “rude awakening”, according to race organisers, with a 115km duel against nature’s treacherous rocky trails on the mountains that loom above the Klein Karoo town of Robertson and the surrounding Nama Karoo.
They will attempt to ride up 2 350m of hills, tackling ascents such as “Hangman’s Tree” and “Tortoise Peak”. And this in predicted 36°C heat.
Last night Robertson was under siege by an army on 1 200 bicycles.
The Absa Cape Epic of 2012 has gripped this wine and fruit capital on the R62 near the Breede River, as the invaders set up a hi-tech camp at the local school.
For the next three days this quiet corner of the Cape will be shown on sports channels around the world, tracing every pedal of these off-road cycling champions.
Kati Czak, who commands a staff team of about 800, said the squads of paramedics, caterers, radio experts – the list is near endless – all knew their drills after eight Epics.
“So we just let it roll!” she said.
Yesterday SA/Swiss duo Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser came out top for a second consecutive year in the men’s category for the prologue.
The pair, who ride as team 36ONE Songo Specialised, finished the 27km prologue in 1:12:52.
Not far behind were SA teammates Kevin Evans and David George of 360LIFE, with Alban Lakata and Robert Mennen of Topeak Ergon Racing in third place. In fourth place were Max Knox and Kohei Yamamoto of Songo Specialised.
Stander said they had had a good start despite a crash on the bend.
“Soon after Christoph almost crashed, we decided to back off a bit. We found our rhythm soon thereafter and Christoph was very strong today… It was a fast course and you had to keep up your speed through the turns. The dust made it a bit difficult. Luckily I didn’t hurt myself or damage the bike, so all in all it was a good day.”
Sauser added: “Tomorrow the real mountain bike racing starts and we need to conserve energy – it’s still a long way to Lourensford Wine Estate.”
In the ladies category, Esther Süss and Sally Bigham from Wheels4Life took top spot in 1:29:27.3.
Close behind were Theresa Ralph and Nina Gässler of team Biogen Britehouse, followed by German team Ivonne Kraft and Elisabeth Brandau from team notebooksbilliger.de.
SA/Scottish duo Karien van Jaarsveld and Jane Nüssli of MTN Qhubeka came in fourth.
Bigham said the day had been “brilliant”. “I felt really good and strong. It was a good pace for me and we worked really well together as a team – I think we’re going to have a good week… although I’ve lost my voice yelling ‘Excuse me!’ to all the riders ahead of us.”