Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini cross the finish line in Hermanus on Monday. Photo: EPA/Kim Ludbrook
JOHANNESBURG – Cannondale Factory Racing XC riders Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini won the 101km first stage of the Cape Epic in Hermanus on Monday after also claiming victory in the prologue stage the previous day.

Investec-Songo-Specialized's Christoph Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy took second after losing some time with 10km remaining when the latter fell after he punctured, while Centurion Vaude riders Jochen Kaess and Markus Kaufmann rounded out the podium in third.

Avancini and Fumic finished Monday's stage, which started an finished in the Western Cape town, in 4:25:35. Fumic admitted that they had been slightly fortunate.

“It was controlled riding and we tried to stay with the front guys all the time and tried to not make any mistakes and just ride smooth. In the end we managed to stay all the time in the front,” he said

"Jaroslav made a move with Sauser in the front and we pushed. There were just a few teams left – Scott, Specialized and us. We were lucky in the end that Jaroslav punctured and we just took it home and I’m super happy about the yellow again, and about the stage win. It couldn’t be better for us.”

The talking point of the stage on Monday was the heat, which reached 35 degrees celsius.

“Henrique is from brazil so he is used to that heat and I was like three times before here in South Africa, so I’m quite used to it. That’s why I said we’re well prepared and we’re looking forward now for the next stages,” Fumic added.

Avancini said that it was a hard day for him as he struggled with mechanical problems.

“I was a bit unlucky on two key moments of the race – on the long climb and the long pass. We were in a good place there in front of the bunch but I had some problems with my gears and got dropped a little bit,” said Avancini.

“I had to charge to close the gap, and then when we hit the gravel roads with 35km to go Jaroslav had a crash in front of me on a sandy section and again I had to charge quite hard. Towards the end I felt a bit empty. I mean it was just a bad day to me, but still we won.”

Esther Süss and Jennie Stenerhag of Meerendal CBC took the win in the women’s race in 5:10:04. Süss now has 11 Cape Epic stage wins to her name.

“It was a very good day. We got away already after the hotspot at 16km and after that we were riding on our own and just pacing ourselves very nicely,” said Stenerhag.

In second place was Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz of Ascendis Health with Mariska Strauss and Annie Last of Hansgrohe-Cadence OMX in third. It was a tough day for Spitz as she crashed off a bridge and will need stitches to her face.

“It was between a tech zone and the climb on the singletrack. She fell down a crevice and off a bridge type of thing. I don’t know exactly what happened. She was just lying there. She hit her head and eye quite hard. There’s a really open wound there on her eye,” said De Groot.

“We just had some bad luck and also had some mechanicals earlier on and got left behind the girls and had to close gaps. It was a matter of just trying to save as much energy as possible but also limit our losses.

“We had to ride cautiously as I was a bit scared there that she had a concussion, so it was also to monitor her – especially with the heat. Second place is fine, ten minutes behind is manageable and if we keep our heads and stay cool, anything is possible.”

Stage two of the Cape Epic starts at Hermanus High School and finishes at Elandskloof in Greyton. The stage is a 102km long with 2 350m of climbing.