Cape Town - Andreas Seewald and Martin Stošek (Canyon Northwave MTB) won Monday's 92km Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic with a controlled, well-paced ride from start to finish and claimed the leader jerseys in the process.
Riding smoothly and serenely throughout the stage at Lourensford Wine Estate, Seewald and Stošek were comfortable winners on a day when all the drama happened behind them.
Living up to their Prologue promise, Speed Company Racing's Georg Egger and Lukas Baum started brightly on the stage, as did Scott-Sram's Nino Schurter and Lars Forster.
Maxine Marotte and Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz), Hans Becking and Jose Dias (Buff-Megamo), and Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman (Wilier-Pirelli) were all riding strongly too. They slowly pulled away from the leader jersey wearers Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins (Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized).
The nature of the race changed significantly just before the stage's main climb, where Schurter suffered his second rear tyre puncture in as many days. Once again, the team was unsuccessful with their repairs and eventually swapped out the rear wheel with a backup team.
"It's hard to motivate yourself when you fall so far behind. It's very draining mentally," said Schurter, "But we did what we could and we'll ride hard on Stage 2."
Seewald and Stošek had no such issues, with Seewald, in particular, looking every inch the Mountain Bike Marathon World Champion he is. The eventual winners took the stage by the scruff of the neck going up the Saddle Climb and never relinquished their lead, finishing the stage two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Buff-Megamo.
Buff-Megamo finished second on the stage and now sit second in the general classification, just over five minutes off the leaders.
Andreas Seewald and Martin Stosek (Canyon Northwave MTB) take Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic with relative ease. A commanding ride. Stosek pumps the air in delight, as well he might. A hot stage with cool heads from the winners. #untamed pic.twitter.com/vunRTNyFZy— capeepic (@CapeEpic) March 21, 2022
In the women's category, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized’s Hayley Batten and Sofia Gómez Villafane claimed the win on the Queen Stage and moved into the overall lead, and in so doing secured the orange leader jerseys ahead of Stage 2.
Stage 1 was like a ding-dong football match and the lead change hands frequently. Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss were first to go ahead with an early attack in the first 5km, only to lose the lead to NinetyOne-songo-Specialized on the King's Climb.
Gómez Villafane and Batten then moved into the lead until the stage's main climb that was fittingly named in the end as most riders were out of the saddle near the top.
NinetyOne-songo-Specialized started to take strain here, allowing Symbtech ZA (Ariane Lüthi and Amy Wakefield) to snatch the lead.
Lüthi and Wakefield were, at one stage, three minutes off the lead on Stage 1, then managed to race into a two-minute lead over NinetyOne-songo-Specialized.
Incredibly, Gómez Villafane and Batten were able to rally once more, and eventually overtook Symbtech ZA, who were struggling with a flat tyre, racing away to claim the stage.
Symbtech ZA finished second (moving into second in the General Classification at the same time), chasing all the way, with Lill and Strauss taking third spot (and third in the GC) and extending their Absa African Women's jersey lead.
BMC MTB Racing (Robyn de Groot and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot), the Prologue winners and overnight leaders, struggled on the day, finishing fourth and relinquishing their orange jerseys to NinetyOne-songo-Specialized.