Christoph Sauser and Frantisek Rabon compete during the prologue stage of the 2014 Cape Epic mountain bike race at Meerendal wine farm on Sunday. Photo: Rodger Bosch

Cape Town – Christoph Sauser and Frantisek Rabon (Meerendal Songo Specialized) won a sprint finish on Wednesday to take stage three of the Absa Cape Epic as the yellow leaders’ jersey changed hands for the fourth time in four days.

On Thursday, German youngster Robert Mennen and his Czech teammate Kristian Hynek (Topeak-Ergon) will start in yellow with a nine-and-a-half minute lead over Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls).

Four-time winner Platt, from Germany, started on Wednesday in the yellow outfit but suffered from a painful knee – the consequence of a crash on Tuesday’s stage two – and he and his Swiss teammate Urs Huber could eventually not resist repeated attacks from the other leading teams on the 134km stage. They finished nearly 11 minutes back in sixth but are still second overall.

Swiss Sauser, also a four-time winner, and Czech Rabon are third overall after winning the stage in 4:53:36.4. Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess (Centurion-Vaude) finished a split- second behind Sauser and Rabon, but their disastrous stage two – when Kaufmann broke the frame of his bike while they were wearing yellow – meant the Germans were out of contention for the overall win.

Mennen and Hynek finished third in the sprint and their steady performances over four days – including a prologue – in which other top teams have all either battled with mechanical problems, illness or crashes have given them what might be a telling lead.

The team in yellow after the prologue on Sunday, Spaniard Jose Hermida and Dutchman Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida), lost the jersey when the former suffered an allergic reaction to something in his breakfast before Monday’s stage one.

Stage three signalled the end to the hopes of two other top teams. German Hannes Genze – riding with Swiss Konny Looser (Meerendal Centurion Wheeler) Ä broke and badly gashed his forearm in a heavy crash midway through the stage and could not continue.

South African Waylon Woolcock did not get to the start after succumbing to illness overnight, leaving partner Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend) to continue on his own but officially out of the race.

Women’s favourites Swiss Ariane Kleinhans and Dane Annike Langvad (RECM 2) won the category by two-and-a-half minutes in 5:34:06.7, but will be disappointed in their performance. They were hoping to make up more time on the overall leaders but ended up riding much of the way on their own in blustery conditions.

They are now 11 minutes behind leaders Esther Suss, also Swiss, and England’s Sally Bigham (Meerendal) in the race for overall honours after a puncture-plagued stage one.

South Africa’s Theresa Ralph and her Swedish teammate Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Company) remain third but are now 51 minutes behind the leaders. – Sapa