Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Songo Boys make it three-in-a-row [CAPE EPIC PICS PLUS RESULTS]
Stander and Sauser win again, continue Epic Domination - by Nick van der Leek
South Africa’s MTB wonderkid, Burry Stander [36ONE Songo Specialized] didn’t mince words about Stage 2: “Today’s stage was hard. We...tried to stay in front. Towards the end there were some steep climbs...”
Stander was able to stick to the game plan, although the day was really Sauser’s, who said: “I was feeling super strong today and had a good day in the saddle.” Sauser’s strength pushed the team to their third straight win, with Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess [Multivan Merida Biking] finishing second, 47 off the pace. The Swiss outfit Trek World Racing finished third, with the Bulls fourth, losing yet another chunk [1:40] to the Songo Boys.
The hardest section was a 1.5km near vertical climb out of Tulbagh along an old wagontrail into the Witzenberg Valley. For much of the stage Stander and Sauser had the company of half a dozen other riders, who rode as a unit along the plateau through attractive orchards and otherwise sleepy farms near Ceres.
While the air was breathless and warm, the terrain was brutal. The final climb back towards Tulbagh included a section that simply went straight up the side of the mountain, with conditions under-tyre very difficult - either large loose stones or soft sand, or both.
By noon long queues had formed on the slopes, with some riders pushing two bicycles to spare their teammates, whilst others lugged their metal contraptions on their backs. In some cases tempers frayed, in others the silent treatment with clenched teeth was more effective. Overall the riders greeted these brutal conditions with chirps, jokes and plenty of self deprecating humor. “I can’t believe I actually paid to put myself through this!”
Some who climbed off their bikes, shouted: “I suppose Burry rode this part!”
One energetic rider jumped off his bike at the top of the last bone crunching climb and ran along the track to take photos of other riders backgrounded by stupendous, sweeping views.
Sauser, who is 35, said after the stage that his power training had paid dividends: “I definitely have more strength in my legs.” Many riders did not finish the stage before the final cut off at 5pm. With 18 minutes remaining 40 teams were still battling for a play at the line on tomorrow’s Stage 3, which heads to Worcester.
Worcester’s stage is even further, at 125km, but climbing is slightly more modest at 1900m. Being the 4th day in the saddle, the legs will be both fatigued and hurting, bringing on that lactic acid burn much earlier, even on gradual climbs. Songo - a sizable 6 minutes 18 ahead of the second placed Germans from Mervida - will have to make no mistakes on this stage if they aim to cement their first Epic win.
Once again the ladies team were the third South African team to finish, and in stage 2, finished faster than their compatriot RSAWEB 2 Team.
Cat Pos. 59. GC Pos. 79. RSAWEB Swiftcarbon Men 6:05.19,6 12:35.56,2 73-1 Simon Lamond 73-2 Nic Lamond [South Africa]
Cat Pos. 129. GC Pos. 208 RSWAWEB Swiftcarbon 2 Men 7:05.03 14:23.02,2 287-1 Rob Gilmour 287-2 Mark Slingsby [South Africa]
Cat Pos. 5 GC Pos. 163 RSAWEB Swiftcarbon Ladies 6:45.32,5 14:01.04,1 187-1 Catherine Townshend 187-2 Julia Skea [South Africa]