After a convincing prologue win, the team in yellow, Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser put in another determined effort. Stage 1 took the riders 89km along the bowl of mountains surrounding Tulbagh. Although the skies were clear and windless once again, the route was a monster, with some unusual signs en route warning the riders of dangerous drops [a rarity on the Epic].
The day promised a few casualties, but the fabric of the race was ripped by the shocking early departure of Kevin Evans, 360Life. The freak mishap occurred around 9am when 5 teams tussled up front on a section of road closed to traffic. On the descent Evan’s brakes failed, causing him to crash, smashing his left collarbones and damaging a steel plate and new bone growth from the last incident. Evans wrote on twitter later: ‘My collarbone is broken but my heart is shattered.’
The setback is even more disappointing given Evans’ and David George’s excellent condition going into this event. Christoph Sauser, Burry Stander’s teammate also experienced a fall on a descent early on. Despite losing momentum with the an ongoing mechanical issue, the two worked hard to get back into the race.
At around 10:49am Bulls 2 were ahead of favourites Platt and Sahm, another Bulls outfit, and some pundits were wondering why the teams weren’t helping each other. Meanwhile Stander and Sauser cruised to the finish 5 minutes before 11am in a time of 3:52. The Swiss pair from Stöckli pro, Urs Huber and Konny Looser finished a surprising second, 1:02 off the pace, with both Bulls teams third and fourth. The Bulls 2 were 1:10 behind the Swiss but Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm conceded 1:50 to Stander/Sauser. Sunday’s runner ups in the prologue, from Germany’s Mulitvan Merida Biking, finished 5th on the stage.with the same time as Platt/Sahm.
Stander said at the finish: “You’ve got to be prepared to suffer; you have to work hard in this race because anything can happen the next day.”
Andrew Mclean’s wife Ali has tweeted what perhaps many South African supporters are daring to hope: ‘Yellow Jerseys! I have a feeling these will remain on their backs to Lourensford.’ In this race, anything can happen.
While the legs will be buzzing after over Monday’s 2km of vertical climbing, Tuesday’s stage is longer [104km] and climbs higher [2300m]. Approaching the 18km mark tomorrow, plenty of walking is expected. It is an out and back route starting and finishing once again at the Saronsberg Wine Estate near Tulbagh.
Postscript: The RSAWEB ladies team were the third South African women’s team to finish the stage.
RSAWEB Results: Stage 1