Friday 22 october 2021 – Hans Becking (Holland) and José Dias (Portugal) of Buff Scott MTB claimed another stage victory at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic, following up their Stage 4 triumph with an equally impressive display to claim the 84km Stage 5 in Wellington.
Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn (BULLS 2) finished second, with yellow-jersey-clad Matt Beers and Jordan Sarrou (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) taking third on the day.
“That was rough,” said Becking. “The pace was really fast from the start. We just wanted to stay in the lead group at that stage, which we managed to do. We both felt good all day, so on the final climb, we said ‘let’s go’ and we went. It’s a great feeling when your legs do what you want them to. I’m also so proud of José, he is riding so well this week.”
A beaming José Dias put the performance down to the Buff Scott MTB partnership. “We have such a good connection on this race,” said Dias. “We just look at each other and we know what to do. We still had good legs after yesterday, but we were pushing the limit all the way today. It’s an amazing feeling to win a second stage.”
There was a threat of heavy rain during Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic, and the men started their race like none of them wanted to get caught in the downpour. The rain never truly materialised, but that didn’t translate into a let-up of the pace; it was fierce from the first second.
First, Urs Huber (BULLS) pulled to the front, then Lachlan Morton (EF Education-Nippo) found himself leading the bunch. BULLS 2 were the next to attack, followed by a surge from Trek-Pirelli (Samuele Porro and Fabian Rabensteiner).
Eventually, around the 30km point, the lead pack emerged from the melee - BULLS 2, Buff Scott MTB, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, and Trek-Pirelli all riding off to form their own race within a race. Buff Scott MTB 2 were also riding well, but a heavy crash saw them lose time and ultimately drop back.
For the next 40km, the lead changed hands between the four teams, all riders looking comfortable on the climbs, descents, and singletrack. Like Stage 4, Buff Scott MTB then made their break on the final climb up Aap d’Huez. None of the other teams could respond, with Matt Beers struggling ever so slightly to keep pace with partner Jordan Sarrou. Buff Scott MTB raced ahead, effortlessly riding down Fully Monty, the Land Rover Technical Terrain. Not wanting to jeopardise their overall lead, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized approached the descent in a calm and businesslike manner.
The final 10km was a flat, fast sprint through the vineyards, with Buff Scott MTB having plenty of energy to extend their lead to around a minute-and-a-half. They duly crossed the line for an exceptional Stage 5 win. Bulls 2 rolled in for second place, Beers and Sarrou right with them for third.
Matt Beers and Jordan Sarrou (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) remain the overall leaders in the yellow leader jerseys, with a 00:06:39 lead over BULLS 2.
Buff Scott was just in a league of their own today,” said Beers. “We just tried to conserve energy today for another big ride on Saturday. BULLS 2 are the closest to us on the overall standings, so I think the next few days will be cautious, and we will look to mark them to make sure they don’t get away.”
Stage 5 Results
1) Buff Scott Mtb, Hans Becking, José DIAS 03:56:04.0
2) Bulls 2, Martin Frey, Simon Stiebjahn 03:57:36.9 | +00:01:32.9
3) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan Sarrou, Matthew Beers 03:57:39.0 | +00:01:34.9
General classification after Stage 5
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan Sarrou, Matthew Beers 19:00:39.0
2) Bulls 2, Martin Frey, Simon Stiebjahn 19:07:19.0 | +00:06:39.9
3) Trek-Pirelli, Samuele Porro, Fabian Rabensteiner 19:11:33.4 | +00:10:54
GIRLS - Laura Stigger and Sina Frei (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) continued their incredible run of form at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic in Wellington today, winning their sixth stage (one Prologue and five stages).
Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss (Faces CST) enjoyed a brilliant ride, too, finishing strongly in second place on the day. Salusmed (Robyn de Groot and Ariane Lüthi) claimed third, with De Groot appearing to struggle on the day.
For Stigger and Frei, who now enjoy a 29-minute lead over their nearest rivals in the overall standings, it was a chance to ride freely and express themselves on the trails.
The top three women’s teams stayed together for half of the stage, with NinetyOne-songo-Specialized and Faces CST eventually pulling away from Salusmed around the 45km mark.
Lill and Strauss, also enjoying themselves on the Wellington trails, rode well throughout the day, but the mountain biking prowess of Frei and Stigger came to the fore with roughly 20km to go. The overall leaders pulled away from the Faces CST team and were able to ride home unflustered. With 10km to go, they put in some extra effort to further extend their overall lead.
Light rain throughout the morning had made the trails slightly muddy, but that was of little concern to the winners-in-waiting. “We race so much in the mud in Europe,” said Frei. “This was a bit muddy but it’s not like we have seen overseas this season. Tomorrow could be worse, but today was super fun. We really enjoyed the ride and all the trails today - the downhills were excellent and really enjoyable.”
With a wide grin, Stigger summed up the day’s racing perfectly. “We just had fun.”
For Lill and Strauss, Stage 5 was a good day for cementing team bonds, with both riders enjoying a hassle-free stage for the first time in this year’s Absa Cape Epic.
“It’s very special racing with Mariske, particularly at the Absa Cape Epic. We have been competing against each other for so long and have always been hesitant to team up, but our teamwork together this week has just shown what we can achieve, and shows the power of when women unit together, and what can come from that."
Strauss was also full of praise and enthusiasm for her race partner. “It’s very special to be racing in the Absa African Women’s jersey, and especially to be able to do it with someone like Candice. It’s been wonderful to share this week with her, and I hope that our ride can help inspire the next generation of female South African mountain bikers.”
Stage 5 Results:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina FREI, Laura STIGGER 04:51:16.7
2) Faces CST, Candice LILL, Mariske STRAUSS 04:52:59.8 | +00:01:43.1
3) Salusmed, Ariane LÜTHI, Robyn DE GROOT 05:02:44.1 | +00:11:27.4
General classification after Stage 5:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina FREI, Laura STIGGER 23:03:48.9
2) Salusmed, Ariane LÜTHI, Robyn DE GROOT 23:32:40.3 | +00:28:51.4
3) Faces CST, Candice LILL, Mariske STRAUSS 24:34:00.9 | +00:30:12.0