Pushing for victory: Annika Langvad, right, and Kate Courtney head for the finish line of the prologue of the women’s section of the Cape Epic at the University of Cape Town on Sunday, taking a one-minute lead over their closest rivals. Picture: EWALD SADIE/CAPE EPIC/SPORTZPICS
Pushing for victory: Annika Langvad, right, and Kate Courtney head for the finish line of the prologue of the women’s section of the Cape Epic at the University of Cape Town on Sunday, taking a one-minute lead over their closest rivals. Picture: EWALD SADIE/CAPE EPIC/SPORTZPICS

Seven days hence, on the finishing line of Val de Vie in the Paarl-Franschhoek valley, we will learn just how much of a marker was set down by the two leading teams on the slopes of Table Mountain in Sunday’s prologue of the Absa Cape Epic.

While Annika Langvad and her Investec-Songo-Specialized team-mate Kate Courtney were all calm smiles and confidence after their near-perfect win to take a one-minute lead, there were tears and howls of joy from the Swiss-Austrian pair of Nicola Rohrbach and Daniel Geismayr (Centurion Vaude), who will wear the yellow jersey as the leading men.

For Rohrbach, who has finished second and third in his two Epics, the emotion became too much when they were announced winners by 18sec.

"It’s good to be in the top five at the start position after the prologue of the Cape Epic. We have worked super-hard for the last three to four months.

"We have been in SA training really hard since February just for this week. We won the prologue today, so it’s really emotional," said Rohrbach as he fought off the tears.

"It’s a super-great feeling. We felt a few days before the race that we have really good legs, and that maybe we can go for the podium," said Geismayr.

They will be pushed hard by German Manuel Fumic and Brazil’s Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing), who were in second, with Spaniard Francesc Carretero and Portugal’s Luis Pinto (Buff Scott) in third, 49.6 down.

There was surprise that defending Epic champions Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann could only manage fourth, but Avancini said the Swiss five-time cross country world champion had not looked in strong form recently.

"To be honest, he didn’t look sharp in the World Cup [in Stellenbosch last weekend], which is his game," said Avancini.

The Danish-American partnership of Langvad and Courtney will be hard to beat on the form they showed on Table Mountain. They put a minute and 12sec into second-placed Swiss Ariane Luthi and Belgian Githa Michiels (Team Spur), with the first South African, Robyn de Groot, third with German teammate Sabine Spitz, 2:14 off the pace. There was a feeling that Langvad and Courtney had more in their tank.

"We had a really good strategy and it played out to perfection today," said Langvad. "Kate and I have not ridden as a team but I was really surprised at how well it worked. I think we had it dialled in from the first pedal stroke. It felt really good.

"The course was a bit drier and loose from all the riders who had gone through, but I knew it was going to be that way. I was very cautious on the loose areas and then tried to push hard on the other areas."

"Annika is such a team player and she made sure we played to both our strengths. Rather than put me in the hurt locker on the first day, she really pushed my pace and brought out the best of both of us," said Courtney.

"I think it is a really, really long race so our goal today was to dial in our team tactics and put in an effort that was strong but also within ourselves, and so to set ourselves up to race strong throughout.

"It is all new for me, so that makes it exciting, and I think gives me some advantages in terms of ignorance is bliss — I don’t know exactly how hard it is going to be and so I am relying on Annika to be our guide and push as hard as possible."

Luthi, a three-time winner of the women’s category with Langvad, said she was happy with second place.

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