Stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic from Tulbagh to Wellington. Picture: SHAUN ROY/CAPE EPIC/SPORTZPICS
Stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic from Tulbagh to Wellington. Picture: SHAUN ROY/CAPE EPIC/SPORTZPICS

Battle lines were drawn after the first stage of the Absa Cape Epic in Hermanus on Monday . It was a day when the front runners bristled with each other, some crashed and others put on a show of utter dominance.

After 111km and 2,700m of climbing, Annika Langvad and Anna van der Breggen, and Nino Schurter and Lars Forster won the stage in the women’s and men’s category, and extended the lead they had grabbed after the prologue on the slopes of Table Mountain on Sunday.

Schurter, riding with Swiss compatriot Forster (Scott-Sram), shrugged off accusations of trash talk from the second-placed Henrique Avancini and Manuel Fumic, the Brazilian-German pair riding for Team Cannondale. They had ridden off the challenge of the Cannondale pair to extend their overall lead to three minutes and 33 seconds, but there were words exchanged that suggest this race has some distance left to run.

“They [Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing] were very strong today,” said Avancini. “Lars is a world class rider and Nino is perhaps the best . But, it would be nice to have some microphones on the bikes so that people could hear the real Nino. He’s always having a go at everyone. It’s fine, I will show him little by little. In this type of race, I am really confident. I trust my legs, my body, my partner and my team. It’s a long week and I hope we’re going to have a nice fight in the next few days.”

Schurter had little time for Avancini’s comments: “I’m very happy with the win. It was a good day out. I hurt a bit towards the end, but now we have time to recover for tomorrow. The guys didn’t really want to work so we attacked them. That’s how it works.”

Germany’s Karl Platt, a five-time winner of the Epic, took third overall with Austrian Team Bulls partner Alban Lakata, a result that came as a pleasant surprise and may have been the most popular of the day.

“The last two years went really badly and that was difficult for motivation” said Platt. “To finish on the podium is just such a joy and big relief for myself.”

One of the favourites to take the men’s overall title, Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy and Kiwi Sam Gaze of Investec-songo-Specialised, had to limit their losses after Gaze crashed hard. They have moved up to third overall.

SA’s Under-23 world champion, Alan Hatherly, and Matt Beers (SpecialisedFoundationNAD) held on to the Absa African Jersey for the best African team.

Langvad and Van der Breggen were so dominant in the women’s race on stage one — they now have a 5:42:00 lead over the Swiss-Polish pair of Ariane Lüthi and Maja Wloszczowska (Kross-Spur Racing) — that their chasers had all but admitted defeat.

“We did not even try and stay with [Langvad and Van der Breggen],” said Wloszczowska. “If we had tried to go with them at the beginning we would have killed ourselves.”

The German-SA team of Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath (Summit-Fin) took third place after pushing hard all day on the stage. Tuesday’s second stage from Hermanus to Oak Valley is a short, but a sharp 86km with 2,250m of climbing.