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At the end, as one team and global brand reaffirmed their dominance of the Absa Cape Epic in its short and storied history, a team made up of a pair of best friends and a dad showed what was possible when the German pair of Georg Egger and Lukas Baum made history by winning the stage and the race overall on the final day at the Val di Vie Estate on Sunday.
Egger and Baum of the well-named Speed Company took the seventh stage in style, 1min 44sec ahead of two-time winner Nino Schurter and Lars Forster (Scott-Sram), but managed to obliterate the 2:45 cushion yellow jersey holders Andreas Seewald and Martin Stošek (Canyon Northwave) had held at the start of the last day.
Being the first team in the history of the race to overhaul the leaders on the day was one thing, but they did it with a support staff of just one person, Michael Baum, the father of Lukas, a former junior world champion.
“I’m so emotional right now,” said Baum. “This is just riding my bike with my best friend and it has paid off in a great way. We had no time checks out there, we had no way of knowing what was happening, we didn’t know we were in the overall lead. We knew nothing. It was actually better that way because if we knew we had the lead we probably would have made a mistake.”
The pair had said earlier in the week they were here to make things happen, and they did all week. On Sunday’s final 67km stage, they went hard from the start in Stellenbosch and by the 42km point were the virtual leaders. For a spell, Scott-Sram and the pair of Maxime Marotte and Keegan Swenson led but were dropped on the final climb.
Seewald and Stosek were second overall, with SA defending champion Matt Beers and his American partner Christopher Blevins (Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized) third.
Haley Batten of the US and Argentine Sofia Gomez Villafane (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) won the women’s race from start to finish, not six months after their stablemates, the Swiss-Austrian duo of Sina Frei and Laura Stigger dominated by winning eight stages on their debut.
Specialized athlete Annika Langvad of Denmark won five on the trot with three different teammates. While Batten and Villafane took the lead from stage one on Monday, winning by an impressive 12½ minutes, they had to share the stage win spoils.
On Sunday, SA’s Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss (Faces Rola) confirmed their second place overall with a win at Val de Vie. NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized and Faces Rola dominated the final day, with Faces Rola taking advantage of a fading Villafane on the final climb to win by 4min.
“That was a dream race today,” said Lill. “We fought really hard on that last climb to get an advantage. I could tell Sofia was struggling, although we were struggling too. Mariske and I went all in from the start today and it really paid off.”
“I started getting really emotional with 10km to go. I knew we had it but was battling the emotions. I just had to keep pedalling,” said Strauss. “This is just an un-freaking real feeling,” said Batten.
“We had a good week. We didn’t make too many mistakes and not much went wrong for us. Even on our weaker days, we were strong enough to limit any damage. It was tough out there. This event is so tough. I am so proud of our effort. The whole team was amazing. Everyone played their part to get us over the line in first place. The support at the Cape Epic has been amazing. There is nothing like it anywhere else.”
“Haley was fired up in the morning. She told me she wanted to go for the win but I said I probably wouldn’t have the legs. We kept up well with Candice and Mariske, but on that last climb I just tapped out. I didn’t have any more. But we knew the overall lead was big, so we could just roll on to the finish and enjoy the final few kilometres of what’s been a special week of mountain biking,” said Villafane.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.