The Bulls Team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm walked away with top honours as overall winners of this year's Cape Epic in South Africa this weekend. They crossed the line of the final stage together with the Songo.info team's Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander.
The Bulls finished the eight-day, 685km race in an overall time of 28 hours, 10 minutes and 14 seconds. Bart Brentjens and Chris Jongewaard (Trek Brentjens) finished second overall in 28:15:08 – only four minutes and 54 seconds behind the leaders. Emil Lindgren and Andreas Kugler (Felt Factory 2) were third.
"Crossing the final finish line took a load off my mind," said Sahm. "All the problems we had this year with Karl dislocating his shoulder twice, then riding in fear that it could happen again, and those small mechanical problems we had to face, all took its toll up to now. After all these obstacles, the joy is even greater. You can't compare winning the Cape Epic to anything else. It's outstanding and for us the biggest and most important victory of all. It means the world to us."
Sauser and Stander won five of the seven stages and the prologue, and they were the favorites for the overall until they were penalized for accepting outside mechanical assistance after Stander destroyed his front wheel beyond repair in a crash during stage four.
Team Bulls also won the Cape Epic in 2007, and its Karl Platt won in the inaugural year (2004) with Mannie Heymans, and in fact, Platt is the most successful participant in the history of the race having won three times. Stefan Sahm, Roel Paulissen (who did not participate this year), Nico Pfitzenmaier, Doug Brown, Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws have all won the race twice. Kevin Evans won the title Best African Team three years in a row.
Sahm had an explanation for his team's strength. "I'd say our friendship - that always comes first. We look after each other, respect each other, and would never do anything that could harm one another. And of course our experience plays a big part too. We don't need to communicate through talking, and know what to do by heart. It's almost like an atomized process because we know each other inside out."
"When we were crossing the finish line all together my thoughts were bouncing," said Platt. "We had so many highs and lows and sometimes made up time only to lose it again. Mentally and physically it was a very tough race and now in the end I'm unbelievably happy. After the prologue, I really didn't expect to win."
"Stefan said to me that I'm crazy to ride with my shoulder and that he could never do it. Hearing that from him was a huge compliment and motivated me to carry on. My answer was that we're here at a good race and we spent a lot of money to get here, so I can suffer. Perhaps we're not the strongest team, but probably the smartest."
"We didn't show our real strength every day and sometimes held back to recover for the next stage. We know how long this race is and also how important it is to conserve some energy for the end. This was my 17th stage race, so by now I have a lot of experience."
The Absa Ladies team of Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws won the women's overall race after they won all of the stages as well as the prologue. Their final time was 37:18:20. Robyn Adendorff and Sarah van Heerden (WSP – Jeep Girls) finished second in 42:19:45 while Nolene Saunders and Sarah Wielopolska of the Tread Magazine Ladies team finished in third place in an overall time of 43:41:39.
"We tried to ride as hard as possible in order to compete with the whole field, not only the other ladies," said winner Booyens. "I felt a bit tired the last two days, but Sharon was going strong. I must admit I also enjoyed this year's route much more than previous years. It was real mountain biking."
The Adidas Big Tree team of Nico Pfitzenmaier and Alison Sydor won the mixed category in an overall time of 32:13:10, having won six of the seven stages as well as the prologue. Wheeler – IXS Pro team Marcel Bartholet and Esther Süss finished second while Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC/ Momentum GT/ Activeworx) were third.
Sydor finished the race by riding the final stage on a borrowed bike after she suffered a mechanical issue with her frame on the previous evening. She plans to ride the TransAlp and TransGermany stage races with partner Pia Sundstedt.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Cape Epic.