Hermida and van Houts win Cape Epic prologue time trial

Multivan Merida team becomes first race leaders

The fifth prologue in the 11-year history of the Cape Epic set the seeding order for tomorrow's stage 1. The Spanish/Dutch team of José Hermida and Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida Biking) will wear the sough-after yellow zebra-striped leaders' jerseys in the men's category. Ariane Kleinhans and Annike Langvad (RECM 2) will be leading the women in the orange leaders' jerseys, with Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo of Betch.nl Superior Meerendal wearing the blue masters leaders' jerseys.

Men

The men's category for the prologue was won by José Hermida and Rudi van Houts of Multivan Merida Biking in a time of 59:08. They were followed by BMC Mountainbike Racing's Lukas Fluckiger and Martin Fanger in 59:20, with German/Czech combo Robert Mennen and Kristian Hynek (Topeak-Ergon Racing) in third place (in 1:00:29).

Van Hout said, "We had a good balance today. Both of us were strong and were racing to the limit the whole time. My heart rate was 180! That's very high."

Hermida jokingly said, "It was the hardest stage of the Cape Epic thus far this year! Last year we wanted to win the prologue, so I'm very happy with the victory. We wanted a stage and will ride strong in our yellow jerseys."

Fluckiger said, "It was like I expected. Martin started strong and I just had to hang on. In the second half, I got my legs and rhythm. We have seven days to go and we'll be fighting for the jersey."

Mennen of Topeak-Ergon Racing said the prologue was hard. "But all went well. It was a challenging course and we rode well together. It was easy to go too fast and overcook it today. We now have a good foundation to work from for the rest of the Epic."

In fourth place was Markus Kauffmann and Jochen Kaess of Centurion-Vaude in 1:00:38 with Nino Schurter and Philip Buys (Scott-Odlo MTB Racing) in fifth place in 1:01:02. Four-time Cape Epic winner Karl Platt finished in sixth place with partner Urs Huber (1:01:12).

Christoph Sauser, also a four-time winner, finished in ninth place with new partner Frantisek Rabon in a time of 1:02:23. Rabon dropped his chain early on in the race and along with Sauser's crash, it disrupted the team's rhythm. It was a tough introduction to the Cape Epic for Rabon.

Women

Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad of RECM 2 won the women's category in a time of 1:10:07, ahead of Sally Bigham and Esther Süss (Meerendal) in 1:12.16. Jennie Stenerhag and Theresa Ralph (Cape Brewing Company) finished third in 1:15:43, with Milena Landtwing and Hielke Elferink (Meerendal Wheeler) in fourth place (1:16:13).

Kleinhans said, "Annika is power! She is an amazing partner and was so cool about the crash. I'm very happy with the prologue. It was a good day and my legs feel great. We had lots of fun and are looking forward to the rest of Epic."

Langvad said, "It was very tough. I didn't expect to fall at the start. I was very nervous but luckily nothing happened. I think it was the adrenaline kick I needed. I just have to laugh about it. We're both in good shape and I think we'll keep the lead if everything keeps going well."

Bigham said, "We made a good start and it was an enjoyable stage with some nice trails. I did suffer though! It makes me feel more respected as an athlete to race in a more competitive category with so much prize money. We deserve the same attention and respect. Women can now have a career in mountain biking with this kind of money."

Süss feels there is so much more on the table this year. "There is more focus on us from the media's side and the competition is fierce. We like it and are happy to race for this kind of prize money. We had a good start today and feel strong for the rest of the Epic."

Ralph noted that they were debating what their goal is. "Especially seeing that I was injured for the most of last year. Initially I wasn't planning on even racing. Now I'm on the podium! We're both very competitive and love it out there. We'll go hard everyday."

Stenerhag said, "This was a fun stage. I love the single track. I also love fighting for position and we're both like that, so we're very much looking forward to the rest."

Masters

The masters category was won by former Olympic Gold medallist Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo of Betch.nl Superior Meerendal. Their winning time was 1:08:52. They were followed by Shan Wilson and Adrian Enthoven of Definitive Bikes in 1:10:44. Pascal de Kort and Bart van de Water of Technofit finished third (1:13:27).

Mixed

The ETIS team of Peter Vesel and Anni Hellstern won the mixed category (1:15:45), followed by Karl Zoetemelk and Sarah Koba of ASSOS Werksmannschaft in 1:16:32. The South African team of Theo Blignaut and Cherise Stander (RECM Mixed) finished in third place (1:17:55).

Vesel said, "We came to finish in the top three but now we might go for the victory! It was a really hard stage but all went well and now we're looking forward to rest." His riding partner Hellstern said, "We'll have to see what happens now. We worked so well together and my partner was so strong. I really enjoyed it out there."

Stander is not thinking about overall. "Every podium is a bonus. Just to finish the Epic is a victory. It's an emotional time and I'm not always sure what to expect from my body or mind. We'll take each day as it comes."

Blignaut said, "I enjoyed riding with Cherise. She is strong and technically really good. I'm very impressed. There's still so much to ride for and enough time left so we're not worried at all."

Grand masters

Andrew Mclean and Heinz Zoerweg of Cycle Lab Toyota finished in first place in the grand maasters in a time of 1:09:06. They were followed by Bärti Bucher and Doug Brown of Meerendal Songo Specialized 4 in 1:09:38 with Eben Espach and Corrie Muller of team Absa Grand Masters in third place (1:14:19).

Brown said, "This was a big wake up call and shock to the system. Luckily for me Bärti was super strong, so it all worked out. We don't even have to talk. We just look at each other and know. We ride together very well."

African jersey

A hotly contested "race within a race" is the one for the red African special jersey, awarded to the highest placed team, with both members holding African passports. Team FedGroup Itec's Kevin Evans and Max Knox finished first in 1:01:48 with Johann Rabie and Neil MacDonald (FedGroup Itec 2) in second (1:02:40). They were followed by Erik Kleinhans and Nico Bell of RECM in 1:02:49.

Evans said, "After missing out on the action the past few years, I will gladly take the African special jersey! I'm happy to be back and ready to take on stage 1."

Stage 1: Robertson (110km, 2450m of climbing)

Each year, stage 1 is referred to as one of the most challenging of the race, and it is no different in 2014. The stage is as tough as it is beautiful with the most spectacular views rewarded after the most demanding climbs.

The day is characterised by a fast start to water point 1, where the real challenge begins. Three major climbs, all on rough surfaces, take riders through pristine fynbos deep into the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains. Tortoise Hill stands out with its double peak and precariously steep descent, followed by some relentless ridgeline riding and the sharp zigzag climb starting off through cooling pine trees before once again heading for the skies.

It is the harsh surface that will make this day challenging - as well as the fact that most of the climbing is packed into the 45km section in the middle of the stage. Riders will be able to make up some time on the final 25km as the terrain eases back into flowing farm and gravel roads. Temperatures tomorrow will range from 19 to 22 degrees Celsius with light rain.

Below is a from the prologue.

Brief Stage 1 and General Classification after stage 1 results

Men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jose Hermida (Spa) and Rudi van Houts (Ned) Multivan Merida Biking0:59:08 
2Lukas Fluckiger (Swi) and Martin Fanger (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing0:00:12 
3Robert Mennen (Ger) and Kristian Hynek (Cze) Topeak-Ergon Racing0:01:21 
4Markus Kaufmann (Ger) and Jochen Kaess (Ger) Centurion-Vaude0:01:30 
5Nino Schurter (Swi) and Philip Buys (RSA) Scott-Odlo MTB Racing0:01:54 
6Karl Platt (Ger) and Urs Huber (Swi) Bulls0:02:04 
7Kevin Evans (RSA) and Max Knox (RSA) FedGroup Itec0:02:40 
8Roel Paulissen (Bel) and Riccardo Chiarini (Ita) Torpado Factory0:02:55 
9Christoph Sauser (Swi) and Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Meerendal Songo Specialized0:03:15 
10Johann Rabie (RSA) and Neil MacDonald (RSA) FedGroup Itec 20:03:32 
Women
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ariane Kleinhans (Swi) and Annika Langvad (Den) RECM 21:10:07 
2Esther Suss (Swi) and Sally Bigham (GBr) Meerendal0:02:09 
3Jennie Stenerhag (Swe) and Theresa Ralph (RSA) Cape Brewing Company0:05:36 
4Milena Landtwing (Swi) and Hielke Elferink (Ned) Meerendal Wheeler0:06:06 
5Ischen Stopforth (RSA) and Yolande de Villiers (RSA) SasolRacing0:09:06 
6Hanlie Booyens (RSA) and Mariske Strauss (RSA) Pragma Orange Monkey0:10:58 
7Yolandi du Toit (RSA) and Leana de Jager (RSA) SasolRacing 20:12:04 
8Sara Mertens (Bel) and Laura Turpin (Ned) Meerendal Wheeler 20:13:31 
9Tanya Rabie (RSA) and Nicola Walker (RSA) Woolworths In2Food0:14:16 
10Celina Carpinteiro (Por) and Katerina Slegrova (Cze) Itec/BTT Loulé/BPI0:14:21 
Mixed
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Peter Vesel (Slo) and Anni Hellstern (Ger) ETIS1:15:45 
2Karl Zoetemelk (Fra) and Sarah Koba (Swi) Assos Werksmannschaft0:00:47 
3Cherise Stander (RSA) and Theo Blignaut (RSA) RECM Mixed0:02:11 
4Tom Janas (Ger) and Bettina Uhlig (Ger) Sportograf.com - BQ Cycling0:03:20 
5Yannick Lincoln (Mau) and Aurelie Halbwachs (Mau) Synergy0:04:07 
6Pablo Rodriguez (Arg) and Lolita van Aardt (RSA) Orphans Africa MTB0:06:09 
7Hannele Steyn (RSA) and Kenhardt Scheepers (RSA) Howard and Chamberlain0:06:29 
8Gal Tsachor (Isr) and Idit Shub (Isr) Trek Israel0:06:32 
9Nizaam Essa (RSA) and Christina Kollman (Aut) Asrin Cycling0:10:34 
10Sabina Compassi (Swi) and Paul Buhler (Swi) Meerendal Songo Specialized 80:10:38 
Masters
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Bart Brentjens (Ned) and Abraao Azevedo (Bra) Betch.nl Superior Meerendal1:08:52 
2Shan Wilson (RSA) and Adrian Enthoven (RSA) Definitive Bikes0:01:52 
3Pascal de Kort (Bel) and Bart van de Water (Bel) Technofit0:04:35 
4Warren Squires (Zim) and Nic White (RSA) Absa masters0:05:05 
5Leon Erasmus (RSA) and Dennis du Toit (RSA) Pragma Teahmo0:05:44 
6Richard Lurie (RSA) and Leendert Lorenzen (RSA) Eurocasa0:06:12 
7Rory Mapston (RSA) and Rex Benson (RSA) CHIC Foundation0:07:16 
8Andy Davies (GBr) and Marius Nel (RSA) Pragma BikePlus0:07:49 
9Damien Jones (Aus) and Russell Edgar (Aus) russrad0:08:27 
10Mike Foster (Aus) and Jarrod Crosby (Aus) Fixed Wheel Racing0:08:40 
Grand masters
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Andrew Mclean (RSA) and Heinz Zoerweg (Aut) Cycle Lab Toyota1:09:06 
2Barti Bucher (Swi) and Doug Brown (RSA) Meerendal Songo Specialized 40:00:32 
3Eben Espach (RSA) and Corrie Muller (RSA) Absa Grand Masters0:05:13 
4Thomas Dooley (USA) and Mike Hogan (USA) Kappius / Sir Richards0:06:04 
5Lieb Loots (RSA) and Izak Visagie (RSA) Pragma Nampak0:06:38 
6William Werthheim Aymes (RSA) and Greg Anderson (RSA) NUK Orthodontic0:11:19 
7Gideo Knoetze (RSA) and Linus van Onselen (RSA) Mossel Bay Volkswagen0:12:50 
8Kurt Plachel (Swi) and Reto Schlaepfer (Swi) Bischi and Krapf0:13:27 
9James Stopforth (RSA) and Peter Stopforth (RSA) MN70:14:32 
10Ivar Tollefsen (Nor) and Trond Hilde (Nor) Gutta Boyz0:14:43 
Best African
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kevin Evans (RSA) and Max Knox (RSA) FedGroup Itec1:01:48 
2Johann Rabie (RSA) and Neil MacDonald (RSA) FedGroup Itec 20:00:52 
3Erik Kleinhans (RSA) and Nico Bell (RSA) RECM0:01:01 
4Matthys Beukes (RSA) and Gert Heyns (RSA) Scott Factory Racing0:02:30 
5Andrew Hill (RSA) and Charles Keey (RSA) RED-E Blend0:02:37 
6Darren Lill (RSA) and Waylon Woolcock (RSA) Cannondale Blend0:02:39 
7Craig Boyes (RSA) and Lous-Bresler Knipe (RSA) Asrin cycling0:04:39 
8Dominic Calitz (RSA) and Jurgen Uys (RSA) Paarl Media Young Guns0:06:22 
9Oliver Munnik (RSA) and Alastair Davies (RSA) Paarl Media Pinners0:06:45 
10Siphosenkosi Madolo (RSA) and Azukile Simayile (RSA) Meerendal Songo Specialized 160:07:30 

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