Schurter and Buys win their first stage in this year's Cape Epic

South African Philip Buys on Thursday became the first South African to stand on the top step of the Cape Epic podium since Burry Stander in 2012 as the race dished up a host of fresh dramas. Buys and his Swiss partner, two-time cross country world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo), won the 88km stage 4 - which started and finished in Greyton - after breaking from the field near the halfway point and managing to keep a chasing pack at bay.

They are both cross country specialists - shorter races with an emphasis on technical skills - and yesterday's shorter stage with many singletrack sections suited them.

Buys said he and Schurter "managed to increase the gap on each downhill and then maintain it on the climbs - it is a very special feeling to win it."

Schurter, the world's top ranked mountain biker, said the South African was getting stronger every day. "Soon I'm going to be in trouble and in the hurtbox."

Behind them there was an early shock when four-time winner and pre-race favourite Karl Platt withdrew with a damaged knee. He had damaged it in a fall on Tuesday and started Thursday's stage, but had to withdraw, leaving his partner Urs Huber (Team Bulls) to ride on alone but out of the race.

"I just wanted to finish the race - I have never not finished the Epic before. But on the first climb, I knew there was trouble. At seven kilometres I said to Urs it is no use, I can't pedal," said Platt. "I wont say it was the hardest decision ever to make, because I had no choice. I am very disappointed because I was in the shape of my life. I will be back though. I just want to say thanks to all the support."

For the first time since the race began Sunday the leading men's team retained the yellow jersey: Topeak-Ergon's Robert Mennen (German) and Kristian Hynek (Czech) finished third on the stage but still have a lead of nearly 12 minutes.

"We're the first team to have it for a second day and we'll do our best to keep it until Sunday (the closing stage from Elgin to Lourensford wine estate)," said Hynek. "The shirts fit us well and we like the colour - we don't want to give them back."

Second Thursday was German pair Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess (Centurion-Vaude), but they remain outside the top 10 overall after a bad day on Tuesday when Kaufmann broke the frame of his bike.

Moving into second overall after finishing fifth Thursday were four-time winner Swiss Christoph Sauser and Czech Frantisek Rabon, in spite of the former breaking a chain and crashing during the stage.

Sauser said later that he and Rabon had been behind Schurter and Buys when they made their break, but his chain broke. He fixed it and was chasing back to a group just behind the leading pair when his pedal hit a rock hidden in grass and he was thrown over his handlebars. He had been hurt around the upper chest and shoulders, but had finished well and was looking forward to the remaining three stages.

Sauser's chances of this year being first to win the Epic five times might hinge on Friday's 115km stage from Greyton to Elgin, which contains a huge 2,800m of vertical gain and several brutal climbs on the way.


There was a significant turnaround Thursday in what has become a thrilling women's race when leader Esther Suss's rear shock lost air and stopped working minutes after the start. The Swiss rider and English partner Sally Bigham (Meerendal) lost 12 minutes on the day and slipped to second behind a charging Ariane Kleinhans, from Switzerland, and Dane Annike Langvad (RECM2).

"My sitting position was not good and I did not have power," said Suss. Her body position on steep climbs also meant her weight was too far back and "my front wheel kept on lifting".

Kleinhans and Langvad had a disastrous day on Monday, losing nearly 24 minutes to Suss and Bigham, but had been chipping away at the lead and must now be favourites to win.

"It is unfortunate for them that it was a mechanical problem, but the page turns very quickly at the Epic," said Kleinhans. "What it means is that we don't need to attack from now on and will concentrate on riding consistently."


There was bad news for Cherise Stander, the top South African contender in the mixed category with Theo Blignaut (RECM mixed), when she had to withdrew about 30km into the stage with breathing problems while lying second overall.

Stander's late husband Burry won the Cape Epic in 2012 with Sauser and in doing so became the last South African to stand on the top step of the podium - until Buys Thursday.

The Mauritians Yannick Lincoln and Aurelie Halbwachs of Synergy won the mixed in 4:32:09. In second place were Trek Israel's Gal Tsachor and Idit Shub in 4:51:16, followed by Asrin Cycling's Nizaam Essa and Christina Kollmann in 5:03.19. Synergy still leads this category by 1 hour, 30 minutes and 34 seconds.

Tsachor said, "We never expected this. We wanted to be top five maybe, but being on the podium is so much more than what we were hoping for. The Epic is amazing and that's why we come back every year. This is our fifth Epic and we decided we should have some proper goals. This year we wanted to be top five. We thought it was time to fulfill our potential, but second was never in our thoughts. We're really sad to hear about Cherise Stander though. We wish her well."


The masters category was again won by Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo ( Superior Meerendal) for the third time in 4:04:32. They were followed by Shan Wilson and Adrian Enthoven of Definitive Bikes team in 4:12:17 with Warren Squires and Nic White of team Absa masters in third place (4:23:03). Brentjens and Azevedo now lead this category by three minutes and 46 seconds and are placed 18th overall.

Wilson said, "You know, some days you are the hammer and other days you are the nail. Today my partner struggled after I had my bad day yesterday. We lost the overall lead, but it's not over. We'll keep fighting until Lourensford. The damage is not that big and the wheel always turns."

Grand masters

Andrew McLean and Heinz Zoerweg of Cycle Lab Toyota finished in first place in the grand masters for the fifth day in a row in a time of 4:12:27. They were followed by Bärti Bucher and Doug Brown of Meerendal Songo Specialized 4 in 4:19:26. Eben Espach and Corrie Muller of Absa Grand Masters finished third in 4:34:55.

Mclean said, "It was a good stage and my partner was strong. We enjoyed it all."


The fastest African team today was Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns of Scott Factory Racing for stage 4 in 3:50:41. They were followed by Erik Kleinhans and Nico Bell of RECM in 3:54:3. Kevin Evans and Max Knox of FedGroup Itec finished in third place in 3:54:54.

Evans and Knox keep the African special jersey, now 11 minutes and four seconds in front of the second all-African team of Beukes and Heyns.

Race note

Hours after issuing the day's report and results above, race organizers said that Kevin Evans and Max Knox (FedGroup Itec) were given a one-hour penalty for taking an illegal shortcut.

They had been leading the race for the special jersey - for the first all-African team in the Cape Epic - after Thursday's stage 4, but other riders complained after Evans apparently took a short cut across an uphill switchback.

The Commissaires Panel said in a statement that a protest had been made to the race office: it was stated that a member of team 13 (Kevin Evans) deviated from the course (took a shortcut) and in doing so gained an unfair advantage over other riders.

"Review of Go-Pro camera footage from the rider immediately behind the rider in question, as well as footage from team 13's own Go-Pro (attached to the bicycle of the accused rider) confirms that the incident occurred, and that an unfair advantage was gained."

Evans and Knox were apparently planning to appeal the sanction, but if it stands it means they would be fifth in the race for the distinctive red jersey and nearly 50 minutes behind. With only three stages to go, this would put them out of the race.

Scott Factory Racing’s Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns inherited the category lead after FedGroup Itec were penalised. Their overall time is 19:51.09, with Erik Kleinhans and Nico Bell (RECM) just five minutes back.

Stage 5: Greyton to Elgin (110km, 2900m of climbing)

Stage 5 will be the queen stage - arguably the hardest of this year's race, with the most amount of climbing. It will be wise for riders to conserve some energy on the first 50km where Serengeti awaits as the warm up to its big brother Rusty Gate, the highest point in this year's race. It will be a relentless 5km climb at an average 10% gradient.

What goes up must come down, with a short spike on a firebreak, which will be more challenging on the mind than the legs. A short tar section along the Theewaterskloof Dam wall will offer some reprieve, before it will get tough again with some steep climbs as riders will generally make their way skywards to water point 3.

Thereafter, it will be rugged false flat grind, on a loose eroded surface, flanking the majestic Groenlandberg. It will be slow going, through truly spectacular scenery. From the nek the last 14km will mostly be downhill all the way to the race village at Oak Valley Wine Estate, a rewarding finish to a truly epic day.

Brief Results (African stage and GC results subject to change - see race note above)

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nino Schurter (Swi) and Philip Buys (RSA) Scott-Odlo3:46:05
2Markus Kaufmann (Ger) and Jochen Kaess (Ger) Centurion-Vaude0:01:27
3Robert Mennen (Ger) and Kristian Hynek (Cze) Topeak-Ergon Racing0:01:42
4Roel Paulissen (Bel) and Riccardo Chiarini (Ita) Torpado Factory0:01:57
5Tim Boehme (Ger) and Simon Stiebjahn (Ger) Bulls 20:03:01
6Christoph Sauser (Swi) and Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Meerendal Songo Specialized0:03:48
7Matthys Beukes (RSA) and Gert Heyns (RSA) Scott Factory Racing0:04:36
8Ben Bostrom (CRc) and Paolo Montoya (CRc) Meerendal Songo Specialized 20:05:52
9Erik Kleinhans (RSA) and Nico Bell (RSA) RECM0:08:27
10Kevin Evans (RSA) and Max Knox (RSA) FedGroup Itec0:08:49
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ariane Kleinhans (Swi) and Annika Langvad (Den) RECM 24:13:08
2Esther Suss (Swi) and Sally Bigham (GBr) Meerendal0:12:34
3Jennie Stenerhag (Swe) and Theresa Ralph (RSA) Cape Brewing Company0:23:44
4Milena Landtwing (Swi) and Hielke Elferink (Ned) Meerendal Wheeler0:28:15
5Sara Mertens (Bel) and Laura Turpin (Ned) Meerendal Wheeler 20:40:02
6Ischen Stopforth (RSA) and Yolande de Villiers (RSA) SasolRacing0:53:28
7Yolandi du Toit (RSA) and Leana De Jager (RSA) SasolRacing 20:57:26
8Hanlie Booyens (RSA) and Mariske Strauss (RSA) Pragma Orange Monkey1:02:08
9Tanya Rabie (RSA) and Nicola Walker (RSA) Woolworths In2Food1:10:09
10Theresa Horn (RSA) and Desiree Loubser (RSA) Khombisa Media1:14:31
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Yannick Lincoln (Mau) and Aurelie Halbwachs (Mau) Synergy4:32:09
2Gal Tsachor (Isr) and Idit Shub (Isr) Trek Israel0:19:07
3Nizaam Essa (RSA) and Christina Kollman (Aut) Asrin Cycling0:31:09
4Pablo Rodriguez (Arg) and Lolita van Aardt (RSA) Orphans Africa MTB0:32:26
5Eric Wictor (Ned) and Hanneke Boon (Ned) Velozine0:35:39
6Sophie van Biervliet (Bel) and Jan Stockman (Bel) 't Velootje0:38:52
7Sabina Compassi (Swi) and Paul Buhler (Swi) Meerendal Songo Specialized 80:40:17
8Robert Vogel (NZl) and Amanda Brooks (NZl) Hansgrohe 20:43:35
9Tom Janas (Ger) and Bettina Uhlig (Ger) - BQ Cycling0:48:33
10Henning Blaauw (RSA) and Louise Ferreira (RSA) Globeflight0:49:38
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Bart Brentjens (Ned) and Abraao Azevedo (Bra) Superior Meerendal4:04:32
2Shan Wilson (RSA) and Adrian Enthoven (RSA) Definitive Bikes0:07:45
3Warren Squires (Zim) and Nic White (RSA) Absa masters0:18:31
4Pascal de Kort (Bel) and Bart van de Water (Bel) Technofit0:19:37
5Richard Lurie (RSA) and Leendert Lorenzen (RSA) Eurocasa0:22:34
6Igna de Villiers (RSA) and Pierre Griffioen (RSA) LGE/Midas/DWR0:32:01
7Udo Boelts (Ger) and Lothar Leder (Ger) Juwi Fox0:32:23
8Andy Davies (GBr) and Marius Nel (RSA) Pragma BikePlus0:33:09
9Heinz Posch (Swi) and Andreas Guignard (Swi) Meerendal Songo Specialized 130:33:52
10Helmuth Weich (Nam) and Mannie Heymans (Nam) Mediclinic SUNHeart0:45:17
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Grand masters
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Andrew Mclean (RSA) and Heinz Zoerweg (Aut) Cycle Lab Toyota4:12:27
2Barti Bucher (Swi) and Doug Brown (RSA) Meerendal Songo Specialized 40:06:59
3Eben Espach (RSA) and Corrie Muller (RSA) Absa Grand Masters0:22:28
4Waleed Baker (RSA) and Glen Haw (RSA) Pitstop0:29:09
5Thomas Dooley (USA) and Mike Hogan (USA) Kappius / Sir Richards0:50:55
6James Stopforth (RSA) and Peter Stopforth (RSA) MN70:52:24
7Tomas Pribyl (Cze) and Jaroslav Send (Cze) Author Masters0:54:43
8Ivar Tollefsen (Nor) and Tronde Hilde Gutta Boyz0:58:36
9William Werthheim (RSA) and Greg Anderson (RSA) NUK Orthodontic1:01:24
10Gideon Knoetze (RSA) and Linus van Onselen (RSA)1:02:29
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Matthys Beukes (RSA) and Gert Heyns (RSA) Scott Factory Racing3:50:41
2Erik Kleinhans (RSA) and Nico Bell (RSA) RECM0:03:51
3Kevin Evans (RSA) and Max Knox (RSA) FedGroup Itec0:04:12
4Johann Rabie (RSA) and Neil MacDonald (RSA) FedGroup Itec 20:09:46
5Craig Boyes (RSA) and Lous-Bresler Knipe (RSA) Asrin cycling0:13:12
6Andrew Hill (RSA) and Charles Keey (RSA) RED-E Blend0:13:45
7Oliver Munnik (RSA) and Alastair Davies (RSA) Paarl Media Pinners0:16:17
8Phillimon Sebona (RSA) and Jan Motshioa (RSA) Exxaro / PwC0:20:39
9Shan Wilson (RSA) and Adrian Enthoven (RSA) Definitive Bikes0:21:36
10Dominic Calitz (RSA) and Jurgen Uys (RSA) Paarl Media Young Guns0:22:25
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Men general classification after stage 4
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Robert Mennen (Ger) and Kristian Hynek (Cze) Topeak-Ergon Racing18:44:28
2Christoph Sauser (Swi) and Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Meerendal Songo Specialized0:11:47
3Tim Boehme (Ger) and Simon Stiebjahn (Ger) Bulls 20:13:46
4Roel Paulissen (Bel) and Riccardo Chiarini (Ita) Torpado Factory0:26:05
5Nino Schurter (Swi) and Philip Buys (RSA) Scott-Odlo0:37:15
6Lukas Fluckiger (Swi) and Martin Fanger (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing0:38:07
7Kevin Evans (RSA) and Max Knox (RSA) FedGroup Itec0:55:37
8Matthys Beukes (RSA) and Gert Heyns (RSA) Scott Factory Racing1:06:41
9Erik Kleinhans (RSA) and Nico Bell (RSA) RECM1:12:03
10Stefan Sahm (Fra) and Thomas Diestch (Fra) Bulls 31:12:23
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