Cape Epic: Leaders extend their advantages in stage 5 time trial

Yellow and Orange are increasingly beginning to look like gold as the men’s and women’s leader jersey wearers consolidated their leads in Friday’s Absa Cape Epic Stage 5 time-trial.

With just two more stages to go the men’s and women’s Investec Songo Specialized teams have built up leads that they should defend comfortably barring serious health or mechanical setbacks.

In a day of soaring temperatures, Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy and Howard Grotts of the USA tightened their hold on the Men’s category yellow jersey as they added another three minutes to their overall cushion.

On paper the course, with an eye-watering 1,430m of vertical gain, looked to favour the cross-country specialists – more specifically the Cannondale Factory Racing team and prologue winners, Centurion Vaude.

But Cannondale were the biggest losers of the day, a result of Thursday’s heroic efforts having caught up with them. German Manuel Fumic and Brazilian Henrique Avancini looked out of sorts for most of the route, the latter of whom took tremendous strain on the climbs.

“We rode really hard and took some risks,” said Avancini. “We gave it a shot but had no legs … it is what it is.”

Cannondale would eventually finish in fifth place, and with that result, drop one place to third below Austria’s Alban Lakata and the Czech Republic’s Kristian Hynek (Canyon Topeak) on the general classification.

Hynek said Lakata was making him “suffer” for a large part of the time-trial but he eventually “found my legs”.

Although Canyon Topeak trail Kulhavy and Grotts by over seven minutes, Lakata believes he and Hynek are still in with a shot of winning the Absa Cape Epic: “We are still in it to win it and the next two stages suit us – more climbing, less flats.”

After winning Thursday’s Queen Stage, Centurion Vaude’s Daniel Geismayr and Nicola Rohrbach would finish in a disappointing seventh place – 3.39,9 off the pace.

The day, however, belonged to Investec Songo Specialized. It was a flawless display in which Kulhavy and Grotts asserted their dominance by closing down Cannondale, who started three minutes ahead of them, within the first 20km.

“It was amazing for us. We are really happy because we went at our own tempo and when we caught Cannondale we felt confident,” said Kulhavy. “It felt like the hardest stage because of the elevation and steep climbs.”

Investec Songo Specialized now carry a 7.15,8 lead going into Stage 6 – a tough 76km/2000m day out on the Wellington trail network.

Langvad and Courtney continue dominant performance

Meanwhile the seemingly indomitable Langvad and Courtney collected their sixth win from six days of racing.

However, for the first time in the 2018 event there was some doubt about the result in the Women’s category for most of the stage. A resurgent Sabine Spitz and Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health) led by 31 seconds through halfway and ended up just 12.5 seconds down at the end of the tough ride.

While the margin of victory was small, the Danish multiple World Champion and her young American partner extended their overall lead by two minutes 52 seconds over Annie Last and Mariske Strauss (Silverback-KMC), who are currently second overall and were third on the stage.

The gap from Investec Songo Specialized to Silverback KMC on general classification has now grown to just over 35 minutes.

Langvad, who has never been beaten in her three previous attempts at the Absa Cape Epic, said: “One of the proper challenges of this race is to concentrate all the time. Eight days is a long, long time and just the tiniest little mishap and everything can be gone in the blink of an eye.”

Courtney said their tactic was to ride a controlled stage: “The time-trial is a different challenge. Everything is tough in its own way out here at the Absa Cape Epic. I think today was hard after a long day yesterday, but we were able to ride in control and especially on the descents, where there were a lot of rocky and sandy corners, and we were able to pull back and avoid having any big mishaps.”

Despite nearly becoming the first team to get the better of the potent Investec Songo Specialized duo this week, German Spitz and local champion De Groot seemed surprised at the result.

“I did not realise we had done so well,” said the South African. “I felt better than I expected. After four days of over 100kays we expected it to be really tough but we rode nicely together and paced ourselves well.”

With the temperature climbing the pro riders enjoyed the best of the weather, but Englishwoman Last said it was still uncomfortably hot.

“On the first climb you could feel the heat was already there. It was a 39kay time-trial with 1 400 metres of climbing and (on Thursday) we did 113km with 1 800 metres, so there was a lot of climbing for a lot less distance.”

Brief Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) / Howard Grotts (USA) Investec Songo Specialized1:44:49
2Fabian Rabensteiner (Ita) / Michele Casagrande (Ita) Trek Selle San Marco 20:00:33
3Alban Lakata (Aut) / Kristian Hynek (Cze) Canyon Topeak0:01:52
4Francesco Guerra Carretero (Spa) / Luis Leao Pinto (Portugal) Buff Scott MTB0:02:22
5Simon Stiebjahn (Ger) / Tim Bomme (Ger) Bulls 20:03:10
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Overall Standings after stage 5
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) / Howard Grotts (USA) Investec Songo Specialized19:32:14
2Alban Lakata (Aut) / Kristian Hynek (Cze) Canyon Topeak0:07:16
3Manuel Fumic (Ger) / Henrique Avancini (Bral) Cannondale Factory Racing0:07:20
4Nicola Rohrbach (Sui) / Daniel Geismayr (Aut) Centurion Vaude0:14:00
5Francesco Guerra Carretero (Spa) / Luis Leao Pinto (Portugal) Buff Scott MTB0:17:01
6Simon Stiebjahn (Ger) / Tim Bomme (Ger) Bulls 20:30:00
7Fabian Rabensteiner (Ita) / Michele Casagrande (Ita) Trek Selle San Marco 20:31:11
8Frans Claes (Bel) / Markus Bauer (Bel) Kulu Manzi Project0:31:20
9Karl Platt (Ger) / Urs Huber (Ger) Bulls0:33:23
10Miguel Munoz Moreno (Spa) / Enrice Morcillo Vergara (Spa) Buff-Scott MTB 20:44:18
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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Annika Langvad (Den) / Kate Courtney (USA) Investec Songo Specialized2:08:26
2Sabine Spitz (Ger) / Robyn De Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health0:00:12
3Mariske Strauss (RSA) / Annie Last (GBr) Silverback - KMC0:02:52
4Margot Moschetti (Fra) / Raiza Goulao (Bra) PMRA/CST Racing0:06:23
5Candice Lill (RSA) / Amy Beth Mcdougall (RSA) Dormakaba0:06:43
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Overall Standings after stage 5
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Annika Langvad (Den) / Kate Courtney (USA) Investec Songo Specialized22:42:38
2Mariske Strauss (RSA) / Annie Last (GBr) Silverback - KMC0:35:27
3Sabine Spitz (Ger) / Robyn De Groot (RSA) Ascendis Health0:41:49
4Carmen Buchacher (Aut) / Samantha Sanders (RSA) Dormakaba1:40:37
5Candice Lill (RSA) / Amy Beth Mcdougall (RSA) Dormakaba1:44:31
6Margot Moschetti (Fra) / Raiza Goulao (Bra) PMRA/CST Racing1:51:02
7Hielke Elferink (Ned) / Cornelia Hug (Sui) Shimano S-Phyre3:16:47
8Sunniva Dring (Nor) / Kristin Aamodt (Nor) Milsluken3:17:20
9Serena Gordon (USA) / Kaysee Armstrong (USA) Liv Cycling3:36:25
10Hannele Steyn (RSA) / Jeannie Dreyer (RSA) Nolands Spar Ladies3:39:10

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