Posted by Editoress on 09/27/19
After an extremely tough opening stage to the competition, Stage 2 ensured that riders had to keep working hard with a spectacular lap of Misgav Region. The stage was won by German powerhouses Georg Egger and Maximilian Brandl in the men’s category to extend their GC lead, and Canadians Haley Smith and Catharine Pendrel, who took command of the battle in the women’s overall.
The stage rolled out from the courtyard of the Mather Asher Regional Council, and once racing got underway the riders headed south to a 25km stretch of rural roads along Acre's ancient aqueduct.
A predictably fast pace towards the first climb of the day was set by each of the main protagonists in their categories, with a 14km continuous ascent towards Misgav breaking up the main group, with only two pairs of riders remaining: Egger / Brandl who headed the GC at the start of the day, and the Canadian racing duo of Andrew L'Esperance and Peter Disera looking for a big result on the day.
At first feed zone (36km), 30 seconds separated the lead group from the pursuers that included Austrians Karl Markt and Gregor Raggl (defending second overall), German and Swiss pairs of Martin Gluth / Fabian Giger, and Markus Schulte-Lunzum / Simon Vitzthum. From there, the riders competed in the stage’s first technical singletrack section: fast and flowing.
By the end of the section, the composition of the lead group had completely changed. L’Esperance and Disera now headed the race, followed by a gap of about a minute to Markt / Raggl and Gluth / Giger. Egger / Brandl had fallen behind the Canadians behind in a gap of 2:25 at the intermediate time check.
Unseen by cameras, a puncture had stopped the German race favorites - but trade teammates and countrymen Luca Schwarzbauer and David List were close behind, cutting the potential delay with a fast change of List’s wheel.
>From the highest point of the stage, riders embarked on a rapid descent of shady forest roads towards the second feeding point in Sha'ab village. When they arrived, the race order had not changed with L'Esperance / Disera still a minute clear of the chasing Austrians, but Egger / Bradl were on the charge.
A series of agricultural roads in ancient olive groves led riders toward Ma'ale Gilon. A tough 13-minute climb, with an unusually hard wall section, caused even the leading UCI riders to dismount. By this time, Egger / Bradl had made great strides by overtaking Markt / Raggl, and were already hunting down L'Esperance and Disera. Strong riding by the German duo in the Ahihud singletrack section brought them to within one minute of the Canadians out front, and continuing to track their prey until they made the catch at 13km to the finish.
For a few kilometers, the two teams collaborated on the flat, fast run in to the finish, with Brandl offering to help service his Canadian opponent's chain on the move, signalling their intention to work together despite their stage rivalry. However, in the 82nd kilometer, with L’Esperance / Disera ailing after their long day out in front, Egger / Brandl rode the Canadians off their wheels, eventually finishing the stage in a time of 3:33:54. 52 seconds later, their temporary partners arrived, with Markt and Raggl finishing more than four minutes back.
The women's category also provided a dynamic and interesting race. After equally close riding in the opening section among the favourites, yesterday’s stage winners and women’s GC leaders Sofia Gomez-Villafañe and Rose Grant (ARG / USA) suffered severe bad luck, with a metal cable becoming entangled in the rear derailleur and cassette of Gomez-Villafañe’s bike.
Their struggles to remove the cable caused a four-minute delay, with damage to the derailleur removing any chance of catching the front pair of Haley Smith and Catharine Pendrel, and resulting in a struggle to the finish, eventually crossing the line in fourth over 20 minutes back.
The Canadian pair out front never looked like relinquishing victory, keen to put yesterday’s disappointing late stage catch by Gomez-Villafañe / Grant behind them with aggressive tactics on the first climb to establish their lead, and using their experience to pace themselves smartly to the finish. They crossed the finish line in a time of 4:12:10. Jovana Crnogorac / Sophie Von Berswordt-Wallrabe (SRB / NED) took second place at 4:38, while Chloe Woodruff and Erin Huck placed third, 13:29 behind.
Men's Race report by Peter Disera:
Phenomenal day for Andrew and I.
We rode smart at the beginning and established a breakaway with the GC leaders (Max Brandl &Georg Egger).
The course today had 3 smaller climbs totalling 1450m of climbing. It was also the best stage so far with single track climbs and descents.
On one of the rough descents we dropped Max and Georg (due to a puncture) and rode away solo in the lead.
We felt good and were confident we might be able to win this stage. We rode smooth and cleanly while maintaining speed wherever possible.
On the final major climb of the day we got sight of the chasers. Miraculously Georg and Max had recovered from their technical after getting a wheel from their other teammates in the race. Lespy and I punched it and put as much space between them and us before hitting the long 20km flat section to the finish.
Unfortunately, around 7km to go they made contact and slipped by us. As discouraging as it was we also knew that today was a huge break on GC for us and we drove it as hard as we could to the finish.
Finishing 2nd on today’s stage felt amazing and currently we sit in 5th in GC. Not too bad for all the trouble we went through in Stage 1.
"Everyday is a new day at a stage race, you carry over tired legs and tired bodies but you get a fresh start. We went into stage 2, day 3 of Epic Israel hopefully we could put yesterday's bad luck behind and see what we could do in the day. As it happened, on the first major climb, we were in the right spot, well positioned and had the legs and the fight to go with the race leaders. Through the first feedzone we we together riding well with the Germans before we took over in one of the single track descents and they suffered a tire puncture. So now we were off the front alone and leading the race, that was pretty fun. Pete and I worked really well together and had a blast riding the single track fast and blind. We worked hard to hold the lead all day but recently got caught with about 7 km to go. We finished second on the day and are super happy with our ride. We moves up well on GC, had a good time (and a hard time!) And are gping to get another fresh start tomorrow to see what we can do."
“Today was incredible because we had the chance to put forth a tremendous effort from the front of the race rather than chasing like we did yesterday. It was a unique experience racing with a helicopter around our heads all day and holding onto the lead for as long as we did. Hats off to the German team of Max and Georg, they have dominated this week and to come back from a mechanical to win the stage as they did to day was inhuman. Andrew and I gave all that we had and with tomorrow, Stage 3, being the final day we look forward to going hunting even more!”
Race video footage
1 Haley Smith / Catharine Pendrel (Can) Norco Factory Team, 4:12:10
2 Jovana Crnogorac (Srb)//Sophie Von Berswordt-Wallrabe (Ned) BIKE WAY RACING, at 0:42:54
3 Chloe Woodruff / Erin Huck (USA) Team USA, 0:51:45
1. Georg Egger / Maximilian Brandl (Ger) Lexware MTB Team,
2 Andrew L'Esperance/ Peter Disera (Can) Norco Factory Team,
3 Karl Markt / Gregor Raggl (Aut) Team Austria,
1 Haley Smith / Catharine Pendrel (Can) Norco Factory Team,
2 Chloe Woodruff / Erin Huck (USA) +15:02
3 Sofia Gomez-Villafañe / Rose Grant (ARG / USA) +18:33
1 Georg Egger / Maximilian Brandl (Ger) 8:03:50
2 Karl Markt / Gregor Raggl (Aut) +6:33
3 Basil Allard / Antoine Philipp (Fra) +12:03
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