Canadian Cyclist


April 1/08 2:14 am - Cape Epic: Stage 4

Posted by Editor on 04/1/08

Cape Epic Stage 4 - Brentjens and Lakata Attack
Courtesy organizers


Bart Brentjens (NED) and Alban Lakata (AUT) of team Dolphin attacked today during Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic presented by adidas, when they broke away from the other pro-riders and crossed the finish line first in Swellendam at a time of 4:28:38. It was the first stage win for the team during this year's Absa Cape Epic.

Although leading at times by up to 3 minutes, MTN Energade's Kevin Evans (RSA) and David George (RSA) managed to catch up together with Cannondale Vredestein and secured the second place in the stage race less than 30 seconds behind Dolphin (4:29:00). Third was the yellow jersey leaders Cannondale Vredestein, Roel Paulissen (BEL) and Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), who finished only a second later at 4:29:01.

For Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic (Riversdale to Swellendam), the rolling hills through the farmlands provided the power riders with a chance to ply their trade. Then came the big ones - heartbreak one and heartbreak two, the second of which was 4.5km long with a 7% gradient.

After two days in the Karoo, riders passed through dairy country before heading into Grootvadersbosch, another Cape Nature jewel, and back into some lush forests again - a welcome shelter from the harsh sun, or so thought. In actual fact, the forest was hot and humid and did not provide the expected shelter. There were more challenges to come - more climbing, technical descents and river crossings, which was passable only by foot, or on a mountain bike. A short tar section passed the historical mission village of Suurbraak - a town that is no stranger to the Absa Cape Epic. At the weir crossing, it was "only" 12km home, which must have felt like 25km. Riders had to watch out for the mean, technical forest climbs that steepened up to 15%. It took longer than they expected to get into Swellendam.

The Dolphin team attacked 25km into the race, 100 metres from the top at the first serious climb (heartbreak one), so that they could go downhill at full blast. This immediately gave them a 45 seconds lead, which quickly turned into minutes. Brentjens says that he was enjoying a good day, but Lakata lost his water bottle on one of the bumpy roads, and after the first 50km he suffered from dehydration and was exhausted. This resulted in Brentjens, who had a lot more energy, holding back to ride at Lakata's pace.

Stefan Sahm of the Bulls team, who secured the fifth position during Stage 4, commented on the attack of the Dolphin team: "They attacked very early on in the race and we didn't immediately go after them. We expected them to lose speed because of the terrain and difficulty of the stage, not even to mention the heat. We completely underestimated the situation as they did build up a gap and managed to stay ahead for a long time. We also rode in a very big group today and it was not working well. Alb-Gold Mountainbike had a flat tyre at one stage, and I'm not surprised that they couldn't catch up with the rest of us after that. If you were not riding in a group today, you lost a lot of time and energy."

Paulissen impressed other riders by flying up the last ascent, a very technical climb with a gradient of 15%. Afterwards, he was up front leading the rest of the top teams for almost 15km. "I wanted to test my legs. This climb was as close to a climb in a cross-country world cup race as it can get. I now feel very confident after I could see what my legs can handle this early in the season."

Hot and gruelling to the end
Some teams were hit by a sudden burst of emotion on the last 10km stretch prior to the finish as they were expecting three climbs, but also encountered little ones in between, which left them unsure whether they were facing an actual climb or not. While riding through a forestry section with no wind, humidity and temperatures soared, riders faced another challenge when fresh moved grass got caught up in their drive-train. Because of the clogged up cassettes the teams were not able to shift to lower gears, which made for a slower sprint at the finish line. Fortunately riders had only another 2km to go when this happened.

Commenting on their stage win, Brentjens said that it wasn't necessarily a planned attack, but more a spontaneous decision. "We of course discuss every evening what we should do the next day, but you actually have to wait and see how you feel during the first couple of kilometres and whether your legs are strong enough. The pace of this year's Absa Cape Epic is very fast and attacking takes a lot of energy - not only to create the gap, but to maintain it. That is why you have to think carefully on whether you should actually do it."

David George (MTN Energade) says that they are getting closer to where they want to be, but that it was yet another hard day. "Every day we hope for an easier stage and time to recover, but it remains tough. Cannondale really put the pressure on today for us to catch up with team Dolphin. We could see Bart and Alban cross the finish line as we were approaching, so we knew we made up a lot of time."

Overall results reveal that Cannondale Vredestein can still comfortably hold on to the yellow leader jersey with an 18 minute lead (19:12:51) ahead of the Bulls team (19:31:10). Third overall is Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike (19:31:47), followed by MTN Energade (1) at 19:38:19.

Sahm (Bulls) says that something major will have to happen for others to catch up with Cannondale Vredestein, referring to "either a technical defect or very bad day for one of them". He says that they (Cannondale Vredestein) no longer have to attack during the Absa Cape Epic stages, but just have to keep up with those chasing them in order to take an overall win.

Susan Haywood and Jennifer Smith win stage 4
Competition is heating up between the ladies' teams participating in this year's Absa Cape Epic. For the first time since the race started last week, Stage 4 saw the leading teams sprint to the finish line, creating loads of excitement for onlookers.

The Trek/VW WSD team of Susan Haywood (USA) and Jennifer Smith (NZL) were the first to cross the finish line at a time of 5:26:36. This puts them in 2nd position overall (23:56:15). The Rocky Mountain team, Pia Sundstedt (FIN) & Alison Sydor (CAN), finished second (5:26.36) but still maintain their overall lead at a time of 22:58:05, leading with almost an hour overall.

Finishing in third place was Scott Contessa, Jane Seggie (RSA) and Ischen Stopforth (RSA), at a time of 5:51:08. They maintained their position in fifth place overall (25:03:42). The Absa Ladies, Erica Green (RSA) and Hanlie Booyens (RSA), finished in fourth place in a time of 6:06.54. They are also placed fourth overall at a time of 24:52.04.

Fabienne Heinzmann has to withdraw from race

The Dolphin-Trek Mtb Racing team, Fabienne Heinzmann (SUI) and Katrin Schwing (GER), who managed to maintain their position under the top three for the first three stages of the Absa Cape Epic, finished in fifth position at a time of 6:20:55. After today's stage they ranked third overall (24:50:06), moving down from stage 3's second position. Unfortunately Heinzmann had to withdraw from the race this afternoon due to a neck injury she obtained in a crash on a tarred road during Stage 2.

She has been taken to Cape Town for an MRI in order to ascertain that there is no serious damage. "I'm really so disappointed because I was feeling so strong in the first two stages. Ending my first ever Absa Cape Epic in this way is heart breaking, but my health comes first. I was in such pain today that I went to see the doctor immediately after crossing the finishline. They took me to hospital for an X-ray and suggested that I must see a specialist in Cape Town," said Heinzmann.

Immense fair play amongst the top ladies
The Trek/VW WSD team said they had a great race after crossing the finish line first. Smith commented that the Rocky Mountain team let them pass. "They actually gave the stage win to us, which was such a classy thing to do and a huge compliment. It was a true sign of their strength and confidence that they did this. Also, near the end I had some grass in my drive-train and couldn't shift. Alison and Pia actually waited for us."

Haywood and Smith were also really surprised at their time. "When you ride with Alison and Pia, you automatically ride faster. We changed our strategy for today and worked very hard in the feed zones to not waste time. We didn't want to lose the group that we were riding with as it was really great riding with them."

Haywood added that they could stick together on the downhills as they trust each other so much. "Alison is one of the best descenders in the world, but her style isn't reckless. She would never endanger anyone behind her."

She also said that there was an immense amount of fair play amongst the ladies. "The Rocky Mountain team had plenty of opportunity to attack. Today was a sign of how relaxed they are with their comfortable lead. On the other hand, it was hard racing for us but we had a lot of fun along the way, chatting and laughing. Our only conclusion is that this must've been recovery day for them." Smith added: "Alison kept commenting that she's an old lady - it must be some kind of a joke. She looks as if she's fallen into the fountain of youth - she's so fit, healthy and youthful."

Haywood continued: "It's so exciting riding in an event with a strong field. There are 4 to 5 very strong teams in the Ladies division. This is definitely the hardest stage race I've ever done because of the pace, but in the end it's all worth it. The other thing is that the race demands planning as well. This adds a certain dynamic which makes it almost like a road race. You have to strategise, use race tactics and position yourself - a workout for both mind and body. It's actually really nice as it keeps you so interested in the race and aware of the bigger picture. With other stage races that I've done before, you go into survival mode - getting from stage to stage. This is much more challenging and interesting."

Smith continued: "Today's stage was really beautiful. The Absa Cape Epic is nothing like I expected with constant changes in scenery - every stage offers a different kind of beauty. It's actually a shame that you can't it more because of the competitiveness of the race. You start recognising people you are riding with by their jerseys, but you know nothing about them. Then in the evenings when you want to meet them, you don't recognise them because they're not wearing a helmet or cycling gear and their faces are clean."

The Scott Contessa team, Jane Seggie (RSA) and Ischen Stopforth (RSA), who finished in third position today, said they were in a group with the Absa and Dolphin teams for a good 25 km until the bottom of the first climb when they broke away. According to Seggie they both felt really strong today. "We decided to give it a try and one climb later we were in shock because we thought the other ladies caught up with us. We were really happy to see that it wasn't them and that we made a mistake. We ended up riding with the Mixed teams at a really nice speed. It's so amazing for us to be on the podium at this event. We're really going to enjoy this as we know it won't happen again," she added laughingly. "We found the last couple of climbs very difficult and mentally exhausting. It really was a case of for every downhill there's an uphill. We're exhausted, but blown away by our result."

Emotional start for leading Mixed team
The winners in the Mixed category, Ivonne Kraft (GER) and Nico Pfitzenmaier (GER), were riding with the Rocky Mountain team for most of the way. Said Kraft: "We had quite an emotional start to Stage 4. We noticed 5 minutes prior to the start that a bolt was missing from Nico's rear disc brake, so we started late. We only caught up with the leading ladies 40km into the race, and shortly after we also caught up with Cyclelab Toyota, Yolande and Johan. Yolande's been struggling with her shoulder and the technical sections of today's route must've been really challenging for her. We continued riding with them for around 100km into the race when we hit a very technical climb. We then took off with the Trek/VW WSD and Rocky Mountain teams. The girls are used to riding cross country and could play their Joker card."

Kraft added that it was actually very nice to ride with the leading ladies because they know each other so well, and there is so much mutual respect. As a very strong downhiller, the ladies let her pass. "We know each other's strengths and weaknesses and give way to let the others ride at comfortable speeds. There is so much mutual respect and we feel a sense of responsibility for each other with the World Cup season around the corner. The beauty of riding in a mixed team is that Nico is such a gentleman. He was my 'domestique' today, carrying four bottles with him and sharing them with me, and did quite a bit of leading for us girls."

Next Stop: Bredasdorp
For Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic, the route will take riders from Swellendam to Bredasdorp (146km, 1 819m climbing). While it may look like an easy day on the smooth dirt roads, riders will turn into about 20km of rough dual tracks of De Hoop Nature Reserve where rocks and deep sand kill their momentum and their legs. As this time of year is usually a dry season, the sandy tracks will be deeper and longer. Many will be frustrated with having to get off and push. But it will finally be worth it - riders will get a magnificent reward - another ocean vista will open out in front of them as they crest the last hill. With luck, many will spot some dolphins in the waves. Thorns and sharp rocks will pose the challenge of keeping air in the tyres again. This protected area is alive with flora and fauna with proteas and baboons, ostriches, eland, steenbok and Cape mountain zebra. But riders will be focused on getting home across the windy plains and farmlands into Bredasdorp.

Preliminary Results:

1 Dolphin (Bart Brentjens/Alban Lakata)4:28:38
2 MTN Energade 1 (Kevin Evans/David George)4:29:00
3 Cannondale Vredestein (Roel Paulissen/Jakob Fuglsang)4:29:01
4 Full-Dynamix RSM (Fredrik Kessiakoff/Massimo Debertolis)4:29:58
5 Bulls (Karl Platt/Stefan Sahm)4:31:33
1 Trek/VW WSD (Susan Haywood/Jennifer Smith)5:26:35.8
2 Rocky Mountain (Pia Sundstedt/Alison Sydor)5:26:36.4
3 Scott Contessa (Jane Seggie/Ischen Stopforth)5:51:08
4 Absa Ladies (Erica Green/Hanlie Booyens)6:06:54
5 Dolphin-Trek MTB Racing (Fabienne Heinzmann/Katrin Schwing)6:20:55
1 Adidas William Simpson (Shan Wilson/Walter Platzgummer)5:07:26
2 Absa Masters (Doug Brown/Barti Bucher)5:09:51
3 Pragma Masters (M.C. Franken/Peter Buggle)5:16:37
4 Jeff Art Signs / Giant (Bryan Strauss/Andre Viljoen)5:22:35
5 Oracla (Claudio Pellegrini/Orazio Cacaccio)5:29:38
1 Joybike Guided by VMT and Maloja (Ivonne Kraft/Nico Pfitzenmaier)5:31:43
2 Cyclelab Toyota (Johan Labuschagne/Yolande de Villiers)5:36:20
3 Absa Mixed (Kobus Barnard/Fienie Barnard)5:38:33
4 X.O Felt Swiss (Adrian Burri/Franziska Roethlin)6:01:26
5 Unicef Austria 1 (Anita Waiss/Andreas Muhlbacher)6:03:26
1 Cannondale Vredestein (Roel Paulissen/Jakob Fuglsang)19:12:51
2 Bulls (Karl Platt/Stefan Sahm)at 18:19
3 Alb-Gold Mountainbike (Hannes Genze/Jochen Kaess)18:56
4 MTN Energade 1 (Kevin Evans/David George)25:28
5 Dolphin (Bart Brentjens/Alban Lakata)27:02
6 Full Dynamix Rsm (Fredrik Kessiakoff/Massimo Debertolis)32:24
7 USN (Brandon Stewart/Max Knox)59:20
8 MTN Energade 2 (Mannie Heymans/Melt Swanepoel)1:03:46
9 Etto Hoydahl 3 (Martin Bratland/Kristian Torgersen)1:32:55
10 Etto Hoydahl 2 (Rune Hoydahl/Ola Kjoren)1:38:58
1 Rocky Mountain (Pia Sundstedt/Alison Sydor)22:58:06
2 Trek/VW WSD (Susan Haywood/Jennifer Smith)at 58:09
3 Dolphin-Trek MTB Racing (Fabienne Heinzmann/Katrin Schwing)1:52:00
4 Absa Ladies (Erica Green/Hanlie Booyens)1:53:58
5 Scott Contessa (Jane Seggie/Ischen Stopforth)2:05:36
1 Absa Masters (Doug Brown/Barti Bucher)21:25:40
2 Adidas William Simpson (Shan Wilson/Walter Platzgummer)at 15:27
3 Pragma Masters (M.C. Franken/Peter Buggle)57:50
4 Oracla (Claudio Pellegrini/Orazio Cacaccio)2:33:07
5 Chamizo-Sportful (Franky Taelman/Danny Flies)2:46:07
1 Joybike Guided by VMT and Maloja (Ivonne Kraft/Nico Pfitzenmaier)23:26:55
2 Cyclelab Toyota (Johan Labuschagne/Yolande de Villiers)at 16:00
3 Absa Mixed (Kobus Barnard/Fienie Barnard)54:01
4 X.O Felt Swiss (Adrian Burri/Franziska Roethlin)1:23:35
5 Unicef Austria 1 (Anita Waiss/Andreas Muhlbacher)2:33:51


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