Stage 1 - 111km Hermanus - Hermanus
There was a tacit admission from their nearest rivals that the mountain biking-road riding combination of Annika Langvad and Anna van der Breggen have already almost done enough to ensure their rivals are racing for second in the Women’s category at the Absa Cape Epic.
After just two days of racing at the Absa Cape Epic, the Investec-songo-Specialized duo have already opened up a massive five-minute 42-second lead over Kross-Spur Racing’s Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) and Maja Wloszczowska (Poland).
After crossing the line following the gruelling 111km Stage 1 that started and finished in Hermanus on Monday, Wloszczowska made it clear their strategy for the day was aimed more at defending second place rather than closing the gap on the leading pair.
“We did not even try and stay with (Langvad and Van der Breggen),” said the 2010 cross country World Champion. “If we had tried to go with them at the beginning we would have killed ourselves.”
Langvad, a five-time mountain bike marathon world champion, and her equally proficient road-riding specialist partner Van der Breggen, were allowed to ride away from their rivals on the early climbs out of Hermanus. They built such a big gap so early that the only other riders they saw for almost 100km were the male riders they caught and passed from the elite male batch which started 10 minutes earlier.
At the finish, after five hours, nine minutes and 11 seconds of riding, the Danish / Dutch combination had extended their stage lead to 3:07 with a controlled ride.
While the overall lead grew alarmingly for their rivals, their ride was not completely faultless as Van der Breggen arrived at the finish with a trickle of blood down her left shin.
“On the gravel road I took a tumble,” she said. “It is so slippery everywhere out there. The technical stuff is okay, it is just difficult because you have to pay attention all day.”
Van der Breggen also found the overhead conditions difficult on Monday and despite their growing advantage was wary about making predictions going forward.
“It was hot today … it was really hot out there. On a MTB you have to go hard from the beginning so it is more than five hours of going fast which is tough for the body of course. First we get some recovery after today and then we see what happens tomorrow. I am so tired at the moment” she added with a smile. “But we are really happy with how it has gone so far.”
Wloszczowska was pleased with Stage 1 despite a tough 111km ride where they struggled to hold off the third-placed- Summit Fin team of Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath.
“I have a huge back pain, but otherwise it was all good,” said Wloszczowska. “We tried to keep the pace steady so we can reach the finish without hitting the wall on the way, but it was a hard stage.
“The Summit Fin girls were pushing super hard almost all the time. First we got a pretty big advantage and then they closed the gap again, so we had to push hard again – it was a crazy battle today.”
“If we had tried to go with (Langvad and Van der Breggen) it would have been quite risky with 111 kays, so I hope they enjoyed the ride. I am happy we are still only three minutes back. I think for five hours of racing it is not really a lot … I was expecting a lot more so I think it is still close.” Wloszczowska added.
Close is a relative term, but Van der Breggen’s minor tumble will also serve as a warning that although Investec-songo-Specialized are clearly a step above their rivals, the nature of mountain biking means victory is never guaranteed and a mechanical or a fall can shake up the leader board at any time.
In the race for the African Women’s jersey race, the dormakaba Ladies team of Samantha Sanders and Amy Mcdougall added 13 minutes to their advantage over the Galileo Risk pairing of Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill and now lead the jersey by 42 minutes.
Tuesday’s Stage 2 is relatively short in kilometres, but with 2 250m of climbing packed into the 90km stage from Hermanus to Oak Valley, the day will still be a tough test likely to be remembered by the riders .
1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 05:09.11,4 2. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 05:12.19,0 +3.07,6 3. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 05:14.31,8 +5.20,4
1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 06:00.56,2 2. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 06:06.39,0 +5.42,8 3. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 06:09.05,6 +8.09,4 4. Silverback - Fairtree 52-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 52-2 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 06:17.21,8 +16.25,6 5. Meerendal WIAWIS Rotwild 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Nadine Rieder (Germany) 06:19.27,5 +18.31,3 6. dormakaba Ladies 55-1 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 55-2 Amy Mcdougall (South Africa) 06:23.01,1 +22.04,9 7. FreakShow SCOTT 57-1 Sonya Looney (United States of America) 57-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 06:56.04,8 +55.08,6 8. Galileo Risk 56-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 56-2 Sarah Hill (South Africa) 07:05.13,7 +1:04.17,5 9. Land Rover Jaguars 46-1 Hannele Steyn (South Africa) 46-2 Katja Steenkamp (South Africa) 07:56.02,7 +1:55.06,5 10. T and T 351-1 Jeanette Treherne (South Africa) 351-2 Vivienne Turvey (South Africa) 08:45.03,3 +2:44.07,1
Stage 2 - 90km Hermanus - Oak Valley Estate
The Investec-songo-Specialized duo of Annika Langvad and Anna van der Breggen extended their lead during Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic despite changing their strategy mid-race on Tuesday.
The MTB and road world champion pairing made the decisive move about three-quarters of the way through the 90km stage from Hermanus to Oak Valley Estate in Elgin; but their plan before the start was to not attack their nearest rivals, the Kross-Spur Racing duo of Ariane Lüthi and Maja Wloszczowska.
“Yesterday (Monday) we were quite broken when we crossed the finish line, so today we actually wanted to try and save energy as much as we could,” said five-time World Marathon Champion Langvad as she recovered after the stage. “It was so far today that we just wanted to try and hang on to (Lüthi and Wloszczowska), but at the last big climb we could feel that they were fading and so we pushed the pace a bit and got a gap. The climb is at the end of the stage, so you need to time it well to have something left in the tank after the climb.”
At the end of the stage Langvad and Van der Breggen had opened up a two minute gap which leaves them with a healthy cushion of close to eight minutes going into the 107km Stage 3. Wednesday’s stage is a tough out-and-back loop from Oak Valley that takes in the famed Groenlandberg climb and its treacherous descent.
The Summit Fin pairing of South Africa’s Candice Lill and her German partner Adelheid Morath crossed the line third and they are now 18 minutes off the pace in third position overall.
Despite building a big advantage before the riders have even reached the halfway stage of the eight-day event, Langvad refuses to be drawn into any talk of a clean-sweep of eight wins in eight stages.
“Nothing about this race is ever sure until you cross the finish line – but so far so good,” was as far as she would go toward contemplating victory at Val de Vie Estate on Sunday.
Langvad’s Olympic Road Champion partner also refused to look too far ahead, but was clearly pleased to have come through the transition stage to Oak Valley unscathed.
“I am really tired, but I am really happy with today’s stage,” said Van der Breggen after the finish. “We stayed with Maja and Ariane on the downhills and the technical sections, including the Land Rover Technical Terrain. We managed to keep up without crashing – and it was very easy to crash today because it was very fast. So that makes it a good day for me.”
Despite losing time on their main rivals for the third day in a row, Lüthi was clearly content to have increased their lead over the third-placed Summit Fin team.
“I knew that the time would come (when Langvad and Van der Breggen would break away),” said a philosophical Lüthi after crossing the line. “They are just playing it really, really smart. They are excellent riders and know how to play the game.
“They did not need to do any work in the front. It is our task to do that as we try to get away from third place. So I knew the moment would come when they would pull away, but it was good to ride with them and I was super happy to get a gap on third.
“As long as we can play it like that I am super happy,” added Lüthi.
Stage Results 1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 04:18.01,2 2. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 04:20.09,2 +2.08,0 3. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 04:27.55,6 +9.54,4
Overall Results 1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 10:18.57,4 2. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 10:26.48,2 +7.50,8 3. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 10:37.01,3 +18.03,9 4. Silverback - Fairtree 52-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 52-2 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 10:46.51,1 +27.53,7 5. Meerendal WIAWIS Rotwild 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Nadine Rieder (Germany) 10:49.17,8 +30.20,4 6. dormakaba Ladies 55-1 Samantha Sanders (South Africa) 55-2 Amy Mcdougall (South Africa) 11:04.54,0 +45.56,6 7. Galileo Risk 56-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 56-2 Sarah Hill (South Africa) 11:42.55,7 +1:23.58,3 8. FreakShow SCOTT 57-1 Sonya Looney (United States of America) 57-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 11:55.29,8 +1:36.32,4