Wellington/South Africa“Shortly before the finish I asked Alban what our tactic should be: a truce or a sprint finish? The answer was to sprint, so we did it like true men”, exclaimed an excited Christoph Sauser (Investec-Songo-Specialized) after crossing the finish line of today’s stage at the Absa Cape Epic. Three tenths of a second was the advantage that Sauser and Jaroslav Kulhavy gained ahead of their biggest rivals, Alban Lakata (AUT) and Kristian Hynek (CZE) from Team Topeak Ergon.

Absa Cape Epic 2015 Stage 6 Wellington

Hynek chose the wrong line as he turned into the finishing stretch. “That’s going to frustrate me for the next few days”, said the friendly Czech rider, who won the Absa Cape Epic 2014 alongside the German rider Robert Mennen.

This Epic stage victory took Christoph Sauser to a remarkable 36 stage wins since first participating in 2005. Just 87 kilometres and 1,500 metres of climbing stand between the Swiss rider and a potential fifth overall victory, which would constitute a new record. In history, only Karl Platt from Team Bulls has equaled Sauser’s four victories to date.

Absa Cape Epic 2015 Stage 6 Wellington

A broken Urs Huber from Team Bulls rolled over the finish line in Wellington 13 minutes behind the leaders. “Urs had a bad day today. We have such a lead on the fourth-placed riders, so I told him to relax, you don’t need to burn yourself out. And then we just rode safely to the finish”, explained Platt.

The fourth-placed team in the GC, which consists of ex-cross-country world champ Jose Hermida with his Dutch partner Rudi van Houts, Team Multivan Merida, spent more time battling their own bodies than their competitors. Stomach cramps affected the ever-energetic Hermida. After being examined yesterday, it transpires that he might have a liver infection. Immediately after finishing, the Spaniard headed to the Mediclinic tent. The Merida rider lost around 22 minutes in total, but has retained fourth place in the GC.

Absa Cape Epic 2015 Stage 6 Wellington

Five South African Teams finished in the top 10 on this sixth stage, resulting in yet another change in the leadership of the African leaders’ jersey, with Scott Factory Racing now wearing it proudly. Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes, the winners of stage 5, finished in third place, claiming a spot on the podium once again. Needing to change a rear wheel, Darren Lill and Waylon Woolcock (RED-E Blend) lost time in the Tech-Zone as the disc brakes and cassette subsequently had to be adjusted. Today’s results have seen the fourth change in the leadership of the red African leaders’ jersey.

Robert Mennen (GER) and Jeremiah Jacobs (USA), Team Topeak Ergon 2, got caught in a crash with the German rider Jochen Käß (Meerendal Centurion Vaude) but were able to finish in eighth place, which puts them in 14th overall before the final day.


Today’s rain arrived earlier than predicted in Wellington, causing the dust seen in the other stages to be damped. About an hour after the start the skies cleared so that the riders had the rare opportunity to ‘enjoy’ the stage. Almost half of the 72 kilometres was singletrack. “It was like Alice in Wellington”, said the satisfied victor of the women’s category, Ariane Kleinhans, “For a change we didn’t ride full.” Along with her RECM Specialized partner Annika Langvad, three time marathon world champion, the Swiss rider cruised along the Welvan Pass singletrack to an unthreatened fifth stage win.

Absa Cape Epic 2015 Stage 6 Wellington

“Three days ago I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I give it. And today we won a stage – incredible!” The technical trails and the short, sharp climbs suited the cyclocross specialist Hanka Kupfernagel, who graced the top step of the podium after today’s stage along with the experienced veteran of the Absa Cape Epic, Karsten Bresser (Team Dietrich Rocky Mountain). The overall leaders of the mixed category, Ivonne Kraft (GER) and Peter Vesel (SLO) punctured and crossed the line 1.11 minutes behind. Their lead in the GC remains unchallenged.

Absa Cape Epic 2015 Stage 6 Wellington

In the Masters category there was trouble from second-placed Pfitzenmaier/Simm (RSA, Team Dorma Robert Daniel). A car, which was taking a wrong turn, knocked Rob Simm from his bike. Pfitzenmaier, a South African resident, has been riding since yesterday with a broken finger. Meanwhile, the leaders, Bart Brentjens/Abraao Azevedo (BETCH.nl-Suiperior), could not be slowed and put 3.45 minutes between them and the chasers.

Absa Cape Epic 2015 Stage 6 Wellington

The Grandmasters Barti Bucher (SUI) and Heinz Zoerweg (AUT), Team Meerendal BIXs KTM, enjoyed today’s singletrack and spent the stage looking forward to their ice-cold beer, which is always waiting for them at the finish. They’re now almost an hour ahead of the second placers, the South Africans Greg Anderson und Andrew McLean (Ascendis Health).

After seven days, the Topeak Ergon Team with Kristian Hynek (CZE) and Alban Lakata (AUT) are 10.51.7 minutes behind the Specialized leaders before the final stage of this year’s Absa Cape Epic. The final stage measures 87 kilometres, heading towards the Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville near Cape Town. Between the riders and the finish stands one classic Cape Epic climb: the Paardeberg. After 25 kilometres of gravel tracks to warm up, the riders face the epic Paardeberg that climbs 600 metres over 6 kilometres. The fastest riders are expected in Meerendal at about 10.15 local time.

All results can be found at www.cape-epic.com

Absa Cape Epic 2015 Stage 6 Wellington

The riders

Christoph Sauser (SUI) Investec-Songo-Specialized

With so many trails you have to ride aggressively to be the first onto the trail. We succeeded at this and could keep them both under control. We agreed to a sprint finish and luckily there were no crashes. This is definitely more exciting for those watching and it’s fair.

Alban Lakata (AUT) Topeak Ergon

Today’s conditions suited me: a little rain in the morning, which I like, and the rolling countryside too. We rode quickly, hoping that Specialized would make a mistake. But we secured second place. We actually came here to win. But with just one stage remaining, only a mishap on the part of the leaders could help us to close the gap.

Robert Mennen (GER) Topeak Ergon

Because of the crash I was a bit boxed in and lost contact with the front group. I first had to catch up with my partner Jeremiah (Roberts), which left us riding on our own and I didn’t have the best legs today to be able to close the gap. When we caught the Bulls, we stayed with them so that we wouldn’t make the gap to our Team 1 any smaller.

Ariane Kleinhans (SUI) RECM Specialized

Finally a stage when we could ride at our own rhythm and not have to hang on to other people’s wheels. So we could ride our own pace and I certainly enjoyed that. Tomorrow marks the last day and there’s a huge chance that we’ll confirm the victory. I’m looking forward to a recovery week.


Words: Absa Cape Epic press release

Photos: Dominic Barnardt, Damien Schumann, Sophie Smith, Nick Muzik, Sam Clark, Shaun Roy, Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

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