Christoph Sauser overcomes puncture to finish ahead in Cape Epic

2015-03-17 00:00

CAPE TOWN — In a day of drama, Christoph Sauser laid down a significant marker yesterday in his bid to become the first person to win the Absa Cape Epic five times.

The Swiss master and his Czech team-mate Jaroslav Kulhavy (Investec-Songo-Specialized) showed great form on the 113 km Stage 1 as they overcame a puncture to finish the day almost a minute ahead of Sauser’s great rival, Karl Platt of Germany, who is riding with Swiss strongman Urs Huber.

One of the top professionals in the field, Kargo Pro MTB’s Emil Lindgren, was out of the race after crashing on a descent off the flank of the Groenlandberg and breaking his arm.

He was riding with South African Brendon Davids, who will have to soldier on as an Outcast — professional riders who can continue to take part but not compete and may not influence the outcome of the race.

Bad luck struck another of the pre-race favourite teams, Topeak Ergon’s defending champion Kristian Hynek of the Czech Republic and Austrian Alban Lakata, when they had to repair two punctures and swop a wheel at a tech zone.

They managed, however, to recover and finish fourth, some four minutes behind Sauser and Kulhavy.

The day was a tough one for riders throughout the field, with some 2 800 m of vertical gain through the stage and then a steady drizzle that made surfaces slippery and occasionally treacherous.

“It’s cool being in yellow zebra jersey after the first stage,” said Sauser.

Sauser and Kulhavy had built up a lead in the early stages of the race but picked up a sidewall puncture and lost time as they repaired it.

The Bulls pair swept past and their lead grew to more than two minutes as Sauser stopped to change the entire wheel at one of the official tech zones.

However, the Swiss/Czech pairing were strong enough to catch Platt and Huber and build another lead before the finish: “Fortunately we caught them, ­recovered and attacked,” said Sauser, who had notched up his 32nd Absa Cape Epic stage win.

Kulhavy said Sauser had recovered strongly from his prologue difficulties.

“We must do it for ‘Susi’ because this race means so much to him,” said Kulhavy.

Platt said that he was pleased to be on the podium.

“Everyone was fresh and motivated and the pace on the first climb [up Groenlandberg after 20 km] was really high. I was racing on the limit today … it’s going to be a really fast Epic.”

It was good day for Spaniard Jose Hermida, one of the characters of the professional circuit, and his Dutch partner Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida), who finished third after a steady ride.

“It’s a good feeling being on the ­podium after last year’s bad luck [when he fell ill],” said Hermida.

Stage 1 Results

1. Investec-Songo-Specialized; 4:47.39,7; 2-1 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 2-2 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic)

2. Bulls; +51,3; 4-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 4-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland)

3. Multivan Merida; +1.14,7; 6-1 Jose Hermida (Spain) 6-2 Rudi van Houts Netherlands)

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