- Hot, dusty and tricky trail conditions at the Cape Epic prologue.
- A nightmare day of mechanicals for some leading Swiss teams. Including the race favourites.
- South African pride was on display with winning riders in both the men’s and women’s classification.
With most international elite riders present and crowds allowed, the return to a normalised Cape Epic delivered hot conditions at the Lourensford prologue.
Riders powered around the 24km prologue in windless conditions. But the elites, starting last, experienced peak heat and dust.
No Cape Epic day is without drama, and it started early. The Swiss team of Simeon Niederer and Patric Tinner suffered a snapped chain at the start of their prologue.
With five Cape Epics between them, Niederer and Tinner kept calm and applied emergency mechanic skills, enabling the Swiss to complete their prologue.
In the women’s category, BMC MTB Racing showed its intent for the event. Pauline Ferrand Prévot and Robyn de Groot topped the timing, followed by Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss in second place. Completing the women’s prologue podium was multiple Cape Epic champion Ariane Lüthi, and Amy Wakefield.
Some very fast masters
The Cape Epic masters category sees two of the greatest champions riding together. Karl Platt and Christoph Sauser might be 'retired' - but with ten Cape Epic wins between them, they only know race pace.
Sauser appeared animated on the startline, downplaying the seriousness of their dream team status. "We already have lots of wine in the cupboard. It just depends on whether Karl will drink it all or not."
Swiss humour aside, there was no sedate singletrack riding from the songo NinetyOne Epic Legends. Platt and Sauser rode strongly into second, behind Mirko Pirazzoli and Miguel Martinez - winners of the masters prologue.
Not a good day for Nino
The men’s prologue was a frustrating day on the trail for Tankwa Trek champion, Nino Schurter. A puncture cost the multiple World Champion and two-time Cape Epic winner nearly three minutes early in the prologue.
Schurter and teammate Lars Forster’s mechanical misery was compounded by more issues, necessitating the Scott-SRAM team to use an available in-stage tech zone – losing another four minutes. Their misfortune ended in a 15th place finish on the prologue.
Defending Cape Epic champion, Matt Beers, and his American teammate, Christopher Blevins, rode with terrific intensity. Despite the heat and loose trails, having been churned up by all those preceding Cape Epic riders, Beers and Blevins managed to best the strong elite field for a prologue win.
Although Schurter and Foster’s mechanical issues eliminated them as a threat during the prologue, Beers and Blevins will take confidence into stage 1, having triumphed at the prologue. Germany’s Georg Egger and Lukas Baum finished second, trailing by 40 seconds. Another German, Andreas Seewald, and his Czech Republic teammate, Martin Stošek, in third.
Like the prologue, stage 1 starts and finishes at Lourensford, but it’s a significantly greater challenge. Riders will navigate around the Helderberg for 92km, climbing 2850m.