- The Absa Cape Epic kicked off in a wet Cape Town on Sunday.
- Matt Beers and Jordan Sarriou took first place in the Elite men's race.
- Sina Frei and Laura Stigger took the top spot in the women's Elite race.
The Cape Epic is back and its unusual October scheduling saw a wetter prologue than expected.
It was an excellent seeding run for South Africa’s Matt Beers. With his French partner, and former World Champion, Jordan Sarrou, Beers managed to win the prologue.
Fittingly, they were both riding Specialized Epics. The Beers-Sarrou team, riding as part of NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized, clocked a time of 43:24.5 on the 20km prologue.
"It’s a great feeling to get the win," said Beers. "I’ve been visualising it ever since I got a taste for this a few years back. Jordan was just a beast on the climbs, so I let him set the pace and I just hung on for dear life."
Second-place went to Filippo Viero Colombo (Switzerland) and Italy’s Juri Zanotti (BMC - KTM) in 45:04.4, with Andreas Seewald (Germany) and Martin Stosek (Czech Republic) of Canyon Northwave MTB claiming third in a time of 45:14.8.
Less dust, but still tricky
It might have been their first ride at a Cape Epic, but Colombo and Zanotti set the early pace, retaining their podium top spot for much of the men’s prologue, until Beers and Sarrou rolled out of the start at UCT.
The Cape Epic’s Table Mountain prologue is unquestionably scenic but also inarguably technical. Its Plum Pudding descent, off Tafelberg Road, can often be the undoing of many.
Whereas previous Table Mountain prologues have featured dusty and loose conditions, the weekend’s rain and colder weather meant less dust, but some slick corners and wooden trail features.
Women's elite race
Sina Frei and Laura Stigger (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized), both riding in the Absa Cape Epic for the first time, laid down an impressive marker during Sunday’s 20km Prologue. The Swiss-Austrian combo rode serenely and smoothly in wet and slippery conditions to claim top spot on the Absa Cape Epic Prologue podium in a time of 54:08.6.
"It was really tough out there today thanks to the weather, but we are used to those conditions from some of our recent XCO rides, so we handled it well," said Stigger.
Frei added, "We are very happy with the result, but we know there are seven hard days to come. Today went well, though. It was very good for us, and we both felt great throughout the day. We kept up a good speed and we communicated well - so hopefully we keep that up over the next few days."
The all-South African pair of Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss (Faces CST) claimed second spot on the Prologue podium, finishing in 55:41, around 90 seconds behind NinetyOne-songo-Specialized. The pair were relaxed throughout and finished the 20km race all smiles and ready to move on to the longer stages.
In third, it was Ariane Lüthi & Robyn de Groot (Salusmed). Lüthi, a three-time winner in the Elite women’s race, and De Groot looked comfortable throughout the Prologue, which is not generally the strength of the two renowned marathon riders. The pair will be serious contenders at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic, with their third-place Prologue finish setting them up nicely to attack in the coming days.
A lot, to come
The first proper stage of this year’s Cape Epic will see riders route from Ceres, for a 98km ride, with 1850m of climbing. This stage will be the first to go below 100km of distance since 2013, but that does not imply an easy first day of real racing for the field.
A highlight for technically skilled riders will be the inclusion of Eselfontein’s trails, which are some of the best in South Africa.