Johannesburg - Four-time Cape Epic winner Karl Platt of Germany and his Swiss teammate Urs Huber (Team Bulls) on Tuesday overcame a crash and a very muddy stage two of the eight-day mountain bike race to snatch the yellow leaders’ jersey.
They finished second on the day, a little more than two minutes behind a charging Team Topeak-Ergon, Robert Mennen (Germany) and Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic), who completed the 103km stage in 4:12:17.0. It was enough to give Platt and Huber a one minute and nine seconds lead in the general classification over the Topeak-Ergon pairing.
Riders awoke on Tuesday to a protracted downpour and then battled with more rain and severe mud on the course, a loop which began and ended in Robertson. The gritty mud ground into the working parts of the bicycles, giving rise to several mechanical problems.
Platt said he had a "stupid crash" soon after the start.
"It was very slippery out there," said Platt. "I missed the line [on some single track] and the front wheel went. My motivation went a little bit and I was hurting everywhere, but we are fighters and started to catch up."
Mennen said conditions had been exceptionally tough and the stage boiled down to "the survival of the fittest".
"Luckily we had good legs and no mechanicals -- it was our luck today," he added.
Third home, and five minutes behind the stage winners, were Germans Tim Boehme and Simon Stiebjahn of Teams Bulls 2. They are also lying third in the general classification.
Swiss Christoph Sauser, also chasing a fifth Epic win and riding this year with Czech partner Frantisek Rabon, developed severe brake problems on the route and lost nearly 12 minutes on the Bulls pair. They are now lying sixth overall.
But the biggest losers of the day were overnight yellow jersey holders Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess (Centurion Vaude), both of Germany, when the latter’s frame broke. They were not allowed to replace it on the stage and had to make running repairs, eventually finishing one hour and 50 minutes behind the winners in 112th position.
Still in contention for the overall win are the fourth-placed combination of Swiss Kenny Looser and German Hannes Genze, and fifth-placed Swiss pairing Lukas Fluckiger and Martin Fanger (BMC).
Women’s favourites Ariane Kleinhans of Switzerland and Annike Langvad of Denmark (RECM2) recovered brilliantly on Tuesday from a disastrous stage one to take back nearly nine minutes of the 24 they lost to Meerendal’s Esther Suss (Switzerland) and Sally Bigham (England).
Kleinhans and Langvad won Tuesday’s stage in 4:53:07,5.
"It was important to not get into any trouble but still be awake to take an opportunity if there was one. Towards the end we gave our all," said Kleinhans.
Swede Jennie Stenerhag and South Africa’s Theresa Ralph finished third in the women’s category, 19 minutes behind Kleinhans and Langvad.
Wednesday’s 134km stage three takes the riders from Robertson to Greyton.
Results and overall standings after Stage 2 of the race on Tuesday:Men:
1. Robert Mennen and Kristian Hynek (Topeak-Ergon) 4:12:17.0;
2. Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls) 4:13:4.7;
3. Tim Boehme and Simon Stiebjahn (Bulls 2) 4:17:19.7.
1. Platt and Huber 10:01:55.9;
2. Mennen and Hynek 10:03:05.4;
3. Boehme and Stiebjahn 10:04:55.6
1. Ariane Kleinhans and Annike Langvad (RECM 2) 4:53:07.5;
2. Esther Suss and Sally Bigham (Meerendal) 5:01:53.6
3. Jennie Stenerhag and Theresa Ralph (Cape Brewing Company) 5:12:12.4.
1. Suss and Bigham 11:38:41.6;
2. Kleinhans and Langvad 11:52:35.1.
3. Stenerhag and Ralph 12:08:38.4.