Cape Town - Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro punched the air as they approached the finish line of Thursday’s fourth stage of the Absa Cape Epic.
Just before the line, the pair who are riding for Trek-Selle San Marco, got off their bikes and carried them over the line in triumph, celebrating their first stage win of their debut Cape Epic.
The Italian stallions, the dark horses of this year’s race, are now third overall behind The Bulls and Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2. The Bulls, however, have taken firm control of the race - and now have a 9 minute 44 second lead over their nearest rivals.
One of the leading challengers, Team Topeak Ergon Racing were forced to withdraw after Kristian Hynek crashed within 5km of the end of Wednesday’s stage, damaging his elbow badly.
It seems nothing but a run of bad luck can now stop The Bulls – and Germany’s Karl Platt’s record-equalling fifth title. With three stages left the Bulls will no doubt ride defensively to be in the yellow zebra jersey at the finish at the Meerendal on Sunday.
Porro said today’s stage, which had lots of climbs, suited the team because they are light. “We started easy and decided not to push too hard. When we got to the third water point – 25km before the end – we decided to push harder. We managed to get a gap and we just went. We came to the Epic just to get experience – and now we are on the podium. It’s unbelievable.”
Bulls 2 team, of the German pairing of Simon Stiebjahn and Tim Boehme who are racing in support of Platt and his Swiss team-mate Urs Huber – were second in Thursday’s 75km stage – 1 minute and 11 seconds behind Porro and Ferraro.
"Today was super fast from the beginning, obviously because everybody knew the singletrack starts soon,“ said Stiebjahn.
“We got into a good position when we went into the singletrack and that helped us a lot because there was four teams together most of the day. Sometimes other teams came back, but in the final two climbs we made another break and then it came down to the sprint finish.”
Dutch riders Rudi van Houts and Hans Becking (CST Superior) rolled across the line in third place in a time of 3:08.01.
Meanwhile, Platt said that everything had gone according to plan on Thursday, but said it was yet another tough stage of the race. “The Epic is never easy especially today with lots of climbs – we were going up and down all day, but there was lots of singletrack too.”
He said he was thrilled with the form of their back-up team. “I'm very happy for Simon and Tim finishing on the podium today. They trained with us every day before the Epic and they're getting stronger and stronger too. Maybe before the end of the week they'll get a stage win too."
Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill (USN Purefit) extended their lead in the Absa African special jersey category, and were the first South African team home in a time of 3:15.14 - almost two minutes ahead of their rivals Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (NAD Pro MTB).
"Today was good, but after getting a puncture yesterday we got another one early today. Lucky we were able to plug it quickly and kept the gap on Gawie and Nico,” said Woolcock.
"We rode steady today. The stage didn't really suit us, but we were able to extend our advantage in the Absa African special jersey a little bit more. That was the plan today, and to not overextend ourselves... so all in all everything went according to plan."
Stage 4 results
1. Trek-Selle San
Marco A 13-1 Samuele Porro (Italy) 13-2 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 3:06.49,3
2. Bulls 2 10-1 Simon Stiebjahn (Germany) 10-2 Tim Boehme (Germany) 3:08.00,3 +1.11,0
3. CST Superior 5-1 Rudi van Houts (Netherlands) 5-2 Hans Becking (Netherlands) 3:08.01,2 +1.11,9
1. Bulls 3-1 Karl
Platt (Germany) 3-2 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 17:30.41,2
2. Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 17-1 Nicola Rohrbach (Switzerland) 17-2 Matthias Pfrommer (Germany) 17:40.25,7 +9.44,5
3. Trek-Selle San Marco A 13-1 Samuele Porro (Italy) 13-2 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 17:46.45,2 +16.04,0
4. Cannondale Factory Racing 14-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 14-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 17:56.44,2 +26.03,0
5. Bulls 2 10-1 Simon Stiebjahn (Germany) 10-2 Tim Boehme (Germany) 18:05.47,7 +35.06,5
6. USN Purefit 7-1 Darren Lill (South Africa) 7-2 Waylon Woolcock (South Africa) 18:05.49,0 +35.07,8
7. Dolomiti Superbike 11-1 Periklis Ilias (Greece) 11-2 Tiago Jorge Ferreira Oliveira (Portugal) 18:08.07,5 +37.26,3
8. Trek-Selle San Marco B 18-1 Ivan Alvarez Gutierrez (Spain) 18-2 Fabian Rabensteiner (Italy) 18:09.44,4 +39.03,2
9. NAD Pro MTB 8-1 Gawie Combrinck (South Africa) 8-2 Nico Bell (South Africa) 18:22.20,1 +51.38,9
10. Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 4-1 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 4-2 Hermann Pernsteiner (Austria) 18:29.22,4 +58.41,2