Sauser, Rabon claim Stage 3

Christoph Sauser and Frantisek Rabon (Shaun Roy/SPORTZPICS)
Christoph Sauser and Frantisek Rabon (Shaun Roy/SPORTZPICS)

Cape Town - Christoph Sauser and Frantisek Rabon (Meerendal Songo Specialized) have won a sprint finish on Wednesday to take stage three of the Absa Cape Epic as the yellow leaders' jersey changed hands for the fourth time in four days.

On Thursday morning, German youngster Robert Mennen and his Czech teammate Kristian Hynek (Topeak-Ergon) will start in yellow with a nine-and-a-half-minute buffer over Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls).

Four-time winner Platt, from Germany, began stage three in the yellow top on Wednesday but suffered from a painful knee -- the consequence of crash on Tuesday's stage two -- and he and his Swiss teammate Urs Huber could eventually not resist repeated attacks from the other leading teams on the 134km stage from Robertson to Greyton.

They finished nearly 11 minutes back in sixth but are still second overall.

Swiss Sauser, also a four-time winner, and Czech Rabon are third overall after winning the stage in 4:53:36.4. Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess (Centurion-Vaude) finished a split-second behind Sauser and Rabon, but their disastrous stage two -- when Kaufmann broke the frame of his bike while they were wearing yellow -- meant the Germans are out of contention for the overall win.

"Finally we had a good day at the Cape Epic! No problems at all," said Rabon.

"Now I can say I enjoyed a stage at the Epic. After all the bad luck and chasing the whole time, we could do some racing today."

Sauser said: "It feels almost the same as last year. Third day, and it comes finally together for us. I am a positive guy but I never thought we would be second overall after today.

"I thought the Bulls would still be in the lead. When I saw Karl dropping out of the back of the lead group, I went to the front and said to the guys we must go for it now."

Mennen and Hynek finished third in the sprint and their steady performances over four days -- including a prologue -- in which other top teams have all either battled with mechanical problems, illness or crashes have given them what might be a telling lead.

"Specialized was hungry for a victory today. That much was obvious. We just made sure we stayed with the front teams because we had the overall lead in mind," said Hynek. "We all worked well together and it was a long, but good day."

Mennen added: "It's a long way to go until Lourensford (where the Epic finishes on Sunday), but it has always been a goal of mine to wear the yellow at the Cape Epic."

The team in yellow after the prologue on Sunday, Spaniard Jose Hermida and Dutchman Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida), lost the jersey when the former suffered an allergic reaction to something in his breakfast before Monday's stage one.

Asked if the yellow jersey was cursed in this year's Epic, Mennen said he was a "little bit afraid".

"I'm not sure if there's a little bit of bad luck, but hopefully we can keep it on our shoulders a bit longer."

Stage three signalled the end to the hopes of two other top teams. German Hannes Genze -- riding with Swiss Konny Looser (Meerendal Centurion Wheeler) -- broke and badly gashed his forearm in a heavy crash midway through the stage and could not continue.

South African Waylon Woolcock did not get to the start after succumbing to illness overnight, leaving partner Darren Lill (Cannondale Blend) to continue on his own but out of the race.

Original women's favourites Swiss Ariane Kleinhans and Dane Annike Langvad (RECM 2) won the category by two-and-a-half minutes in 5:34:06.7, but will be disappointed in their performance. They were hoping to make up more time on the overall leaders but ended up riding on their own in windy, blustery conditions and appeared to weaken towards the end.

They are now 11 minutes behind leaders Esther Suss, also Swiss, and England's Sally Bigham (Meerendal) in the race for overall honours. Kleinhans and Langvad were plagued by punctures and technical problems on stage one and lost 24 minutes.

South Africa's Theresa Ralph and her Swedish teammate Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Company) remain third but are now 51 minutes behind the leaders.

Thursday stage four is an 88km loop starting and finishing in Greyton.

Results from Stage 3 of the Cape Epic:

1 Christoph Sauser and Frantisek Rabon (Meerendal Songo Specialized) 4:53:34.7; 2 Markus Kaufmann and Jochen Kaess 4:53:34.9; 3 Robert Mennen and Kristian Hynek (Topeak-Ergon) 4:53:36.4.

1 Mennen and Kristian 14:56:41.8; 2 Karl Platt and Urs Huber (Bulls) 15:06:08.4; 3 Sauser and Rabon 15:06:23.0.

1 Ariane Kleinhans and Annike Langvad (RECM 2) 5:34:06.7; 2 Esther Suss and Sally Bigham (Meerendal) 5:36:37.7; 3 Milena Landtwing and Hielke Elferink (Meerendal Wheeler) 5:52:43.6.

1 Suss and Bigham 17:15:19.3; 2 Kleinhans and Langvad 17:26:41.8. 3 Jennie Stenerhag and Theresa Ralph (Cape Brewing Company) 18:06:42.4.

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