Prologue: Meerendal CBC’s Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Süss got their 2017 Absa Cape Epic campaign off to a solid start with a second place finish on the Prologue, which took place on the trail of Meerendal Wine Estate on Sunday morning. They finished just 39 seconds behind the stage winning duo of Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz of Team Ascendis Health.
Cornelia Hug and Heilke Elferink, riding as Meerendal CBC 2, couldn’t match the pace of the team leaders as they struggled in the heat and dust, of the Durbanville Hills, finishing seventh on the stage. Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg meanwhile got their Absa Cape Epic campaign off to the best possible start by winning the Prologue in the Grand Masters Category for Meerendal CBC 3.
Stage 1: Stage 1 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic couldn’t have turned out better for Meerendal CBC if we’d scripted it, as Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Suss raced to stage victory in a time of 5 hours, 10 minutes and 4.2 seconds. They led from the outset today, on the 101km long stage around the trails of Hermanus, with Jennie driving the pace in as they neared the Hansgrohe queen of the mountain hotspot. She was first across the top of the climb, with Esther following close behind. Rather than sitting up and waiting for the other women’s teams to rejoin them at the front of the race the Meerendal CBC women pushed on and stretched their lead throughout the stage.
There was drama behind them when Sabine Spitz of Ascendis Health first suffered a mechanical and then crashed, leaving her with a cut above her eye which needed stitches. The Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro team of Annie Last & Mariske Strauss were second on the trails for much of the day, but after water point 3, Sabine & Robyn de Groot managed to catch and pass the OMX pairing; but couldn’t limit their time losses to Jennie and Esther who were flying.
The result puts Meerendal CBC in the orange women’s category leaders’ jerseys for Stage 2 from Hermanus to Greyton.
The Meerendal CBC 2 team of Hielke Elferink & Cornelia Hug had a better stage today too, finishing fifth on the stage and moving up to sixth place overall. In the Grand Masters’ category Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg of Meerendal CBC 3 claimed another stage victory, further cementing their hold on the purple category leaders’ jerseys to a significant 16 minutes and 7 seconds over the ABSA Bus Boys team of Greg Anderson & Deon Kruger.
Stage 2: Stage 2 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic had all the elements to be an even tougher stage than the day before, during which the sweltering conditions left many riders needing medical attention. The daunting 102km route was set to include 2 350m of altitude gain in a predicted 35 degrees Celsius. But after consultation with the race doctors, the route was shortened to 62km, with 1 500m of climbing.
For the elite riders, the shortened distance would mean a fast and furious pace so it would by no means be an easier day in the saddle. Leading the Hansgrohe Women’s Category Jennie Stenerhag & Esther Süss could afford to shadow the second placed pairing of Sabine Spitz & Robyn de Groot, of Ascendis Health. The shortened route had another drawback for Stenerhag & Süss, they couldn’t see the finish line as they normally would be able to. So in the final kilometre, when the race crossed under the N2 Süss knew the finish must be nearby. So she attacked on what transpired to be the final climb, distancing Spitz slightly – tough Stenerhag and de Groot followed her wheel. The gap, to Spitz though only a few bike lengths was enough to slingshot the Meerendal CBC team down the final descent and into the finishing straight with an advantage for the sprint finish. Süss crossed the finish line first – followed by de Groot, Stenerghag and then a few seconds later Spitz – handing the Meerendal CBC women their second stage win of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic and adding 6 seconds to their overall lead.
The day was less successful for the Meerendal CBC 2 team of Hielke Elferink & Cornelia Hug. Elferink had said before the stage that they had felt very strong during Stage 1, but that she had started to get goose bumps in the final hour; a sure sign of heat stroke. She then struggled to sleep on Monday night due to the heat and humidity in the race village, so the short and high paced stage did her no favours today. The Meerendal CBC 2 women finished 17 minutes and 59.6 seconds behind their stage winning teammates.
In the Grand Masters Category Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg, of Meerendal CBC 3 extended their general classification lead with another superb stage victory, while in the Mixed category Heinz Posch and Nina Brenn of Meerendal CBC 4 were fifth.
Photos: Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS