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Cape Epic - S2
South Africa, March 24-31, 2007
Stage 7 - March 30: Villiersdorp - Kleinmond, 116km
Day of drama as Bull charge back into lead
The seesaw struggle for dominance in the 2007 Absa Cape Epic continued on Friday in a drama-filled Stage 7 that saw the German Team Bulls pairing of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm reclaim the race lead, which they lost on Thursday. The 116 kilometre stage from Villiersdorp to Kleinmond belonged to the Dutch Dolphins team of Bart Brentjens and Rudi van Houts, who attacked early on and, despite being joined for a while by Team Bulls and Cannondale Vredestein 1, went on to claim their second stage of the event in 4:49, sealing their third place in the general classification.
But it was the top two GC teams that provided the drama on Friday. With just a slim 11-second lead over Team Bulls at the start, Cannondale Vredestein 1's Roel Paulissen and Jakob Fuglsang were edgy and attacked at 27 kilometres, just as the main field were about to reach the base of the first major climb. Platt and Sahm immediately responded but found themselves in an awful fix just minutes later when Sahm's left pedal broke.
David George, the new South African teammate of Christoph Sauser, stopped and gave his pedal to Sahm. The Bulls lost almost five minutes with the pedal problem but chased hard in pursuit of Cannondale Vredestein 1, who were riding with Cannondale Vredestein 2 rider, Kashi Leuchs, who had left his teammate behind to help his stable mates defend their race lead.
The three Cannondale Vredestein riders caught Brentjens and Van Houts but then had their own brush with bad luck when first Leuchs and then Paulissen punctured. The delay gave Team Bulls some hope and their efforts paid off when they first caught the Cannondale Vredestein 1 duo (Leuchs never rejoined) and then all four riders reeled in Brentjens and Van Hout to create a six-man lead pack.
But seven days of flat-out racing finally took its toll on Fuglsang, whose 23-year-old body began to falter in the final stages of today's leg. The Team Bulls riders noticed he was beginning to flag and attacked on a gradual rise, 25 km from the finish. Team Dolphin were able to join them and the quartet set a quick pace along the mildly undulating terrain to the finish at the coast.
In yet another twist to the suspense-filled stage, Platt punctured with three kilometres remaining, which allowed Brentjens and Van Houts enough advantage to claim the stage win unchallenged. Platt's puncture wasn't too serious and self-repaired with the puncture-mending slime inside the tyre. He just had to make a short stop to add some air and the pair were able to secure second place in 04:02.14. It was their sixth successive runner-up place in this year's event, but it was good enough to give them a 3:44 advantage over Paulissen and Fuglsang (and Leuchs!) who were third in 04:05.58.
"You can't believe camaraderie among the mountain bikers," said George. "Christoph and I weren't the only ones that stopped to help Team Bulls. World champion Ralf Naf and Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida 1) also stopped to help. We were all trying to find a quick solution because it's not often you break a pedal. It's not exactly something you carry as a spare! Because they have the same size feet, Hermida was about to lend his shoes and pedals to Sahm but I decided it was quickest to just give him my pedal."
George rode some 30 km with one pedal before he got a new one at the Shimano neutral technical service zone. He and Sauser aren't able to qualify for stage or GC classification because they aren't riding with their original partners. The partners of both riders withdrew due to illness after Stage 3, leaving Sauser and George to pair up in order to just complete the event. George is a former world time trial champs bronze medallist and took the silver medal in the road race at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
The Raleigh MTN Energade 1 team of Kevin Evans and Brandon Stewart were the first South African team home, finishing in sixth place and retaining their lead in the Absa African team competition. Mannie Heymans and Melt Swanepoel of Raleigh MTN Energade 2 were eighth with the 10th-placed Adidas William Simpson 1 pair of Shan Wilson and Jacques Rossouw giving the host country three teams in the top 10.
"I'm battling with a chest cold so we lost a bit of time at the end of the stage," said Stewart. "We were actually lying fifth until 10 kays to go when my body just shut down and the Stevens guys came past us. But we kept it steady and managed to increase our lead in the African team competition."
In the other categories, Cycle Lab's Andrew McLean and Damian Booth increased their lead in the Masters division with their fourth stage win, while the Duravit pair of Anke Erlank and Yolande de Villiers maintained their perfect record in the Women's race with a seventh successive stage victory. Paul Cordes and Yolande Speedy (IMC Mongoose) retained their lead in the Mixed category but were beaten into second place on the stage by the German Maloja BTS duo of Ivonne Kraft and Nico Pfitzenmaier.
The final stage on Saturday is a relatively short 75km leg from Kleinmond to Lourensford Wine Estate. But there is a reasonable amount of climbing (1285 metres) which will no doubt see Paulissen and Fuglsang - assuming the latter has recovered - mounting a last-gasp challenge for the overall title.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Frank Bodenmuller/PhotoSport International
Men 1 Bart Brentjens (Ned) / Rudi van Houts (Ned) Dolphin Mountainbike Team 4.00.49 2 Karl Platt (Ger) / Stefan Sahm (Ger) Team Bulls 1.25 3 Roel Paulissen (Bel) / Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Cannondale-Vredestein 5.09 4 Alban Lakata (Aut) / Roman Peter (Swi) Trek Volkswagen Racing 9.44 5 Johannes Sickmueller (Ger) / René Birkenfeld (Ger) Stevens 11.23 6 Kevin Evans (RSA) / Brandon Stewart (RSA) Raleigh Mtn Energade 13.11 7 Thomas Zahnd (Chi) / Sandro Spaeth (Swi) Team Texner-Stoeckli 14.51 8 Mannie Heymans (Nam) / Melt Swanepoel (RSA) Raleigh Mtn Energade 16.51 9 Jonas Vuille (Shi) / Vullioud Philippe (Swi) Texner-Bmc-Acqiris 20.10 10 Shan Wilson (RSA) / Jacques Rossouw (RSA) Team Adidas/William Simpson/Ep 23.14 11 Arno Viljoen (RSA) / Erik Kleinhans (RSA) Mr Price/Sportstrack 24.22 12 Jacobus Venter (RSA) / Jacques Jansevan Rensburg (RSA) Team Exel/Specialized 24.31 13 Oliver Munnick (RSA) / Max Knox (RSA) Adidas/William Simpson 28.50 14 Ralph Naef (Shi) / Jose Hermida (Spa) Multivan Merida Biking Team 35.39 15 Njau David Kinjah (Ken) / Davidson Kamau Kihagi (KEN) Absa Africa 37.44 16 Paul Boyce (RSA) / Jan Schutte (RSA) Giant Sa 44.50 17 Stephan Strauss (RSA) / Bill Moore (RSA) Nmmu Saasveld 46.32 18 Fritz Pienaar (RSA) / Dylan Victor (RSA) Mazda Merida / Gt 47.45 19 Anton Smal (RSA) / Renier Bellingan (RSA) Eggbert Eggs 47.47 20 Jonathan Boyer (USA) / Adrie Niyonshuti (RWA) Project Rwanda 47.53 21 Niek Lingier (Bel) / Hecke Bart van (Bel) Lingier-Versluys 49.46 22 Martin Gerber (Chi) / Hendrik Steytler (RSA) Falke 53.17 23 James Rait (RSA) / Mark Rickard (RSA) Morse 55.53 24 Heine Lategan (RSA) / Pieter Lategan (RSA) Supercars 56.47 25 Oleg Tokar (Ukr) / Denys Sergiyenko (UKR) Hohly Zhgut! 57.26 Women 1 Anke Erlank (RSA) / Yolandè De Villiers (RSA) Duravit 4.55.35 Masters 1 Andrew Mclean (RSA) / Damian Booth (RSA) Cycle Lab 4.39.11 2 Onselen van Linus (RSA) / Doug Brown (RSA) Absa Masters 3.04 3 M.C. Franken (RSA) / Fred Coleske (RSA) Red Mongoose 12.44 4 Tony Conlon (RSA) / Lieb Loots (RSA) Marsilio Projects 13.09 5 Jacques Malan (RSA) / Schuiling Bobby (RSA) Miles For Marrow 16.36 Mixed 1 Ivonne Kraft (Ger) Nico Pfitzenmaier (Ger) Maloja-Bts Time For Travel 4.48.30 2 Yolande Speedy (RSA) Paul Cordes (RSA) Imc/Mongoose 6.03