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Rain causes chaos at Cape Epic’s penultimate stage

Weather puts leaders under pressure in South Africa on Saturday

Photo by: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Absa Cape Epic usually opens the mountain bike season with warm days and challenging races. Forced into a new, late fall time slot, the 2021 Cape Epic is throwing more unexpected challenges at racers.

On Saturday, the penultimate stage of racing in South Africa, it was wet weather creating chaos and dramatic racing. After six days of dominance, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized’s powerhouse duo of Sina Frei and Laura Stigger were pushed to their limit by a resurgent Faces CST team.

Mariske Strauss, Candice Lill, Sina Frei and Laura Stigger in a four-up sprint for the line at Stage 6 of the 2021 Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic

Anything can happen in stage racing, and a ride is never over until its over. The men showed this, when Canyon Northwave dropped out of the race while sitting second overall. On Saturday, it was the women bringing thrilling racing to the Cape Epic. Mariske Strauss and Candice Lill (Faces CST) pushed the NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team of Olympic medallist Sina Frei and her teammate Laura Stigger to a sprint finish. The powerhouse Austrian-Swiss team haven’t lost a stage yet this Cape Epic. Looking to upset that perfect record, Strauss was first across the line in a wild sprint finish. Stigger and Frei rallied to cross the line together, just ahead of Lill, to preserve their win streak.

While the South African duo of Lill and Strauss couldn’t pull off the upset and take the stage win, they do move into second overall. Salusmed’s Ariane Luthi and Robyn de Groot are toughing it out to the finish line while dealing with the effects of a heavy crash. They’ve dropped out of second, but they’re still clinging valiantly to the final podium position.

José Dias of Buff Scott led out the group, but were left fighting for third on Saturday. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

BULLS on parade

The men’s race has proved far less predictable this year. Saturday saw another new stage winner, as BULLS#2 won their first race of this year’s race. It’s especially significant for Simon Stiebjahn, who takes his first Cape Epic stage in in eight starts, racing with teammate Martin Frey.

Jordan Sarrou and Martin Beers (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) retain their overall lead, even if they weren’t able to overtake the BULLS#2 team at the line. Buff Scott’s Hans Becking and Jose Dias, winners of the previous two stages, kept their momentum going with another podium in third.

Consistency averages out for Wallace

Canada’s Cory Wallace and his South African teammate Craig Boyed finished 19th on Saturday. The pair have finished within a few positions of that on every stage. Their consistency paid off early in the week, as the duo slowly crept up the GC standings to a high point of 18th. They remained consistent on Saturday, but slide to 20th in the overall.

2021 Absa Cape Epic: Stage 6 Race Recap