It’s been an exciting start to the 2019 Cape Epic and, on Wednesday’s Stage 3, and drama ratcheted up another couple notches.
Nino Schurter and Lars Forster were looking flawless through the opening stages. Then, on Wednesday’s 107-km, highly technical stage, it all came apart. Forster flatted far from help, leaving the pair standing as Cannondale Factory Racing rode off into the distance, and into the leaders jerseys.
On the women’s side, Anna van der Breggen and Annika Langvad rode conservatively on the strategically crucial day, while behind them the race imploded. Kross-Spur Racing’s women’s team suffered an untimely mechanical, potentially ending their GC chances.
Cannondale takes charge
Schurter and Forster may have won all three opening stages at the 2019 Absa Cape Epic, but Cannondale Factory Racing have been pushing them the whole way. On Wednesday, that pressure paid off.
“We went into the stage wanting to put the Yellow Jersey under pressure,” said Manuel Fumic, following the stage. “On the first long climb we were working hard on the front and saw Lars (Forster) was struggling. We knew then we had them where we wanted them and we put on a little bit more pressure,” he added.
Marathon world champion Henrique Avancini and Manuel Fumic were perfectly positioned to take advantage when Forster suffered a flat tire. While Forster was attempting to fix his flat, eventually having to take a spare wheel from the pairs back-up team, Avancini and Fumic charged ahead.
By the end of the stage, Cannondale’s duo had put nearly nine minutes into the Scott-SRAM team. That puts Avancini and Fumic into the leaders jerseys with four stages of racing remaining, and a 2:41 lead over Schurter and Forster in second. Schurter, the reigning Olympic and world champion, chased hard to limit his team’s losses. His efforts preserved second place. Bulls Heroes’ Urs Huber and Simon Stiebjahn move from fourth overall into third, pushing past the Trek Selle San Marco team.
Kross-Spur slide down the standings
In the women’s race, Investec-Songo-Specialized’s Anna van der Breggen and Annika Langvad have much more room to breathe after Stage 3. Second place Kross-Spur racing had held the two world champions to just a 7 minute 50 second lead over three days of racing. Substantial, but not enough to guard against disaster, as Schurter and Forster discovered.
Unlike in the men’s race, it was the second place team that suffered mechanical misfortune. Ariane Lüthi had a flat tire on one of the early downhills. “I didn’t even think I had hit anything. Many other times I thought I was in more danger of puncturing so it was quite a weird puncture actually,” said Lüthi after the stage.
With Investec-Songo-Specialized already up the road, and Summit Fin opening a gap having seen the flat tire, Lüthi and teammate Maja Wloszczowska were left chasing. It wasn’t the end of their bad luck, either.
“We fixed it pretty quickly but then thought it safer to change the wheel. At the tech zone we changed the wheel, but we are sharing with our (male teammates) who have the same wheels. So we took a wheel that they had already changed and it already had a plug in it,” Lüthi recounted once across the finish line. “We had to stop again because it lost air, so we actually then had to fix the guys’ problem and that cost us time again. Then we had to change the wheel a second time at the next tech zone.”
As a result, they slide from second overall to third, behind Summit Fin’s Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath. Van der Breggen and Langvad now lead the race by 23 minutes 48 seconds going into Thursday’s 43-km time trial.
Kelowna, B.C. racer Sonya Looney remains in seventh, racing with her FreakShow Scott teammate Catherine Williamson.