The Dutch-Portuguese pairing of Hans Becking and José Dias, riding in the colours of Buff Scott MTB, rode a flawless race to win Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic. The stage was a 73km rapid-fire race from Saronsberg, Tulbagh to Goudini Spa in the Slanghoek Valley.
Overall leaders Matt Beers and Jordan Sarrou (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) claimed second on the day, extending their overall lead through skill and circumstance – their nearest rivals, Canyon Northwave MTB, abandoned the stage before the start due to stomach complaints for Martin Stošek. Andreas Seewald continued as a solo rider but is out of the racing.
The BULLS rider Simon Schneller was also ill overnight but opted to start regardless. Despite the illness, he managed to complete the stage. That leaves Beers and Sarrou with a 00:06:42 lead over Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn (BULLS 2). Samuele Porro and Fabian Rabensteiner (Trek-Pirelli) now move into third on the general classification.
The men’s field started like they were racing for the last Woolworths chocolate milk, with the entire bunch scorching out of the Saronsberg start chute.
A short trail section followed that start, then a portion of tar before another trail took the riders towards a rocky and rough climb through a game reserve (obligatory buck scenery followed).
At this stage of the racing, Phil Buys and Pieter du Toit (Pyga Euro Steel 2 and Absa African Men’s Jersey leaders) were putting the hammer, screwdriver, and monkey wrench down. It was an all-out attack with everything in the toolbox from the South African duo and they led the race for approximately half the stage.
The early pace-setting took its toll, though, with Becking and Dias making their move around the 45km mark on the flattish middle section of the day and then again on the steep climb towards the Slanghoek Trails.
Beers and Sarrou, BULLS 2 and Trek-Pirelli attempted to hang with the leaders, but once onto the Slanghoek Trails, Buff Scott MTB were able to further extend their lead. The eventual winners had no trouble on the twisty, technical trails, and were able to ride home to the Goudini Spa finish with uninterrupted views of the stunning Slanghoek Valley.
“We take every stage day-by-day,” said Hans Becking. “You wake up and you ask your legs how they are doing, then you wait to see how you feel. Coming into the event we had focussed on the second half of the race, and today we just had super legs. We felt good right from the start, so we knew it was go-time today.”
José Dias added that the singletrack trails made it a pleasant finish. “There were some really fast parts in the beginning. Then there was some sand, then rocks, a bit of everything. The trails at the end were really nice and the bikes handled very well. I enjoyed the ride a lot today and the bonus was the stage win.”
The weather forecast promises heavy rain over the next two days, something that doesn’t bother Dias. “I am from Portugal and Hans is from Holland; it rains a lot there. So we say ‘bring it on’.”
In the race for the yellow Jersey, Beers and Sarrou were happy to play second fiddle on the stage. “I’ve really enjoyed the week so far,” said Sarrou. “The trails were really good today. We just rode consistently and worked nicely as a team. I’m very happy with the result for us today.”
Stage 5 is an 84km trail-riding festival with 2900m of climbing in and around the trails of Wellington. The first climb of the day is aptly named ‘Heavy Legs’, a section of the ride that could set the tone for the day.
Stage 4 Results:
1) Buff Scott MTB, Hans BECKING, José DIAS 02:42:50.2
2) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan SARROU, Matthew BEERS 02:43:33.6 | +00:00:43.4
3) BULLS 2, Martin FREY, Simon STIEBJAHN 02:44:40.6 | +00:01:50.4
General classification after Stage 4:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan SARROU, Matthew BEERS 15:03:00.0 | 26.8 km/h ave.
2) BULLS 2, Martin FREY, Simon STIEBJAHN 15:09:42.1 | +00:06:42.0 | 26.6 km/h ave.
3) Trek-Pirelli, Samuele PORRO, Fabian RABENSTEINER 15:13:50.2 | +00:10:50.1 | 26.6 km/h