South African Burry Stander and his Swiss teammate, Christoph Sauser, of the 36One-Songo-Specialized team, stormed to a third consecutive stage victory and extended their overall lead on Day 3 of the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic on Tuesday.
Stander and Sauser pulled clear of a small lead group with 10km remaining to clock a winning time of 4hr 32min 43sec. Another 43 seconds later, the Multivan Merida pair of Hannes Genze and Jochen Kaess (both Germany) crossed the finish line, while the Swiss siblings, Lukas and Matthias Fluckiger (Trek World Racing), claimed the final podium spot a further 37 seconds down.
For Stander and Sauser it was another step closer to their goal of winning the race as teammates. But for other title contenders it was two steps back. Three-time winners and defending champions, Team Bulls – Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt – lost more time, finishing the stage fourth, over a minute-and-a-half back.
“We maintained our same strategy of racing hard up the climbs and then taking the descents easy,” said Stander. “By having different teams up front with us today made it easier because they were happy to share the pacemaking in order to move up the General Classification.”
Stander and Sauser now have a relatively solid 6min 18sec lead over Kaess and Genze with Platt and Sahm in third overall, just over 7min off the pace.
There was drama in the women’s race after stage winners and overall leaders, Eva Lechner (ITA) and Nathalie Schneitter (SUI) of the Colnago Arreghini Sudtirol team were handed a one-hour time penalty for breaking the ‘outside assistance’ rule.
This gave initial runners-up, the Team USN pair of Karien van Jaarsveld (RSA) and Sally Bigham (ENG), the stage win and the overall lead and saw Lechner and Schneitter drop down to fourth overall.
“We were very surprised to hear of this at the evening prizegiving ceremony,” said Van Jaarsveld, the recently crowned South African marathon champion. “It’s not a nice way to take the lead, but it’s important to follow the rules. I heard that they were given bottles by their team manager outside a designated feed zone.”
Team USN now has a 17-minute lead over second-placed all South African team, ABSA aBreast, comprising Hanlie Booyens and Ischen Stopforth.
In the Mixed category, the Swiss pair of Barti Bucher and Esther Suss (Wheeler-BIXS) scored another dominant win, extending their lead over the Contego/Giant/Sludge team of Erik Kleinhans (RSA) and Ariane Luthi (SUI); while in the Masters category, Germans Udo Boelts and Carsten Bresser claimed their third consecutive stage win and lengthened their lead to more than 26 minutes over South Africans Robert Sim and Doug Brown.
On Wednesday, Stage 3 takes the riders from Tulbach to Wellington over a distance of 125km with 1900 metres of climbing.