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SA’S GEORGE, EVANS GRAB SECOND CAPE EPIC STAGE WIN

By Bardy the Action Scribe

South Africans Kevin Evans and David George continued their tenacious fight to   reclaim lost time after a disastrous Stage 1 when they won Stage 6 and moved into third place overall at the 2008 Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Riding as MTN Energade 1, Evans and George have, stage-by-stage, gradually been reclaiming the 27 minutes they lost to their main rivals last Saturday. The surprise Prologue stage winners had slipped out of the top 10 on that disastrous day as a result of Evans becoming ill. But with the South African marathon champion having recovered fully by Stage 3, the pair finished consistently near the front each day, with fourth place on Stages 2 and 5, and second place on Stages 3 and 4.

But Thursday’s gruelling 130km haul from Bredasdorp to Hermanus in temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius, gave them the second stage win they’ve been so hungry for. They also moved one place up the General Classification into third place, following the dramatic collapse on Thursday of the German Alb-Gold team of Hannes Genz and Jochen Kaess, who lost almost 17 minutes, slipping from third to fifth overall.

“Man it was hard out there today,” said a weary, but smiling Evans afterwards. “We really had to work for that win today. The last 20 kays were a killer. I swore at my father so much today.”

Evans’s father, Leon, is the Cape Epic route designer, and Thursday’s stage included long, flat, sandy, corrugated gravel roads, which are a weary mountain biker’s enemy as they rob the riders of valuable rhythm and sap them of any remaining energy.

The first major break of the day belonged to the MTN Energade 2 pair of Melt Swanepoel and Mannie Heymans. They attacked early on and led until 50km, giving stablemates Evans and George some respite as the pressure was on the other teams to make the pace and catch Swanepoel and Heymans.

On the big climb of the day after 55km, Evans and George joined race leaders, the Cannondale Vredestein pair of Roel Paulissen and Jakob Fuglsang and defending champions Team Bulls, comprising Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm in the lead group. The sextet set about working together for the remainder of the stage to open a gap on the rest of the field, a feat they accomplished, ensuring they occupied the top three places overall going into the final two days.

Evans and George had failed to win a stage in a bunch sprint for the past four days so decided to try a different tactic on Thursday by taking the initiative from further out.

“The Bulls (Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm) put in a couple of attacks from five kays out which we closed down. Then David put in a really big attack with one kay to go and I managed to get up there with him. We just gave it everything and opened a small gap which allowed us to freewheel across the finish and actually enjoy the crowd’s amazing support,” explained Evans.

Evans and George made no secret that this year their goal was to become the first South African team ever to finish on the final Cape Epic podium. After crawling across the finish line almost half and hour down on their chief rivals on Stage 1, their goal seemed virtually unattainable. But the Cape Epic is one of the most unpredictable races in the world and they once again have hope of achieving their goal.

Evans didn’t even want to discuss the remaining stages for fear of jinxing himself and George, who, apart from Evans’s physical breakdown on Stage 1, have had a smooth race, both physically and mechanically.

On Friday, the riders will tackle Stage 7, a 91km leg from Hermanus to Elgin. It’s a relatively short stage, but no less brutal with almost 2000 metres of climbing, most of which is in the final 60km. The world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage race finishes on Saturday at Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West.

For more information and detailed results, visit www.cape-epic.com

2008 Absa Cape Epic
Thursday 3 April
Stage 6, 130km Bredasdorp to Hermanus
Overall
1 MTN Energade 1 – Kevin Evans (RSA) / David George (RSA) 04hr53min01sec
2 Bulls – Karl Platt (GER) / Stefan Sahm (GER) @ 1 sec
3 Cannondale Vredestein – Roel Paulissen (BEL) / Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) @ 2 sec
4 Dolphin – Bart Brentjens (NED) Alban Lakata (DEN) @ 8min34sec
5 Full-Dynamix RSM – Fredrick Kessiakoff (SUI) / Massimo Debertolis (ITA) @ 10:41
6 USN – Brandon Stewart (RSA) / Max Knox (RSA) @ 14min21sec
7 Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike – Hannes Genz (GER) / Jochen Kaess (GER) @16:46
8 ETTO Hoydahl 1 – Jo Nordskar (DEN) / Anders Hovdenes (DEN) @ 16:46
9 ETTO Hoydahl 3 – Martin Bratland (DEN) / Kristian Torgersen (DEN) @ 21:46
10 Red Mr Price – Oliver Munnik (RSA) / Eric Kleinhans (RSA) @ 28:05

General Classification after Stage 6
Overall
1 Cannondale Vredestein – Roel Paulissen (BEL) / Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) 29hr25min10sec
2 Bulls – Karl Platt (GER) / Stefan Sahm (GER) @ 9min45sec
3 MTN Energade 1 – Kevin Evans (RSA) / David George (RSA) @ 16:45
4 Dolphin – Bart Brentjens (NED)  Alban Lakata (DEN) @ 27:12
5 Team Alb-Gold Mountainbike – Hannes Genz (GER) / Jochen Kaess (GER) @27:17
6 Full-Dynamix RSM – Fredrick Kessiakoff (SUI) / Massimo Debertolis (ITA) @ 59:27
7 USN – Brandon Stewart (RSA) / Max Knox (RSA) @ 01:20:10
8 ETTO Hoydahl 3 – Martin Bratland (DEN) / Kristian Torgersen (DEN) @ 01:59:21
9 ETTO Hoydahl 2 – Rune Hoydahl (DEN) / Truls Haugseth (DEN) @ 02:15:15
10 MTN Energade 2 – Mannie Heymans (NAM) / Melt Swanepoel (RSA) 02:24:08