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After Monday’s Stage 1, there is a new order at the Absa Cape Epic.
Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman (Wilier Pirelli Factory) won the 98 kilometer stage in Hermanus, moving into fourth place overall.
Meanwhile, Scott-SRAM’s Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht were second on the day, which moved the Swiss duo into the GC lead.
In the women’s race, Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo) moved into the leader’s jerseys after winning the stage on Monday.
Prologue winners Sofia Gomez Villafañe and Katerina Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) put up a valiant fight against the South African duo but eventually finished second, five-and-a-half minutes behind Lill and Wakefield. The Argentinian-Czech duo is in second overall, just five minutes back.
For the first half of the women’s race, the three leading teams were all together. African duo Kim le Court and Vera Looser (Efficient Infiniti Insure) dropped off the pace before the halfway point, while Villafañe and Nash opened up a small gap on Lill and Wakefield.
They were able to get away from the all-South African team when Wakefield collided with a tree. The post-race footage showed that a branch had pierced her upper arm. With no medics nearby, Wakefield tended to the wound as best she could with what the pair had available.
“I could see muscle and fat in the gash, but didn’t see any blood, so I just taped it up and got back on the bike,” Wakefield said.
“I actually asked Amy if she wanted to abandon the race,” Lill said. “It was really bad, but Amy is so tough. She just took my duct tape, wrapped it around her bicep and carried on.”
The pair rode on, caught Villafañe and Nash at 70km and then surged ahead.
“I can’t actually believe we won,” Lill said at the finish line. “I said to Amy after the crash, ‘let’s not worry about anything else, let’s just ride our own pace.’ Eventually, we caught Sofia and Kat and we just kept going.”
SCOTT-SRAM, Wilier Pirelli Factory, ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company’s Lukas Baum and Georg Egger, and Canyon Northwave MTB’s Andreas Seewald and Martin Stosek made up the front of the men’s race. Beers and Blevins were there for the first 40km, but Blevins appeared to struggle around the 60km mark. As the stage progressed the yellow jersey pair slipped further back into the chasing bunch.
With around 20km of racing left, SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing and Wilier Pirelli Factory moved into the final singletrack descent ahead of Baum and Egger, leaving Seewald and Stosek behind, too.
The final stretch of the race took the riders down a dirt road and then onto the tar before a singletrack section into the finish area. Rabensteiner and Alleman went first into the final trail and raced onto the home stretch; Schurter and Frischknecht wisely held back, knowing that they had taken yellow.
“That was an awesome stage that went really well for us,” Schurter said. “We tried not to go into the red too much and I think we managed that well. The racing was really fast and we just waited until we had an opportunity. I’m happy with the Stage 1 podium and thrilled to be in yellow. I love this race; it’s great when you can start it like this!”
After 19th on the day, Keegan Swenson and Lachlan Morton are sitting in 19th place overall; US MTB marathon national champ Luke Vrouwenvelder and Carson Beckett are 29th.
2023 Absa Cape Epic Stage 1 results:
1. Wilier Pirelli Factory: Fabian Rabensteiner, Wout Alleman – 04:01:44.1
2. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 04:01:46.2 (+00:00:02.1)
3. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 04:02:05.8 (+00:00:21.7)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 04:57:46.4
2. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 05:03:41.3 (+00:05:54.9)
3. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 05:08:55.2 (+00:11:08.8)
2023 Absa Cape Epic general classification after Stage 1:
1. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 05:04:55.5
2. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 05:05:52.9 (+00:00:57.4)
3. Canyon Northwave MTB: Andreas Seewald, Martin Stosek – 05:06:22.6 (+00:01:27.1)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 06:17:14.1
2. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 06:22:38.8 (+00:05:24.7)
3. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 06:27:59.7 (+00:10:45.6)