Cape Epic stage 2: Christopher Blevins and Matt Beers are back

The South African-American duo win stage 2; no changes to GC in men's or women's standings.

Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

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Tuesday’s stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic saw tense and tactical racing in both the men’s and women’s elite races.

Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) recovered from a tough day Monday to win the 116km stage, while Vera Looser and Kim le Court (Efficient Infiniti Insure) mounted a late attack to surge past Sofia Gomez Villafañe and Katerina Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) with 5km to go.

There were no changes in the overall leaderboard after Tuesday’s racing, with Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) and Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo) in yellow.

In the women’s race, the three top teams were together all day.

Despite Amy Wakefield recovering from late-night surgery to her arm injury and dealing with a lack of sleep, the South African duo was able to ride on the defense all day to preserve their overall lead.

Without many opportunities for decisive moves, the three teams seemed unable to separate. Looser and Le Court eventually made the race-winning move with 5km to go, though Looser misjudged her attack slightly, thinking she only had a kilometer or two left of racing.

Le Court, initially stuck behind NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized, was eventually able to chase down her partner and the pair raced away to victory.

“There was a little step over this bridge,” Looser said. “It could almost have been stairs; I rode over and I saw that Sofia stopped for a second and had to dismount. I thought ‘now is my chance’ and just put my head down knowing that Kim could sprint away from them and catch me. I saw a sign and was hoping that it said 2km or 1km to go, then I saw that it said 5km to go and I thought ‘no, my legs.’ Then I looked back and saw Kim. I was very happy that she was there!”

“I put in the attack and saw they couldn’t catch me,” Le Courte said. “I caught Vera and thought I was going to throw up … but I held on to the end, burning to the finish. We are thrilled to win. It was a great day.”

Wakefield and Lill were satisfied with their ride, happy to not lose any time in the overall lead.

“I’m feeling ‘okay,'” Wakefield said after the injury and surgery on Monday night. “I won’t lie, I felt every bump and I’m pretty sore. But it is what it is and I had to take it to get through the stage.”

Lill was slightly more impressed with her partner, labelling her a superwoman. “Amy is amazing,” she said. “It was a good race today, tight and tactical. We raced hard in parts and took it easier in other parts. It was a long day, but we’re still in orange. That’s where we want to be.”

The men started at a furious pace, charging towards the village of Stanford. Early pacesetters included Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company, Wilier Pirelli Factory, Canyon Northwave MTB, PYGA Euro Steel and Imbuko TypeDev.

The lead bunch went through the 42km mark in a time of one hour and 11 minutes, and soon it was just Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company, and Wilier Pirelli Factory’s Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman alone in the front.

Riders during stage 2 of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Nick Muzik/Cape Epic (Photo: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic)

With a flat start, a tough middle section punctuated by two big climbs, and an undulating final 30km, there was little margin for error on the day. Blevins pushed the pace, but no one was able to make a clean break for victory as the well-matched teams kept each other in check.

Wilier Pirelli fell back at 92km, and at around 100km, ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company started to struggle. First, they ran out of water, then they had a slight collision in the sand, followed by a stick in the derailleur. The minor incidents stacked up, forcing them to drop off and chase back repeatedly.

The mishaps allowed the final 10km to turn into a two-team race between SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing and Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne.

Schurter led into the final singletrack, but as the two teams popped out onto the tar home stretch, Matt Beers mashed his monstrous legs and raced away. Frischknecht attempted to follow, but it was Blevins who had the energy to chase and ultimately rode home comfortably alongside his Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne partner for the Stage 2 win.

“With Andri and Nino you can’t get past them in the singletrack so I knew we had to do it on the tar,” Beers said. “I also can’t sprint, so the tar was our best shot. Chris told me to send a flyer when we hit the road; I did and it worked out really well. You can’t ask for more.”

“It’s very motivating to bounce back with a stage win after a day like yesterday,” Blevins said. “It’s still a long week and there is a lot of racing to come, but we are happy for now!”

After their stage win, Blevins and Beers jumped up from eighth to fifth overall.

2023 Absa Cape Epic Stage 2 results:

Men’s category:
1. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne – Matthew Beers, Christopher Blevins – 04:20:31.3
2. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 04:20:46.9 (+00:00:15.5)
3. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 04:23:05 (+00:02:33.6)

Women’s category:
1. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser– 05:28:42.6
2. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 05:28:47.1 (+00:00:04.4)
3. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 05:28:47.8 (+00:00:05.2)

2023 Absa Cape Epic General Classification after Stage 2:

Men’s category:
1. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 09:25:42.4
2. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 09:28:57.9 (+00:03:15.5)
3. Wilier Pirelli Factory: Fabian Rabensteiner, Wout Alleman – 009:30:41.7 (+00:04:59.2)

Women’s category:
1. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 11:46:02.0
2. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 11:51:25.9 (+00:05:24)
3. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 11:56:42.3 (+00:10:40.4)

 

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