Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Watch all eight stages of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic streaming now on Outside Watch.
South Africa had three reasons to celebrate after stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic on Wednesday.
Local riders claimed stage victories in the both the men’s and women’s races, with the seemingly unstoppable duo of Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo) winning the women’s race, and Matt Beers and his American partner Christopher Blevins (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) celebrating their second stage win in a row.
Lill and Beers are the reigning South African marathon MTB national champions, while Wakefield held the title in 2022.
The stage win cemented Wakefield and Lill’s overall lead. After their third straight second place finish on Wednesday, Sofia Gomez Villafañe and Katerina Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) now sit eight minutes back in second place overall.
Beers and Blevins rode another tactical ride and explosive finish for their third stage win in four days. The duo is ascending the overall leaderboard, moving up to fourth in the GC.
Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne now sit seven minutes and 40 seconds behind GC leaders Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) with Georg Egger and Lukas Baum (ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company) in second overall and Fabian Rabensteiner and Wout Alleman (Wilier Pirelli Factory) in third.
Stage 3 saw similar racing to stage 2 in the women’s race.
At the start, Gomez Villafañe and Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized), Wakefield and Lill (e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo) and Kim Le Court and Vera Looser (Efficient Infiniti Insure) immediately pulled away from the rest and remained together for almost half the stage until Looser and Le Court started to drop behind after 50km.
NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized and e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo surged ahead, but it was clear that Wakefield and Lill were getting stronger as the day went on.
Both South African riders know the region well and at 70km, on the second last climb of the day, the pair made their move. Villafañe and Nash fought back, but couldn’t hang on the next climb.
“We sensed that they were battling to keep up with us,” Lill said. “So around 70km we attacked. We passed Sofia and Kat and put the hammer down. They caught us at first but then on the next climb, we managed to pull away. Both Amy and I know these trails so well, so we knew exactly what was coming and what we needed to do. We looked at the route this morning and thought today is the day where we can make time if we feel good.”
“I did go through some dark places today,” Wakefield said. “My arm is actually fine, that’s old news! It was the riding where I struggled in parts today. But we pushed through and we’re happy with the lead and another stage win.”
In the men’s race, the first move of the day happened around 20km when five teams pulled away at the first water stop. The lead changed hands regularly between PYGA Euro Steel, SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company, Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne and Wilier Pirelli Factory. PYGA Euro Steel eventually faded and turned the stage into a four-team race.
There was minor drama when Nino Schurter fell at the third water stop, and ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company had a tire issue at 75km. This allowed three teams to pull away, but Baum and Egger raced back impressively. With 10km to go it was anyone’s stage.
Like Stage 2, the finish featured singletrack turning into a wider dirt road. In a tactical masterclass, Blevins positioned himself between the riders in such a way that Beers was able to surge ahead while his partner controlled the pace of the chasers.
As soon as Beers had a sizeable gap, Blevins put his head down and chased after his partner, convincingly riding away from the pack for the stage victory.
“The route made it hard today,” Blevins said. “The climb after Houw Hoek was brutally rough. The chasing group came back at Houw Hoek and everyone was jostling for position. We just made sure we were in the right place at the right time. The tactics are so much fun and a big part of the puzzle when you ride with a partner. I’m really enjoying it.”
“Two years ago I wouldn’t think that this was possible,” Beers said. “I know the area well from other events, so Chris and I knew when to kick. It’s very satisfying. Stage racing is all about communication and I think Chris and I have nailed that so far this week.”
Schurter and Frischknecht rolled across the line in fourth for the stage. They remain in the yellow leader jerseys and take a considerable three-minute lead over Baum and Egger in second into tomorrow’s stage 4.
2023 Absa Cape Epic stage 3 results:
1. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne – Matthew Beers, Christopher Blevins – 04:07:11.1
2. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 04:07:12.6 (+00:00:01.4)
3. Wilier Pirelli Factory: Fabian Rabensteiner, Wout Alleman – 04:07:13.3 (+00:00:02.1)
1. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill– 04:59:42.6
2. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 05:02:40 (+00:02:57.4)
3. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 05:08:24.7 (+00:08:42.1)
2023 Absa Cape Epic general classification after stage 3:
1. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 13:32:57.7
2. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company Racing: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 13:36:10.6 (+00:03:12.9)
3. Wilier Pirelli Factory: Fabian Rabensteiner, Wout Alleman – 13:37:55.3 (+00:04:57.3)
1. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 16:45:44.6
2. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 16:54:06 (+00:08:21.4)
3. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 17:05:07.1 (+00:19:22.5)