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After an incredible show of teamwork and athleticism for eight days, Christopher Blevins and Matt Beers (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) celebrated the overall win at the Absa Cape Epic on Sunday.
Vera Looser and Kim le Court (Efficient Infiniti Insure) from Namibia and Mauritius won the women’s race after an impressive string of three stage wins late in the week.
Stage 7 honors went to Lukas Baum and Georg Egger (ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company) and first-time stage winners Greete Steinburg and Monica Yuliana Calderon Martinez (Cannondale Vas Arabay).
Although Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) started stage 7 in the yellow leader jerseys on Sunday, there were just 90 seconds dangling between the Swiss race leaders and Blevins and Beers.
The American-South African duo wasted no time in burning down the deficit and put in an early attack on the first climb out of Lourensford. Schurter countered, but Blevins and Beers powered away. SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing fell back and wouldn’t recover all day.
Blevins and Beers rode alone for much of the first 20km, with Baum, Egger and Singer Racing (Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn) joining them before the climb up Botmaskop.
With just 20km to go, Baum and Egger made a surprise surge for the finish line. They couldn’t drop the Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne team or Singer Racing and all three teams made it to the Val de Vie Estate finish area together.
Frey and Stiebjahn looked to have set themselves up for a stage win until Martin Frey inexplicably went flying over the handlebars on the home stretch.
Stiebjahn powered ahead, not realizing his partner was in a heap on the grass. The crash allowed Baum and Egger to take the stage win, with Blevins and Beers calmly rolling over the line, ready for the official timer to kick in.
Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne knew they’d put some time into the lead of SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, but had to wait until a minute and a half elapsed with Schurter and Frischknecht nowhere to be seen, that they knew the overall victory was theirs.
“We knew from last night that there was only one way to win today, and that was to go for it right from the start,” Blevins said. “We train so hard for these races and went through so much this week — it’s very special and satisfying when it all comes together like it did today.
“We heard bits and pieces of news from the route, so we knew we were ahead but you never really know. The only answer is to keep going as hard as you can. We suffered out there from start to finish but it’s worth it and such an honor to win the Absa Cape Epic.”
Beers, now a two-time champion of the Absa Cape Epic, was thrilled with the performance of his team.
“That was a great win, not just the ride today, but the entire week. We had to come from a really dark place after battling on Stage 1 and I think that just shows how strong our partnership is and how much we believe in each other. We both really helped each other this week. There was so much crowd support out there for us; I think we rode that last stage on pure adrenaline. I am completely spent now.”
Beers’s next season focus is the Life Time Grand Prix, the seven-race off-road series in the US. Blevins will soon be Europe-bound to race World Cup short track and XCO.
Orange jersey wearers Looser and Le Court led the stage throughout the 80km, alongside eventual stage winners Steinburg and Calderon (Cannondale Vas Arabay). There was little incident to speak of in the women’s race, with the leading two teams seemingly happy to ride together.
The efforts of the week seemed to have taken a toll on Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffee) who led the race throughout most of the week. After a freak accident and subsequent surgery for Wakefield, and the drama of the broken rim on stage 6, the e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo pair dropped off the pace early during stage 7.
Once on the Val de Vie Estate finish stretch, Le Court and Looser dropped back slightly, allowing Cannondale Vas Arabay to take the stage.
“This is amazing,” Steinburg said of the team’s stage win. “This is our first season together and to win the Grand Finale of the Absa Cape Epic is something incredibly special. We started well, stuck with the leaders and just kept going.”
Le Court and Looser, who last raced against one another during the 2021 Cape Epic, were thrilled with their victory.
“We did it,” Le Court said at the finish. “We had a reasonable time gap this morning, so we knew we just had to ride well and stay consistent. We were happy to let Cannondale Vas Arabay do the work at the front. We did say to them ‘if you guys do the work you can have the glory of the stage win and we’ll have the glory of the overall win’.”
“This is such an amazing feeling,” added Looser. “It’s been a long hard week and we had to dig really deep, but we made it. I think we need a week or two to let it sink in!”
Sunday was the first day of the race that NinetyOne-songo-Specialized’s Sofia Gomez Villafañe and Katerina Nash were not on the podium for the stage, but consistent riding and results all week earned the Argentine-Czech duo an impressive third place overall.
2023 Absa Cape Epic stage 7 results:
1. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 03:07:26.4
2. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne: Matthew Beers, Christopher Blevins – 03:07:36.7 (+00:00:10.3)
3. Singer Racing: Simon Stiebjahn, Martin Frey – 03:08:22.7 (+00:00:56.2)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. Cannondale Vas Arabay: Greete Steinburg, Monica Yuliana Calderon Martinez – 04:02:50.5
2. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 04:03:08.9 (+00:00:18.4)
3. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 04:10:20.8 (+00:07:30.3)
2023 Absa Cape Epic general classification after stage 7:
1. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne: Matthew Beers, Christopher Blevins – 26:17:04
2. Orbea X Leatt X Speed Company: Georg Egger, Lukas Baum – 26:20:53.5 (+00:03:49.5)
3. SCOTT-SRAM MTB-Racing: Nino Schurter, Andri Frischknecht – 26:21:15.6 (+00:04:11.5)
CM.com Women’s category:
1. Efficient Infiniti Insure: Kim le Court, Vera Looser – 33:11:37.7
2. e-FORT. net | SeattleCoffeeCo.: Amy Wakefield, Candice Lill – 33:44:02.3 (+00:32:24.6)
3. NinetyOne-songo-Specialized: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash – 33:54:55.4 (+00:43:17.7)