Christopher Blevins and Matthew Beers moved up in the general classification of South Africa’s Absa Cape Epic on Friday with their fifth podium finish of the off-road stage race.
The Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized duo finished third in Stage 5, finishing ahead of Speed Company Racing to pass them in the general classification. Blevins and Beers crossed just four seconds behind the GC leaders, Canyon Northwave’s Andreas Seewald and Martin Stosek.
South Africa's Marco Joubert and Pieter du Toit, racing for Imbuko (Type) DEV, won the 115-kilometer Stage 5 in 4 hours, 4 minutes and 45.7 seconds.
The South African riders, already wearing the Absa African men’s jerseys as the leading African men’s team at the event, rode alone for the last 45 kilometers of the stage, ahead of the chasing pack.
It was their first stage win at the Absa Cape Epic.
“This is just a surreal feeling,” Joubert said. “Halfway into the stage there were two climbs where I was nearly dropped, but I managed to hang in, and we pushed on. It’s unreal and totally unexpected. I’m so happy with that ride.”
After Joubert and Du Toit made their stage-defining move, Canyon Northwave MTB and Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized worked well together to ride as a four-man chasing pack. They decided against chasing too hard, focusing instead on putting more time on Speed Company Racing.
“The plan was to keep Speed Company Racing in check today,” said yellow jersey wearer Andreas Seewald. “But they were taking lots of risks, and they managed to get away. We had to work hard to catch them, and it was stressing us out a bit. After a while, everyone was back together, and their attacking was neutralized. We rode well toward the end and we’re happy to take second and put some more time on the other teams in the general classification.”
Beers, who is from South Africa, was happy with another solid ride but clearly delighted for a South African team to win the stage. After rolling over the finish line, he rode directly to Joubert and Du Toit to congratulate them. “That was a good ride. I’m happy for the boys,” Beers said. “It’s important that South African riders win stages of the Absa Cape Epic.”
Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized now trails Canyon Northwave by 6:54.6 in the GC heading into Saturday’s penultimate Stage 6. They lead No. 3 Speed Company Racing’s Georg Egger and Lukas Baum by 8.1 seconds and the rest of the 141 men teams by 14 minutes to 25 hours.
In the women’s race, Haley Batten (USA) and Sofia Gomez Villafane (Argentina) of NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized won Stage 5 and lead the GC by 15:49.9. Faces Rola, featuring South Africans Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss, are in second.
“On paper, that course looked pretty tough,” said Sofia Gómez Villafane, “but for some reason, we kept it pretty fast from the start. We don’t know the trails that well, so the whole time we were thinking ‘Where do we make our move, where do we attack.’ On the final climb, we just went as hard as we could and held on.”
Two stages remain in the Absa Cape Epic. Stage 6 will be 76 kilometers long with 2,700 meters of climbing while Sunday’s Stage 7 will be 68 kilometers long with 2,000 meters of climbing.
Absa Cape Epic also released a statement Thursday regarding a death at the event. “We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of a race participant at the Cape Epic. During Stage 1, a rider required critical care, was attended to by the medical team and airlifted to a nearby hospital, where they received further treatment. Despite the best medical effort, the athlete passed away. We share our greatest sympathies with the family and friends of the rider. We will continue to offer them support as they go through this very difficult time. … We’ve lost a Cape Epic family member tragically. Our deepest condolences to the rider’s family members and friends.”
The rider’s name was not released.