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Blevins, Beers move into second with Stage 6 win

Duo enters final stage of Absa Cape Epic 90 seconds out of lead
Matt Beers, left, and Christopher Blevins celebrate after winning a wet and muddy Stage 6 of the Absa Cape Epic on Saturday in South Africa. The Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne enters the final stage in second, 90 seconds behind the leaders. (Courtesy Absa Cape Epic)

Rain fell throughout the entire 73-kilometers of Stage 6 on Saturday in the Absa Cape Epic, turning climbs into sticky streams of clay and singletrack descents into treacherous mud baths.

Both the men’s and the CM.com women’s races were heavily impacted by mechanical issues for the leading teams, and many elite riders called it one of the toughest days of racing ever.

Durangoan Christopher Blevins and Matt Beers (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne), however, handled the conditions the best, winning the stage and moving into second place in the general classification at the same time. It was the duo’s fifth stage win, including the prologue.

Nino Schurter and Andri Frischknecht (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) finished second on the stage to move back into the overall lead. They lead Blevins and Beers by 90 seconds with one day of racing to go.

Lukas Baum and Georg Egger (ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company) started the day in first, but finished sitting in third overall, 5 1/2 minutes off the lead, after a day of wild weather and high drama.

Beers and Blevins looked in control throughout their Stage 6 ride, even before Baum and Egger were forced to stop for repairs about 40 kilometers in the stage.

Before their mishap, Baum and Egger had been riding at the front with Blevins and Beers. The four riders took control when Schurter had to drop back to assist the ailing Frischknecht.

“We did see Lukas and Georg stop,” Blevins said. “We heard something but we weren’t entirely sure what happened so we just kept our heads down and carried on racing. That’s just the Cape Epic, though, anything can happen, especially in the conditions we had today.”

Blevins said the key to success in the wet for the team was to stay smooth and stay upright on the bike. “It was just brutal out there. We had the right tires on, but it’s so difficult to race in those conditions. It was so muddy and going down the singletrack was incredibly slow.”

They won the stage by 4 minutes, 7.2 seconds in 3:26:48.9.

“Wow. That was super tough,” Frischknecht said. “I struggled to keep pace at the start but then started to feel better as the day went on. Once we passed Lukas and Georg, I was motivated to get back into yellow. I just want to say kudos to everyone who finished that stage because it really was tricky out there.”

In the CM.com Women’s category, Kim le Court and Vera Looser (Efficient Infiniti Insure) won Stage 6 to claim a hat trick of stage wins and ride into the overall orange leader jerseys in the process.

Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill (e-FORT.net/SeattleCoffeeCo) finished fourth on Stage 6, losing more than 30 minutes to the new category leaders. Around 33 kilometers into race, Wakefield broke the rim on her back wheel after hitting a hole and was forced to ride 8 kilometers to the next tech zone without a rear tire. Up until that point, Wakefield, Lill, Looser and Le Court were riding together comfortably.

Sofia Gomez Villafane, Katerina Nash finished second on the stage, 12:57 after Looser and Le Court’s winning time of 4:30:02.9. The NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team will enter the final stage in third overall, 27:20 behind Looser and Le Court and 2:08 behind Wakefield and Lill.

Sunday’s Stage 7 is 80 kilometers long and features 2,400 meters of climbing, including a massive climb right out of the gates.