What an awesome race was put on by the Cape Epic organisers.
The course was challenging, the scenery was beautifully created by God. The races thrilling with sprint finishes making it so exciting to watch right to the end, unlike a lone break away rider where it is a done deal on who will win unless they were to get a mechanical.
In the womens race Annika Langvad and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot were neck in neck and even tussled to get into a steep singletrack climb first, Annika got in there first just to come to a complete halt to watch Pauline ride away from her. She certainly didn’t have a faultless race, but showed that she is so well prepared and that even with the few mistakes she made she was able to claw back to Pauline, over take her and make it to the finish line on her own.
Anne Tauber from The Netherlands had the ride of her life. Coming from a flat country with no hills and a long winter she does ice skating as preparation for mountain biking, sometimes doing a 200km race with ice skates. She rode on her own, kept her composure and took a well deserved third place.
Jolanda Neff made a speedy recovery after breaking her colloarbone 6 weeks ago during a cyclo-cross race in a crash with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. In my opinion I thought she was mad taking on this course at this pace so soon and thought the risk of hurting her shoulder again was very high. She started out fast like she normally does and had to fall back, but made a recovery. She looked like she was going to take a definite 4th place, but her team mate and dark horse Helen Grobert came back just before the end. This was the most exciting 3 way sprint for the line. Helen Grobert came from a long way back and out sprinted both of the Kross riders taking 4th, Jolanda gave up before the line and missed out on a podium finish. In a tweet after the race she mentioned the first thing in her training would be to learn how to sprint.
The men’s race was so exciting! We have all been wishing for a strong enough rider to give some competition to Nino for the past year. Nino was surrounded by 3 young guns and the ever consistent Maxine Marrott. Anton Cooper, cyclo cross specialist Mathieu van der Poel and Sam Gaze gave Nino a run for his money.
Samuel Gaze ended up riding neck and neck with Nino for the whole race. In the last lap they both attacked each other but managed to stay together. This was thrilling to watch as no contender has been able to stay with Nino in the past, or very few of them. I noticed Sam got out and forward to his handlebars through the start/finish area on the last lap and suspected that he was cramping, but he managed to ride through that and go with Nino’s attacks. In the last dual section, Gaze managed to get in on the singletrack before Nino. Maxine managed to catch up with them as Gaze tactically just cruised down, getting a bit of breath back through the switchbacks.
As they came onto the grass and onto the bridge, Gaze used the momentum on the bridge to start his sprint, around the final sharp corner down to the finish line. Nino followed him and was close, but his foot slipped out of his pedal leaving him to watch how his undefeated streak got broken.
It was nail biting stuff and my toes are curling even as I’m typing this and reliving it. A new contender arrived, it is finally Scott vs Specialized again. How did we feel about that? We were kind of quiet, surprised and almost disappointed. It is so strange as we want someone to beat Nino, but we also don’t want someone to beat Nino. It’s like Federer playing anyone, we want it to be a good match to watch, but we still want him to win. I’ve been trying to think why is that? Is Nino such a great character and down to earth sportsman with an incredible talent and work horse ethic that we just don’t want our hero not to win or are we just scared of change? I’m still not sure what it is, but I’m so excited for the rest of the season.
Photo: Christiaan Botha
|Watching Women's Race with my Cape Epic blanket as company|
|Nino & Sam battling it out!|
Photo: Stephne van Niekerk
|Watching mountain biking together is the new watching rugby together!|
Photo: Tharina Cronje