Swiss mountain bike racing legend, Christoph Sauser and his Investec-Songo-Specialized New Zealand teammate, Sam Gaze, won a drama-filled Stage 2 of the DUTOIT Tankwa Trek in South Africa on Saturday.
They outsprinted overall leaders Karl Platt and Urs Huber of Team Bulls 1 for the victory on what is considered the Queen Stage of the prestigious three-day stage race in the Koue Bokkeveld region of the Western Cape province. Third team across the finish line was the South African USN Purefit pair of Waylon Woolcock and Darren Lill.
Despite having to repair two punctures on the rugged, rocky terrain, Huber and Platt managed to retain their overall lead with one day remaining, while Woolcock and Lill moved into third place on the overall standings behind Sauser and Gaze.
In the women’s race, the Ascendis Health pair of Robyn de Groot (RSA) and Jennie Stenerhag (SWE) claimed their second stage win and extended their overall lead in the process. South Africans Candice Neethling and Bianca Haw (Spur Dorma) were second on the stage and stay second overall, while Theresa Ralph and Yolandi du Toit (Garmin Galileo Risk) rounded out the stage and general classification podiums.
The 20km long Merino Monster climb, which started just after 45km and the subsequent rough, fast descent, were essentially what shaped the outcome of the stage.
The day started with drama when Germany’s Tim Bohme, second overall with his Bulls 2 teammate, Simon Stiebjahn, withdrew from the race due to stomach illness. Then, not long after the start, Huber punctured, forcing him and Platt into a somewhat frantic chase to regain the lead pack, which they did.
Like they did on Stage 1, Huber and Platt used the day’s longest climb as their springboard. They powered clear of their rivals and claimed the King of the Mountain prize at the summit of the Merino Monster. Both accomplished descenders, they looked certain to hold their lead on the descent and for the final 10km to the finish, but Platt punctured on the downhill and that saw Sauser and Gaze join them for the last section to the finish.
“It was actually a good day for us – a little bit hectic in the beginning. Urs flatted and we had to chase back quite hard. On the Merino Monster we tried to go our own pace and we managed to get away from the others. Then on the downhill I flatted and Christoph and Sam caught us. But we were able to keep our GC lead, which is most important,” said Platt, who is hoping to claim his fifth Cape Epic title next month.
Sauser, the only five-time winner of the Absa Cape Epic, announced his retirement from full-time racing last year. He’s still employed by Specialized, his long-time sponsor, and still does some racing as a mentor to young riders within the Specialized stable, such as Gaze.
“We didn’t have the firepower of the Bulls up the Merino climb. We lost maybe two minutes. But they had a serious puncture on the other side. We were lucky and caught up. Urs was leading the last three kays flat out in the wind. Then I thought ah, some singletrack with 300 metres to go, so we made a little gap and got the win,” smiled Sauser.
Germany’s Markus Bauer and France’s Fanny Bourdon were the top finishers in the Solo men an women’s categories respectively, each extending their overall lead in their divisions.
Sunday’s final stage is over a total distance of 78km with 1150m of ascent. The first 11km will be a neutral zone, which means the actual racing distance is 67km. More than 30km of that is pure singletrack, mostly through dramatic rock formations, which will make positioning essential for riders aiming for podium success.
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DUTOIT TANKWA TREK 2016
Stage 2 – leading results:
1 Christoph Sauser (SUI) / Sam Gaze (NZL) Investec-Songo-Specialized 3:47:36
2 Karl Platt (GER) / Urs Huber (SUI) Team Bulls 1 3:47:44
3 Waylon Woolcock (RSA) / Darren Lill (RSA) USN Purefit 3:49:04
4 Gawie Combrinck (RSA) / Nico Bell (RSA) Team NAD 3:51:45
5 James Reid (RSA) / Howard Grotts (USA) Spur Specialized 3:54:22
1 Markus Bauer (GER) 3:47:53
2 Erik Kleinhans (RSA) Topeak Ergon 3:49:04
3 Timo Cooper (RSA) USN Purefit 3:53:34
4 Matthew Beers (RSA) Red-E 3:54:21
5 Nico Pfitzenmaier (RSA) Dorma 4:08:03
1 Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Jennie Stennerhag (SWE) Ascendis Health 4:33:46
2 Candice Neethling (RSA) / Bianca Haw (RSA) Dorma Spur 4:42:52
3 Theresa Ralph (RSA) / Yolandi du Toit (RSA) Garmin Galileo Risk 4:51:53
4 Ila Stow (RSA) / Marianne Bergli (NOR) 5:18:50
5 Ann Harrison (RSA) / Marleen Lourens (RSA) On the Go 5:37:01
1 Fanny Bourdon (FRA) 4:50:17
2 Liesbet Kristafor (RSA) 5:42:28
1 Stephan Senekal (RSA) / Carmen Buchacher (RSA) Velocity Sports Lab 4:38:02
2 James Lennard (RSA) / Katherine Lennard (RSA) Office National 4:49:47
3 Fienie Barnard (RSA) / Kobus Barnard (RSA) Dryland Mixed 4:50:12
4 Nadia Visser (RSA) / Rikus Visser (RSA) Assupol 4:58:00
5 Louise Ferreira (RSA) / Henning Blaauw (RSA) Team Globeflight 5:06:08
General Classification after Stage 2
1 Karl Platt (GER) / Urs Huber (SUI) Team Bulls 1 7:17:59
2 Christoph Sauser (SUI) / Sam Gaze (NZL) Investec-Songo-Specialized 7:20:06
3 Waylon Woolcock (RSA) /Darren Lill (RSA) USN Purefit 7:28:41
4 Gawie Combrinck (RSA) Nico Bell (RSA) 7:32:11
5 HB Kruger (RSA) / Johann Rabie (RSA) 7:35:52
1 Markus Bauer (GER) 7:24:35
2 Matthew Beers (RSA) Red-E 7:37:53
3 Erik Kleinhans (RSA) Topeak Ergon 7:45:56
4 Nico Pfitzenmaier (RSA) Dorma 8:09:55
5 Guylin van den Berg (RSA) 8:15:31
1 Robyn de Groot (RSA) / Jennie Stennerhag (SWE) Ascendis Health 8:48:44
2 Candice Neethling (RSA) / Bianca Haw (RSA) Spur Dorma 9:07:52
3 Theresa Ralph (RSA) / Yolandi du Toit (RSA) Garmin Galileo Risk 9:19:34
4 Ila Stow (RSA) / Marianne Bergli (NOR) 10:18:33
5 Ann Harrison (RSA) / Marleen Lourens (RSA) On the Go 10:51:22
1 Fanny Bourdon (FRA) 9:21:16
2 Liesbet Kristafor (RSA) 11:04:13
1 Stephan Senekal (RSA) / Carmen Buchacher (RSA) Velocity Sports Lab 9:06:13
2 James Lennard (RSA) / Katherine Lennard (RSA) Office National 9:28:50
3 Fienie Barnard (RSA) / Kobus Barnard (RSA) Dryland Mixed 9:29:19
4 Louise Ferreira (RSA) / Henning Blaauw (RSA) Team Globeflight 10:02:00
5 Nadia Visser (RSA) / Rikus Visser (RSA) Assupol 10:04:43
Veteran Men (40-49 years)
1 Warren Price (RSA) / Andrew Davies (RSA) Granite Blend 8:36:07
2 Russel de Jager (RSA) / Christopher Maughan (RSA) GVK Siya Zama 8:53:27
3 Philip Vermeulen (RSA) / Joel Stransky (RSA) Lumohawks 9:11:52
Master Men (50-59 years)
1 Robert Sim (RSA) / Udo Boelts (GER) Robert Daniel 8:13:14
2 Doug Brown (RSA) / Andrew McLean (RSA) Cycle Lab Toyota 8:17:15
3 Deon Kruger (RSA) / Greg Anderson (RSA) Bus Boys 8:55:26
For full results of all categories, visit www.tankwatrek.co.za