Punctures and lead changes characterised the Queen Stage of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic
in the Helderberg
The lap of Helderberg (so named for the Afrikaans for 'clear mountain' in reference to how the Western side of the mountain is illuminated at sunset) provided a thrilling Queen Stage. If one thing became startlingly clear throughout the 92km – with some 2850 metres of climbing – is that the race for the Ciovita category leader jerseys is going to be a daily battle.
In the Men's race, Andreas Seewald and Martin Stošek of Team Canyon Northwave MTB managed to get clear up the brutally steep climb to the Lourensford Saddle. They carefully managed their efforts after topping out through the 40-degree heat to stay ahead and not only finish on the top of the podium for the stage but also pull on the Ciovita Men's category leader jerseys.
While the new leaders rode a near-perfect stage, there was high drama in the rest of the elite group
While the new leaders rode a near-perfect stage, there was high drama in the rest of the elite group with overnight leaders Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized losing significant time while SCOTT-SRAM's bad luck continued with another puncture scuppering their hopes of pulling back time.
Stage 2 to Elandskloof, Greyton will also see fresh faces in the orange CM.com Women's category leader jerseys. The NinetyOne-songo-Specialized duo of Hayley Batten and Sofía Gómez Villafane pushed the pace early on and broke the bunch apart on the King's Climb. They worked well together, traded blows with the other teams, and then held their lead through the Red Route descent of the Helderberg Trails as well as the dusty trails through Ernie Els and Alto Wines. As in the Men's race, it was on the day's most challenging climb, where the real racing started.
They were passed by a charging Symbtech ZA with Amy Wakefield leading Ariane Lüthi up and over into the scintillating singletrack back towards Lourensford. The SA-Swiss duo built a substantial lead before Lüthi fell foul to an unfortunate puncture which cost them dearly and allowed Batten and Sofía Gómez Villafane to capitalise. In the end, Symbtech ZA finished second (moving into second in the General Classification at the same time), chasing all the way, with Lill and Strauss taking third spot (and third in the GC).
"I said to myself 'it's game on now'. I really had to mentally dig in to chase back."
"That's the kind of racing that makes an event exciting," Batten said. "Ariane and Amy really put on a great show; when they came past us on that steep climb, I said to myself 'it's game on now'. I really had to mentally dig in to chase back."
Stage 2 is a 123km transition from Lourensford Wine Estate to Elandskloof Farm Cottages, Greyton, and the racing gets underway at 07:00. Tune in to the Live Broadcast from 08:30 to experience the action of the longest stage in the 2022 Absa Cape Epic.