It may be a rock-strewn wagon trail, but the (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) outfit of Jordan Sarrou and Matt Beers made the Old Wagon Trail look like a groomed race track on Stage 2, the Queen Stage of the 2021 Absa Cape Epic. It proved the pivotal moment in the stage. For them and for many throughout the field.
Yellow-jersey wearers Beers and French partner Sarrou comfortably won the 98km stage that took riders from Ceres to Saronsberg, Tulbagh in a time of 3:56:02. While they finished with a comfortable gap, it didn’t all go their way out there and they had to rally the descent to make the break.
“With his XCO skills and my background in motocross we could just send it,” says Beers of their descent down the Old Wagon Trail. Beers had slipped back on an earlier climb and the likes of Martin Stošek and Andreas Seewald (Canyon Northwave MTB) seized the opportunity, forcing him to work hard to get back on.
“The plan was to go on the descent, but after I slipped they really put the hammer down and I was like, ‘plan is going out the window’ (as it does) and they obviously saw me and started to go full gas but I managed to get back on and then just absolutely put the hammer down.”
“It felt like we were in an airplane on the top of that hill,” said Cameron. “Then dropping down - that descent was absolutely awesome, but could’ve been dangerous!
Once on the descent, Sarrou and Beers went flat out to pull away, racing home through the flat orchard and vineyard roads to Saronsberg. Stošek and Seewald finished in second and are now just over two minutes adrift on the GC.
Most other riders approached the treacherously rocky descent rather more gingerly, knowing full well that one false move could mean the end of the party.
“We didn’t want to take too many risks,” said Andreas Seewald of Canyon Northwave MTB’s strategy. “They were taking a lot of risks - we want to do well overall, so we are playing it safe over the first few days.”
In the Elite women’s category, Frei and Stigger (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) took their third stage in a row with a consummate performance. “It was quite a slow start and we just controlled the early pace,” said Frei. “In the last 20km we pushed the pace higher and managed to get away on the climb; we were first into the downhill and had a trouble-free final 10km to the finish.”
Frei and Stigger once again proved the old adage 'teamwork, makes the dream work.’ It rung true all the way through the field to the father so pairing of Kevin and Cameron Wright as well as the Steel Challenge pairing of Max Menzies and Fernell ‘Fykz’ Regue, both teams who finished with about 30 minutes ahead of final stage time.
“It felt like we were in an airplane on the top of that hill,” said Cameron. “Then dropping down - that descent was absolutely awesome, but could’ve been dangerous! Especially when you’re fatigued at the end of such a long day,” he said.
Now, the partnership of brothers Hannes and Sakkie Hanekom (Santa Cruz Masters) has had the odd test over the 30-years-odd years they’ve been riding bikes together, but blood is thicker than water and blood shed in The Race That Measures All is thick as gel. The fruit-farming brothers are currently racing to become the first team to complete 10 Absa Cape Epics together.
Much of Stage 2, the Queen stage, was run on some of their private trail network in the Witzenberg Valley. Keep reading to find out what went down.