The scene is set for a spectacular Queen Stage into Stellenbosch on Friday, as Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing dominated the 43-kilometre Time Trial around Oak Valley on Thursday. Nino Schurter and Lars Forster annihilated the course in a time of 01:38:41 to eat nearly 90 seconds into Cannondale Factory Racing’s overnight lead. They now sit poised some 1:13 behind Henrique Avancini and Manuel Fumic, potentially setting up one of the closest ever Absa Cape Epic finishes.
“Today was amazing,” Lars Forster said of the route, which featured some 1000-metres of climbing and took in all the best sections of the Oak Valley and Paul Cluver trails. “I had so much fun! And, fun is fast!”
“We did well!” Senior partner Nino Schurter added. “Lars was super strong today, he pulled hard and it was a good performance for us.”
Cannondale Factory Racing couldn’t ride as aggressively as they perhaps would’ve liked, after Manuel Fumic crashed three kilometres in, breaking his suspension lockout system in the process. This meant they had to play a game of limiting losses rather than cement their lead, as was their initial strategy.
“I was riding more-or-less 40kms with a locked suspension,” the German commented afterward, adding that this eventually affected his back. “This left ‘Ava’ to do all the work and he was really strong,” he said. “He brought me to the finish, we’re happy with the second place and kept Yellow – that’s alright!”
The 7C CBZ WILIER outfit of Louis Meija and Johnny Cattaneo rounded out the podium on the day seeing them move into ninth on GC. Other notable moves on the GC saw the Italian Trek Selle San Marco pairing of Damiano Ferraro and Samuele Porro climb into third ahead of BULLS Heroes (Urs Huber and Simon Stiebjahn) while SpecializedFoundationNAD leapfrog to sixth.
They Absa African Men’s Jerseys had a storming day, with a heavily bandaged Matt Beers not showing any ill effects from his big crash on Stage 3. They remain solidly in Red and are just over a minute back on fifth-placed Centurion Vaude.
A minute they could easily make up on the 100km Queen Stage with 2850-metres of climbing into Stellenbosch. In fact, there could be some big time gains. And losses. While not the longest of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic stages, it is by far the toughest and features the iconic Gantouw Pass portage and Helderberg King’s Climb with the Dimension Data Hotspot, followed by the Land Rover Technical Terrain down the Helderberg Trails singletrack. The day (and climbing) is far from over there however. It’s going to be a big day for all.
2019 Stage 4 Men’s Results
1. Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing 4-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 4-2 Lars Forster (Switzerland) 01:38.41,5
2. Cannondale Factory Racing 3-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 3-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 01:40.09,6 +1.28,1
3. 7C CBZ WILIER 25-1 Louis Meija (Colombia) 25-2 Johnny Cattaneo (Italy) 01:41.04,2 +2.22,7
1. Cannondale Factory Racing 3-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 3-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 14:59.41,5
2. Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing 4-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 4-2 Lars Forster (Switzerland) 15:00.55,0 +1.13,5
3. Trek Selle San Marco 10-1 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 10-2 Samuele Porro (Italy) 15:09.31,9 +9.50,4
4. BULLS Heroes 6-1 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 6-2 Simon Stiebjahn (Germany) 15:09.45,4 +10.03,9
5. Centurion Vaude 9-1 Daniel Geismayr (Austria) 9-2 Jochen Kaess (Germany) 15:20.06,1 +20.24,6
6. SpecializedFoundationNAD 13-1 Alan Hatherly (South Africa) 13-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 15:21.18,6 +21.37,1
7. Canyon 5-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 5-2 Petter Fagerhaug (Norway) 15:21.33,8 +21.52,3
8. BUFF SCOTT MTB 11-1 Francesc Guerra Carretero (Spain) 11-2 Enrique Morcillo Vergara (Spain) 15:27.36,5 +27.55,0
9. 7C CBZ WILIER 25-1 Louis Meija (Colombia) 25-2 Johnny Cattaneo (Italy) 15:32.49,6 +33.08,1
10. BULLS Legends 2-1 Karl Platt (Germany) 2-2 Alban Lakata (Austria) 15:32.54,6 +33.13,1