Brutally hot conditions in the Tulbagh valley saw Canyon Northwave MTB prevail at the Cape Epic’s third full racing stage, with its steep mountains, very little tree cover and rocky terrain.
As temperatures in the Western Cape soared to 98.6 F, riders battled the heat and steep climbs. The stage win went to Germany’s Andreas Seewald and his Czech teammate, Martin Stošek.
- Sarrou and Beers break away to take Stage 2 of the Cape Epic
- Bulls' Huber and Schneller claim Stage 1 of Cape Epic
Team Canyon Northwave finished the stage in 03:41:47.8, ahead of Trek-Pirelli’s Samuele Porro and Fabian Rabensteiner, who stopped the clock at 03:41:50.4.
Rounding the stage 3 podium was Bulls, with Urs Huber and Simon Schneller, rolling across the finish in 03:42:07.7.
The prologue and stage 2 winners, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, had a tough day in Tulbagh’s heat, finishing fifth overall. Matt Beers and Jordan Sarrou retained the overall GC lead despite being off the winning pace, but the gap to second-ranked Canyon Northwave MTB is now only 00:01:43.3.
Sina Frei and Laura Stigger continued to dominate the women’s race. The NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team won stage 3 by a comfortable 00:03:43.6 margin, from Salumed’s Ariane Lüthi and Robyn de Groot.
Completing the women’s podium was the South African due of Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss, 00:06:08.3 behind Frei and Stigger.
The women’s GC is a mirror of the stage 3 finishing order. Frei and Stigger have a very generous 00:11:15.6 lead over Lüthi and de Groot, with Lill and Strauss 00:24:19.2 behind the leading NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team.
A big change in weather is expected
As the Cape Epic nears its midway point, how is the race shaping? Beers and Sarrou looked very strong in the prologue, although the Frenchman admitted that he struggled during the last section of their stage 2 win.
It appears that NinetyOne-songo-Specialized could have peaked in performance, and might be challenged and passed, in the next two days, by either Canyon Northwave or BULLS.
The weather is a meaningful influence on any Cape Epic. Stage 3 appears to have been the warmest day at this year’s event. A low-pressure system is routing to Cape Town from the South Atlantic and should make landfall late on Thursday.
Predictions for Friday and Saturday are much cooler temperatures and rain. All riders will benefit from lower temperatures, after the exhausting heat of stage 3.
Rain is less welcome, though. Some trails could turn muddy, making descents more treacherous. Not to mention the risk of increased rotational and frame mass, due to mud spray attached to bikes and riders.
The risk of chain failures and ruined brake pads increases at the Epic, when rain is present.
What awaits the Cape Epic on stage 4? Statistically, the route from Tulbagh to the Slanghoek valley looks less demanding. It covers only 73km, with 1,650m of climbing. In theory, a more leisurely day on the bike although the shortest races are often the most hotly contested.
The reality is that some of the race’s most technical climbs and descents will be around the Slanghoek area, which could test riders in the last third of the fourth stage.