Andreas Seewald & Marc Stutzmann Storm to Stage 3 Victory, GHOST Factory Racing make it Four from Four


Canyon SIDI’s Andreas Seewald and Marc Stutzmann rode hard and fast to claim Stage 3 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic in a sweltering Wellington, while Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) won their fourth stage in as many days to cement their place at the top of the Aramex Women’s Category general classification. With four days of racing to come, it looks like a special effort will be required from the chasers in the Women’s Category to unseat GHOST Factory Racing from pole position.

Georg Egger leads the race during Stage 3 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Saronsberg Wine Estate to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 20 March 2024. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

How the Racing Unfolded

In the UCI men’s race, the pace was ferocious from the start thanks to the early tar and district road kilometres. The entire men’s field roared out of Tulbagh’s Saronsberg Cellar in a mad dash, clearly intending to reach the Wellington finish before the extreme heat of the day peaked. Once off the smoother surfaces, though, the racing tactics began.

The first challenge of the day was the rugged Waterval climb inside the Waterval Nature Reserve. Georg Egger (ORBEA LEATT Speed Company) found out just how rugged when he contrived to go over his handlebars – on an uphill. World Bicycle Relief’s Sebastian Fini was also a victim of the terrain, losing precious seconds thanks to his chain dropping off. Fini and Schurter were never able to make up the lost time. From Waterval, the leading teams on Stage 3 emerged.

Hans Becking and Wout Alleman (BUFF – MEGAMO) put in an early surge, with Canyon SIDI (Andreas Seewald and Marc Stutzmann), Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Matt Beers and Howard Grotts), Pyga Euro Steel (Philip Buys & Pieter Du Toit), ORBEA Leatt Speed Company (Georg Eggar and Lukas Baum) and, somewhat surprisingly, 2018 winner Jaroslav Kulhavy’s Superior Lions team joining the Yellow Leader Jersey wearers at the front of the field.

After the bumpy middle sections of the stage, the riders enjoyed some respite on the smooth tar of Bain’s Kloof Pass before entering the relatively kinder Wellington trails. At 65km into the 94km race, there were four teams in it – Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, Speed Company, BUFF – MEGAMO and Canyon SIDI.

That all changed on Stage 3’s penultimate descent into Doolhof, when the German-Swiss pair of Seewald and Stutzmann decided to, rather fittingly in a region known for its fine wines, pop the cork. It was a calculated risk that paid off. The three chasing teams failed to respond, allowing Canyon SIDI a hassle-free run to the finish. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne rolled over in second on the day, with Speed Company Racing a few seconds behind them in third.

“It feels amazing to have won,” said Andreas Seewald. “Everyone knew it was going to be a fast, tough start, but we worked together with our second team and got into the front group which was critical.”

Seewald added, “We had some difficulties in the first few days, but we’re still fighting for the GC. A stage win is awesome, and there’s still a long way to go. We’re looking forward to more climbing ahead. Today we’ve shown that we are strong on the climbs so we plan to take it one day at a time and put the pressure on the climbs.”

Another win for Terpstra & Koller during Stage 3 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Saronsberg Wine Estate to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 20 March 2024. Photo by Max Sullivan/Cape Epic
Photo by Max Sullivan/Cape Epic

Fantastic Four for GHOST

In the Aramex Women’s Category on Stage 3, GHOST Factory Racing, Cannondale Factory Racing (Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner), Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard), as they have done all week so far, set the early pace.

At one point on the Waterval climb, it looked like GHOST Factory Racing’s Nicole Koller was in trouble, needing to walk for a few metres. This proved to be a moment of false hope for the other women’s teams, as Koller was soon back on her bike and leading from the front alongside Terpstra.

From then, it looked like another three-team tussle for the stage until Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM (Vera Looser and Alexis Skarda) appeared in the manner of an overexuberant child jumping out from behind the curtains and yelling ‘surprise’ at an unsuspecting granny, and added to the frontline festivities.

American rider Skarda looked to be having a good time on the stage, putting in a few attacks, but the Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM challenge eventually faded, leaving GHOST, Cannondale and Specialized to race for stage honours. In a move that surprised even them, Terpstra and Koller upped the tempo around 70km and were able to pull away from Lill, Mitterwallner, Villafane and Sheppard.

With no response forthcoming from Cannondale Factory Racing and Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, the Orange Jersey leaders were able to comfortably cruise to their fourth stage win out of four at the 2024 Absa Cape Epic.

“It was pretty hard in the beginning,” said Terpstra. “There were a lot of turns and rocks and you couldn’t get into a good rhythm. Eventually, we got going, though and found a nice pace. We were surprised to get a little bit of a gap on the jeep track. Once we had it, we thought we’d try to stay out in front. However, it was a long way to the finish, so we weren’t sure what would happen. But it was nice that we could keep it up until the end and take another stage.”

Mitterwallner admitted that she and Lill tried to make the racing hard for the overall leaders, but just could shake them off. “GHOST had all the answers every time we tried something. Then they attacked when we didn’t expect them to attack and for me, I could just not respond.”

Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic might be the perfect opportunity for Mitterwallner and partner Lill to respond though. At 88km long with 3000m of climbing, Stage 4 is undoubtedly the Queen Stage of this year’s Epic. South African riders will know the trails well, so expect to see the likes of Lill, Beers and other local riders guiding their partners through the monstrous twists and turns on the day.

Click here for the full results.

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