Beers and Grotts Power to Stage 5 win; Terpstra and Koller Unstoppable in Aramex Women’s Category


BICYCLING STAFF |

Matt Beers and Howard Grotts (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) romped to their first stage win of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic when they pulled away from Andreas Seewald and Marc Stutzmann (Canyon SIDI) in the closing kilometres of the 70km Stage 5 in Wellington.

The Aramex Women’s Category was business as usual with Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) cruising home on Stage 5 to claim their sixth successive stage win (five stages plus the Prologue last Sunday).

With two stages to go, they’ll have their eyes on the 2021 performance of Sina Frei and Laura Stigger, who won all eight days of the Absa Cape Epic on their way to overall victory.

Riders during Stage 5 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 22 March 2024.
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

How the Men’s Race Unfolded

The men’s race on Stage 5 started at a relatively casual pace as the riders made their way out of the Wellington race village and into the vineyard trails.

Hans Becking and Wout Alleman (BUFF – MEGAMO), Phil Buys and Pieter du Toit (Pyga Euro Steel) and Nino Schurter and Sebastian Fini (World Bicycle Relief) went immediately to the front of the bunch, as did the surprise package of the morning, Scott Calabandida | Mazowsze (Sergio Gutierrez and Pawel Bernas).

BUFF – MEGAMO soon started to struggle. This allowed Bulls Mavericks (Simon Schneller and Urs Huber) and Canyon SIDI (Andreas Seewald and Marc Stutzmann) to move into the front bunch. Huber then dropped off the pace, leaving Canyon SIDI, World Bicycle Relief and Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne alone at the front to contest the stage.

With rolling hills, short, sharp climbs and singletrack dominating the route, there was no obvious point for a team to break away. Beers and Grotts were shrewd, too, positioning themselves ahead of the singletrack-loving Nino Schurter when it mattered.

Once out of the tight trails and onto the vineyard and dirt road finish, Beers opened the taps and started racing home. Grotts, who has matched his taller partner pedal-stroke for pedal-stroke all week, was once again able to go along for the ride and the pair comfortably left Canyon SIDI and World Bicycle Relief behind.

Aware that at the Absa Cape Epic every second counts, Beers and Grotts upped the tempo towards the finish, crossing the line 12 seconds ahead of Canyon SIDI and, more importantly, almost a full minute ahead of Schurter and Fini.

Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne now go into tomorrow’s Stage 6, the penultimate stage of the event, with a near three-minute lead over World Bicycle Relief in the general classification.

“Yeah, you know, the time gap can never be ‘too much’ in the Epic,” said Beers. “If there’s an opportunity to push it and grow the gap, you have to take it. You have to try. Even if you feel a lot of pain everywhere, as everyone does, it’s whoever can get that out of their mind and let the adrenaline take over. And I’m glad it worked for us today.”

Beers added that the plan wasn’t necessarily to win the stage, but it all came together on the day. “The stage win is a bonus! The plan is just to get time on our competitors. And then, I mean, normally it corresponds with winning a stage, but yeah, it’s very special to win in Yellow and we’ll definitely remember this one.”

Riders during Stage 5 of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from CPUT, Wellington to CPUT, Wellington, South Africa on 22 March 2024. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic
Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic

Sizzling Six for GHOST Factory Racing

In the Aramex Women’s Category on Stage 5, Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) continued their perfect debut at the Absa Cape Epic. They crossed the line today 20 seconds ahead of nearest challengers Cannondale Factory Racing (Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner) for a sixth stage win. They now sit just under three minutes ahead of Cannondale Factory Racing in the women’s general classification. Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) finished third on Stage 5 and remain in third place overall in the Aramex Women’s Category.

Terpstra and Koller were seemingly untroubled on the 70km stage, riding comfortably alongside Cannondale Factory Racing and Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne up until the halfway mark of the day. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne dropped back, leaving GHOST Factory Racing and Cannondale Factory Racing alone at the front of the race from just before the final water point of the day.

Mona Mitterwallner, only 22 and already the MTB Marathon World Champion, has enjoyed an excellent first Absa Cape Epic, but she just hasn’t been able to attack with Lill when needed this week. This has allowed Terpstra and Koller to push hard in the closing moments of each stage and slowly edge further ahead in the general classification.

With a handful of kilometres left on Stage 5, this familiar scene played out as GHOST Factory Racing made a break for the line and ultimately the stage win, with Cannondale Factory Racing dropping off the pace ever so slightly on the home stretch.

“I think everybody expected us to attack where we attacked,” said Terpstra. “But we thought we’d just try and see if we can get a gap. It was not necessarily the goal to gain more time, but more to come through safely and not take any risks.”

Nicole Koller added that their knowledge of the area and the quality of the trails made for a good day of mountain biking. “We love these trails. We’ve also trained here before. I already knew them a little bit so it was very cool to be out there riding on something we knew; they are so flowy and totally like cross-country style riding – great fun.”

With two stages to come in Stellenbosch, GHOST Factory Racing will be back on familiar terrain again – as will Candice Lill. Which should make for an exciting finish to the Aramex Women’s Category.

“’I’m looking forward to the next two days in Stellenbosch,” said Terpstra. “Both stages have amazing trails and we’ve been training there for years, so it will be so nice to finally race on them.”

Click here for the full results

Stage 6 Preview

Stage 6 of the Absa Cape Epic is an 87km stage with 2400m of climbing that will start and finish in Stellenbosch and take place on the town’s famous trail network. Many of the elite riders train here throughout the year, making them intimate with the twists and turns. Expect an explosive final two stages of the 2024 Absa Cape Epic.

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