Ceres to Saronsberg: Beers and Sarrou Fly, Frei and Stigger Three-peat

Stage 2 of the 2021 Absa Cape Epic took the riders from Ceres to Saronsberg - the long, hot dusty way round.

The Bicycling Editors |

The minor glitch while leading  on Stage 1 was forgotten – in style – at the Saronsberg Wine Cellar as South African rider Matt Beers and French partner Jordan Sarrou (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) claimed Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic today, winning their second stage of the 2021 event in the process.
The pair comfortably won the 98km stage that took riders from Ceres to Saronsberg, Tulbagh in a time of 3:56:02. The stage victory means they remain in the overall yellow leader jerseys going into tomorrow’s 91km stage that features many of Tulbagh’s most famed trails, including the notorious Bone Trail.
Andreas Seewald and Martin Stošek of Canyon Northwave MTB
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
NinetyOne-songo-Specialized’s stage win means they now hold a 2:13 lead over Martin Stošek and Andreas Seewald (Canyon Northwave MTB) in the race general classification.
Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic
Canyon Northwave MTB finished second on Stage 2, roughly 30 seconds behind the winners while Urs Huber and Simon Schneller, in the BULLS colours, came in third; they sit third in the overall standings, too.
Simon Schneller of Team Bulls
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Earlier in the day, the race started in ideal riding conditions, with blue skies and cool conditions. There was a lowkey bunch ride out of Ceres, with the BULLS 2 team of Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn making a few early attacks. Nothing much came of them, and the men’s field remained intact for much of the morning.
From around 30 minutes into the race the pace started to quicken, with Canyon Northwave MTB looking all business at the front. The field eventually split into a clear lead bunch, with NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, BULLS, Trek-Pirelli, Buff Scott 1, and Absa African Jersey leaders Pyga Euro Steel 2 (Phil Buys and Pieter du Toit) all sitting just behind the Canyon riders.
That remained the case late into the day, until the final climb began at the 70km mark. Seewald and Stošek decided to make their move on the climb and were aided by Beers slipping out. This let Canyon Northwave MTB briefly pull away; Beers worked hard to recover, though, and, crucially, he and Sarrou were able to enter the Old Wagon Trail singletrack descent in front. Once on the descent, Sarrou and Beers went flat out to pull away, racing home through the orchard and vineyard roads to Saronsberg.
“It’s awesome to win another stage,” said Beers. “The Prologue was good enough but wearing the yellow and to win in the yellow… you just can’t get better than that. On the final descent, I knew we had to get a gap there, so I just bombed away and railed the corners until I got to Jordan’s wheel and I was like, ‘okay, let’s go man’ – we flew down there, with his XCO skills and my background in motocross we could just send it.”
Mens leaders, Matt Beers and Jordan Sarrou of NinetyOne-songo-Specialized
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Of the final 10km, Beers was less enthusiastic. “The last bit felt like a lifetime!”
Sarrou was slightly off the pace at the beginning of the day and he confirmed as much on the finish line. “I was off this morning and was struggling a bit. Matt just waited for me and we kept calm. His local knowledge really helped today; eventually I started feeling better and by the end we were riding on the same wavelength.”
Andreas Seewald admitted that the Canyon Northwave MTB strategy was to attack on the final climb, but they didn’t count on the aggressive descending mindset of Beers and Sarrou. “Our plan was to push as hard as possible on the steep climb; that worked out well, but Matt and Jordan came back strongly. It was actually good to have them in front on the descent so we could just stay on their wheels, but we lost them about halfway down. We didn’t want to take too many risks. We expected the final descent to be fast and dangerous and it was. They were taking a lot of risks – we want to do well overall and not take too many risks, so we are playing it safe over the first few days.”
Stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic is a 91km, 2100m assault on the mountains surrounding Tulbagh. Conditions promise to be the most testing of the event so far, with temperatures in the mid-30s expected.
Tune in to the Live Broadcast of Stage 3 from 08:30 on the Absa Cape Epic Facebook pageYouTube account, and/or Absa Cape Epic website.

Stage 2 Results: Ceres to Saronsberg

1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan SARROU, Matthew BEERS 03:56:02.4

2) Canyon Northwave MTB, Andreas SEEWALD, Martin STOŠEK 03:56:28.5 | +00:00:26.1

3) BULLS, Urs HUBER, Simon SCHNELLER 03:57:48.9 | +00:01:46.5

General classification after Stage 2:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan SARROU, Matthew BEERS 08:37:07.9 | 24.4 km/h ave.

2) Canyon Northwave MTB, Andreas SEEWALD, Martin STOŠEK 08:39:21.8 | +00:02:13.9 | 24.4 km/h ave.
3) BULLS 2, Martin FREY, Simon STIEBJAHN 08:41:12.4 | +00:04:04.5 | 24.2 km/h ave.

Photo by Kelvin Trautman/Cape Epic

Three for three in Saronsberg

The NinetyOne-songo-Specialized team of Sina Frei and Laura Stigger made it three wins from three so far at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic, winning Stage 2 today ahead of Robyn de Groot and Ariane Lüthi (Salusmed). Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss (Faces CST) claimed third spot on the day. Frei and Stigger now hold a seven-and-a-half minute advantage over nearest rivals, De Groot and Lüthi; while that may sound like an age, the trails of the Absa Cape Epic have reclaimed far more than a few minutes from many teams, in the past.

Conditions on the 96km Stage 2, from Ceres to Saronsberg, Tulbagh, were ideal for mountain bike racing and the Elite women began the first “move day” at a conservative pace. However, racers will be racers and the throttles were twisted. The race burst into life when four teams pulled away from the pack – NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Salusmed, Faces CST, and Cherie Redecker and Adelheid Morath of Computer Mania MTB all leaving the rest behind. The four teams remained together in a tight group for much of the stage, with a split only taking place around the 72km mark. Earlier in the race, Ariane Lüthi was strongest up the Old Gydo Pass, the first real climb of the day, but on the final big climb, Frei and Stigger, at home in the mountainous terrain, made their move, dropping the three chasing teams.

By the 77km checkpoint, they’d opened up a 30-second gap on De Groot and Lüthi, a gap which had grown to just over a minute by the stage’s end. On the technical Old Wagon Trail descent into Tulbagh, Lill and Strauss lost valuable time, the latter struggling with a puncture. Strauss was also feeling the effects of her crashes on yesterday’s stage. “It took me a bit of time this morning to find my rhythm but after a while, you forget the pain,” she said. “On the final descent I started feeling it again, but I think we had a consistent race and I’m proud of how we did today.”
Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic

For Frei and Stigger, it was a complete performance, mishap-free and without incident. “It was a slow start and we just controlled the 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.”
Stage 3 will be crucial for the chasing teams in the women’s race. Some risks will have to be taken on the 91km, 2100m stage to cut into the overall lead of Frei and Stigger. Expect adventure and excitement on the trails of Tulbagh.
Tune in to the Live Broadcast of Stage 2 from 08:30 on the Absa Cape Epic Facebook pageYouTube account, and/or Absa Cape Epic website.

Stage 2 Results: Ceres to Saronsberg

1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina FREI, Laura STIGGER | 04:49:12.7

2) Salusmed, Ariane LÜTHI, Robyn DE GROOT 04:50:14.9 | +00:01:02.1

3) Faces CST, Candice LILL, Mariske STRAUSS 04:53:47.7 | +00:04:35.0

General classification after Stage 2:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina FREI, Laura STIGGER 10:18:14.0 | 19.9 km/h ave.

2) Salusmed, Ariane LÜTHI, Robyn DE GROOT 10:25:46.1 | +00:07:32.0 | 19.8 km/h ave.

3) Faces CST, Candice LILL, Mariske STRAUSS 10:36:24.9 | +00:18:10.9 | 19.6 km/h ave.

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