Fumic and Avancini victorious again after attritional Absa Cape Epic Stage 1

Henrique Avancini, Manuel Fumic, Cape Epic

Cross-country specialists Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini continued their scorching start to the 2017 Absa Cape Epic by winning Stage 1.

The German-Brazilian Cannondale Factory Racing pair has now won three straight stage wins if you include their victory in the final stage of the 2016 Cape Epic, and will go into Tuesday’s transition stage with a 2.41 lead.

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On the 101km route that started and finished at Hermanus High School, Fumic and Avancini raced to a third straight Cape Epic stage win (if you include the 2016 Grand Finale) in a time of 4:25.35.

With the win, they extended their overall lead and retained the leaders’ yellow jersey, after taking full advantage of late drama for Investec-Songo-Specialized.

Around 5km, Jaroslav Kulhavy had a tumble (which led to a broken valve and puncture) just as he was setting the pace in front of his team-mate Christoph Sauser and the Cannondale pair. Despite losing three minutes in that incident, the Czech-Swiss pairing clawed back the majority of it to be on 2.41 off the pace, overall.

Third on the day went to Jochen Kaess and Markus Kauffmann of Centurion Vaude 1, who edged ahead of Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann who are now third place overall – 5.24 behind Avancini and Fumic.

Fumic, for his part, was extremely pleased with how they performed against the big guns of marathon racing.

“That was very good, very, very good. We had a great run. Our plan was to get to the front and stay there. That way we could control the pace,” he said.

“The plan worked very well for us today. Nino [Schurter] was pushing, Susi [Sauser] was pushing, but we were able to push harder. We were lucky with Jaro [Kulhavy] crashing, but that happens. It was hot out there, very hot, but we came out on top and are very pleased.”

Meanwhile, the women’s race had blood, sweat and tears. Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Suss (Meerendal-CBC) sweated hard in the scorching conditions to take the stage win, unaware of the drama that unfolded behind them after they gapped the rest of the women’s teams early in the stage.

“I was in the same position last year at this point, so I am not going to be taking anything for granted,” said Stenerhag, the Swede who rode with Robyn de Groot in 2016.

“I did not know how far ahead we were but we were in front, so we could take it a bit more carefully and not take any risks.”

The Ascendis Health duo of de Groot and Sabine Spitz started the stage with a 39-second lead after winning the Prologue on Sunday, but had a day they’d rather forget.

A mechanical gave their Hansgrohe Women’s category rivals an early advantage, and then just as they started clawing their way back, Spitz fell down a crevice and cut her head badly and was still bleeding when they reached Hermanus High School. Thankfully, all the 45-year-old German needed were some stitches and she and de Groot will start Tuesday’s Stage 2 with a 8.52 deficit.

The ever-smiling Mariske Strauss and Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro) finished third and are now 13 minutes off the lead, but the tears were reserved for Ariane Lüthi and Adelheid Morath (Spur), whose hopes of victory seem to have almost certainly disappeared after coming home 21 minutes off the pace.

Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic starts at Hermanus High School and finishes at Elandskloof in Greyton. The stage is 102km long and has 2350m of climbing.

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