By Fred Dreier
Day three of the 2008 Absa Cape Epic produced a third stage winner in the men’s category, as Jakob Fuglsang and Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) took top honors.
The two, runners-up in 2007, gapped race leaders Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander (Songo.info) on the grueling 137km journey from George to Calitzdorp. Stander and Sauser, however, retained their overall lead.
Alison Sydor and Pia Sundstedt (Rocky Mountain) continued to build on their advantage, taking the stage win by 10 minutes. The two lead the women’s race by nearly half an hour. Susan Haywood and Jenny Smith (Trek-Volkswagen), who slipped to third after a disastrous stage 1 ride, vaulted back into second place by finishing second on the day. The two lead Fabienne Heinzmann and Katrin Schwing (Dolphin-Trek) by 26 seconds.
The race’s second full stage featured 2518m of climbing and two mighty passes, including the Gamkaberg, which served up ramps as steep as 18 percent. The total mileage and elevation gain, matched by the heat of South Africa’s Klein Karoo desert, had organizers calling the stage the hardest in the race’s five-year history.
Riders hit the day’s first climb up Montagu pass a mere 25km into the stage, and the ascent carried time bonuses for the first three teams to cross the summit. Fuglsang and Paulissen topped out in the lead, earning back 40 seconds of the nearly 10 minutes the two lost on the opening stage from Knysna to George.
“We decided early on in the race to just go for it and take the risk, and therefore raced hard from the beginning,” Paulissen said. “The first three days of any stage race is always difficult for me as I’m more used to two-hour races, compared to the five hours of the Absa Cape Epic every day – but then I get stronger as we complete stage after stage.”
During last year’s race, Paulissen and Fuglsang fought a tense battle against the Bulls team of Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm. The two looked to have the overall sewn up after the sixth of eight stages. However, Fuglsang cracked badly on the penultimate stage into Villiersdorp, and the Bulls took home the overall. Paulissen said this year his teammate, who claimed the 2007 U23 world cross-country title in Fort William, Scotland, has improved.
“Jakob was leading our team for 70 to 80 kilometers of the race,” the Belgian said. “He is just such a talent. Not many young riders have his mental strength out there – he’s a great fighter.”
The two held their gap to the line, but Sauser and Stander cut their losses to a mere five minutes. Sauser and Stander hold a three-minute lead over Cannondale-Vredestein with six stages remaining.
2008 Absa Cape Epic
Stage 2: George-Calitzdorp
1. Cannondale-Vredestein (Jakob Fuglsang, Roel Paulissen), 5:07:11
2. Songo.info (Christoph Sauser, Burry Stander), 5:12:44
3. Alb-Gold (Hannes Genze, Jochen Kaess), 5:14:43
4. MTN Energade 1 (Kevin Evans, David George), 5:14:46
5. Dolphin (Bart Brentjens, Alban Lakata), 5:22:36
1. Rocky Mountain (Alison Sydor, Pia Sundstedt), 6:05:53
2. Trek-Volkswagen (Susan Haywood, Jennifer Smith), 6:16:46
3. Dolphin-Trek (Fabienne Heinzmann, Katrin Schwing), 6:24:54
4. Absa Ladies (Erica Green, Hanlie Booyens), 6:35:15
5. Scott Contessa (Jane Seggie, Ischen Stopforth), 6:47:11
Overall (after two stages)
1. Songo.info, 10:24:49
2. Cannondale-Vredestein, 10:27:48
3. Alb-Gold, 10:34:05
4. Bulls (Karl Platt, Stefan Sahm), 10:43:29
5. Dolphin, 10:51:17
6. Full-Dynamix (Fredrik Kessiakoff, Massimo Debertolis), 10:52:56
7. MTN Energade 1, 10:53:15
8. Etto Hoydahl 3 (Martin Bratland, Kristian Torgensen), 11:01:28
9. MTN Energade 2 (Mannie Heymans, Melt Swanepoel), 11:06:46
10. USN (Brandon Stewart, Max Knox), 11:21:47
1. Rocky Mountain, 12:33:29
2. Trek-Volkswagen, 13:03:32
3. Dolphin-Trek, 13:03:58
4. Absa Ladies, 13:28:21
5. Scott Contessa, 13:43:03