Race leader Henrique Avancini of Brazil insisted on Wednesday he would put up a fight to the very end with German partner Manuel Fumic, despite their opponents cutting into their advantage on the 78km third stage of the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race in the Western Cape.
“If anyone outside of Cannondale Factory Racing wins the Cape Epic this year, they are going to know they have been in a fight,” Avancini told the event website.
“We’re not going to let this go easily.”
Five-time winner Christoph Sauser of Switzerland and Czech teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy (Investec-Songo Specialized) edged out the Swiss pairing of Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann (Scott-Ram Racing) in another tightly contested sprint for the line, earning their second straight stage victory.
Sauser and Kulhavy narrowed the gap on the Cannondale Factory Racing pairing of Avancini and Fumic, cutting the advantage up front to a little more than a minute and moving within striking distance of the leaders in the general classification.
“That was a good day for us. We made good progress and won the stage,” Sauser said.
“It was only a short day so we weren’t expecting to eat much time into the Cannondale Factory Racing XC guys. It was a bonus.”
Schurter and Stirnemann were in third position, while South African rider Max Knox and Hector Paez of Colombia (Kansai Plascon) remained in fourth place with four stages left.
In the women’s race, local favourite Robyn de Groot and German partner Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) grabbed the stage win in a sprint against overall leaders Esther Suss of Switzerland and Jennie Stenerhag of Sweden.
“The day went well. Actually the riding time was a lot shorter than we expected,” Spitz said.
“I guess we had a lot of singletrack, but it was fast riding.”
De Groot and Spitz were unable to make much of an impact in the general classification, however, with the Meerendal CBC pairing remaining nearly nine minutes clear in the charge for the title.
Another South African rider, Mariske Strauss, and English teammate Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro) were lying third overall, more than 15 minutes further back.
Thursday’s fourth stage will take the riders on a 112km route from Greyton to Elgin.