“Today was fantastic for us,” Cattaneo said afterward. “We had some good luck and then we tried to push hard over the last 20-kilometres,” he commented.
The ‘luck’ he was referring to was indeed the puncture Trek Selle San Marco (who led for almost two-thirds of the race) suffered after Porro crashed at 65kms. They were forced to stop to repair their mechanical which saw the chase bunch of Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing and 7C CBZ WILIER overtake them.
Meija and Cattaneo attacked almost immediately and stayed away all the way to the finish. “This was one of the last two opportunities to win a stage,” Cattaneo added. “That’s what we wanted so we are really happy!”
Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing were happy to ride conservatively in second place after that, content in the knowledge that they were further extending their grip on the overall Yellow Jersey.
Said Forster after the finish: “Today was hard from the beginning, but we just tried to hold onto the other groups and extend our lead again.” Before adding, “we’re looking forward to the last stage tomorrow.”
The pair rode much of the early part of the stage – which featured some of the finest trails in the Simonsberg Conservancy and surrounds – with their back-up team (DSV-SCOTT-SRAM’s Gert Heyns and Andri Frischknecht). Promoting Schurter to emphasise just how important it is to have a strong supporting outfit in the Untamed African Mountain Bike Race.
“It’s essential,” he said. “No team has won before without a back-up team. But it’s also a mental thing.”
This was well proven by Trek Selle San Marco, who were without the assistance of their backup team after Michele Casagrande and Fabian Rabensteiner crashed out on the finish straight of the Queen Stage. They fought to stay in third. But who knows what could’ve been.
They were followed by Cannondale Factory Racing in fourth. The pair remain in second place on the GC despite another day on which Henrique Avancinihad to nurse partner Manuel Fumic up the climbs.
Getting stronger by the day on the other hand, is the Absa African Men’s Jersey wearers of Matt Beers and Alan Hatherly. The young guns put in another solid effort to finish in fifth and consolidate their fifth place on the GC.
“I’m really happy to say that the body is starting to feel good again,” Beers said shortly after the finish, commenting on the recovery after his crash earlier in the week. “It was super hard with a lot very steep climbing, but the support out on route was just incredible."
“It’s really cool to be South Africans out there,” he said. “You just get goosebumps riding through the crowds and find that little bit extra. Thank you!”
Beers and Hatherly will be looking forward to finishing it off on the Trails to Val de Vie and claiming that final Red Jersey on the Champs-Élysées of the Absa Cape Epic. The final stage is by no means a simple showcase however and the 70km with 1 800m of climbing is bound to challenge all.
1. 7C CBZ WILIER 25-1 Louis Meija (Colombia) 25-2 Johnny Cattaneo (Italy) 03:49.21,1
2. Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing 4-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 4-2 Lars Forster (Switzerland) 03:51.40,9 +2.19,8
3. Trek Selle San Marco 10-1 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 10-2 Samuele Porro (Italy) 03:53.54,7 +4.33,6
1. Scott-SRAM MTB-Racing 4-1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 4-2 Lars Forster (Switzerland) 23:12.06,2
2. Cannondale Factory Racing 3-1 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 3-2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 23:20.06,5 +8.00,3
3. Trek Selle San Marco 10-1 Damiano Ferraro (Italy) 10-2 Samuele Porro (Italy) 23:29.10,8 +17.04,6
4. BULLS Heroes 6-1 Urs Huber (Switzerland) 6-2 Simon Stiebjahn (Germany) 23:38.52,6 +26.46,4
5. SpecializedFoundationNAD 13-1 Alan Hatherly (South Africa) 13-2 Matthew Beers (South Africa) 23:50.28,3 +38.22,1
6. BUFF SCOTT MTB 11-1 Francesc Guerra Carretero (Spain) 11-2 Enrique Morcillo Vergara (Spain) 23:53.27,4 +41.21,2
7. 7C CBZ WILIER 25-1 Louis Meija (Colombia) 25-2 Johnny Cattaneo (Italy) 23:55.07,2 +43.01,0
8. Canyon 5-1 Kristian Hynek (Czech Republic) 5-2 Petter Fagerhaug (Norway) 24:03.35,9 +51.29,7
9. 7C CBZ WILIER 2 32-1 Tony Longo (Italy) 32-2 Gregory Brenes (Costa Rica) 24:08.22,8 +56.16,6
10. Tbelles - ProtourBCN 43-1 Roberto Bou Martin (Spain) 43-2 Alberto Losada (Spain) 24:18.33,9 +1:06.27,7