The 2018 Absa Cape Epic kicked off on Sunday 18th March in Cape Town, with a prologue on Table Mountain. With a technical course featuring washed-out corners and steep, tricky climbs, the 20km route had been touted to favour the cross-country specialists, or at least that’s what everybody thought - until the marathon racers gacve a master class!
 
 “It’s a great feeling to win the Prologue and I could feel leading up to the race that we had good legs – but to win is incredible and to wear the yellow jersey tomorrow is important to us,” said Geismayr. Partner Nicola Rohrbach was equally ecstatic and said: “It’s unbelievable that we won today. We are feeling super strong and are looking forward to the next four days and the longer stages.”
 
Defending champions Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann were the last team to leave the ramp and in spite of coming into the race as defending champions, the pairing looked relaxed ahead of the start. “We are looking forward to this ultimate adventure. We showed last year what we can do, and we will try to win the race and have a fun week,” said Schurter.
 
The Scott-Sram duo took some time to get going but once they found a rhythm they managed to eat away at the clock, eventually finishing in fourth place in a time of 0:45.23,3.
 
The Cannondale Factory Racing pairing of Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini finished strong – to the delight of cheering fans – using all of their expertise to scythe through the technical sections and single track, restoring a semblance of pride for the cross-country riders in the process. “We’re very happy with the start,” said Fumic. “We would have liked to be in yellow but we don’t mind chasing!”
 
In the Women’s category, three-time winner Annika Langvad and her novice partner Kate Courtney combined perfectly to win and take a confidence boosting 72-second lead into Stage 1.

The Investec Songo Specialized pair took 53 minutes 18,5 seconds to finish the 19km course on the slopes of Table Mountain. That was 1:12,6 ahead of Lagvad’s former partner Ariane Lüthi of Switzerland, who has teamed up with Belgium’s Githa Michiels (Spur). They were followed home by two South African/European combinations, with Robyn de Groot and German veteran Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) third, 2:14,2 behind the leaders and, one second later, Mariske Strauss and her English partner Annie Last (Silverback – KMC).

“We had a really good strategy in our mind and it played played out to perfection today,” Langvad said after crossing the line. “Kate and I have not ridden as a team together but I was really surprised at how well it worked. I think we had it dialled in from the first pedal stroke … it felt really good.”

In the Masters category, the American pairing of George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde, well-known for helping teammates win Grand Tours on the road, helped themselves to victory.
The two former US Postal teammates, riding as Team Absa–WBR, will take a healthy one-minute lead into Stage 1 after completing the 19km Prologue on the slopes of Table Mountain in 50 minutes 15,9 seconds.
Just 59,6 seconds behind the two former professional road riders are Italian Massimo Debertolis and Czech Republic’s Ondrej Fojtik (Wilier Force 7C 2) and then a tightly bunched pack of three teams all sitting within 15 seconds of each other. Australians Rohin Adams and Brad Clarke are in 5th.

The Grand Masters category for riders over 50-years-old was led by 2016 champions Roberts Sim and Udo Boelts, the former Giro d’Italia stage winner from Germany, who finished in a time of 53.32,0.

Argentine team Agustina Maria Apaza and Cesar Lettoli (Merida Argentina) blew the rest of the field away in their debut at the Absa Cape Epic in the Virgin Active Mixed category, finishing over four minutes ahead of the second-placed team. South Africa’s Nicky Giliomee and Brennan Anderson (Journey by Junto) were 4:04,9 behind them with Australian pair, Briony Mattocks and Wayne Dickinson (Cycle Northside) home in third, 5:08,8 behind the leaders.
Lucky Mlangeni and Tshepo Tlou from took an early lead in the Exxaro special jersey race. The Team Exxaro/PWC pair hold a lead of just under two minutes on the RMB Change a Life pairing of Ndumiso Dontso and Luvuyo Siyasi, with Rilamulele Gadabeni and Patrick Rengange (Exxaro/RMB) two minutes further back.


Tomorrow’s tough, marathon-type 110km/1900m course starts and finishes at Arabella Wine Estate. Over that sort of distance the gaps between the leaders are not likely to prove significant.