Wind was the word of the day at the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Prologue on Meerendal Wine Estate, which turned out to be rather fitting as eventual stage winner Karl Platt likes to talk about there being only one gas, “and that’s full gas”.
With a smooth ride from start to finish, Platt and Team Bulls partner Urs Huber were able to lay down a marker for the week ahead.
Going into the event as one of the pre-race favourites, the pressure was on the Bulls pair to live up to the hype after a few years of middling Absa Cape Epic results. With a flawless prologue, they couldn’t have asked for a better start as they raced home on the 26km Meerendal course in 1:04.34,7.
The Swiss-German pairing Nicola Rohrbach and Matthias Pfrommer of Centurion Vaude by Meerendal 2 finished in second place, with Trek-Selle San Marco A’s Samuele Porro and Damiano Ferraro, both of Italy, rounding out the top three.
The other pre-race favourites, Kristian Hynek and Alban Lakata of Team Topeak Ergon Racing, battled on the day and only managed a ninth place finish, two minutes and 19 seconds behind Platt and Huber.
With five-time winner Christoph Sauser participating this year, but not racing competitively, the gap is there for four-time winner Platt to tick off a fifth win. Judging by the huge smiles as he stepped on to the winner’s podium, things are going according to plan in the early stages of the race.
“I’ve never won the Prologue,” said Platt. “So to get off to such a good start makes me happy. The conditions were so tough, and we were battling a side-on wind at the top. There was nowhere to hide out there, so to have such an awesome ride was the best way to start. I’m confident about our team shape and I’m excited about the week ahead.”
Teammate Urs Huber said he felt the weight of expectation going into the Prologue. “People were talking about us as one of the favourites,” said Huber, “so it is good that we lived up to that. It shows the rest of the field that we mean business. Today went perfectly, but if I’m honest, there wasn’t too much time to think out there!”
The first South African team home was Team Spur, in fourth place, with James Reid and Gert Heyns putting their cross-country skills to good use on the shorter prologue course.
As the leading African team at the event, they’ll start Stage 1 in the red Absa African special jersey. The pair, who only came together in the week leading up to the Absa Cape Epic due to various misfortunes befalling their teammates, was looking good until Reid took a tumble towards the end of the Prologue, adding precious seconds to their time.
2015 champion Sauser of Investec Songo Specialized, riding for the first time with South African Sipho Madolo, finished the Prologue in 29th place. The first man to win five Absa Cape Epics was looking relaxed on the finish line. “It was a pleasure to ride with Sipho. We went at a nice steady pace and just enjoyed the stage. It’s a very different feeling than in previous years, but we’ll have fun this week.”