Hans Becking and José Dias of Buff Scott MTB Racing embraced the rain to claim their second stage win in a row.
Hans Becking (Holland) and José Dias (Portugal) of Buff Scott MTB claimed another stage victory at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic, following up their Stage 4 triumph with an equally impressive display to claim the 84km Stage 5 in Wellington.
Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn (BULLS 2) finished second, with yellow-jersey-clad Matt Beers and Jordan Sarrou (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) taking third on the day.
“That was rough,” said Becking. “The pace was really fast from the start. We just wanted to stay in the lead group at that stage, which we managed to do. We both felt good all day, so on the final climb, we said ‘let’s go’ and we went. It’s a great feeling when your legs do what you want them to. I’m also so proud of José, he is riding so well this week.”
A beaming José Dias put the performance down to the Buff Scott MTB partnership. “We have such a good connection on this race,” said Dias. “We just look at each other and we know what to do. We still had good legs after yesterday, but we were pushing the limit all the way today. It’s an amazing feeling to win a second stage.”
There was a threat of heavy rain during Stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic, and the men started their race like none of them wanted to get caught in the downpour. The rain never truly materialised, but that didn’t translate into a let-up of the pace; it was fierce from the first second.
First, Urs Huber (BULLS) pulled to the front, then Lachlan Morton (EF Education-Nippo) found himself leading the bunch. BULLS 2 were the next to attack, followed by a surge from Trek-Pirelli (Samuele Porro and Fabian Rabensteiner).
Eventually, around the 30km point, the lead pack emerged from the melee – BULLS 2, Buff Scott MTB, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, and Trek-Pirelli all riding off to form their own race within a race. Buff Scott MTB 2 were also riding well, but a heavy crash saw them lose time and ultimately drop back.
For the next 40km, the lead changed hands between the four teams, all riders looking comfortable on the climbs, descents, and singletrack. Like Stage 4, Buff Scott MTB then made their break on the final climb up Aap d’Huez. None of the other teams could respond, with Matt Beers struggling ever so slightly to keep pace with partner Jordan Sarrou. Buff Scott MTB raced ahead, effortlessly riding down Fully Monty, the Land Rover Technical Terrain. Not wanting to jeopardise their overall lead, NinetyOne-songo-Specialized approached the descent in a calm and businesslike manner.
The final 10km was a flat, fast sprint through the vineyards, with Buff Scott MTB having plenty of energy to extend their lead to around a minute-and-a-half. They duly crossed the line for an exceptional Stage 5 win. BULLS 2 rolled in for second place, Beers and Sarrou right with them for third.
Matt Beers and Jordan Sarrou (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) remain the overall leaders in the yellow leader jerseys, with a 00:06:39 lead over BULLS 2.
“Buff Scott was just in a league of their own today,” said Beers. “We just tried to conserve energy today for another big ride on Saturday. BULLS 2 are the closest to us on the overall standings, so I think the next few days will be cautious, and we will look to mark them to make sure they don’t get away.”
Stage 5 Results:
1) Buff Scott MTB, Hans BECKING, José DIAS 03:56:04.0
2) BULLS 2, Martin FREY, Simon STIEBJAHN 03:57:36.9 | +00:01:32.9
3) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan SARROU, Matthew BEERS 03:57:39.0 | +00:01:34.9
General classification after Stage 5:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Jordan SARROU, Matthew BEERS 19:00:39.0
2) BULLS 2, Martin FREY, Simon STIEBJAHN 19:07:19.0 | +00:06:39.9
3) Trek-Pirelli, Samuele PORRO, Fabian RABENSTEINER 19:11:33.4 | +00:10:54.3