CAPE EPIC STAGE 7: Finishing in Fine Style

The final stage, 92km from Wellington to Meerendal, brought relief and gratification that a long, hard challenge was completed, and successfully so.

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Martin and Fabian finished off the Absa Cape Epic how they started it: on the podium! Following a difficult day on Stage 6, when Martin’s physical and mental limits were pushed dangerously close to breaking point, the boys bounced back in fine style.
The stage was relatively flat and fast to start so the boys tucked in on the wheels and waited. Centurian Vaude and Multivan Merida attacked on the first climb and made a small gap on the chase group which contained Fabian and Martin. With a long stretch before the final climb, the boys were happy to stay in the group and conserve energy. The legs were good and the motivation was high, they just had to choose the right time to attack.
The final climb, before the singletrack descent into Meerendal, was the perfect opportunity. Knowing that the Investec Songo Specialized and Topeak Ergon teams were playing it safe to secure their overall victory and second place respectively, the boys drove the pace up the steep, loose climb in order to drop into the final descent in front. If they could create a small gap and then use their technical skills to secure it as they descended to the finish, third place would be theirs.
The plan worked perfectly. It was an amazing comeback and wonderful way to finish the Cape Epic.
What a pair, what a journey!

 

#weareOMX

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The Novus OMX Pro Team girls also had a strong final stage, although the efforts of the previous day’s podium ride on top of a week of racing meant that the final finish line was an specially welcome sight!
Despite heavy legs and tired heads, Mariske and Cherie pushed all the way to Meerendal to secure sixth on the stage and take sixth overall.

Cherie Mariske start line

Each day this pair have danced on the start line and smiled at the finish! Their partnership has been immensely strong and has no doubt helped them through the Cape Epic.
A stage podium and sixth place in general classification has exceeded expectation. Not only that, the friendly nature of these girls has won them many fans and friendships along the way.
Now for some well-earned rest, and then onwards and upwards into the XCO season.

 

#herecomethegirls #weareOMX

Mariske Cherie finish

CAPE EPIC STAGE 6: Suffering and Success

Stage six is not one that the Novus OMX Pro boys will remember too fondly.

Martin morning

 

There is always one stage which cracks a rider, and for Martin that stage was this one. Having ridden hard all week – up at the front of the race and challenging some of the very best riders in the World at a discipline he doesn’t specialise in, in a race he’s never done before – the tank emptied!

From the early stages his legs had nothing, and the head soon lost its power as well. It is incredibly hard to push through such a low point but, with some encouragement from Fabian and the tails of the Multivan Merida boys to hold on to, the pair battled on as hard as they could to the finish line.

Sixteenth position on the day drops them down to tenth overall. It was a blow, but we mustn’t lose sight of the incredible efforts of Martin and Fabian over the last week. Furthermore, there is still one stage to go which, with a good rest and some serious slab of South African steak, could yet hold another fantastic result!

Onwards to Merendaal and the final finish line of this spectacular and successful journey.

Martin reflection


 

For Mariske and Cherie, stage six was the day where everything came together: the course, the legs, the confidence and, wait for it…the podium place!

Mariske Cherie hug

Surprisingly, during the early kilometres Cherie was unsure she would make it through the stage. After six long days of racing she was really feeling the fatigue. However, the pair rode through the pain and the strength came back in time for the twisty singletrack which characterised the latter half of the stage. Here Mariske and Cherie could bring their cross-country skills to the fore and begin believing that a podium place was possible.

The gap to third place was getting closer and closer, and thanks to some courteous men’s teams who moved aside to let the girls past, the hammer went down and the pace went up. The chase was on.

Soon enough the catch was made; the podium was calling and the huge boost this gave the pair pushed them all the way into Wellington and over the finish line.

Mariske and Cherie’s smiles lit up the whole arena; they were absolutely delighted!

Cherie Mariske laugh_1

Another podium for Novus OMX Pro Team at the World’s biggest mountain bike race. What can the final stage bring? We’re en route from Wellington to Meerendal for the Grande Finale…

We are exhausted but we are happy.  #weareOMX

Interview

 

CAPE EPIC STAGE 5: Novus OMX Pro Teams Conquer the King Stage

The ‘King stage’ – from Worcester to Wellington – was of course a tough one, but Martin and Fabian raced hard from the gun to the finish line: 121 kilometres of hot, dry and dust trails, and a sixth place for their efforts.

Martin finish water_1

Today, when Songo Investec, Multivan Merida and Topeak Ergon had mechanicals in the early stages of the race Fabian and Martin pulled out a lead with Team Bulls and USN. However, the big, strong men closed the gap once they could fire on all cylinders again, and when they motored past it was, as in previous stages, just a little too much for our boys to hold on to.

The Cannondale Blend team also caught and passed the Fabian and Martin which was more of a concern as this pairing was only a few minutes down on overall classification. Martin and Fabian kept the gap to around a minute for quite some time, but eventually the time difference grew and by the finish this team, who are in the hunt for the African Leader’s jersey, pushed the Novus OMX pair down to sixth overall.

Nevertheless, a sixth place on the stage was a great result and both Fabian and Martin are happy with their form and the results it is bringing them.

martin finish dust line_1

With two shorter and more technical stages to come, the boys are still in a good position to challenge for another podium finish and move back up the rankings.

As @AbsaCapeEpic tweeted: “…Gujan and Giger have really introduced themselves to the Epic this year!”

We are very proud of their achievements so far and look forward to seeing what tomorrow brings.

#weareOMX

Fabi finish_1


It was another fine performance from Mariske and Cherie as they tackled the hardest stage of this year’s Cape Epic with a successful strategy and strong legs.

Cherie finish_1

Starting conservatively and then “fishing” for riders to catch and reel in worked well for the girls, giving them constant motivation and reward. It also gave their tired legs a chance to warm up and reduce the risk of bonking later in the long stage.

Wearing their now rather infamous smiles, Cherie and Mariske again formed a partnership that not only worked physically but mentally too. They are seeing each through the race on and off the bike.

Their final reward today was another sixth place and consolidation of their sixth place overall. Two more days to go to continue impressing. Bring it on!

#herecomethegirls #weareOMX

Mariske finish smile_1

 

CAPE EPIC STAGE 4: Guschi and Giger sensible, Vale and Strauss 6th

Stage five was, “Not bad, but not great”.

Gujan

On a hot and dusty day in Worcester, the boys set out once again to race near the front and maintain their overall position.

For Martin the early pace was just a little too high to be able to maintain and the pair had to drop back to avoid blowing up later in the stage and losing a big chunk of time. Settling into their own pace and rhythm, Martin and Fabian rode well together to limit time losses to their nearest general classification rivals. In terms of stage result it was the boys’ lowest yet, but they maintained their fifth place overall without destroying themselves, and with that the chances of another stage podium.

Martin and Fabian with fans


After a very physically and mentally tough stage three for the Novus OMX girls, stage four held much better fortunes. Not only did Cherie’s legs spring back to life, her confidence and positivity returned as well. Mariske was feeling the effects of a day battling into the wind but her underlying strength and experience shone through and she was still smiling at the finish. Cherie, too, could more than muster a smile this time.

Finding a good group to ride with and a high but manageable speed gave the girls their best stage result to date: a superb sixth place which also moves them up to sixth in the general classification.

A great display of teamwork is carrying Mariske and Cherie onto some fantastic results and garnering them a great deal of respect from their fellow riders.

#herecomethegirls #weareOMX

Cherie finsish

 

 

 

CAPE EPIC STAGE 3: Mixed Feelings but Strong Results

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With a stage win already to their name, and fifth place overall well established, the Novus OMX Pro Team boys didn’t plan anything special for the long, open stage from Elgin to Worcester. On a course that didn’t suite their strengths, Martin and Fabian decided that consolidating their overall position by not losing time to the teams behind them, and saving themselves for another shot at a stage podium, was the best strategy.

With this is mind, when the leading group that they were in early in the stage began to really up the pace and the suffering started, the pair dropped back with Centurion Vaude and USN to form a six man chase. Six then became four: a small group to ride into such a strong headwind on the fast fireroad tracks…

“If I had known there was such a long, flat section coming with such a strong wind, I would have suffered harder to try and stay with the group”, reflected Martin.

Of course, retrospect gives us a lot of ‘would, could and should haves’ but Martin and Fabian stuck to their strategy and then out-sprinted Centurion Vaude at the finish line to take seventh on the stage. It was another strong and sensible ride which puts them in a great position for the coming stages.

 

Today’s long stage coupled with a scorching hot sun and strong wind, made for a very tough day in the saddle for Mariske and Cherie. The Novus OMX Pro Team girls battled hard all the way to the finish, Mariske doing the lion’s share on the front whilst Cherie eked out every ounce of energy from a body that “just said no”.

In spite of everything, the girls amazingly finished again in a strong eighth place.

Cherie was a spent force at the finish, struggling to get off the bike and gather her legs and her thoughts. Cherie did amazingly to keep her composure and retain positivity after such a gruelling test.

Tomorrow is a new day, a new stage and a new challenge that we know the girls will take on with true professionalism and refreshed smiles.

 

 

 

CAPE EPIC STAGE 3: Cherie and Mariske Moving Up!

After losing time in yesterday’s stage to a puncture and subsequent problem with the valve, plus stopping to help an injured rider, today the girls rode themselves up the standings with a fine eighth place finish.

Vale_Strauss

Mariske and Cherie were unsure whether to start hard and fight for a good position ready for the singletrack sections, or ease themselves into the stage and find the rhythm and finish strong. With the unpredictability of a mass start of so many riders, the girls went for the que sera sera option.

This open mind and a flexible strategy served them well as they settled into the stage and went about chasing down their nearest rivals.

Cherie, a Cape Epic ‘newbie’, began to feel the high pace as the stage wore on but thanks to some great team work the pair stuck together and stuck at it all the way to the finish.

Mariske sky Mariske start

Their efforts were rewarded with a best yet stage result of eighth and a climb up the overall leaderboard to ninth.

Good spirit and big smiles can count for a lot in this race. Same again tomorrow!

 

CAPE EPIC STAGE 2: Gujan and Giger Confirm Their Form

Another successful day in the saddle for Martin Gujan and Fabian Giger who were in the mix for a podium spot for much of the day’s 89 kilometres.

group WP1As the official Absa Cape Epic twitter account broadcast, Martin and Fabian “come in 5th showing the Prologue was no fluke”.

Indeed not! The Novus OMX Pro Team pair is really proving themselves at this race, challenging the pre-race favourites and establishing themselves as serious stage win contenders.

The boys were racing at the front from the start, trying to follow the right wheels and catch the early Cape Epic express train to ride aboard to the finish!

The train was caught but the Songo Investec and Topeak Ergon teams were not a fan of their fellow passengers and began to eke out a gap that would not go on to be closed. Martin and Fabian were well placed in the group behind, alongside Multivan Merida and Team Bulls.

Martin Fabi WP3

For much of the remainder of the stage this six-man group stayed and worked together. Like on yesterday’s stage, Fabian and Martin tired in the final few kilometres and had to say goodbye to a sprint for third place. However, the time gaps were much smaller than yesterday which really helped to cement the boys in their fifth place overall.

As Fabian said, “a good day for us”.

Fabi finish smile Martin chat finish

With big bowls full of pasta, a massage (and a mini Lindt chocolate bunny each!), the boys are refuelled, relaxed and ready for day four!

#weareOMX

 

 

CAPE EPIC STAGE 1: Fifth for the Swiss and Tenth Again for the Girls

Strong performances from both Novus OMX Pro Teams during a long, tough and rainy stage in Oak Valley. 

Giger_Gujan

Martin Gujan and Fabian Giger had the honour of being called last to this morning’s gridding for Stage one of the Cape Epic. As leader’s of the race, the Novus OMX Pro Team pair were the centre of attention as they rolled onto the start line.

By his own admittance, 5am starts aren’t Fabian’s strong point. However, climbing is his forte and with the highest point of the entire race – Groenlandberg – coming up early in today’s stage, he was in good spirits. Martin too was hiding the nerves well, although they were evidently there for both riders as they readied to defend their leader’s jerseys.

Gujan Gujan

Martin and Fabian rode in the lead group alongside the top teams for much of the 113km stage, sometimes slipping back but able to then latch back on. The pressure being applied by the Bulls and Songo Ivestec teams was, however, eventually too much for the boys to match. At the third water point and tech zone the Novus OMX pair were in fifth place and four minutes adrift of the leaders. All things considered, they were looking good!

Unfortunately the last fifteen kilometres were fifteen kilometres too far to keep the pair from losing time. The energy ran low and the time gap crept up. That said, Martin and Fabian retained their fifth place which is more than respectable against such a talented field of marathon and stage race experts.

Giger

martin finish

The boys are happy with the result and their carefully balanced full-gas but risk-averse strategy.  It’s hard to be fast and sensible, passionate by reserved, but these boys are managing the task admirably.

The Zebra jersey is gone but the determination and excitement for the race certainly hasn’t. Let’s see what tomorrow’s stage will bring!

 


With their top ten finish in the prologue, the Novus OMX Pro Team duo of Mariske Strauss and Cherie Vale were gridded well and rolled out of the arena with the sharp end of the race.Despite a 7km neutralised zone, the girls really had to fight to hold their position, jostling with the surrounding riders and narrowly avoiding one of two quite major crashes.

Strauss_Vale

As the race proper got underway and the field spread out the girls could relax into a rhythm. Unfortunately this was broken by witnessing a fellow racer in serious need of medical help. Feeling unable to pass-by, Mariske nobly put her first aid skills to use before help was found and the girls once again pressed on.

Luckily the good rhythm returned and Mariske and Cherie could pick their way back up the field of riders. Lady luck did not stay long enough to save Cherie from a flat tyre, however. With all the drama of the stage so far, panic set in and caused what was potentially a quick-fix to become fumbled.

Time was lost, and so was some of the positive energy of the pair, but the girls pushed on and pulled through.

Even after the two lengthy stops the girls finished in tenth place, tired but still with smiles on their faces!

Mariske finish

Bring on tomorrow!

#weareOMX

 

Cape Epic: Solid start for Strauss and Vale

It was a solid start for the Novus OMX Pro Team duo of Mariske Strauss and Cherie Vale who posted the tenth fasted time on the 20km Cape Epic prologue. 

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Mindful of the seven gruelling days to come, the girls rode a reserved opening stage. Nonetheless, reports from out on course were that the girls were looking in good form and riding strongly.
At the finish Mariske and Cherie were smiling their interminable smiles, full of positivity for the course and the wonderful atmosphere created by the spectators on Table Mountain.

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Happy with their conservative approach and the result, the girls enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and are now ready to face the first big stage tomorrow.

#weareOMX

GUJAN & GIGER – CAPE EPIC PROLOGUE WINNERS!

The Absa Cape Epic is one of the biggest and most pretigious cycling races in the World, and today the Novus OMX Pro Team of Martin Gujan and Fabian Giger won the opening stage.

The Zebra leader’s jersey is on their backs and the World’s MTB media is hanging on their every word. The eyes of Cape Town and World cycling is on them.

stage podium

Martin and Fabian were relaxed as they arrived at the University of Cape Town ahead of the Cape Epic prologue and went about their warm-up and pre-race preparations. However, as they lined up on the start ramp the race faces came on. They were definitelty ready for business!

Boys start ramp

The prologue was a 20km loop around the lower contours of the iconic Table Mountain, each pair with a specified start time for the time trial. The boys clocked the fasted time at checkpoint one, but the favourites were still to come. Out on the mountain Martin and Fabian were riding full gas; “we didn’t come here for a holiday!”, said Martin in the subsequent press conference.

 

As the big contenders made their way through the checkpoints Martin and Fabian dropped for a while to second place but then regained the lead and came across the finish line with the fastest time so far. Then it was a waiting game.

Fabi profile BW Martin profile BW

After their warm down, the boys came back to the arena just in time to see the final pair cross the line and hear the announcement that they, Novus OMX Pro Team, were the winners of the opening stage. Big smiles spread across their faces and high-fives went round. For the riders and for the team, this was a very big moment.

 

When you are on the podium at a World-class race like this, the rider’s work doesn’t stop at the finish line. Television interviews and photographs followed the race, and then it was onto the podium, the press conference and anti-doping.

podium overall

Finally it began to sink in.

“It wasn’t expected”, said Fabian, “maybe third or fifth, but not the win.”

The short distance suited the cross-country specialists and played to the strengths of the Novus OMX team. “It looks like we have good shape and work well together”, surmised Martin.

Thumbs up

What a start to the Cape Epic! Fabian and Martin have already achieved their goal and they have the additional honour of wearing the leader’s jersey.

Stage two, here we come!

#weareOMX