CAPE EPIC – Latest News

Cheers to a successful Cape Epic campaign! 

Find below the reports from each stage.

To see video edits and interviews from each day, check out our YouTube Channel, and for more photographs, take a look at our Facebook Album.

Thanks for all your support throughout #8DaysOfCourage.

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STAGE 7 (Sunday 20th)

Wow! What a way to finish the Cape Epic. Today Martin and Sascha showcased their strength, skill and strong partnership to pull off a remarkable result.

The final stage took the riders from Boschendal, across 86km and up 1200m of vertical climbing, to the festival-vibe finale at Meerendal Wine Estate. Buoyed from their success yesterday, and the tantalisingly close final finish, the boys raced their hearts out to finish in fine style.

There was to be no easy roll into the finish today, no ceremonial stage. The race was still on! As the Stage’s protagonists put the pressure down at the front, Sascha and Martin couldn’t quite hold the wheels and so became part of a large second group on the route. This group offered a bit of protection and recovery for Martin following a crash which saw him lose some skin on his right hand side, but after he had regained composure and the pain had subsided, a lack of impetus on the front meant the boys felt they were coasting. Sascha explains:

“We were a really big group but nobody liked to work to catch the first group back. There was a side wind and I went to front and pushed a bit. I looked back and saw Martin was there and I thought, okay, now it’s time to split the group and go to the first group.”

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With both the boys feeling strong, they powered away from their competitors and went about chasing down the front of the race. Martin continues:

“Sascha put really much pressure on the whole bunch and the riders at the back dropped and the bunch got smaller and we managed to work together with the last men standing to get back to the front group. And then the race started all over again!”

However, just after the bridge was made, Sascha was struck with bad luck: a front wheel puncture. In the chaos of the catch, Martin didn’t immediately see that Sascha had stopped, but luckily Sascha was quick to plug the hole and strong enough to catch back to the group very quickly.

Everyone was tired by this point but Martin and Sascha found the power to pass several teams in the final few kilometres of eight tough days of racing. They really had the wind in their sails as they rode the final climb, and then they could enjoy the sweeping singletrack descent into Meerendal and secure their seventh place on the day and 11th overall.

Team Manager, Paul, said at the finish:

“With a crash and a puncture they still managed to chase back to the leading group and finish 7th. Phenomenal ride, absolutely phenomenal!”

With this amazing final stage effort, Martin and Sascha capped off a hugely positive first Cape Epic. Now for Stage 9 – time to party!

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STAGE 6 (Saturday 19th)

Today was a stunning stage, looping through the famed singletrails of the Stellenbosch region, and Martin and Sascha delivered an equally stunning result.

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Over 69km of racing, and up 2100m of climbing, the boys were perfectly in tune with their bikes, the trails, and each other. Sascha was a little stronger and could help Martin back into the group when the younger rider struggled with the pace on a few occasions. Martin explains their success today:

“Sascha was again a bit stronger but we were always riding together and when I lost the wheels of the group he would push me a little bit so we could stay with the group and keep a good pace. Also the course suited us quite good today – it was just 70km and there were a lot of singletrails which was good for us because we were really strong in the decent and also there were not so many long climbs and instead more short and steep climbs.”

By Water Point 1 there was a split in the top 10 teams, with OMX comfortably within the second group, in 8th place. Through the second time check Martin and Sascha were still in 8th, and the time gaps ahead were still very bridgeable if the boys could use their technical skills on the singletrack and find the legs to make it stick to the end.

The final Water Point got us all very excited, as Martin and Sascha flew through in 6th position. They looked really strong, aggressive and ready to fight to the finish line. As the staff raced to the finish line, the boys raced into 5th position. After two days of suffering came a brilliant bounce back; a fine 5th place. Martin’s English makes the following statement seem a little downcast, but we can assure you that both our riders wore huge smiles all afternoon! –

“It’s a marathon race, it’s very different to XC, but I think a lot of people will notice this result and I think we did a good job here – there are the biggest marathon racers in the World here so fifth is a strong finish.”

It was brilliant to see Sascha and Martin work so well together and reward themselves with this result after seven hard days of racing that has seen them well outside their comfort-zone.

Tomorrow is the final stage; the finish line is almost in sight. Let’s bring it home safely.

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STAGE 5 (Friday 18th)

Today was the Queen Stage, and this Queen was mean! – A brutal 2500m of climbing over 93km of singletrails and tracks with ominous names such as ‘boneshaker’.

With a fun and relaxed attitude, which belies their inner determination and competitiveness but has defined them this week, Martin and Sascha took the start for another testing day.

A top ten in the General Classification was tantalisingly close, but the boys were well aware that they must ride a sensible, measured race. Minutes can be as easily lost as nine seconds can be gained.

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After 18km of racing, Sascha and Martin were in the lead group as they passed through Water Point 1. However, as the gradient steepened and the first major climb began to drag on, they could no longer hold the pace and had to let their foot off the gas to avoid running empty before the end of the stage. The pace of the leading few teams split the front end of the race apart, and our boys were certainly not the only ones to feel the pain.

As the stage went on they established a small group with the CST Superior Team of Rudi van Houts and Hans Becking, both XCO riders with experience in the Cape Epic. Through Water Points 2 and 3 this foursome forged on, working together and losing as little time as possible to their rivals ahead.

As the final 10 kilometres drew closer, Sascha and Martin were able to ride clear of the CST Superior pair and set about a rather heroic charge for the finish in Boschendal. Like a magnet, the finish line was pulling them home. Giving it all that they had, the boys came to within just seven seconds of catching up to 10th position. By this point they really had emptied the tank and were running on fumes! They sprinted to the line and collapsed after it.

It was another gutsy performance from the boys, and 11th place is another strong finishing position. They have just two days to go and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will give it everything again tomorrow, and the next day. Good job guys, we are all really proud!

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STAGE 4 (Thursday 17th)

It is said at Cape Epic that by Stage 4 your body is adjusted to the rhythm and the demands of the race, and that with the half way point crested, this epic challenge seems far more conquerable.

Whilst the second point certainly rings true for the OMX team, today Martin’s body somewhat disagreed with the first.

“Today was really tough, especially for me because I had not a good day. I suffered a lot.”

The stage was relatively short – a ‘mere’ 75km – but with a testing profile and an aggressive approach from the top teams. The pace was high all day, with attacks and chases punctuating the race. Martin explains,

“We tried to hold the group we had [second group on the route, with about five teams] as long as possible and that worked well, but the last hour on the single trails I had to go slower and we lost some time. Sascha made the pace in the last kilometres so that we lost as little time as possible.”

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The aim has been to finish in the top ten in General Classification – an ambitious target but one that is proving very doable. With this in mind, Martin and Sascha were conscious of the time ticking away and pushed on as hard as they could. At the finish line they fell just nine seconds short of moving up into the top ten, and they almost fell from their bikes! It was a courageous effort on a day when the hurt box was well and truly opened.

Despite a bad day, both Sascha and Martin are still really positive. They are a great partnership, playing on each other’s strengths and always ending the day with a smile.

Tomorrow is a big day. Fingers are crossed that the pistons are firing! Join us on Twitter for live updates.

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STAGE 3 (Wednesday 16th)

Today the Cape Epic transitioned from Saronsberg to Wellington. Whilst the crew packed up and drove onto the second race village, the riders had to make the journey themselves by bike, covering 104km and two major climbs.

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As the race rolled out of Saronsberg, Martin and Sascha got themselves positioned in amongst the big guns – where they have proven they belong –  and settled in for the ride. At the 10km point the route began to rise and the riders were confronted with a long, and often loose, winding track up the first big climb of the day. Martin and Sascha could hold the wheels and felt comfortable in the group. They were very much in the mix.

It was just as they had crested the climb and were descending down into Water Point 1 that Sascha got a rear wheel puncture. Although it wasn’t a complete blow-out, the boys took the following couple of kilometres to the Water Point steady; here they could take a new wheel from the team tech box instead of taking any risk that the tyre would further deflate. The good luck was that they were close to the Water Point when the puncture occurred, the bad luck was that they lost the leading riders and now had to press on solo, without the drafting and pace-making that a group offers.

With this is mind they chose to slow down a little and let the team close behind them catch up in order that they could then work together. It was a sensible move, but the other team ended up riding that bit too slow so the boys sped back up to their own pace and pressed on. At the beginning of the day they had hoped to move up into the top ten overall, and this was still possible, albeit a big challenge now.

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Eventually Martin and Sascha saw a small group of riders ahead and pushed hard to catch them. Having done so they took some time to sit in the wheels, recover and plan the final assault! With an hour or so left to go, the OMX boys took their leave of the group and raced for home, relishing the technical trails and the pull of the finish line in Wellington.

After four hours and forty-four minutes of racing, Martin and Sascha arrived at the finish. Even with the puncture they managed a great 13th place on the day, and they moved themselves up to 11th overall.

The strength of this partnership is really shining through – the boys seem to have an intrinsic understanding of each other on the bike and they are working superbly well together. Spirits are high and the legs are still good!

We are all set for tomorrow -75km across a very spikey profile. Keep up to date with how the boys are doing by following us on Twitter – @OMXProTeam.


 

STAGE 2 (Tuesday 15th)

After the suffering of yesterday, today there was success!

Martin and Sascha went into Stage 2 with a game plan – they must immediately find their own rhythm and ride their own pace up the big climb of the day, which began almost as soon as they departed the race village in Saronsberg.

The technical, rocky ascent was difficult for even the top teams, with most riders having to jump off, push and then remount at some stage (which was of course no problem for cyclocross star, Sascha!).

With a sensible start, Martin and Sascha found themselves riding comfortably in the front group of around 20 teams. The race held a steady pace as the terrain flattened, but the first major section of singletrack caused a real fight for position and the hammer went down! Martin and Sascha were able to go with the front teams and found themselves in the top ten as the race began to weave through the singletrails.

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From here the boys rode a fantastic race. They found a perfect balance between being smooth and fast, and with lessons learned from yesterday, they made sure to refuel at the final water point in order to stay strong until the end.

As the final kilometres approached, the boys were riding in a group with Topeak Ergon, NAD Pro MTB and Wheeler BiXS. It would be a sprint for 6th place. Savyy to the situation, Martin and Sascha hatched a plan. They were both feeling strong and knew they could sprint well (albeit not necessarily after 93km!). Martin attacked off the front in the last few hundred metres, and now Sascha just had to come between the rider who finished next and his partner. This he did, and the boys came charging over the finish line to bag themselves a very well-deserved 6th position.

For two young riders who are both new to the Cape Epic, this is a truly brilliant result. We are incredibly proud of their physical efforts and mental steel. That was a spectacular day of racing and Martin and Sascha showed themselves, and the team, in a great light.

The team now sit in 12th overall.

Tomorrow it all starts again! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for live updates.

 


 

STAGE 1 (Monday 14th)

Stage 1 of the 2016 Cape Epic was billed as one of the toughest of this year’s race, covering 108km and 2300m of vertical climbing as it looped through the natural bowl of the Tulbagh region.

Despite the tough task ahead of them, the leading men charged off the start and flew up the first major climb of the day. Our team of Martin and Sascha hung onto the pace and sat comfortably within the top 10 as the route sharply rose and fell along the mountain side up to the first Water Point at 35km.

Here the boys made their mistake.

Ushered along in the heat of battle, among some big name teams, Martin and Sascha didn’t stop to refuel. This would later take its toll when a dropped bottle meant that Martin was left with no drink, and no energy. Inexperience was to blame, and the lesson was hard learned – at the Epic, every Water Point is important, and every drop of energy must be taken!

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The following climb up to the highest point of the stage was a real struggle. Sascha played the perfect team mate and paced and pushed Martin where necessary, and later Martin could return the favour. At Water Point 2 the boys could refuel and begin to recover a little, but the real damage was done. It was an incredibly tough way to start the Epic, especially for two young riders who have never experienced anything like it before!

After the race, having enjoyed a big lunch, a massage and a nap, Martin reflected on the day:

“I had expected that Cape Epic was going to be really tough, but it was crazy today! I hadn’t expected that it would get that hard. It was really tough. I think today was okay in the end with 16th place, but we made a lot of mistakes – not stopping at Water Point 1 and trying to hold the group was a big mistake, but we learn from it and tomorrow we go more in our own rhythm. There is a big climb in the beginning so I think it’s clever that we ride directly at our own pace.”

The Epic is not going to get easier, but an understanding of their limits, of each other, and what the terrain brings, will certainly help Martin and Sascha going forward.

Today was disappointing for the boys, and they didn’t pretend otherwise. However, they know – and will draw upon – the fact that they made a mistake that they can learn from and not make again. And, they were still holding very respectable company, even with a major mid-race blow.

Tomorrow brings 97km of racing and a new chance to suffer!

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PROLOGUE (Sunday 13th)

The 2016 Cape Epic kicked off today, with a 26km prologue starting and finishing in the beautiful Meeredal Wine Estate, just outside of Cape Town, South Africa. The opening time trial is a short, sharp test of the legs and lungs ahead of the seven gruelling marathon stages that follow.

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All the hype, anticipation and preparation came to a head for Martin and Sascha at 11:55:10, as they rolled down the start ramp to begin their first ever Cape Epic. Despite the relatively short distance, a total of 700m of vertical climbing meant that it was by no means an easy task ahead of them. Added to this was the loose, dusty ground which caused many riders to wash-out and come to grief. However, the technical and punchy course suited the boys, and they were completely in control of themselves and the terrain throughout their effort.

After an hour and eight minutes of racing, Martin and Sascha crossed the line and posted the fastest time of the day so far. Now it was a case of waiting; there were twenty more teams yet to finish, and they included all the big guns!

At the day’s end, our young team posted a solid, and very respectable, 13th fastest time. This is a strong platform on which to go into the next stages, and Martin and Sascha are both satisfied with their result and the sensations.

Tomorrow the challenge really begins!

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Follow the action on Twitter – @OMXProTeam

 

Cyprus Sunshine Cup

The team first entered the Cyprus Sunshine Cup back in 2006, with the now manager, Paul Beales, racing alongside co-founder, Will Cooper. A lot has changed since then! A decade later we returned to Cyprus as a UCI Elite Team with World-class riders, Annie Last and Mariske Strauss.

 

The Sunshine Cup has become the early season race for many of Europe’s best cross-country riders. Four days of high intensity racing in warm weather is a perfect test of winter training and a great UCI points-scoring opportunity.

 

Annie was coming into the race off the back of a tough training block in Gran Canaria, and was carrying very good form. It looked set to be an exciting race for the British Champion, with a real chance to scoop up much-needed points for her Olympic qualification bid. Unfortunately, however, Annie picked up a cold during the travel days and hopes of a successful Sunshine Cup campaign faded. Annie made the decision that she was not unwell enough not to race, but she would only ride in her ‘safe’ zone so as to keep the legs spinning but not make her illness any worse. With true professionalism, she did just this.

With this is mind, a 17th place in the general classification after four physically demanding stages of racing is something of a positive! Annie’s form is evidently there and we can’t wait to see what she can do when she is in good health.

Mariske had already suffered her bout of illness and was on the bounce-back. This was a form-finding mission and a kick-start to the coming block of training and racing. Mariske’s race got of to a slower-than-usual start, but that was to be expected. Stages two and three were much better, with a good, strong tempo, positive results and a feeling that the legs were back in the game. Fatigue played its hand on the final day, but with grit came some glory – a 19th place overall brought some sought-after points, and four consecutive days of hard racing was the best possible form of training.

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One week on Cyprus packed a lot in: training; racing; sunshine; humus; Halloumi; laughing so hard we cried…

 

Next up is our team photo shoot at our official home, Hadleigh Park. We are all super excited to have the whole 2016 team together for the first time and spend the weekend at the London Olympic MTB venue.

 

For more information, plus photographs, from each stage of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, check out our Facebook album by clicking here.

 

#weareOMX