Absa Cape Epic: Villafane-Nash and Beers-Blevins duos win prologue

 Sofia Gomez Villafane and Katerina Nash during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC
Sofia Gomez Villafane and Katerina Nash during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

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Sofia Gomez Villafane and Katerina Nash during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC
Sofia Gomez Villafane and Katerina Nash during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

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Kim Le Court and Vera Looser during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC
Kim Le Court and Vera Looser during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

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Riders during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC
Riders during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

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Samuele Porro and Vincenzo Nibili during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC
Samuele Porro and Vincenzo Nibili during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

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Candice Lill and Amy Wakefield during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC
Candice Lill and Amy Wakefield during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

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Riders during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic
PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC
Riders during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic PLEASE ENSURE THE APPROPRIATE CREDIT IS GIVEN TO THE PHOTOGRAPHER AND ABSA CAPE EPIC

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Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins, Team Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne  during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023
Matt Beers and Christopher Blevins, Team Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023

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Womens Podium L - R, Teams Efficient Infiniti Insure, NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized,  e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023
Womens Podium L - R, Teams Efficient Infiniti Insure, NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized, e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023

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Mens Podium L-R, Teams SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing,  Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne,  ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023
Mens Podium L-R, Teams SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing, Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, ORBEA x Leatt x Speed Company during the Prologue of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa on the 19th March 2023

Sofia Gomez Villafane and Katerina Nash (NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized) won the prologue for the women while Matt Beers and Chris Blevins (Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne) claimed the opening day victory for men at the 2023 Absa Cape Epic.

Each duo pulled on the first yellow CM.com leader jerseys of the eight-day mountain stage race set in and around the South African hills of Durbanville, Cape Town.

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The 27km prologue was held at the Meerendal Wine Estate on Sunday morning with women’s defending champion Villafane and her partner Nash stopping the clock in 1 hour, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. They were seven seconds faster than second-placed Efficient Infiniti Insure, a team consisting of Namibia’s Vera Looser and Mauritius’s Kim le Court. In third, 30 seconds off the best time, was Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill of e-FORT.net-SeattleCoffeeCo.

“The start was pretty savage but once we got going, I was really into it - too into it. I got way too excited when we started passing other teams; Kate had to tell me to take it easy and not burn too many matches,” Villafane admitted.

“It was a super fun day. We pushed hard to the finish and it’s a great honour starting Stage 1 in orange.”

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The Wakefield-Lill duo in third had hoped for a better start to the week-long event, as they lost time when Wakefield fell towards the end of the time trial.

Beers, a 2021 Cape Epic winner and 2022 South African gravel champion, partnered for a second time with Blevins, a former mountain bike cross-country short track (XCC) world champion, and they won last year’s prologue. However, Beers became ill later in the race and team faltered to finish second overall. On Sunday they repeated the flying start of the previous edition and took control of the men’s GC with a best time of 1:03:01.

“We kept it on the limit today and tried not to go over that," said Beers. Chris knows how to manage me, probably better than I know how to manage myself. We didn’t go overboard today and as a team, I think we did a great job.”

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Multiple cross-country World Champion Nino Schurter, who has won Cape Epic two times, rode with Swiss partner Andri Frischknecht on the SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing team and settled for second place, seven seconds back. 2022 Cape Epic champions Georg Egger and Lukas Baum of Orbea x Leatt X Speed Company came in third, 45 seconds off the pace.

Other notable riders among the two-rider UCI men’s division this year include recently-retired WorldTour pro Vincenzo Nibali with Samuele Porro on Italian Friends team, who are in ninth place after the prologue, and 2022 Life Time Grand Prix winner Keegan Swenson joining Lachlan Morton on EF-EasyPost:SCB SRA team, in 14th place.

Stage 1 on March 20 heads southwest to Hermanus and will cover 98km with 2,550 metres of climbing.

“It’s a long race, so we are not taking anything for granted. We have a lot of racing to do in the next week, so we are going to stay focused and stay resilient,” Blevins noted.

Cape Epic covers a total of 648 kilometres this year with 15,465 metres of elevation gain. Called an “untamed” mountain bike race, it is one of the most demanding mountain bike races in the world.