Absa Cape Epic: Villafane-Nash and Beers-Blevins duos win prologue
Image 1 of 9
Image 2 of 9
Image 3 of 9
Image 4 of 9
Image 5 of 9
Image 6 of 9
Image 7 of 9
Image 8 of 9
Image 9 of 9
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.
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.”
Who's racing where - Pogacar, Van Aert, Van der Poel at first Monument of 2023 and Cape Epic begins
Swenson, Villafane dominate in the desert at Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona
A nervous Lachlan Morton joins forces with Keegan Swenson to tackle Cape Epic
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.”
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.