Cape Town - The Austrian-Swiss pairing of Laura Stigger and Sina Frei (NinetyOne-songo-Specialized) continued their incredible run of form at the 2021 Absa Cape Epic in Wellington on Friday, winning their sixth stage (one Prologue and five stages).
Candice Lill and Mariske Strauss (Faces CST) enjoyed a brilliant ride, too, finishing strongly in second place on the day. Salusmed (Robyn de Groot and Ariane Lüthi) claimed third, with De Groot appearing to struggle on the day.
For Stigger and Frei, who now enjoy a 29-minute lead over their nearest rivals in the overall standings, it was a chance to ride freely and express themselves on the trails.
The top three women’s teams stayed together for half of the stage, with NinetyOne-songo-Specialized and Faces CST eventually pulling away from Salusmed around the 45km mark.
Lill and Strauss, also enjoying themselves on the Wellington trails, rode well throughout the day, but the mountain biking prowess of Frei and Stigger came to the fore with roughly 20km to go. The overall leaders pulled away from the Faces CST team and were able to ride home unflustered. With 10km to go, they put in some extra effort to further extend their overall lead.
Light rain throughout the morning had made the trails slightly muddy, but that was of little concern to the winners-in-waiting. “We race so much in the mud in Europe,” said Frei. “This was a bit muddy but it’s not like we have seen overseas this season. Tomorrow could be worse, but today was super fun. We really enjoyed the ride and all the trails today - the downhills were excellent and really enjoyable.”
With a wide grin, Stigger summed up the day’s racing perfectly. “We just had fun.”
For Lill and Strauss, Stage 5 was a good day for cementing team bonds, with both riders enjoying a hassle-free stage for the first time in this year’s Absa Cape Epic.
“It’s very special racing with Mariske, particularly at the Absa Cape Epic. We have been competing against each other for so long and have always been hesitant to team up, but our teamwork together this week has just shown what we can achieve, and shows the power of when women unit together, and what can come from that."
Strauss was also full of praise and enthusiasm for her race partner. “It’s very special to be racing in the Absa African Women’s jersey, and especially to be able to do it with someone like Candice. It’s been wonderful to share this week with her, and I hope that our ride can help inspire the next generation of female South African mountain bikers.”
Stage 5 Results:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina Frei, Laura Stigger 04:51:16.7
2) Faces CST, Candice Lill Mariske Strauss 04:52:59.8 | +00:01:43.1
3) Salusmed, Ariane Lüthi, Robyn de Groot 05:02:44.1 | +00:11:27.4
General classification after Stage 5:
1) NinetyOne-songo-Specialized, Sina Frei, Laura Stigger 23:03:48.9
2) Salusmed, Ariane Lüthi, Robyn de Groot 23:32:40.3 | +00:28:51.4
3) Faces CST, Candice Lill Mariske Strauss 24:34:00.9 | +00:30:12.0