Hans Becking and Wout Alleman (BUFF-MEGAMO) won Stage 1 in the men’s elite race at the 2024 Absa Cape Epic, while Anne Terpstra and Nicole Koller (GHOST Factory Racing) were Stage 1 winners in the Aramex Women’s category at Saronsberg Cellar in Tulbagh. Both the men’s and the women’s races concluded with thrilling sprint finishes after a fair amount of cat and mouse in the closing kilometres.

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Becking and Alleman, Low Country riders from the Netherlands and Belgium respectively, are flying high at this year’s Cape Epic, with Alleman in thrilling form.

Cape Epic

The early morning dust and light made seeing the track ahead difficult at times. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic.

He was in complete command of the BUFF-MEGAMO Stage 1 race strategy from start to finish, coolly guiding the team home in 3:38:48, two seconds ahead of Nino Schurter and Sebastian Fini (World Bicycle Relief).

As the four riders entered the home stretch, Alleman surged to the line with Schurter in hot pursuit. Unfortunately for the World Bicycle Relief pair, Fini’s chain snapped, allowing BUFF-MEGAMO to race over for a well-deserved stage win. Schurter and Fini remain in the overall leaders’ Yellow Jersey, one minute and 10 seconds ahead of second-placed Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Matt Beers and Howard Grotts) and 90 seconds ahead of third-placed BUFF-MEGAMO in the GC.

Nino Schurter leads Sebastian Fini and a select group of teams across the Thirsti Bridge during Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic.

“I’m super happy with the stage win,” said Becking. “Yesterday we started on a high with the podium and then after about 30km today I told Wout it was going to be a very good day for us. We paced it well and it worked out perfectly – Nino and Sebastian were just too strong to drop though. Still, six days to go and I’m thrilled to already have two podiums in the pocket.”

Alleman added, “I always tried to stay out in front of the racing today and managed that pretty well. In the beginning, the Speed Company guys went really hard up until the big climbs. We didn’t try to race them but rather just managed our pace. It takes me a bit longer to get going these days, but today I felt good all the way.”

The men’s elite race on Stage 1 started in dramatic fashion with a multiple-bike pile-up in the first few kilometres as the elite field left Saronsberg Cellar. Thankfully, no riders, bikes or bicycle components were injured in the prang and the field was able to regroup and start racing again.

From left to right: Nino Shurter, Sebastian Fini, Wout Alleman, Hans Becking, Matt Beers and Howard Grotts on the podium after Stage 1. Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic

Alleman looked focussed from the start, but as soon as the pack turned off the tar road and into the trails, Georg Egger and Lukas Baum (ORBEA LEATT Speed Company) attacked.

BUFF-MEGAMO, World Bicycle Relief, Imbuko (Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha), Wilier Vittoria Factory (Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuele Porro), Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne and Pyga Euro Steel (Philip Buys and Pieter Du Toit) were all able to stay with Egger and Baum until the climbing started around the 57km mark of the 88km stage.

Alleman put in a surge to shake loose the field, attacking again up the steep Fanti’s Pass climb at 69km. At this point, only Schurter and Fini could respond and it looked like a two-horse race to the finish until Beers and Grotts surprisingly reappeared like long-lost twin brothers coming to claim a family inheritance with 10km to go.

Matt Beers

Matt Beers and Howard Grotts both endured crashes, but still recovered to finish third on Stage 1. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic.

Grotts, racing well despite two crashes on the day, dropped off again, leaving BUFF-MEGAMO and World Bicycle Relief alone to contend the sprint finish.

“We had our challenges today,” said Beers. “There were a few crashes and we just fought our way back every time.” Grotts added, “To be honest, it would have been nicer to be able to save a little bit of energy today, but all things considered, we didn’t lose that much time. We’re still on the podium, still in the hunt.”

Ghost Factory Racing

From left to right: Mona Mitterwallner, Candice Lill, Nicole Koller, Anne Terpstra, Samara Sheppard and Sofia Gomez Villafane. Photo by Max Sullivan/Cape Epic.

Factory Favourites

In the Aramex Women’s category on Stage 1, there was little to separate GHOST Factory Racing (Teprstra and Koller) and Cannondale Factory Racing (Candice Lill and Mona Mitterwallner) until the final few metres, though earlier in the day it appeared that a blockbuster finish was on the cards.

Up until the 50km mark, it was neck and neck between the GHOST, Cannondale, Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne (Sofia Gomez Villafane and Samara Sheppard) and Efficient Infiniti SCB SRAM (Vera Looser and Alexis Skarda) teams. At one stage ahead of the climbing, Villafane put in an attack, but GHOST and Cannondale both responded, with Lill charging into the front and staying there up until the very end (even with a slight wrong turn in the closing kilometres).

Samara Sheppard

Samara Sheppard in action during Stage 1. Photo by Max Sullivan/Cape Epic.

With the finish at Saronsberg in sight, a two-team spring finish loomed; Lill powered ahead, but Terpstra and Koller were again the stronger team on the day, claiming their second stage win in as many days.

They retain the overall Orange Leaders jersey in the Aramex Women’s category, with Lill and Mitterwallner only a minute behind in the GC. Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne, third-placed in the GC, now sits six minutes behind the leaders.

“We weren’t too sure what to expect today!” said Anne Terpstra “It was very different being in Orange but I think all in all we did a really good job. We were on a very similar level with Cannondale – we did some more work in the beginning, and they did some more work in the end. We rode at our own pace in the beginning, then Cannondale were quite strong but we made a bit of a gap at the end and had a very exciting finish.”

Cannondale and Ghost Factory Racing flowing down the Kliprivier Trails. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic.

GHOST teammate Nicole Koller added, “It’s very cool to wear the Orange jersey. Everybody wants to wear it and it gives us motivation and confidence going into the rest of the week!”

Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic is another Saronsberg Cellar start and finish day, where participants will tackle 97km and 2200m of climbing. The bulk of the stage will take place in the Witzenberg Valley, where the sandy and rocky terrain will test the abilities of the entire field.