Annika Langvad and Anna van der Breggen (Investec-songo-Specialized) dispelled any vague suspicion that they were fading as the strongest Women’s category team at this year’s Absa Cape Epic with a clinically dominant performance on Saturday’s penultimate Stage 6.
After the pair of World Champions was surprisingly beaten into second position on Friday’s Queen stage, Langvad and Van der Breggen snatched their crown back on Saturday with a trouble-free ride in the 89km stage which started and finished at Stellenbosch University. They crossed the line almost nine minutes ahead of South African Candice Lill and her German partner Adelheid Morath (Summit Fin), the winners of Friday’s Stage 5.
The result leaves Investec-songo-Specialized holding a massive 30-minute lead over Summit Fin with just the final 70km stage remaining. Ariane Lüthi and Maja Wloszczowska (Kross-Spur Racing) crossed the line just under two minutes behind Lill and Morath and consolidated their third position overall, but are now more than an hour behind the leaders.
Saturday’s penultimate stage quickly turned into a procession as Van der Breggen turned up the pace on the first climb soon after the start.
“Based on experience from yesterday, we figured that we ride better when we can get away and get a gap quite early,” explained Langvad after she crossed the line on Saturday. “We chatted about it and decided ‘That might be a nice plan’.
“I said: ‘Anna, the final decision is up to you, it depends on how you feel,’ – and she just went!” said Langvad, before adding with a giggle: “And so I thought, ‘Now I just have to follow her pace’.”
Van der Breggen said she felt a lot better after struggling on Friday.
“Today was way better than yesterday. I don’t know what went wrong yesterday – I had a bit of stomach problems and there were maybe just a few small things that all just combined to make me feel not so good.
“I liked the route more today. It was beautiful singletrack today and the climbs were a bit less steep, which suits me better. We had a good pace all day today.”
For the first time this year the pair seemed happy to agree with what everybody else has been saying since the opening Prologue almost a week ago: Investec-songo-Specialized will win the women’s category.
“I think we can do it … I hope so,” said Van der Breggen before the normally conservative Langvad chipped in and added: “I believe in us too … very much.”
Although Langvad did qualify her confident prediction: “Tomorrow is normally not as tough a day, and it would take a lot of mechanicals for us not to win … but nothing is for sure!”
In the race for the Absa African Women’s Jersey, Theresa Ralph and Sarah Hill of team Galileo Risk finished the stage sixth overall – the sixth time out of seven stages they have claimed that position – and they now virtually just need to finish on Sunday to claim that title.
Sunday’s Grand Finale stage takes riders from Stellenbosch University along the Trails to Val de Vie for the Champs-Élysées of the Absa Cape Epic. The 70km route is relatively short and the podium positions look settled, but there are pitfalls which could still create a final twist.
2019 Stage 5 Women’s Results
1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 04:43.12,9
2. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 04:51.56,1 +8.43,2
3. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 04:53.40,2 +10.27,3
1. Investec-songo-Specialized 50-1 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 50-2 Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) 27:52.55,2
2. Summit Fin 54-1 Candice Lill (South Africa) 54-2 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 28:23.00,6 +30.05,4
3. Kross-Spur Racing 53-1 Ariane Lüthi (Switzerland) 53-2 Maja Wloszczowska (Poland) 28:54.50,8 +1:01.55,6
4. Silverback – Fairtree 52-1 Jennie Stenerhag (Sweden) 52-2 Mariske Strauss (South Africa) 29:21.24,1 +1:28.28,9
5. Meerendal WIAWIS Rotwild 51-1 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 51-2 Nadine Rieder (Germany) 29:30.02,1 +1:37.06,9
6. Galileo Risk 56-1 Theresa Ralph (South Africa) 56-2 Sarah Hill (South Africa) 31:02.03,2 +3:09.08,0
7. FreakShow SCOTT 57-1 Sonya Looney (United States of America) 57-2 Catherine Williamson (England) 31:52.46,9 +3:59.51,7
8. Land Rover Jaguars 46-1 Hannele Steyn (South Africa) 46-2 Katja Steenkamp (South Africa) 35:51.28,9 +7:58.33,7
Source: Absa Cape Epic