Yesterday’s seventh stage of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic provided a fitting finale to one of the most dramatic editions in the iconic stage race’s 14-year history.
After the 85km Team Spur’s Ariane Lüthi and Adelheid Morath pushed through to the finish line at Val de Vie, outside Franschhoek, in seventh place, to secure their fourth place overall in the Hansgrohe Women’s category.
The 2017 installment was won by Jennie Stenerhag and Esther Süss of team Meerendal CBC. Their total time was 31 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds, 35 minutes and 19 seconds ahead of Sunday’s runners up, Mariske Strauss and Annie Last (Hansgrohe Cadence OMX Pro), with the final stage winners, Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health) a further 12 minutes back.
“While I’m not happy with the result at all, there were three teams that were definitely stronger than us”, Ariane Lüthi conceded after the finish.
“They really deserve to be on that podium. They fought very hard and it was a great performance from all of them. Looking back, we hoped to have raced to another podium on a stage,” she said.
Ariane described the final stage, with some 1350m of climbing over its 85km from Oak Valley to Val de Vie outside Paarl as, “rough, flat, bumpy and sandy. It was pretty tough, not our favourite terrain, for sure.”
“There were a few small climbs and a lot of open roads early on”, she says. “The bunch split over the first climb towards Viljoen’s Pass, but all came back together before Franschhoek Pass.”
The top women’s contenders went up and over Franschhoek Pass together, the wind making a chance of a breakaway up the iconic climb unlikely.
“On the downhill “ in the Land Rover technical section“ Annie and Mariske got away”, Ariane says. “We were lying second and tried to chase hard to catch them. Robyn and Sabine were on our wheels and actually managed to bridge across and got a gap and that is how it stayed to the end.”
“It was really rough terrain after that and Adelheid was battling with her shoulder, so we nursed it home.”
“Overall it’s not the result we were looking for and we will analyse how it played out and build for the rest of the season”, Ariane said.
Team Spur’s support team, Spur Foundation, riding for the Full Tummy Fund charity, had a consistent eight days of racing in their back-up role. Belgian Alice Pirard and Frenchwoman Sabrina Enaux rounded out the race with a credible tenth place in the Women’s category.
“I did learn a lot this week. And the vibe in the camp was really great, it was so nice to have another team in camp,” the Swiss Marathon champion Ariane, said of her back-up team, Spur Foundation. “Alice and Sabrina are just really lovely girls and I could practice my French a little bit and I’ve realised just how horrible it actually is! Also, our staff, JP Jacobs, Tim Bassingthwaighte and Gary Sylvester, worked so so hard for us and did such a great job every day.”
To all of you who offered Team Spur support and motivation along the way, thank you! We felt it every day. Knowing that we have you on our team cheering us through the adversity has a huge impact on our will to fight on. We look forward to sharing many more adventures with you this year.
Look out for our comprehensive race review soon.