Defending Absa Cape Epic champion Matt Beers did not come to the 2022 edition to play.
Racing this edition of The Race That Measures All with American debutant Christopher Blevins for team Toyota-NinetyOne-Specialized, Beers blitzed out of the start chute at the 2022 Prologue and tore into the hot, dry trails of Lourensford Wine Estate on the 24km day of racing.
Beers and Blevins romped home in a time 58:06,7 to claim the first yellow jersey of the event.
Second place on the Prologue went to German newcomers Georg Egger and Lukas Baum (Speed Company Racing), while Andreas Seewald and Martin Stošek (Canyon Northwave MTB) finished third.
Speed Company Racing's flat-out assault of the route on their first-ever Absa Cape Epic would have been the shock of the day, were it not for 2019 Champions Nino Schurter and Lars Forster (SCOTT-SRAM) finishing four minutes off the pace.
Schurter suffered a rear tyre puncture early into the stage and then later on the route decided to replace the wheel entirely at the tech zone. Though he and Forster roared along at a fair clip after the pitstop, they still lost considerable time on the leading teams.
"That's racing," said a sanguine Schurter on the finish line. "It can happen to anyone at any time on any day. It's a pity it happened on the Prologue because you do lose a lot of places, but we are still in the race and, hopefully, that is all our bad luck and everything goes smoothly for the rest of the week. It's a long race with lots of riding to come."
Energised and enthused by their performance, Speed Company Racing declared extravagantly at the end of the Prologue, "we are not here to take part, we are here to take over!".
It was certainly fighting talk from the first-timers, but the Prologue performance backed them up. "It's our first time here," said Georg Egger. "We didn't have a plan; we just tried to go as fast as we could. We are fresh and ready to race."
Beers and Blevins, despite the fine performance of Egger and Baum, had it all their own way thanks to the perfect execution of their gameplan and determination to nab the yellow jersey at the Prologue.
"This was a good Prologue for us," said Blevins. "We planned to go out there and chase the yellow jersey. We wanted that wind in our sails going into Stage 1. We were highly motivated right from the start and it all came together."
The 2021 Absa Cape Epic Champion, still beaming from his October victory, was happy to get off the mark in 2022 with a win, a repeat of his Prologue success last year.
"It's a great feeling to start with yellow again. This was part of the plan and we achieved it. I think I was a bit over-eager in the beginning and overcooked it a little bit but Chris pulled me back and we rode well together. I think our strengths complement each other and I am looking forward to an exciting rest of the week at the race."
Stage 1 is a challenging 92km and should suit the powerhouse combo of Beers and Blevins, but with Speed Company Racing clearly up for the challenge, the impressive Seewald and Stošek lurking in the top three, and Schurter and Forster determined to make up lost ground, the defending champion and his partner will have to be at their very best to hold onto the yellow jerseys.
- Matt Beers and Chris Blevins win 2022 Absa Cape Epic Prologue
- Beers and Blevins claim first leader jerseys of the 2022 Absa Cape Epic
- Speed Company Racing are a team to watch for the coming days
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