Cape Epic Stage 7 | 80kms, 2400m of vert
An outstanding second place for Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo at the 2023 Absa Cape Epic.
After losing much time due to a disastrous mechanical on the penultimate stage, all eyes were on the overall General Classification standings, as Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo raced to defend second place with a modest 2-minute lead on third.
Having worn the CM.com orange jersey for most of the week, the team dropped off the pace early into the Grand Finale, focusing on maintaining second and enjoying the beautiful Stellenbosch and Banhoek trails.
Despite all the highs and lows, they crossed the line in third for the Stage, placing second overall after a much-needed ‘drama-free’ day. Both women expressed how extremely proud they were to have persevered despite the odds being stacked against them, and were immensely grateful for all the encouragement and support they felt across the eight days of racing.
Some final words from Amy after 8 grueling days:
“The final stage was a really cool day on the bike for our team. Historically, the Grand Finale is usually a shorter, easier day, but this year they spiced it up a bit – it was a proper stage, but it was extremely fun. Riding through the Stellenbosch and Banhoek trails was an absolute treat, making it a wonderful day on the bike. We were now way behind first on GC, and the only thing that would get us back in orange would be a complete and utter disaster (like we had the day before). And so, we focused on maintaining our second place, which was only 2 minutes ahead of NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized.
At this point, my body was broken. With all the hospital visits in the three weeks leading up to the event, the arm wound, and the mechanical… I was holding on for dear life. Candice nursed me to the end. I am very relieved to be done – my body is broken.
Overall, I am still trying to process what an exceptional week it has been. We defied all odds to even start, with our partnership being solidified a mere week before the Prologue. We ended up creating a story that has inspired thousands of people and the support we have felt has been immense. And we got to wear the orange jersey for most of the race! We are super proud of everything we overcame and achieved, and are eternally grateful for everyone who backed and supported us along the way.”
And closing words from Candice:
“It has been an insane week of riding. All the highs, all the lows, so many emotions. We pulled through as a team and I am really proud of our effort. After Stage 1, we really shouldn’t have been in contention, and to hold orange for so long was very special.
The racing during the Grand Finale was a matter of survival. We wanted to hold on to our second place overall. We went into the Stage with team NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized only two minutes behind us on the GC, so we had to at least stay with them or finish ahead of them. Ams was right on the limit today. She just wanted to get to the finish. I tried to be the best teammate I could to help her get through those last kilometres. They put some really mean final climbs in, but we pulled through and held on to second. It was a very normal drama-free day so we are happy about that!
The support we have had and felt has been extremely overwhelming actually. The way that we handled the whole race and the way that we were really good teammates to each other was such a great inspiration to young girls, which is amazing for me. I am very proud of our second place. It’s only a disappointment because we were in orange for so long. But if you’d told me at the beginning of the week that we would have come second, we would have both been extremely happy with that.
What an awesome week, it has been such a pleasure.”
Stage 7 results:
1st: Cannondale Vas Arabay – Greete Steinburg (EST) & Monica Yuliana Calderon Martinez (COL) – 4:02:50
2nd: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – +0:18
3rd: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – +7:30
The UCI Women’s GC after Stage 7:
1st: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – 33:11:37
2nd: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – +32:24
3rd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +43:17
Cape Epic Stage 6 | 78kms, 2300m of vert
e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo drop down to 2nd on the Cape Epic GC after colossal mechanical damage.
Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo has worn the cm.com orange jersey since Stage 1, slowly increasing their buffer on 2nd place to a comfortable 14-minute lead by the end of yesterday’s Queen Stage.
However, the wheels literally came off today after a rock smashed Amy’s rear wheel about 35 kilometres in, causing irreparable damage. She was left to suffer through 8 challenging kilometres, riding the bare rim to the next technical zone where a new replacement wheel awaited. The team finally left the tech zone after battling a jammed through-axle, losing 25 minutes at this point. Through perseverance, e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo crossed the finish line in 4th, disappointed to have lost the orange jersey for the first time since Stage 1.
With a 2-minute lead over 3rd place on the GC, team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo will focus on defending 2nd place during the final stage of the 2023 ABSA Cape Epic.
Candice shares how today unfolded:
“We are soldiering on. Today was an extremely epic day out there. Even without the hardships we endured, it would have been a crazy, crazy race day! The conditions were even more insane than yesterday. It really was tough at points – there were times when we couldn’t even ride our bikes because they were so clogged with mud, and we would have to just walk and push our bikes… it felt like they weighed 40kgs!
Losing orange is sad and a disappointment. We were with Kim [Le Court] and Vera [Looser] of team Efficient Infiniti Insure until about 35 kilometres. A rock was flicked up and slammed into Amy’s back wheel, blowing the tyre and damaging the rim. The rim was damaged beyond repair and I actually did not know what to do, because I’ve never had this kind of mechanical before. In the end, we tried to put a tube in and tried to fix it, but it just didn’t hold. Amy had to ride on the rim to the next tech zone about 8 kilometres away and lost a huge chunk of time [25 minutes]. We got a brand new wheel though, and I said to Ams, like with so many other moments in this race, we’ve just got to put this behind us and carry on and do our best to the line. You can’t get hung up on anything that happens during this race.
I am really proud of us. Even though we lost a massive chunk of time, I am proud of the way that we have raced. We have shown real grit and character. Tomorrow will be another fight to the line. NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized is only 2 minutes behind us on the GC, and so tomorrow is sure to be another great race!”
Stage 6 results:
1st: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – 4:30:02
2nd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +12:57
3rd: Cannondale Vas Arabay – Greete Steinburg (EST) & Monica Yuliana Calderon Martinez (COL) – +15:57
4th: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – +39:06
The UCI Women’s GC after Stage 6:
1st: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – 29:08:28
2nd: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – +25:12
3rd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +27:20
Cape Epic Stage 5 | 102kms, 2450m of vert
Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo extend Cape Epic GC buffer to 14 minutes.
Heading into the heart of the deluge, the 2023 ABSA Cape Epic Queen Stage lived up to all expectations, exacerbated by torrential rain and two colossal climbs up Tierkop and Groenlandberg in the first 35 kilometres.
While on paper team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo managed to hold onto the orange jersey, losing only 2 minutes and 36 seconds to Efficient Infiniti Insure, the day’s racing was far harder than expected.
Candice shares what went down during Stage 5:
“Today was very tough and very long. The Queen Stage lived up to its name and then some more. We had two huge climbs in the beginning, like ginormous climbs! Ams was hurting from early on, and we knew we had to manage that effort and get ourselves safely to the top of Tierkop and Groenlandberg. By the time we got to the first point where we could get a time split, we were about 1 minute 40 seconds behind [Efficient Infiniti Insure] and I just knew that if we could manage Ams, keep her in it, keep her motivated, eating and drinking, we would not lose too much time. And we managed to do exactly that.
We were 2 minutes 30 seconds down at the end to Vera [Looser] and Kim [Le Court]. Despite the very rough day which is bound to happen at some point in this race, we’re still in orange with a 14 minute buffer on GC. We keep fighting and we keep going… the remaining two days are going to be spicy!”
And Amy shares,
“On paper it was a day that would have really suited us, but alas, my body absolutely shut down and I suffered through every metre. I would not have made it through, especially with a relatively small time gap, without the support of my ‘Super Woman’ riding partner, Candice!
Tomorrow is another day and I have full faith in our team and my battered body to give everything it has. Let’s do this!”
Stage 5 results:
1st: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – 5:23:46
2nd: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – +2:36
3rd: Cannondale Vas Arabay – Greete Steinburg (EST) & Monica Yuliana Calderon Martinez (COL) – +19:00
The UCI Women’s GC after Stage 5:
1st: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – 24:24:32
2nd: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – +13:53
3rd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +28:15
Cape Epic Stage 4 | 47kms, 850m of vert
Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo extend Cape Epic GC buffer to 10 minutes.
Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo continues to dominate at the 2023 Absa Cape Epic. Not only have they managed to retain their orange jersey after Stage 4, but they have also extended their lead, boasting an impressive 10-minute buffer on second place.
Battling it out on the Oak Valley and Paul Cluver trail network, Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo crossed the line in second during the highly anticipated mid-race time trial, the hardest yet in the Absa Cape Epic’s history.
This achievement is a testament to smart planning; the team raced with the mentality that there is far more to lose than to win on a day like today, in lieu of what is to come in the remaining 3 days.
Candice shares the following from today’s race:
“Today was the Time Trial – 46 kilometres. We decided to use it as a day to consolidate and avoid hard racing, ahead of tomorrow’s Queen Stage. We rode very well and were fairly comfortable, catching team NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized towards the end, riding 2 minutes into them.
It was an interesting day of racing – team Efficient Infiniti Insure decided to go all-in and made up a few minutes. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out in the next three days.
I do think that our climbing is stronger than the other teams, specifically on the longer stages. We are going to focus on making this work in our favour in the remaining three days of racing. But hey, anything can happen!”
Amy shares her thoughts on how today went:
“I am very happy with how we executed today. We went in with the mentality that there is far more to lose than to win on a day like today, especially in lieu of what is coming up tomorrow and in the next two days thereafter.
We managed our effort well, riding consistently and never going too far into the red. We also focused on having fun; there’s enough pain involved in this race and lots more to come! We had fun, stayed safe and put out a solid effort.
We unexpectedly caught NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized with about 15 kilometres to go, further protecting our GC buffer. We are also very happy for Kim [Le Court] and Vera [Looser] of team Efficient Infiniti Insure – they had a brilliant day. They put 3 minutes into us and 5 minutes into NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized which is very impressive.
We are feeling good for the coming three Stages!”
Stage 4 results:
1st: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – 2:09:32
2nd: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – +2:52
3rd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +5:13
The UCI Women’s GC after Stage 4:
1st: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – 18:58:09
2nd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +10:42
3rd: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – +16:29
Cape Epic Stage 3 | 100kms, 2300m of vert
Transitioning from Hermanus to Oak Valley, Stage 3 saw local riders claiming stage victories in both the men’s and CM.com women’s categories. Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill from e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo strategically raced themselves into another Cape Epic Stage win building towards a significant 8 minute lead on the General Classification leaderboard.
With extensive local knowledge of the route due to racing most for the trails during the Wines to Whales Switchback event, team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo held back until they sensed their opposition weakening around the 70 kilometre mark. They attacked on the climbs and eventually snapped the elastic, extending their lead by an impressive 3 minutes and adding further buffer to the sought after orange jersey.
Amy shares the strategy behind Stage 3:
“Today was another really good day for our team. Candice and I know this stage quite well as it is similar to the Wines to Whales Switchback route. We went in with the plan that if the opportunity presents itself, we will make a move, but it would have to be in the second half because there was no point in burning any matches before then.
It worked out perfectly. About 70 kilometres in, we saw that our competition was battling and so we took the opportunity to create a gap. They managed to close it, but then we rode away once more and snapped the elastic. We rode solo to the end putting another 3 minutes into second.
We loved today; we had a lot of fun on the trails, especially on those last singletracks.”
And words from Candice:
“Another win today! We took yesterday as a recovery day which suited our team perfectly considering everything that had happened with Amy’s arm. But today we had renewed energy and said from the beginning that we’d take advantage of any situation that presented itself. We weren’t going to force the racing, but if we saw that others were on the ropes, we’d attack!
Towards the end of the stage, we were racing alongside NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized and started opening the taps, especially on the inclines. We felt we were climbing stronger and carrying more speed than them. They closed the gap a few times, but eventually we got away and it was guns blazing for about 15 kilometres to the line. We managed to extend our lead by 3 minutes. Amy rode like such a super star and we are really enjoying racing together!”
Stage 3 results:
1st: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – 4:59:42
2nd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +2:57
3rd: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – +8:42
The UCT Women’s GC after Stage 3:
1st: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – 16:45:44
2nd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +8:21
3rd: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – +19:22
Cape Epic Stage 2 |116km, 1850m vert
Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo retain the Orange Jersey with conservative group tactics after yesterday’s crash.
Amy Wakefield and Candice Lill from e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo demonstrated remarkable resilience after their setback on Stage 1. Despite Amy’s late-night surgery due to piercing her arm during a crash the previous day, the team rode defensively to finish in third place mere seconds behind Kim le Court and Vera Looser of Efficient Infiniti Insure, who clinched the victory in 05:28:42.
By defensively following their strategy for the day, Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo managed to prevent the other teams from closing in on their overall lead. With few opportunities for significant moves on the stage, they focused on recovery and retaining the orange jersey, losing only 5 seconds on the stage.
Here is how Amy handled Stage 2, after an evening in hospital:
“It was a really long day with a lot of long district roads. We used it as a ‘recovery day’; we did not want to make any moves or do anything except defend the orange jersey and look after my health. I had less than four hours of sleep as I was in theatre for at least an hour last night having surgery, so I needed to look after my body. We did not need to do anything except defend the jerseys. We raced very conservatively and finished third on the stage.
With regards to race tactics, It was a tricky race day because it was so long and so much of it was flat racing, leading to bunch riding. There were also some tricky climbs where a few of the riders tried to make a move and get away, but the leading teams were all well matched in strength and so we all stayed together right until the end. The racing got quite hot in the last five kilometres when Efficient Infiniti Insure and NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized dropped the hammer and raced for the stage win. It felt like a cross country race which was quite exciting! They diced for the win and we just sat up and finished safely, retaining our orange jerseys.
I am super stoked after all the drama from yesterday that we rode well and are still in the game!”
And words from Candice:
“Today was a really long day, the longest day of the whole Cape Epic. We had a very clear plan to defend our lead and not waste any energy today, and it was a perfect day to do so because of the nature of the course; there was a lot of open flat riding and it was going to be hard for any one team to get away. We rode very efficiently and smart, and achieved our goals all round. We’re still in orange, and have our plan ready for tomorrow. We are feeling so good as a team and I can’t wait to tackle Stage 3!
The UCI Women’s General Classification after Stage 2:
1st: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – 11:46:02
2nd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +5:24
3rd: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – +10:40
Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo claims historic Cape Epic stage win after a serious crash and gale force winds.
Starting Stage 1 just 30 seconds behind after the Prologue, team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo began conservatively with the leading women’s groups, until Amy had a horrific crash about 35kms in. Undeterred by the huge gash in her [Amy’s] arm, Candice duct taped the wound closed, enabling them to set off once more and start reeling in the opposition.
They subsequently passed the leading women, Team NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized, at the 60 or 70 kilometre mark, to ride away on the flats to a historic stage win in a time of 4 hours 57 minutes and 46 seconds. Team e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo has become the first all-South African team to lead this iconic race since 2008. The victory sees them start Stage 2 in the CM.com UCI Women’s jersey, and the team also leads the ABSA African Team competition.
Here’s what went down during Stage 1, in the words of Candice Lill:
“What a day! Today was an amazing day – I never pictured going into the orange jersey. It’s my first time [wearing the orange jersey] and I think Amy’s first time as well, which under these conditions is absolutely crazy.
At about 35kms into the stage, Amy went round a corner catching a branch which completely opened up her whole arm. When I saw it, I thought we were going to stop the race… that there was no way she’d be able to continue. But, being stubborn Amy, she said ‘no way are we stopping, we are carrying on!” We made a plan with some duct tape, taping the huge gash closed for the rest of the stage. We then slowly but surely made our way back and overtook both teams in front of us. We rode away from Team NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized about 60kms in, and kept it strong and consistent to the line.
I am really proud of us – I have so much admiration for Amy and the fight she put up today. It really shows what she is made of. I hope everything can get sorted [with Amy’s arm] so that we can ride nicely in our orange jerseys tomorrow!”
And words from Amy Wakefiedl, shared while on her way to hospital:
“The ladies started quite slowly – we were all very fresh – but started conservatively in lieu of the long stage ahead. The pace was pretty easy, and we were all in control. Both Candice and I were feeling good. And then the tree incident happened!
The orchard has been freshly pruned and the branches were quite thick, and I didn’t see one that was sticking out a bit further than the others. It was a freak accident. I didn’t even fall off the bike, but came to a grinding halt. I pulled open my sleeve and was in utter shock – my bicep was working, but the cut was very deep. Suddenly I thought about all the preparation for this race and how important it was for me, and decided there was no way I was pulling out unless I absolutely had to. I asked Candice for duct tape, and felt this wave of nausea and dizziness – I couldn’t even look at the wound. I held the wound closed while Candice ‘gooi-ed’ the duct tape around my arm.
We carried on riding and caught Kim [Le Court] and Vera [Looser] sooner than expected. I realised, if they were only a minute behind when we [the leading women’s teams] were all together, that we had a chance of taking the stage. I felt good so we raced on and dropped team Efficient Infiniti Insure, catching team NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized about 60 or 70kms in. It was quite flat, so there was no getting away from them in the wind, but as soon as the last climb started, we created a gap. We managed to ride 5 minutes into them and I just could not believe this was happening; it was absolutely surreal.
When I turned into the school at the finish, my whole body got goosebumps – we had done it! We had the orange jersey, which is a dream come true. Between Candice and myself, we have both raced 9 Cape Epic’s and never been in the orange jersey. We are very aware that it’s only Stage 1 and we aren’t going to get ahead of ourselves, but it’s an extremely magical and surreal feeling being in orange.”
The UCI Women’s General Classification after Stage 1:
1st: e-FORT.net | SeattleCoffeeCo – Amy Wakefield (ZAR) and Candice Lill (ZAR) – 6:17:14
2nd: NinetyOne-Songo-Specialized – Sofia Gomez Villafane (ARG) & Katerina Nash (CZE) – +5:24
3rd: Efficient Infiniti Insure – Kim Le Court (MUS) & Vera Looser (NAM) – +10:45
image: Candice Lill and Amy Wakefield during stage 1 of the 2023 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Hermanus High School in Hermanus, South Africa on the 20 th March 2023. Photo Sam Clark