Posted on July 14th, 2014 No comments
Two-time 94.7 Mountain Bike Challenge winner Kallen Williams showed himself to be one of South Africa’s rising young talents when he claimed his first ever win at the Bestmed Walkerville Mountain Bike Classic in Gauteng on Sunday.
The former Toyota Cycle Lab rider slew mentor Andrew Mclean in a finishing sprint battle to take the 60km title by a single second in 2:20:20. Greg Anderson was third across the line at the Walkerville Showgrounds in 2:20:42.
Williams, who is currently in his third year of optometry studies at the University of Johannesburg, said racing conditions were far milder than he had anticipated for what was billed as Gauteng’s coldest off-road race.
“That certainly made things a lot easier on the body. Today I was feeling pretty good, so I went hard from the beginning.”
The 21-year-old pushed the pace from the start, opening up a gap of at least a minute over the Platberg climb.
He held the chasers at bay until the halfway mark, when he saw a breakaway group of three riders attempting to reel him in.
“The last half of the race is quite flat and windy, so to stay away by yourself is a lot harder,” said the Alberton resident, who trains regularly in the area.
“So I just backed off and waited for the other three to catch up.”
The four riders worked together over the remaining kilometres until Williams launched a series of attacks in the closing stretch.
“I started making a couple of moves about 5km out and eventually there was just the two of us (Williams and Mclean). I’ve raced against Andrew before, so I was confident that I could take him in the sprint.”
As a former roadie, Williams said he knew he could respond quickly in the sprint and that his background in competitive motocross would stand him in good stead on the speedway circuit leading up to the finish.
“Overall, it’s a very technical course – lots of rocks and lots of climbing. It’s a very tough race.”
While his studies remained his primary focus, Williams said the result was encouraging and he was looking forward to attempting a hat-trick at the 94.7 MTB Challenge later this year.
In the women’s race, cross-triathlete Sylvia van Tromp showed her off-road mettle to take an uncontested win in 2:51:02.
Runner-up Ronel van Straaten trailed her home in 2:57:21, with third-placed Jana Jonker a further seven minutes back in 3:04:15.
A delighted Van Tromp said she had merely intended to ride the race as part of her preparations for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships, which take place in Zittau, Germany, next month.
“I really didn’t go out intending to win today, I just wanted to see how my training was progressing and to test the legs,” said the Sasol Cross Tri Series winner.
“But I rode as hard as I could and was alone for most of the race.”
The Vanderbijl resident, who also placed third at the African cross tri champs in May, said she was very excited to be representing her country internationally.
“It has taken me 35 years to finally get my elite Protea colours!”
Posted on July 11th, 2014 No comments
It’s early July, but the list of podium contenders for the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek is already looking impressive as national champions, continental champions and world champions commit to the international mountain bike stage race, which takes place in South Africa from 12–18 October.
Recently crowned Elite women’s Marathon World Champion, Anika Langvad of Denmark has confirmed she will once again team up with Swiss ace, Ariane Kleinhans (Team RECM) in an effort to defend the women’s title that they secured in 2013.
Also confirmed to contest the women’s title are former European and World Champion and Olympic Games bronze-medallist Esther Suss (SUI), who will team up with South African marathon specialist, Theresa Ralph, twice a podium finisher in the ABSA Cape Epic.
And multiple Swedish national marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Co.), will join forces with multiple South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota) in another formidable pairing, adding further depth to the growing women’s field.
Most of South Africa’s top men’s marathon racing teams have confirmed they’ll be on the start line of the seven-day race which, for the first time, will offer International Cycling Union rankings points; only the second mountain bike stage race in South Africa and one of a handful in the world to hold this status.
The RECM team that won the overall title in 2013 has confirmed it will return, probably with the combination of Erik Kleinhans and Nico Bell, while the FedGroup team of Kevin Evans and Max Knox are expected to resume their recently-formed stage-race partnership at the Cape Pioneer Trek.
The German-based Team Bulls has confirmed it will also have a team on the start line, most likely the pairing of Tim Bohme and Simon Stiebjahn, while the current South African Marathon champion, James Reid (Trek Factory Racing) will pair up with Rourke Croeser (Kargo Racing), who finished runner-up to Reid at the recent national marathon championships.
Also confirmed is Matthys Beukes, an Oudtshoorn local who, along with Gert Heyns, won the final stage and the African jersey at the 2014 Cape Epic. It’s not been finalised who Beukes’ partner will be yet for SCOTT Factory Racing’s Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek team, but it’s sure to be a combination that will challenge for the overall title.
The route for the 2014 edition was announced last month and will see the 500 participants covering a distance of 574km with a total vertical ascent of 11 958 metres over the seven days.
Once again the Swartberg Pass will offer a decisive challenge for the competitors on Stage 2. Besides an iconic mountain-top finish, the 86km leg has a formidable total vertical ascent of 2781 metres. It’s the richest stage in mountain bike stage racing with a total of R250 000 (about US$25 000) in cash, split equally between the first men’s team and the first women’s team to crest the summit.
“Honoring women with the same prize money as that of the men will be one of our highlights in October. We realised that the women put in as much effort in their ride as the men and the next logical step was to reward women equally. We believe that the UCI status as well as the highest stage prize in mountain bike racing will definitely elevate the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek. Bridge is thrilled to be associated with such an esteemed event in South Africa,” said Neels Grobler, Chief Growth Officer.
“The UCI status has raised the level of prestige even higher for the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek and we’re expecting quite a few more big name riders to enter the 2014 event over the next couple of months,” said Carel Herholdt.
“But we want to state that while there is increased focus on the front of the race, we remain committed to making every single rider feel special, whether they’re chasing a podium place or trying to just beat the daily time limit. It’s a characteristic of our events that will never change,” added Herholdt.
There are a limited number of 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek entries available.
Posted on July 4th, 2014 No comments
The quest by the 36ONE Storms River Traverse to retain its status as South Africa’s most family-friendly mountain bike stage race, has resulted in a record influx of early entries for the 8-10 August event.
The only mountain bike stage race that includes the coastline of the Tsitsikama National Park in its route has just a limited number of the 200 places remaining and organisers, Dryland Event Management, are certain these will be filled soon.
“One of our male competitors once said that after returning from stage races he usually loses ‘credits’ with his wife, but after returning from the 36ONE Storms River Traverse, he gains ‘credits’ because he gets to take his wife with him,” smiled Carel Herholdt of Dryland Event Management.
“Our focus at this event is on enjoyment rather than suffering. There are many events, including some of our other races, where suffering levels are high, so the 36ONE Storms River Traverse offers a refreshing change. The route is still challenging of course, but the stages aren’t excessively long and the riders’ supporters and family have a full programme to keep everyone satisfied,” added Herholdt.
With each stage starting and finishing at the Tsitsikama Village Inn Hotel, the logistics for riders and their supporters are reduced to a minimum, especially since most of the participants stay at the Village Inn Hotel, which has colonial style cottage rooms, set in well-manicured gardens.
“We have as many spouses and children at the event as we do riders. It’s the most unique atmosphere and it all takes place in a stunning part of the country. There’s also so much to do off the bike in that area, which is a popular tourist destination, but which isn’t too crowded during that time of the year,” said Herholdt.
Among the entrants for the 2014 edition of the 36ONE Storms River Traverse are motor racing stars, Giniel de Villiers and Gugu Zulu. Both are keen mountain bikers when they’re not racing rally cars. De Villiers will team up with Specialized Africa head, Bobby Behan, while Zulu will partner with Andre Ross, head of the Diepsloot MTB Academy in Johannesburg.
“I don’t know of another event quite like this one, which is one of the key reasons 36ONE wanted to become involved,” said Steven Liptz, co-founder of 36ONE Asset Management.
“From sunrise until bedtime the 36ONE Storms River Traverse is an amazing mix of bike riding in natural beauty, great food, warm Eastern Cape hospitality and connecting with family and friends. At the end of the event you’re filled with new experiences and memories to treasure.”
Posted on July 4th, 2014 No comments
Entries are streaming in for Gauteng’s oldest – and coldest – off-road race, the Bestmed Walkerville Mountain Bike Classic on July 13.
Now in its 17th year, the race promises riders an authentic mountain biking experience that harks back to the early years of the sport, says route director Darren Herbst.
“The great thing about this event is that it’s almost a ‘back to your roots’ type of race,” says Herbst.
“A lot of the routes are old walking paths and cattle trails which we clean up and mould and alter a bit, so it’s got that real old-school type of feel to it.
“It’s all about real mountain biking, not these manicured highways that many other races are creating.”
He says both the 30km and 60km racing options offer their own authentic challenges, such as negotiating natural bumps, divots and grassy portions.
“So there are loose rocks and technical sections to deal with but it’s not so technical that the average social rider can’t compete.”
Herbst believes another reason for the race’s enduring success is the healthy dose of insanity that participants exhibit.
“You’ve got to be a bit crazy to brave the cold here at this time of year but, on the other hand, you’re rewarded with riding some awesome trails across private lands that aren’t open to the public at any other time.”
This year’s route crosses more than 15 farms, with some route changes necessitated by ongoing residential development in the area, he says.
“A new main road is also being built near the start/finish venue at the Walkerville Showgrounds, so we’re currently cutting about 10km of all-new single-track to take riders away from that section.”
Herbst says riders can look forward to traversing the Eye of Africa, the area’s biggest and most exclusive golf and residential estate, as well as spotting wildlife on the Stirrup Club game farm.
“I think this event has a bit of everything. Obviously the climbs make it a notch or two more difficult, but it’s not too crazy, just enough to give you a bite.”
The infamous Platberg climb has once again been included. At 1 830m above sea level, it takes the feature race participants up to the highest point in Southern Gauteng.
“The climb features in the early part of the 60km route, so those guys will warm up their legs quite quickly and then do a new-look loop towards the end.
“On the shorter distance, riders will do the loop first before heading towards the climb and detouring around it.”
While the total ascent for the longer route is 950m, the shorter event boasts just over half that, says Herbst.
“And when you get to the finish there will be plenty of food and refreshment stalls, as well as live music on the go. The showgrounds are a bit of a spectacle all on their own.”
A bumper turnout of 1 500 riders is expected for the long-standing event, which has just become the latest addition to Bestmed’s national stable of cycle races across the country.
According to Bestmed corporate communications manager Sasja la Grange, it fits in perfectly with their sponsorship strategy of supporting both the professional and social elements of the sport.
“Pro riders like last year’s winner Johann Rabie often use the main race as a springboard to launch the second half of their season, while families and friends just enjoy spending time together on the short course,” she says.
“We want to bring more events to the people that give everyone the opportunity to participate and cultivate a healthier lifestyle.
“As a medical scheme, we are seeing the growth of non-communicable diseases and want to be part of bringing positive change to professional cyclists as well as families wanting to enjoy a fun ride.”
Registration takes place on the Thursday before race day (10am to 4pm) at Cycle Lab Little Falls, on the Friday (10am to 4pm) at Cycle Lab Fourways and on the Saturday (9am to 3pm) at the Walkerville Showgrounds.
Posted on June 30th, 2014 No comments
Cycle Lab Supercycling, powered by Toyota club members claimed a total of five medals at the 2014 Rainbow Challenge final, which doubled as the Masters Marathon Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg at the weekend.
Andrew McLean (50-54 years) and Greg Anderson (55-59 years) claimed gold medals; Bruce Diesel (45-49 years) and Paul Furbank (55-59 years) secured silver medals; and David Cooke (35-39) grabbed a bronze medal in their respective age categories over a tough 70km course.
McLean’s winning time of 03 hours 54 minutes and 52 seconds was the third fastest time overall on the day, an impressive effort considering the depth of the field among the younger age categories. He was one of only three riders to break four hours on the course, which included over 2000 metres of vertical ascent and which was made more challenging by rain the day before.
“I had a really good ride today. I think knowing the course after riding it at the national champs recently helped in terms of pacing myself, but the conditions were quite different, with mud and damp trails almost throughout the race. I just had to be a bit more cautious at times,” said McLean.
Anderson’s time of 04:07:30 was as impressive as McLean’s on an age scale, as it was the ninth fastest time overall from a field of more than 300 in total. It would have placed him on the podium in all but the 30-34-age category.
Anderson’s win saw him and Furbank swap the positions of the South African marathon championships, held on the same course three weeks before, where Furbank claimed the national title ahead of Anderson.
Diesel’s silver-medal ride was heartbreaking for the national 45-49-year champion. After leading for the latter third of third race, he was passed with 700 metres to go, unable to respond after suffering from severe cramps, and crossing the finish line just 21 seconds behind winner, Arno Daehnke.
Cooke’s bronze-medal winning ride marked his successful return to racing following a forced layoff after he broke his collarbone in a crash while leading the Mixed Category at the joBerg2c in late April.
South African women’s marathon champion, Robyn de Groot, neatly bookended the weekend’s racing success for Cycle Lab Supercycling, powered by Toyota when she finished sixth overall and first South African in the Elite women’s UCI World Championships race on Sunday. De Groot’s time of 04:12:36 placed her less than a minute outside the top five, an impressive effort at her first marathon world championships.
“Unlike at the national championships, where I virtually died in the last 15km, I was actually strong at the end today and really made good ground. I’m getting conditioned to these tough courses it seems,” smiled De Groot afterwards.
Posted on June 23rd, 2014 No comments
The Bestmed-Shukuma Madibaz cycling team have their sights set on the top step of the podium at the three-day University Sport South Africa cycling championship, which starts in Pretoria on July 1.
The Port Elizabeth-based riders, who finished second overall on home soil last year, will be aiming to dethrone the hosts and defending champions, the University of Pretoria, in the team classification.
The yellow jersey will also be up for grabs as Tuks’s titleholder Willie Smit is currently racing for UCI continental team Vini Fantini-Nippo.
Madibaz captain Gerrit Nel said Tuks would once again provide the strongest challenge as they had a number of professional cyclists in their line-up.
“Maties and UCT are also very good; they have quite a few talented riders who’ve performed well lately. They also have big teams, which means they have a number of options in terms of strategies.”
Nel said the in-form Marinus Prinsloo – who finished third behind Smit and Hans-Werner Heuer of Stellenbosch University in 2013 – would be the danger man in the NMMU attack.
“Marinus is currently in the best form of his career. He’s a very good climber and sprinter, with a good track record that also contributes to his capabilities.”
He described his five-man squad as “strong and versatile”, with all-rounder Henno Cronjé providing another string to their bow.
“The team competition classification is determined by the best three riders per stage, therefore it’s important for us to have both of them in the front of the race.
“Any stage victories and exceptional individual performances would be a bonus.”
The student championship comprises an 80km road stage, 15km individual time-trial, 130km road stage, 5km hill climb and 45-minute criterium.
Nel said specialists Sean Bos and Waldo Gronum would also add their respective strengths to the team strategy at key points on the individual stages.
“Sean’s strengths add great value to the team in the time-trial and hill climb disciplines, while Waldo is a good sprinter with lots of experience, as he raced in Europe two years ago.
“I’m a good climber and see myself as the workhorse in this year’s tour. I’ll add value in making crucial decisions during the races and will be there to motivate and guide my team to achieve our overall goal.”
Having put in a solid team effort to claim the local Friendly City Criterium Series, Nel said he was very satisfied with his squad’s recent performances.
The construction management honours student said they had prepared well for the student champs, despite a few unexpected challenges.
“Sean and Henno had their bikes stolen last Sunday night, so they may have some difficulty in adapting to their new bikes so close to the tour.”
While Bos and Cronjé were forced to miss out on the EP Winter Challenge the following day, their teammates Prinsloo, Nel and Gronum went on to claim second, third and fifth respectively in the 96km road race.
The team are currently on a 10-day training camp in Nel’s hometown of Graaff-Reinet to prepare for racing at altitude.
Posted on June 19th, 2014 No comments
The RECM Knysna 200 mountain bike stage race is helping to give underprivileged children a chance at a brighter future by supporting local educational and sporting initiatives.
The three-day event, which took place in and around the Garden Route town earlier this month, saw more than 350 riders turn out to do their bit for the greater good.
According to race organiser Louise Wilson of Garden Route Events, the event raised almost R60 000 for the Knysna Sport School and also assisted the Knysna Education Trust as riders sponsored seven pre-schoolers’ education for a year under its “adopt a child” programme.
“We believe absolutely that the success of this event depends primarily on two things,” said Wilson.
“Firstly, the beauty and fluidity of the route itself and, secondly, the support we receive on the day.”
She said the event’s relationship with the two non-profit organisations was a mutually beneficial and “beautifully symbiotic” one.
“We support and create awareness for them and they in turn provide the help we need behind the scenes. It’s invaluable in a small holiday town like Knysna, where there simply isn’t the manpower to support an event of this magnitude.”
Wilson said KSS staff, coaches and parents were actively involved with waterpoints, route marking, marshalling and shuttle services, while the KET played a pivotal role in the race village at Thesen Harbour Town and at waterpoints.
She said the sport school was a longstanding race beneficiary that did exemplary work in helping children to make positive life choices through sports development.
The school received a R20 000 unit trust investment from the event’s title sponsor as part of a raffle competition for riders, plus an additional R26 200 in proceeds from all ticket sales. RECM kit worth R9 500 and a R2 500 voucher from Cape Storm clothing completed the donation.
The strength of KSS’s programmes was proved when alumnus and former cycling coach Vernon Moos claimed the overall runner-up spot in the race’s solo category.
The determined youngster rode the final 10km of the 200km event with a tyreless front wheel after crashing badly on a technical section.
Speaking at the event, KSS sports coordinator Ian Coetzee described Moos as “a shining light” and an example of what could be achieved.
Knysna Education Trust director Nicky Goodall said initiatives such as the mountain bike race provided the ideal opportunity to showcase the essential work being done by the trust in the community.
Goodall said the KET focused on strengthening the quality of teaching and learning in 31 disadvantaged preschools by implementing essential services and on-site mentoring.
“The awareness created by the organisers, as well as the opportunity to present at the prize giving and race briefing evenings, has been very beneficial.
“With each time that one is able to address a large group of people, the chances of finding sponsors is increased and this year we were very fortunate to have so many generous people on this race.”
Posted on June 19th, 2014 No comments
Organisers of The Munga, the new single-stage 1000-kilometre mountain bike race in South Africa, have decided to limit the number of teams to 450 for the inaugural edition, which takes place from 3-8 December 2014.
Since its launch on 22 May, global interest in the event has been significant, largely due to the guaranteed US $1 million dollar prize purse, the richest podium payout in endurance sport. But the organisers want the race experience for all teams, regardless of their finishing position, to be of the highest quality, which has led to the entry number limit.
“We want every participant to savour every moment of The Munga. And in order to ensure a memorable experience, we have decided that 900 riders (450) teams is the optimal number for the first edition,” said Alex Harris, The Munga Founder and Race Director.
“We are promoting The Munga as being ‘unsupported’, but this simply means no outside seconding for any teams. Our five race villages, situated roughly every 150-180 kilometres, will offer comprehensive catering for the participants and we want to ensure this is of a high quality. By limiting the numbers we can guarantee a premium experience,” added Harris.
The top three teams to finish The Munga will share US$900 000 with the other US$100 000 being offered as the ‘Underdog’ prize, a lucky draw reward open to all teams that finish outside the top three and within the five-day cut-off limit.
“Since the launch, we’ve been inundated with enquiries, many of which have resulted in entries from athletes from around the world. We’ve noticed it’s not only mountain bikers, but also triathletes and road cyclists,” said Harris. “The big challenge for many so far seems to be to find a well-matched partner.
“This match-up is obviously crucial as the race, even to beat the five-day cut-off, will demand a combination of sleep deprivation and deep levels of physical, mental and emotional strain, all of which can break you down and challenge you beyond what you’ve experienced before. Food, drinks and other comforts will be in generous supply at our race villages and we want to ensure that no competitor has to wait long for anything that he or she needs or wants on arrival,” explained Harris.
Two entries to The Munga will be given at the 2014 UCI Marathon World Championships event in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa next week. The winner of the Elite women’s race will earn one entry, while the other will be given as a lucky draw prize to one of the finishers of the Rainbow Challenge, the Marathon World Championships equivalent for amateur master category riders (aged 30 and older) that will be held the day prior to the Elite World Championships at the same venue.
Posted on June 18th, 2014 No comments
The Bestmed Sondela Mountain Bike Classic will roll out a weekend festival of riding and family entertainment just outside Bela-Bela in the Limpopo Province at the end of June.
Some 1 400 participants are expected to take part in the two-day line-up of races, making it the largest event of its kind in the Bushveld.
According to route director and group operations manager Melgard Meyer, the event offered a premium mountain biking experience in the heart of the 4 700-hectare Sondela Nature Reserve.
“We have long stretches of open single-track and our animals are very tame, so you’ll really see a lot of game as you ride through the bush.
“We’re only 80km from Pretoria and 125km from Joburg. The reserve is right off the highway and very easily accessible for Gauteng-based riders.”
The fifth edition of the event, presented by ASG, starts with the 20km and 40km distances, followed by the kiddies’ rides, on Saturday, June 28.
“On the Saturday evening, we’ll also have a 10km night ride for anyone over the age of 12. It starts at seven o’clock and riders might even see some nocturnal animals.”
On the Sunday, the 60km feature race rounds out the family-oriented festivities.
“We introduced the two shorter distances for the first time last year, which proved to be very successful.”
Meyer said another secret to their success was that the 40km riders started and finished before the 20km event, thereby preventing bottlenecks on the route and at the finish.
“By keeping the races separate, everyone has right of the way on the trails, which creates a quality experience for each and every rider.”
He said participants could even create their own stage race by taking part in a combination of individual events.
“If parents want to ride a little bit further and faster, they can do the 40km and then come back and ride the 20km with the family.
“Alternatively, they can take advantage of the special combo entry fee and do one of those plus the feature race on Sunday.”
Meyer said the main race was not overly technical but that riders would be required to navigate the sharp twists and turns of the single-track sections.
“We also have something we call ‘horizontal climbing’, which involves pedalling across rideable sandy stretches.”
Meyer said the kiddies’ rides would provide a “genuine mini mountain biking experience” for the little ones.
Children aged six to eight would ride sections of single-track, while those younger than five could enjoy the berms and ramps of the BMX track, he said.
“At Sondela, kids are very important to us. We have lots of activities for them, like non-stop games around the pool and tractor rides while the races are on.
“They can also come to our farmyard and help feed the animals or visit our wildlife rehabilitation centre and interact with the baby lions.”
Meyer said any participants staying at Sondela – whether in the caravan park, chalets or lodges – would have access to the resort activities.
Although accommodation facilities were nearly at capacity, he said riders could contact the Bela-Bela tourist information centre for more options.
“Our race village will be at the caravan park, where riders can grab a quick shower and then relax in the beer garden and enjoy the live music.
“Sondela’ means come closer, come together, so we really want people to come out and enjoy riding in the Bushveld.”
The weekend festival is the newest addition to Bestmed’s stable of 11 cycling events nationwide.
According to Bestmed corporate communications manager Sasja la Grange, the event epitomised their drive to encourage healthy, active lifestyles among people of all ages.
“Bestmed is in the process of establishing a national footprint of events where professional athletes and families can participate.
“As a scheme, we see the impact of unhealthy lifestyles and cycle races are the ideal way for families to get active and spend quality time together.”
La Grange said the medical aid would also be partnering with the Cancer Association of South Africa and Incolabs to hand out free sunscreen to participants as part of their skin cancer awareness campaign.
She said R10 from every entry fee would also be donated to Cansa.
Posted on June 18th, 2014 No comments
The route for the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race in South Africa has been finalised and holds some spectacular highlights for the more than 800 riders to look forward to come 12 October when the sixth edition of the race gets underway.
For the first time, the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek will have International Cycling Union (UCI) grading status, which means an increase in prize money and the allocation of UCI rankings points to the top finishers on each stage and overall. But most of the field won’t be concerned with podium battles, but rather conquering a race route that’s varied, challenging and rewarding, which contains some exciting fresh section as well as some old favourites, covering a distance of 574km with a total vertical ascent of 11 958 metres over the seven days.
A typically African bush experience will herald the opening stage, which is a 15.3km prologue time trial at the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge just outside the Western Cape town of Oudtshoorn. Buffelsdrift is home to a variety of wildlife including three of the Big Five – buffalo, rhino and elephant – sure to create a powerful impact, not only on the international racers, but the South Africans too. Riders can expect some short climbs and fast, flowing descents in the race opener, which climbs a total of 371 vertical metres.
Stage 1 from Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp is a 100km haul with 1794 metres of climbing. The muddy conditions near the start of this stage in 2013 had a significant impact on the final overall standings in all categories. It’s not the stage where you can win the Cape Pioneer Trek, but, as was seen last year, it’s certainly a stage on which you can lose it. Riders will be relieved to know that this year there’s a different start venue – the centre of Oudtshoorn – with whole new section of trail between the first two water points.
As with 2013, Stage 2 will once again take riders from Calitzdorp to the summit of the Swartberg Pass, still the only mountaintop stage finish in South African mountain bike stage racing. The iconic stage offers a total of R250 000 in prize money, to be split equally for the first men’s team and first women’s team to the summit. It’s the richest stage prize in mountain bike racing. Stage 2 is only 86km long, but at 2781 metres of ascent, a brutal challenge.
And Stage 3 from Prince Albert to De Rust, which crosses from the Great Karoo to the Klein Karoo through the dramatic Meiringspoort over a distance of 107km with 1543m of ascent, will also follow a similar route to the 2013 edition. The 10km singletrack descent through the Swartberg into Meiringspoort is one of the most talked about sections of trail from last year’s race and has been included again for 2014.
But Stages 4–6 bring some fresh terrain – and challenges – to the 2014 edition. Stage 4 looks like it will be decisive. With 2690m of ascent in 109km, it promises to make or break podium dreams. It could also prove the toughest test for the non-pros who are aiming to beat the daily cut-off with a bit of time to spare. The stage starts with a 25km steady drag before taking riders through the Kammanassie Mountains and over to the coastal belt area of George. The contrasts on this stage are remarkable. It shouldn’t be underestimated.
Stage 5 from George to Herold is also likely to be deceptive. In just 71km, riders will have to climb 1755 metres, initially up an 18km climb out of George to the Montagu Pass, after which riders will be taken on a new section of trails through the Klein Langkloof along the northern slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains.
The final stage is being touted by the organisers as the ‘easiest in Cape Pioneer Trek history’. The riders will no doubt appreciate this last reprieve-like 86km leg from Herold to Oudtshoorn via a loop on the much-praised trails of the Chandelier Game and Ostrich Farm.
“We change the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek route each year to ensure it stays interesting for the riders, many of whom return year after year, and that we make the most of the amazing variety of terrain we have in the region,” said Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management, the organisers.
“We’re a bit limited in making any significant changes to the first half due to us getting the race to the summit of the Swartberg Pass on Stage 2, Day 3. That’s become such a significant stage and we really feel it’s important to retain it for 2014. But the second half of this year’s race definitely brings some great changes. It’s going to be tough; it’s going to be scenic; but it’s going to be worthwhile. We can’t wait!” smiled Rademeyer.