Bell, Combrinck named winners of 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek

    Nico Bell (left) and Gawie Combrinck of Team Westvaal Columbia celebrate taking the win on Stage 4 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek. They have been named as the official winners of Stages 1, 4, 5 and 6 as well as the overall winners. Photo: Release Center

    Following the disqualification of the Nedbank 360Life team of Kevin Evans and David George as a result of George’s positive doping test, Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (Westvaal Columbia) have been officially instated as the winners of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race.

    During the fourth edition of the seven-day race in South Africa’s Western Cape province between 14 and 20 October, George and Evans successfully defended their overall title and claimed four stage wins in the process. One of their stage wins was the much talked about Stage 2 which offered R100 000 to the winning team, the biggest single stage purse in world
    mountain bike racing.

    It was announced on 6 November by Cycling South Africa that George had returned a positive test for EPO, the banned blood booster and that all his results dating back to 29 August 2012 would be erased and all prizemoney would need to be returned. George and Evans won a total of R125 000 (US$15 625) at the 2012 Cape Pioneer Trek.

    With Evans and George removed from the race results, Bell and Combrinck move up to become the 2012 winners. This leads to the promotion of Melt Swanepoel and Matthys Beukes (CangoMTB.com) to second overall and Chris Wolhuter and Oliver Munnik (Asrin Cycling) to third overall.

    Stage results have all been adjusted accordingly and initial runners-up, Beukes and Swanepoel, will have a pre-Christmas bonus with the payment of the R100 000 prize for the first team to the summit of the Swartberg Pass on the iconic Stage 2.

    Nico Bell (left) and Gawie Combrinck of Team Westvaal Columbia celebrate after a stage win at the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek. They have been instated as the official winners of the event. Photo: Release Center

    “It’s a great shame that we have to undertake this retrospective adjustment process. But a rider cheated and that’s against the rules of the sport and our event. In the long run, this kind of action will hopefully help minimise the temptation to cheat,” said Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Events, the organisers of the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek.

    “It’s sad that we can’t recreate the fanfare and energy and environment for the rightful winners of the race and the stages, but we feel it’s important to let the media know and do the best we can from our side to ensure they are given the credit they are due. We’d like to offer a big congratulations to Nico and Gawie for their hard-fought overall win and also Melt and Matthys for their courageous effort up the Swartberg Pass on Stage 2,” added Rademeyer.

    “Obviously it’s nowhere near the same as winning at the actual event itself. Winning by default is the hollowest type of victory there is. But we put in the effort each day and raced as best we could, so some recognition is better than none. It’s just unfortunate that our sponsors won’t get the exposure they could have got and that the organisers had to manage an incident that has such a big impact on their event.” said Nico Bell of the Westvaal Columbia team.

    “Obviously we are happy to see that a rider that cheats gets caught and penalised and we are grateful for the additional prizemoney that we’ll get, but to me, the only thing that really changes are our CVs,” added Bell.

    “Evans and George have repaid their winnings and we are awaiting an official statement from the SA Institute for Drug-free Sport confirming that there are no outstanding results on tests done on all our podium finishers before paying over their prizemoney. It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this and in future we’ll have to look at adjusting our prizemoney payment procedure in conjunction with the anti-doping process,” said Rademeyer.