Evans, George retain Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek title in style

    David George (left) and Kevin Evans (Nedbank 360Life) roll over the rain-soaked finish line to win the final stage and the overall title at the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race. Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

    Defending champions, Kevin Evans and David George (Nedbank 360Life), battled cold, wet and muddy conditions to claim their fourth stage win and the overall title at the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek mountain bike race, which ended on Saturday in Oudtshoorn, in South Africa’s Western Cape province.

    Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck (Westvaal Columbia) and Melt Swanepoel and Matthys Beukes (Cango MTB.com) finished the final stage, an 84-kilometre haul from George to Oudtshoorn in second and fifth places respectively, earning them second and third spots in the final General Classification, following a week of exciting racing over challenging, but scenic terrain that covered a total distance of 534km with 11 516 metres of climbing.

    Steady rain made conditions difficult from the outset with the temperature at the summit of the Montagu Pass dropping to 4 degrees Celsius. But George and Evans were determined to complete their tour with a stage win and set a fast pace from the start. Evans soon began to struggle though, leaving George to nurse him through a bad patch before he recovered somewhat for the final 15km. The pair clocked a winning time of 03 hours 07 minutes 06 seconds, with Combrinck and Bell following them home just less than two minutes later.

    “I began to feel weak. I think the fatigue from the hectic last two weeks caught up with me. Dave had to do all the work and was on the receiving end of some harsh words from me,” grinned Evans. “He was great though. He even offered to carry my bottle to save me some watts! After he’d worked for 65km, with Nico and Gawie not that far behind, I got angry and decided I had to help. We managed to get here first, but it wasn’t easy. Great to end with a stage win though.”

    Nico Bell (front) and Gawie Combrinck (Westvaal Columbia) on their way to second place on the final stage and second on the overall standings at the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race. Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

    Despite his physical condition and the difficult weather conditions throughout the last couple of stages, Evans was quick to pay compliments.

    “The Cape Pioneer Trek is really so much more enjoyable this year. It’s still challenging for everyone, but more manageable for all the participants. The trails were fun too – technical at times but rewarding. Just incredible riding, organisation, scenery and hospitality,” added Evans.

    In the women’s race, overnight leaders Yolande Speedy and Yolande de Villiers (Klein Karoo International Ostrich Chicks) were never threatened by defending champions Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson (Bridge bizhub Ladies) as they charged to victory and extended their overall winning margin from 57 seconds to 15 minutes. Stopforth had become ill on Stage 5 and soldiered through the remaining stage bravely. But in the end she and Williamson had to settle for the runners-up spot after the most exciting contest in the women’s category in the race’s four-year history.

    Dutch teammates Micha de Vries and Willem van Heerdt (Cube Nutswerk 1) raced to the stage win the Veteran men’s category, with overall leaders Nico Pfitzenmaier and Robert Sim (Robert Daniel Momsen) content to finish a safe second and secure the overall victory. It was some compensation following their forced exit from the 2012 ABSA Cape Epic, where they were clear leaders before Pfitzenmaier crashed out with an injured knee.

    Yolande Speedy (left) and Yolande de Villiers (Klein Karoo International Ostrich Chicks) smile with relief as they win the final stage and the overall women's title at the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race. Photo: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

    The final stage saw a big turnaround in the Mixed category as South African Craig Gerber and his Swedish teammate, Jennie Stenerhag, claimed their first stage win ahead of category leaders, Kathrin Stirnemann and Sandro Soncin (BH – Halbike – Tigers) of Switzerland. The Swiss pair claimed the overall victory though with Germans Max Fridrich and Nadine Rieder (Ergon 24H Racing Team) finishing second with Gerber and Stenerhag an overall third.

    The Swiss team of Barti Bucher and Ernst Engeli (Bix-Sherpa Tensing Pedalerie) completed their absolute dominance of the Master’s category by capturing their seventh consecutive stage win and finishing the tour in an impressive ninth place overall.

    In the Solo men’s race, overnight leader, Timo Cooper, finished third behind Austrian Heinz Zoerweb and Petrus Malherbe respectively, but won the overall title fairly comfortably in the end. The Solo women’s race saw a spirited fight back from Desiree Loubser who won the stage by a big enough margin to reclaim the overall lead over race-long rival, Diana Carolin.

    The 2012 event saw the start of a five-year sponsorship by Bridge, a financial solutions company. The corporate backing from Bridge, along with a R100 000 (US $12 000) contribution from headline sponsor, Wilde Juices, helped enable the organisers to increase the prizemoney across all categories, with atotal prize purse of R300 000 (US $37000).