Momentum is building for the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race as almost 400 riders from a record 15 countries have secured their entries, with a number of top names confirmed on the start list.
The seven-day race, which starts on 12 October 2014, covers a distance of 574km with a total vertical ascent of 11 958 metres. It starts and finishes in Oudtshoorn in South Africa’s Western Cape province and takes riders through three different eco regions in what is one of the most diverse bicycle race routes on the international calendar.
While the Prologue time trial and Stages 1, 2 and 3 are similar to last year, Stages 4, 5 and 6 will be very different with some significant changes being made that the organisers anticipate will keep the podium battles tight and exciting right until the final day.
Once again, Stage 2 will have an out-of-category mountain-top finish, which is unique in mountain bike racing. The 86km leg is relatively short, but climbs a total of 2 781 metres, the final 1 100 metres coming in the last 11km up the iconic Swartberg Pass. The stakes on this stage are higher than any other in mountain bike stage racing, with the men and women’s winning teams each collecting R250 000 (about US$25 000), courtesy of the event’s title sponsor Bridge.
It hasn’t yet been confirmed whether the winning women’s combination from 2013 will be back to defend their title. Switzerland’s Ariane Kleinhans and Denmark’s current marathon world champion, Anika Langvad, dominated the women’s race for Team RECM last year, but will only confirm next week if they’ll resume their formidable partnership for the 2014 edition.
The 2013 men’s race winners will definitely be on the start line. Only this year, they’ll be separated. Racing as Team RECM, South Africans Erik Kleinhans and Waylon Woolcock won the overall title last year, but will be paired up with different teammates for this year’s event. Woolcock will be partnered by Darren Lill for the Cannondale Blend team, while Kleinhans will pair up with Team RECM stablemate, Nico Bell, the 2012 Cape Pioneer Trek champion.
Other top names on the entry list include SCOTT Factory Racing’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes, winners of two stages in 2013, South African marathon champion, James Reid and his ASRIN Cycling teammate, Konny Looser (BEL) and rising stars Louwrens Luus and Adriaan Louw (Fairview Elite). Leading the international charge for the men’s title are Simon Stiebjahn (GER) and Tim Bohme (FRA) of Team Bulls.
Whether Kleinhans and Langvad race again or not, there’s a strong women’s field assembled. Swiss marathon champion, Esther Suss, will team up with South Africa’s Theresa Ralph on Team Meerendal, while Catherine Williamson (GBR) and Alice Pirard (BEL) will be partnered on the Asrin Cycling team. Multiple Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag and South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot, will join forces under the team name Cape Brewing Company Biogen Toyota.
With the event being a UCI-graded race for the first time in 2014, the international rankings points and increased prize money have attracted an elite field with more depth. More top riders are expected to confirm their participation in the next week.
While the spotlight is often focussed on the leading riders, the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek is well known for its relaxed atmosphere and characteristic small-town hospitality, which the organisers have committed to maintaining despite the event’s elevated international status.
Other value-add elements of the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek are the Aramex–Giant bike transport service, which is a free service to ensure South African-based entrants can get their bikes to and from the race venue with minimal frustration. There’s also a Giant mountain bike worth R26 000 to be won. All paid-up Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek entrants on 15 September, 2014, will go into the draw for this bike.
There are a very limited number of entries still available. To enter, or for more information, visit www.capepioneer.co.za