Monthly Archives: October 2014

Dairy: Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek, 12-18 October @GarminSA @Merida_SA

The last couple of weeks have been busy but fun for me. Since the 3 Towers mountain bike stage race I’ve been filling the days by either racing or travelling. From Mpumalanga I headed south toward the Ostrich Capital of Oudtshoorn for my second stage race in October.

The Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek is a weeklong mountain bike stage race held in the beautiful Klein Karoo. The event attained UCI status this year which always attracts more international riders eager to gain some valuable UCI points and bolster their rankings.

During the 7 day journey riders traverse two mountain ranges (The Outeniqua-and-Swartberg Mountains), cross the semi-desert Karoo and cycle through the coastal forests of the Garden Route to complete a total distance of 574km and 11 958m of climbing.

I teamed up with good friend Aurelie Halbwachs for the 5th edition of the event and this would be the 6th time we would race together as a team.

The Cape Pioneer started with a lung busting 15km prologue on the remarkable trails of Cango MTB Park just outside of Oudsthoorn. These trails were built by professional rider Matthys Beukes who sculpted a flowing course which made for exciting racing.

On day two the Trek officially started as we headed westwards from Oudtshoorn to finish a 100km later at South Africa’s Port Capital of Calitzdorp. The route included a few very rocky downhill sections which left many teams stranded with punctured tyres. Fortunately Aurélie and I had a problem free ride on our Continental tires to finish 4th on the stage.

The next day’s 86km route took us to our new camping ground in the charming little town of Prince Albert. The finish line on this stage is situated at the summit of Swartberg Pass making for the only mountaintop finish in mountain biking. This stage had every one abuzz as the first team to crest the climb would get to take home a whopping R125 000. Aurélie and I missed out on that particular prize purse, but race organiser Henco Rademeyer gave us some consolation in the form of delicious Ostrich droë wors he himself handed out at the summit to tired riders.

Day four was a sightseeing highlight as riders got to cycle through the magical Meiringspoort before finishing in the little town of De Rust. Unfortunately the wind also had its say and pounded us head on throughout the entire 107km stage making for a long day.

Day 5 was by far the most demanding stage of the race as riders set out to conquer the feared “Kammanassie Kanon”.

Kammanassie means place of water and with all the rain coming down throughout the stage I found it quite appropriate even if the conditions made racing arduous.

We started at the bottom of the Kammanassie valley and gradually climbed out and over its flanks. The final inclines are very steep forcing riders to dismount and push their bikes. After the Kammanassie we still had to climb over the Outeniqua mountains via Duiwels Kloof pass before the final stretch took us on coastal forestry roads to finish in George. On a dry day this 109km stage would be a very challenge route but in the tough wet conditions it was truly epic. It took Aurelie and me 7 hours to complete the stage, soaked to the bone and as hungry as anything.

George is situated at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains meaning there is only one way back to Harold and that’s up and over the Montagu Pass. With the rain drenching the earth on Thursday and continuing into the early hours of Friday morning, race organisers mercifully decided to cut out all the single track which shortened the day’s 6 route from 71km to a very welcome 51km stage.

Compared to all the miles already banked, the last stage was a relatively short 86km spin mainly on district roads and some of the trails at Chandelier Game and Ostrich farm to finish back where it all started at the town hall in Oudtshoorn.

Finally Aurélie and I placed 5th overall in die ladies category. Despite having fairly consistent daily placings, it’s hard for me not to be disappointed as I was hoping for more. The Cape Pioneer was a goal race for me this season and I really wanted to finish it off with a good performance. When it comes to achieving results you can be in great shape but all the little pieces of the puzzle have to fall in place. Our puzzle missed a few pieces but if all goes well, we will be back next year to give it another shot! That’s the beauty of sport.

The Cape Pioneer Trek is definitely my favourite weeklong stage race in South Africa. The Klein Karoo has warm hearted, sincere people, spectacular scenery and genuine hospitality which are all steadily revealed during the event. The entire organizing Dryland Team worked around the clock to make sure everything was running smoothly and riders were happy. As long as the Cape Pioneer Trek exists and I am able to pedal my bike, it will be a highlight of my racing calendar.

Final results:

1st         Catherine Williamson & Alice Pirard

2nd       Robyn de Groot & Jennie Stenerhag

3rd        Esther Süss & Theresa Ralph

4th        Candice Neethling & Cherise Stander

5th        Yolandi du Toit & Aurélie Halbwachs

Cape Pioneer

Isuzu 3 Towers, 3-5 October

The Mankele Mountain Bike Park is a favourite playground amongst mountain bikers. It is situated in the heart of the Lowveld, a mere 30 minute drive from Nelspruit, White River and Sabie.

Not that one needs a reason to visit this beautiful part of our country but this past weekend saw Mankele host their annual stage race event, the Isuzu 3 Towers.

The event is held over 3 days and started off with a 70km stage on day one. The highlight of this stage was the short portage section through a waste deep river. If you were unlucky like me, it turned out to be a short swim.

Stage two was the “queen stage” which included 1750m of climbing over the 70km stage. The race organisers are passionate mountain bikers themselves and never let a climbing effort go unrewarded. Subsequent to every climb they spoiled us with meandering cattle tracks, bush tunnels and forested single track.

The final 45km stage was short and sweet. It had the highest reward to effort ratio with loads of single track following a long climb at the start.

What added to the fun element of the race was that Mankele lies at the bottom of a valley. With all the stages starting and finishing at Mankele it meant that the final kilometres of every day was downhill and yes, of course it was on single track! No matter what happened out on route, you were always guaranteed to finish with a big smile.

For this year’s edition I teamed up with local cross country star, Samantha Sanders. Sam and I have become friends through cycling but this would be our first stage race as a team. Like all new relationships you spend extra energy at the beginning to make it work and hopefully it’s smooth sailing from there. Sam and I have widely differing strengths on the bike which added to the challenges but having the same goal made the job at hand a lot easier.

We got on well before, during and after each stage which surely contributed to our consistent riding throughout the event. From day one until the end we maintained our 2nd place overall in the ladies category while the other teams reshuffled the podium, often due to mechanicals.

When all was said and done Candice Neethling and Cherise Stander took overall honours with Vera Adrian and Irene Styne rounding out the podium in 3rd place.

3 Towers has always been a highlight on my racing calendar as it has so much to offer. Their trails are some of the best in the country, the food is delicious, the camping is quite pleasant and the organisers do their best to put on a great event. Thanks to the Mankele Team for a wonderful weekend of mountain biking. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

1st        Candice Neethling & Cherise Stander (Time Freight Velolife – RE:CM)

2nd      Yolandi du Toit & Samantha Sanders (Garmin/Valencia)

3rd        Vera Adrian & Irene Styne    (Namibia)

4th        Ashleigh Moffat & Carla Van Huyssteen (Time Freight Velolife)

5th        Heila Meintjies & Ruth Le Roux   (Bells Cycling)

Isuzu 3 Towers