Cape Pioneer Trek

The Cape Pioneer Trek is an event which I associate with fond memories. My first outing, with the Pinner himself, Oliver Munnik resulted in us finishing in 3rd place overall with a couple of stage podiums after enduring a tough 7 days through the Klein Karoo. The Pinner and I were both back this year, me still racing a bike, the Pinner spinning tales on the Twitter web whilst covering the racing up front on a scrambler.

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The Pinner in action with Piet.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Image credit: Zoon Cronje

This year the opportunity presented itself to once again ride in the Asrin colours. Asrin had supported me well in the past and this year was no different. I would team up with Erik Kleinhans from the RECM squad for the event.

In the weeks leading up to the event, Erik notched up some pretty impressive results and I had myself thinking, what had I got into here… I tried to nullify my doubts with the knowledge that my own preparation had also gone well. In the final build up I managed to win Seweekspoort Marathon which also doubled as the Western Cape Marathon Champs, followed by a top 10 the next day in the GOK Penny Pinchers road race in Oudtshoorn. Finally a 3rd at the STBB Challenge in Stellenbosch.

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Seweweekspoort Win.

Image credit: Oakpics

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Magical moment.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

With the preparation done, we arrived in Mossel Bay for our 7 day journey which would transcend the coast line, into forest and then ascend into the harsh Klein Karoo terrain.

After a quieter start to the race, Erik and I’s first opportunity to make an impact, came on the second stage, Montagu Mettle. With some 60km still on the cards after the climb of the famed Montagu Pass, we attacked and built a lead of up to 3 minutes at one point.

Lady luck was sadly not smiling on us, on one of the last rocky technical descents I cut my rear tyre badly with just 16km to go and a 1.5minute lead. So close, yet so very far.

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On the move on stage 2.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Disaster strikes!

Image credit: The Pinner

After k@kking off in the Kamanasie on stage 3, we headed off in the direction of the Swartberg Pass on stage 4. The southern side of the pass is one which most former Pioneer riders are familiar with and the main contenders arrived at the base together. Kleinhans applied the pressure until it was just the Italian Crisi brothers, the Scott yellow jersey wearers and ourselves left. A stage podium within grasp, this time closer, but still just out of reach. The steeper slopes near the summit took their toll, as a young Jeep team came charging past us with a km to go. They wrestled 3rd and the final step on the podium, for the stage out of our grips.

With two stages to go, the first the Queen stage and the last the drag race back to Oudtshoorn, time was ticking as opportunities to create an impact on the race became scarcer. Dryland put up R50k, to be split amongst the first three mens and woman teams, atop the ascent of the northern side of the Swartberg Pass.

After some thinking, we realised this played into our hands. We would not go for the $$$ on top of the climb but rather pace ourselves more evenly over the tough 108km Queen stage.

The leading teams regrouped some 40km in and shortly thereafter Kleinhans and I attacked and went clear from the Scott, Crisi Borthers and Dutch Dynamite trio of teams. There was still 55km to go and some serious climbing and terrain to still encounter.

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Blue steel?

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Image credit: Zoon Cronje

Kleinhans’s experience paid off and we held the chasers at bay although they did come within 20 seconds at one point

Coming into Calitzdorp with more than a 2 minute lead, we could sit up somewhat and savour the moment. This year has been a testing one and to secure a stage win in a UCI race really felt as if it has paid dividend to the tougher times behind the scenes

The final stage was short and fast, we were 5th on the day, in reality we had already achieved our goal for the race and whilst it wasn’t a victory lap, it gave us time to reflect on fond memories again.

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Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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Mission Completed.

Image credit: Zoon Cronje

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