The Cape Pioneer Trek took place in the Western Cape from 18-24 of October. The race offers 7 days, and 541km, of breathtaking riding with a vertical elevation of 10250m, it one of the toughest stage races in South Africa. Last year I did the solo event but this year I did it as a team event partnering with Ben Melt Swanepoel.
The race started in Mossel Bay were the 13km prologue took place, this was one of the most beautiful stages I’ve ever ridden. It took us on a route overlooking the ocean with spectacular sea views all around. Our plan was to race everyday as hard as we could but also to take it easy on the rocky downhills so as not to suffer mechanical failures or flat wheels.
We ended in 6th place for the prologue and finished in a time of 30 minutes. The second day took us from Mossel Bay to George, this is one of the longer stages in the race and it clocks in at 106km.
On the third day we made our way to Oudtshoorn and this was by far the warmest day of them all. The trick was to stay well hydrated, not only to avoid cramping up but also to be ready and fresh for the next 4 days that was still lying ahead.
At the end of day 3 we were in 5th position behind the two Scott teams, the Italian, and the Dutch team. This was certainly proving to be a tough race but team NavWorld was right there with the leading pack.
On day 4 we made our way to De Rust and this was the day we did the Kammanassie, or shall I say walked. A lot of the steep inclines were unrideable and everyone had to push their bikes up the steep loose slopes of Kammanassie. Incredibly, 60% of the tracks on this race had never ridden before by cyclists, making it a special day for all of us. Indeed we were the first riders to do so and it was one of our highlights of the race. This point also marked the half-way point in the race.
Day 5 was the Swartberg showdown, the shortest day of the race but definitely not the easiest. In the 66km we rode, the total elevation we climbed was 2150m, and almost half of the total climbing was done in the last 13km up the Swartberg mountain pass. The day’s race ended on the summit of the mountain and we could make our way down to Prince Albert on our own time.
On day 6, for the first time in Cape Pioneer history, the organisers thought it would be a good idea to do back-to-back race days up the Swartberg pass. There was also R50 000 up for grabs to be divided up among the first 3 mens and ladies teams or solo riders who made it up the pass first, this certainly made for some exciting cycling. Ben Melt and I didn’t push too hard and came in 6th place, knowing there was still a long day ahead on day 7. The stage ended in Calitzdorp and was the longest day out on the bike. It was 108km and we did it in a time of 4:30min.
The last stage of the race was day 7 and it was a very rewarding ride. The route was the easiest to tackle and it has the least amount of hills to climb. Everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to the end of the race, it was a fast route that ended in Oudtshoorn.
At the end of the 7 days our final position was 6th overall. It was a great experience and learning curve for me to have ridden with someone like Ben Melt who has years of knowledge in this sport. I am looking forward to participating in some more races with him in the future. The race was well organized and the Karoo hospitality was friendly and welcoming as always.