The route for the ninth Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen international mountain bike stage race has been revealed and it’s longer than the 2016 edition, with more climbing. It also spends more time in the coastal region around Mossel Bay, has a time trial stage in the middle and returns to a mountain-top finish on the majestic Swartberg Pass.
The seven-day race, from 15-21 October, once again carries International Cycling Union (UCI) grading, which means guaranteed minimum prize money, media coverage and UCI rankings points for the top finishers. This ensures a strong international field will be on the start line and also sees the rest of the field benefit from the high standards.
This year’s race will cover 572km over the seven days (72km longer that last year) and will include a total 10 650 meters of vertical ascent (1 030m more than in 2016). Unlike the last few years, there will be no prologue time trial. Instead, there will be two stages in the Mossel Bay coastal region then a transition stage to George. That’s followed by a short Stage 4 time trial before the race heads further into the Karoo with the return to the Swartberg Pass before finishing in Oudtshoorn.
After excluding the Swartberg Pass from last year’s edition, the organisers have returned to the iconic mountain, which rises 1000m in 11km and which always has a telling impact on the outcome of the race. It will have a mountain-top finish, which may be the only one in the world for mountain bike stage racing.
“We wanted to change the rhythm of the race a bit this year, by taking out a prologue. We’ll have three tough stages to start, a short time trail stage, which many can use for recovery and then three tough stages to finish with,” said Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management.
“We’re excited to reintroduce the Swartberg Pass stage with a mountain-top finish. Even though it creates a logistical challenge for us, it’s an iconic feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek and one of the reasons the race has built up such a ‘must-do’ reputation.
“We will in time announce details, but we’ll also ensure that there is a substantial prize for the first men and women’s teams to the summit of the Swartberg on Stage 6. To create a race within the race,” added Rademeyer.
From flat beach sand of Mossel Bay to the shaded indigenous and planted forest slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains; from firm loamy soil to hard, loose rock; from moist coastal air to hot, dry desert atmosphere, the contrast will remain extreme and very much a signature feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek.
“We are heading west of Mossel Bay early on, which is an area new to the Cape Pioneer Trek and the stage to the Swartberg Pass takes us quite far north compared to last year. The Swartberg mountain range divides the Great Karoo and the Klein Karoo so the riders will experience exceptional diversity in terrain and vegetation in just one week of racing,” said Rademeyer.
Cape Pioneer Trek 2017 route summary:
Sunday 15 October, Stage 1 #GondwanaGlory
Mossel Bay–Mossel Bay: 95km, 1650 metres ascent
Start and Finish: Milkwood Primary School, Mossel Bay
Stage 1 will showcase the Mossel Bay area, exquisite places previously unvisited by the race, including new trails in the Big Five Gondwana Private Nature Reserve as well as adjacent farmlands nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua Mountains.
Monday 16 October, Stage 2 #DiazDelight
Mossel Bay–Mossel Bay: 81km, 1250 metres ascent
Start and Finish: Milkwood Primary School, Mossel Bay
Stage 2 will explore the western coastline of the Mossel Bay area towards the Gourtiz River and the coastal region farmlands. It is an all-new experience for the Cape Pioneer Trek riders as the race has never used the land to the west of Mossel Bay previously
Tuesday 17 October, Stage 3 #OuteniquaOdyssey
Mossel Bay–George: 99km, 1950 metres ascent
Start: Milkwood Primary School, Mossel Bay. Finish: Van Kervel High School, George
Stage 3 will start with a beach stretch before heading inland to George via the demanding foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains. Some tough climbing will be followed by rewarding singletrack near the finish.
Wednesday 18 October, Stage 4 #SaasveldSingletrack
George–George: 31km, 600 metres ascent
Start: Van Kervel High School, George. Finish: Van Kervel High School, George
This short Stage time trial includes 90% singletrack in lush forests. These are trails built and maintained by the local mountain bike community and while very short stage; the pace will be high and the pressure intense.
Thursday 19 October, Stage 5 #MontaguMettle
George–Oudtshoorn: 94km, 1600 metres ascent
Start: Van Kervel High School, George. Finish: Langenhoven Gimnasium, Oudtshoorn
Stage 5 is a transition stage from George to Oudtshoorn via the scenic Montagu Pass and new singletrack at Herold Wines. The change in climate and terrain will be evident as the riders move into the semi-desert conditions of the Karoo.
Friday 20 October, Stage 6 #SwartbergShowdown
Oudtshoorn–Swartberg Pass: 107km, 2450 metres ascent
Start: Langenhoven Gimnasium, Oudtshoorn. Finish: Swartberg Pass Summit
Stage 6 is the toughest of the 2017 edition and is rightfully dubbed the Queen Stage.
Riders will head east from Oudtshoorn into the foothills before tackling the iconic Swartberg Mountain, which is a World Heritage Site to finish at 2000 metres above sea level.
Saturday 21 October, Stage 7 #ChandelierChampagne
Chandelier Game Reserve–Queens Hotel, Oudtshoorn: 65km, 1150 metres ascent
Start: Chandelier Game Reserve, Oudtshoorn. Finish: Queens Hotel, Oudtshoorn
Day 7 sees the start at Chandelier Game Reserve, home to the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge as well a wild game. This shorter stage includes many jeeptrack climbs and singletrack descents, with a fast and furious dash to the finish at the Queens Hotel in the town.
Total distance: 572km
Total elevation: 10650m
For more in-depth route descriptions of the 2017 race, visit www.capepioneer.co.za where you can also enter in either Team or Solo divisions.