The tides are turning at the Cape Pioneer Trek, as South Africans Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers turned up the heat even further on Thursday to win Stage 4 of the Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race; as overall leaders, Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell, lost a chunk of their advantage when they endured mechanical problems.
Day 5 of the race took riders on a 94km leg from the lush green forests of George to the hot, dry Karoo region and the finish in Oudtshoorn. The mercury was in the high 30s, adding a further challenge to the riders who were also faced with unforgiving, rough terrain that saw numerous riders suffer tyre problems, including the leaders in three categories – Men, Women and Mixed.
Kleinhans and Beers (Full Sus/Topeak Ergon/Red-E), clearly the strongest team in the race on Thursday, clocked a winning time of 03 hours 23 minutes 35 seconds. They were followed home 2:39 later by the Swiss/German pair of Konny Looser and Daniel Gathof, who out-dashed Team Spur’s James Reid and Julian Jessop for the runner-up spot.
Combrinck and Bell (NAD Pro) finished 7:16 down, leaving a noticeable dent in the 10-plus-minute lead they held at the start of the day. They still hold a relatively comfortable 8:05 gap over second-placed Looser and Gathof, with the Dutch pairing of Erik Groen and Jeroen Boelen (Stappenbelt Specialized) at 10:39 back in third.
After leading the race on Day 1, Kleinhans and Beers dropped well down on Day 2 due to Kleinhans suffering with illness. Kleinhans is clearly back to full health but they’re still too far down on time to be a threat to the overall podium. However, their aggression is certainly adding pressure to the other teams, which is making for an exciting contest at the sharp end and could still see a further shake up in the podium dice over the final two days.
“Two days ago the sealant in our tyres wasn’t doing its job and we had to stop and plug small holes. Today was a different story. The rough terrain through the Chandelier Reserve saw Gawie smack something, which resulted in a small cut. We repaired it, but it the tyre lost pressure and he damaged it again. We didn’t panic though. We have quite a decent buffer and didn’t overextend ourselves today. We still feel good for the last two days,” smiled Bell.
“At about 60km, as we turned off the gravel road onto a rough farm road, Erik just laid down the hammer. I was a bit shocked. What is he doing? I thought. There’s more than 30km to go still!” explained Beers afterwards.
“But I just had to go with him. It was a complete gamble, but it paid off. Erik’s racing experience and knowledge of this event put us at an advantage for sure. We didn’t know there was all that mechanical carnage happening behind us, so we just kept focussed on staying steady and holding everyone off. It was a bit upsetting that we lost so much time on Day 2, but that’s racing and now we are just making the most of what’s on offer,” concluded Beers.
Strauss and Redecker power on at Cape Pioneer
In the women’s race, Mariske Strauss and Cherie Redecker (OMX Pro) recorded their fifth stage win, but it required the repair – and subsequent replacement – of Strauss’s tyre to get them across the finish line. They still hold a significant lead over stage runners-up, Catherine Williamson and Leana de Jager (Klein Karoo Ladies).
The Mixed category race also had its share of drama when leaders Yolande de Villiers and Neill Ungerer (Ultimate Cycling) had to deal with rope entangled in De Villiers’ rear derailleur. They lost around 10 minutes and conceded the stage win to arch-rivals, Kobus and Fienie Barnard (Klein Karoo Mixed). De Villiers and Ungerer still hold the overall lead, but it’s been trimmed to 6:34 over the Barnards, setting the stage for an exciting final two days.
There was a close battle for the stage podium places in the Veteran men’s division, with Vickus Boschoff and Iniel Hattingh (Klein Karoo Ko Op) securing the win 1:19 ahead of Belgians Hans Planckaert and Wim Tollenaere (Der Fietser Rotwild Zaes). Fanie Venter and Igna de Villiers (LGE Midas Businessprint) were another 14 seconds back in third, but still hold the overall lead by 6:38 over Hattingh and Boschoff.
South Africans Izak Visagie and Linus van Onselen (Anderson Masters) continued their complete dominance of the Master’s category, winning their fifth consecutive stage and extending their overall lead.
The Solo men’s race was a much tighter contest on Thursday, with Franco Pelser taking the stage win just 30 seconds ahead of overall leader, Jiri Krivanek (CZE), with Brandon Stewart 1:11 down in third. Nicky Giliomee maintained her firm grasp on the Solo women’s race, claiming another stage win and stretching her overall lead over Mariane Bergli.
Friday’s Stage 5 is over 88km with 1700 metres of ascent. Riders will circumnavigate the Kammanassie Dam and tackle a section through a private game reserve before heading back to Oudtshoorn. While the weather will be slightly cooler the, terrain will be as unpredictable and unforgiving as that on Stage 4, so expect more drama.
Cape Pioneer Trek 2016
General Classification – After Stage 4
1. Nico Bell (RSA) / Gawie Combrink (RSA) – NAD Pro MTB 13:41:03
2. Konny Looser (SUI) / Daniel Gathof (GER) – CBC Elite Pro 13:49:08
3. Erik Groen (NED) / Jeroen Boelen (NED) – Team Stappebelt Specialized 13:51:42
4. James Reid (RSA) / Julian Jessop (RSA) – Team Spur 13:52:49
5. Bram Rood (NED) / Gerben Mos (NED) – KMC Fruit to Go 13:55:33
1. Mariske Strauss (RSA) / Cherie Redeker (RSA) – OMX Pro Team 16:08:18
2. Leana de Jager (RSA) / Catherine Williamson (GBR) – Klein Karoo International 17:34:00
3. Hannele Steyn (RSA) / Katja Steenkamp (RSA) – Team CWC BreakAway 17:52:59
4. Mari du Toit (RSA) / Janine Muller (RSA) – Oakley Group Girls 19:01:19
5. Susanna Lagerqvist (SWE) / Maria Runeteg (SWE) – Du och Jag 19:36:59
1. Neill Ungerer (RSA) / Yolande de Villiers (RSA) – Ultimate Cycling 15:39:19
2. Kobus Barnard (RSA) / Fienie Barnard (RSA) – Klein Karoo Mixed 15:45:53
3. Daniele Troesch (FRA) / Max Friedrich (FRA) – toMotion Racing by black tusk 1 16:40:43
4. Jens Schoenhofen (GER) / Gwenda Ruesing (GER) – toMotion Racing by black tusk 2 17:14:52
5. Luc Bellings (BEL) / Pokobova Vladislava (BEL) – gastro bikes 17:28:01
1. Fanie Venter (RSA) / Igna de Villiers (RSA) – LGE Midas BusinessPrint 15:24:30
2. Iniel Hattingh (RSA) / Vickus Boshoff (RSA) – Klein Karoo Ko Op 15:31:08
3. Hans Planckaert (BEL) / Wim Tollenaere (BEL) – De Fietser Rotwild Zaes Team 15:41:32
4. Brett Penney (RSA) / Eugene Long (RSA) – brett/long 16:35:50
5. Charl Bleach (RSA) / Shaun Sale (RSA) – Sale’s Hire 16:38:32
1. Linus van Onselen (RSA) / Izak Visagie (RSA) – Anderson Masters 15:47:46
2. Niccolò Violati (ITA) / Roberto Gallo (ITA) – Pitstop 17:43:45
3. Mark de Beule (NED) / Robbert De Moor (NED) – Cyclingteam Delta 17:50:52
4. Mike Charlewood (RSA) / Doug Girling (RSA) – Team Grassroof 18:49:53
5. Enzo Antoniazzi (RSA) / Stewart Goodman (RSA) – SOAR 2 19:20:56
1. Jiri Krivanek (CZE) 13:53:19
2. Franco Pelser (RSA) 14:16:16
3. Brandon Stewart (RSA) 14:48:55
4. Bart de Boeck (BEL) 15:26:55
5. Andrew Cairns (RSA) 15:30:25
1. Nicky Giliomee (RSA) 16:56:58
2. Marianne Bergli (NOR) 18:02:29
3. Collette Bastard (RSA) 18:17:16
4. Sabine Stampf (GER) 18:21:35
5. Teresa Coetzee (RSA) 22:48:06