The 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, kicked off with a short prologue today that produced some red-hot racing.
The 26-kilometer-long Prologue, through the singletracks of Saasveld, was won by the Imbuko Giant A and Efficient Infiniti Insure teams, ahead of Valley Electrical – Toyota and Viviovita – Bell respectively. The Garden Route city of George, famous for its fickle weather, provided the perfect setting with cool temperatures and light winds allowing for fierce racing. Here’s a recap of the action..
The punchy course for the Prologue time trial featured 450 meters of climbing and was packed with singletracks through the indigenous and pine forests of the Outeniqua foothills. Starting and finishing at Glenwood House School, on the city’s outskirts, the teams had a brief tar road blast to find their rhythm before the climbing and trails began. Once in the forests, the singletracks came thick and fast, though there were still overtaking opportunities to be had on the dual-track stretches. This proved particularly key in the UCI women’s race.
After starting first, of the eight UCI women’s teams, Bike Park Uitsig – SCR Academy’s Ila Stow and Robyn Williams set the initial fastest time. Their time in the hot seat was a short one, however. Sarah Hill and Hayley Smith, of Vivovita – Bell were the next team across the line, despite having started 10 minutes and five teams later. Hill and Smith passed the Specialized Experience Centre, Elements, Biogen and Echo Pentest Ladies teams on the trails. Their time of 1 hour, 11 minutes and 43 seconds was clearly a great one.
“I absolutely loved the trails, it’s my first time riding the Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, and I was absolutely blown away by day one,” Smith smiled. “I can’t wait for the days to come. Especially teaming up with Sarah [Hill], we worked perfectly together today. So, as I said, I can’t wait for the days to come.”
Despite putting in a stellar performance and starting the event with a bang, the Vivovita – Bell team will have their work cut out for them if they are to close the gap to Kim le Court and Samantha Sanders. The Efficient Infinity Insure combination stopped the clock in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 39 seconds to take the first UCI women’s First Ascent leaders jerseys of the race.
“We rode a really good…,” Sanders began, before revising her opinion. “No, I’m lying. I rode flat out! And Kim [Le Court] just paced me. But we’re super happy to take the lead and be in the pink jerseys tomorrow.”
In the UCI men’s race, the initial fastest time was set by Trek SA’s Kai von During and Justin Chesterton. The pair were the first team to dip below the 1-hour mark. They were soon unseated off the hot seats by Valley Electrical Titan Racing’s Rossouw Bekker and Matthew Keyser, who in turn were knocked off their perch by Imbuko Giant B. Pieter du Toit and Rudi Koen’s 58-minute and 44-second effort that was good enough for third.
Tristan Nortje who is partnering with fellow George local, Gert Heyns, was the second fastest on the day. The Valley Electrical – Toyota combination was just 17 seconds off the stage win. “It was super-fast and super hard” Nortje confessed. “Gert [Heyns] is super-fast on these trails, so I was just trying to hang on. But we managed a good pace and there’s a lot of racing left. It’s only 17 seconds between us and the Imbuko Giant A team. The long days start tomorrow…”
Stopping the clock in 56 minutes and 8 seconds, Joubert and Wessel Botha were the day’s fastest team. As such the Imbuko Giant A squad takes the yellow First Ascent jerseys into the opening marathon stage on Monday. “We couldn’t have asked for better legs today,” Joubert grinned. “Taking the win for the team was the perfect outcome. We had a solid plan for the day and we were able to execute it perfectly.”
“It might only be a short Prologue, but this is an indication that we’re in good form,” the defending champion added. “This takes some pressure off Wessel [Botha] and myself, and it feels lekker to be in yellow. Now we can take the next couple of days to see where the other guys are and mix it up with them. Then we’ll see how the week plays out, taking it day by day.”
Day two and Stage 1 are next on the cards. It boasts a highly technical and testing 55-kilometre route with 1 750 metres of climbing. Once again, the course is packed with singletracks and should provide an opportunity for the better climbers in the race to gain time on their rivals.
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (56:08)
- Valley Electrical – Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (56:25 | +17)
- Imbuko Giant B: Pieter du Toit & Rudi Koen (58:44 | +2:36)
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (1:09:39)
- Vivovita – Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (1:11:43 | +2:04)
- Bike Park Uitsig – SCR Academy: Ila Stow & Robyn Williams (1:17:19 | +7:40)