Gert Heyns and Tristan Nortje Win Stage 2 of the Cape Pioneer Trek
The first transition stage of the 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, took the teams from George in the Garden Route to Louvain in the Langkloof. Tuesday, 5 September’s, Stage 2 was won by Valley Electrical Toyota and Efficient Infiniti Insure. The time gaps in the UCI men’s race were too small to affect the overall standings, while in the UCI women’s race Kim le Court and Samantha Sanders added another 14 minutes and 35 seconds to their general classification lead.
Stage 2’s 79-kilometre route began with singletracks in the Saasveld and Jonkersberg forests, after leaving Glenwood House School. 30 kilometres of technical riding then gave way to the historic Montagu Pass, which accounted for a significant proportion of the day’s 1 950 meters of climbing. Once in the Langkloof the course went due east and offered a downwind run to Louvain, which also featured two significant and rocky climbs in the final 15 kilometres.
“Last year we went off the start line like it was a cross-country race,” Keagan Bontekoning explained. “Then we suffered on Montagu Pass. So, this year we took it easier and saved ourselves for the pass and the tough second half of the day.”
The steadier early pace allowed Insect Science’s support team, of Herman Fourie and Alan Gordon, as well as Valley Electrical Titan Racing, Imbuko Giant B and Trek SA to maintain contact with the top three teams on the UCI men’s general classification. Though the group reduced in size a few times, with Rossouw Bekker, in particular, yo-yoing slightly, the first phase of the stage was raced without undue drama.
On Montagu Pass the action kicked off in earnest. Pieter du Toit, of Imbuko Giant B, was the first rider to go on the attack. Bontekoning and Arno du Toit controlled the pace in the group behind, stifling any attempt by Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha to ride across to their squad mate. Then in the final 2 kilometres of the climb, on the steepest and most eroded section, Valley Electrical Toyota attacked. Gert Heyns and Tristan Nortje quickly closed the gap to Pieter du Toit, while Joubert in particular struggled to follow.
Once the Valley Electrical Toyota Team passed the Imbuko Giant man he began to help Joubert and Botha close the gap. Pieter du Toit even gave Joubert a push or two, which kept the man in yellow in the lead group over the summit of the pass.
“I feel that’s quite disrespectful to the race, to yellow jerseys and to us, their rivals and mates,” Arno du Toit stated. “You don’t like seeing that in racing. From there we went over the top together and the racing was then a bit negative, with everyone looking at each other, and with the tailwind to the finish.”
The tactics and the tailwind allowed the chase group, who had been distanced near the top of Montagu Pass to regain contact with the Imbuko Giant A, Insect Science and Valley Electrical Toyota teams. The rocky penultimate climb then enforced the final split of the race, with only the top three teams able to summit together.
In the final kilometre Heyns and Nortje surged again, establishing a handful of seconds buffer on the rise to the finish line. This allowed them to sit up and celebrate their first stage victory. Arno du Toit and Bontekoning were second, 2 seconds back. Joubert and Botha crossed the line 4 seconds later to preserve their grip on the yellow First Ascent leaders’ jerseys.
A formal protest from their rivals saw Imbuko Giant being handed an official warning, as Pieter du Toit’s push of Joubert was not in direct contradiction to a UCI rule. This means that he and Botha take a 1-minute and 49-second lead into Stage 3. Heyns and Nortje are second, with Arno du Toit and Bontekoning in third, at 3 minutes and 21 off the leaders.
In the UCI women’s race Le Court and Sanders started at a steadier tempo. This meant that Sarah Hill and Hayley Smith were able to remain in touch with the leaders until Smith crashed on the final forest singletrack. “Hayley [Smith] kind of lost control on some slippery roots,” Hill retold. “I was shouting for her to be safe, but next thing she crashed off the trail just before a bridge. Fortunately, she’s very flexible and was already uncleated because somehow, she landed on her feet. It could have been so much worse.”
“I did a quick check and amazingly I didn’t have a scratch on me,” a relieved Smith recounted. “After that, it was a bit difficult to get back into a rhythm but the rest of the stage was incident free.” Up ahead the Efficient Infinity Insure team gradually extended their advantage until they crossed the finish line at Louvain. The victory was Le Court and Sanders’ third, in as many days, of the race.
Hill and Smith rode home in second, well ahead of the battle for third. “I wasn’t feeling great this morning,” Kelsey van Schoor said, of how she and Stumpf race to the final podium place on the day. “We took it easy this morning and then only pushed on once we passed Water Point 2, after Montagu Pass.” In the remaining kilometers, the Biogen team distanced the Specialized Experience Stellenbosch and Bike Park Uitsig SCR Academy teams, to firm up their grip on the third place on the overall standings.
Wednesday’s Stage 3 provides both the UCI men’s and women’s teams with another opportunity for general classification shake-ups. The 63-kilometer course includes 1 400 meters of climbing, most of which comes in the first 10 kilometers. The ascent to Duiwelskop is steep and treacherously rocky, as is the descent into the Klein Langkloof. From there the surfaces get better and could allow teams were distanced early to regain contact.
Stage 2 | Men’s Results:
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (2:56:40)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (2:56:42 | +2)
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (2:56:46| +6)
Stage 2 | Women’s Results:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (3:42:50)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (3:57:25 | +14:35)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (4:07:18 | +24:28)
Men’s GC after Stage 2:
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (6:15:11)
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (6:17:00 | +1:49)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (6:18:32 | +3:21)
Women GC after Stage 2:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (7:56:18)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (8:22:32 | +26:14)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (8:49:32 | +53:14)
To view the full results click here.