South Africa is home to some of the world’s best mountain bike stage races. Yet, there is only one Race with Soul. The Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Now in its thirteenth edition the seven-day event provides the perfect mix of challenging riding, diverse scenery and classic Klein Karoo hospitality.
For 2023 it will also boast a particularly stacked UCI elite women’s field, a competitive UCI men’s start list and a brand-new host venue. Taking place from the 3rd to 9th of September this year the route will feature 472 kilometres of racing with 10 850 meters of climbing. Starting in the Garden Route capital, George, at Glenwood House, the opening day features a Prologue time trial before Stage 1 explores the forest singletracks of the Outeniqua Mountains in greater depth.
Stage 2 traverses those mountains, ascending into the Langkloof via the historic nearly 180-year-old Montagu Pass. Once in the fertile valley the racing then explores the northern slopes of the Outeniqua Mountain range and the foothills of the infamous Kammanassie, on Stage 3, before flirting with the Kammanassie once more en route to Oudtshoorn on Stage 4. The Queen Stage boasts the country’s only mountain top finish, at the summit of the Swartberg Pass. After six spectacular days the race draws to a close with a final stage of pure mountain biking satisfaction in the Klein Karoo on Saturday, 9 September. Taking in the rocky jeep tracks through the wildlife filled hillocks and vales of Chandelier Game Reserve it provides a final celebration to cap the Race with Soul.
Along with the competitive and avid but social riders taking on the race, the event has a stacked UCI field. Along with the Momentum Medical Scheme Tankwa Trek, presented by Biogen, and the Cape Epic the race is one of only three UCI stage races in South Africa. It is thus no surprise that the top local riders are taking part to earn valuable points towards the overall UCI XCM standings. The defending champions, Marco Joubert and Pieter du Toit, are back though not as a team. Despite this Imbuko Giant will still be looking to reclaim their title. They will not only be up against the Insect Science and Valley Electrical Titan Racing teams, whom they bested in 2022, however; they will also have to contend with the young upstarts Justin Chesterton and Kai von During.
Joubert will be partnered by Wessel Botha rather, but will have the assistance of Rudi Koen and Pieter du Toit in the fight for the yellow First Ascent leaders’ jerseys. With a different line-up the double act of Imbuko Giant teams proved so successful last time out that they claimed first and third on the final podium. Their closest rivals from the twelfth edition, Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning have Alan Gordon and, the ever improving and maturing, Herman Fourie for support. This fact should help Insect Science remain competitive deep into the race as Arno du Toit and Bontekoning often found themselves outnumbered by their main rivals in 2022.
Gert Heyns joins Matthew Keyser, who finished fourth last time alongside HB Kruger, and is eager to improve on that showing. They, will also have the support of a second Valley Electrical Titan Racing team to call upon. Rossouw Bekker will once again call upon the Bike Shop Plett’s professional stage race freelancer, Rogan Smart to team up in aid of Heyns and Keyser. Chesterton and Von During, who focus on cross-country racing for much of their season, will make their Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, debuts for Trek SA in 2023. The pair of 19-year-olds both only turn 20 in the months after the race; but have already completed the country’s two other UCI stage races this year and so will have those experiences in the bank. Erick Heyns and Heinie Beukes, as well as Team ACT’s Keagan Tullis and Thomas Hudson complete the men’s UCI field.
The UCI women’s competition is headlined by Efficient Insure Infiniti Racing’s defending champion, Kim le Court. The Mauritian will line up with former South African marathon champion Samantha Sanders in 2023, following the retirement from elite racing of her 2022 teammate Theresa Ralph. Le Court and Sanders’ strongest competition for the pink First Ascent leaders’ jerseys could likely come from Enduroplanet’s Yolande de Villiers and Stephanie Wohlters. The pair won three stages last time out and wore the first leaders’ jerseys after the Prologue, before the Efficient Insure Infiniti team established a commanding lead with dominant victories on Stages 1 and 2.
Sarah Hill also returns to the race, for the first time since 2019, and will be partnered by Hayley Smith in the Vivovita-Bell team. The other interesting combination, racing together for the first time, is that of Karla Stumpf and Kelsey van Schoor. Stumpf’s technical prowess will stand her in good stead in the singletrack packed stages of George, while Van Schoor’s road pedigree will undoubtedly come into play on the longer transition stages as well as on the final climb of the Queen Stage, to the summit of the Swartberg Pass.
Behind these top teams are a group of competitive women who balance a love of cycling with their other commitments. Dubbed the Working Heroines the group has grown from 2022 to include new members, Sanchia Malan, Linda Hitchings and Mandi Augustyn. Ila Stow and Robyn Williams, who won the race within a race last year, are back to defend their unofficial title. While Tarryn Povey teams up with Malan, Nicola Freitas is partnered by Hitchings, and Juanita Mackenzie races alongside Augustyn. The battle between these combinations will likely provide nearly as much entertainment as the contests for the elite men’s and women’s titles.
A limited number of entries are still available to the 2023 Race with Soul. Would-be riders can expect to not only enjoy the spectacular and diverse scenery of the route, but also engage in the racing action, and indulge in the superb catering for which Dryland Event Management stage races are famous. Those who cannot take a full week off work, or who are not quite ready for a seven-day stage race, can enter the four-day Adventure. It joins the race on Stage 3, at Louvain, and follows the same route as the Race for the next four stages. Entries close on the 18th of August.
To share in the excitement building up to the 2023 race, like the Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, Facebook page or follow @CapePioneerTrek on Twitter and @capepioneer on Instagram. For more information or to enter the thirteenth edition visit www.capepioneer.co.za.
2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen
|Race Dates:||3 – 9 September 2023|
|Adventure Dates:||6 – 9 September 2023|
|Entries Close:||18 August 2023|
|Facebook:||Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen|
|Race Villages||Glenwood House School | Louvain Guest Farm | Langenhoven Gimnasium|
|Prologue:||#SaasveldSingletrack: 27km with 450m of climbing|
|Stage 1:||#JonkersbergJewel: 55km with 1 850m of climbing|
|Stage 2:||#LuciousLouvain: 81km with 1 950m of climbing|
|Stage 3:||#LangkloofLiaison: 63km with 1 400m of climbing|
|Stage 4:||#KammanassieKind: 90km with 1 650m of climbing|
|Stage 5:||#SwartbergShowdown: 90km with 2 300m of climbing|
|Stage 6:||#ChandelierChampagne: 66km with 1 250m of climbing|