The 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, took solo racers and teams on a journey through some of the Southern Cape’s most spectacular landscapes. From the plantations and indigenous forests of George, through the orchards and fynbos of the Langkloof and into the usually arid Klein Karoo. A record season of winter rain had turned the semi-desert into a canvas of colour, without rival from the emerald green of the Garden Route or the olive tones of the Langkloof.
On the bike, from the Prologue on Sunday, 3 September, to Stage 6 on Saturday, 9 September, the race was fiercely contested. In some categories, like the UCI women’s and the solo women’s, the victors were all-but-determined early in the race. That only served to highlight the intensity of the UCI men’s racing.
Prologue: Glenwood House School, George
3 September 2023
26km with 450m of climbing
The opening day of the race saw Imbuko Giant A’s Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha set the fastest time, by a mere 17 seconds, to claim the first yellow First Ascent leaders jerseys over the impromptu team of George locals, Gert Heyns and Tristan Nortje. The UCI women’s stage winners, Kim le Court and Samantha Sanders would go on to win the next six stages too. A task which was made easier by Yolande de Villiers’ withdrawal after the Prologue. De Villiers and Stephanie Wohlters had won the opening day’s time trial the year before, but the Oudtshoorn local started the 2023 race ill. As a result, the Enduroplanet Bester Performance team lost over 10 minutes on the stage and De Villiers made the decision not to start Stage 1.
To read the full story from the Prologue click here.
- 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)
Stage 1: Glenwood House School, George
4 September 2023
55km with 1 750m of climbing
Stage 1 was packed with singletracks and proved more testing than the distance or elevation gain suggested. In the UCI men’s race three teams escaped off the front together; they were the men in yellow, Imbuko Giant A, Valley Electrical Toyota and Insect Science. Despite numerous attempts to break the group up none stuck until the final climb of the day, inside the final 7 kilometres. There Joubert and Botha were able to distance Heyns and Nortje, while Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning clung on to fight for line honours. In the final 500 metres Bontekoning took a wrong turn, which eliminated Insect Science from a potential sprint finish and allowed Imbuko Giant to extend their overall lead. While Le Court and Sanders won the stage in the UCI women’s race, Karla Stumpf and Kelsey van Schoor proved the surprise packages of the day. They placed third on the stage and moved into third on the general classification as they found their feet as a pairing.
To read the full story from Stage 1 click here.
Men’s General Classification after Stage 1:
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (3:18:25)
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (3:20:29 | +1:55)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (3:21:50 | +3:25)
Women’s General Classification after Stage 1:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (4:13:28)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (4:25:07 | +11:39)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (4:42:14 | +28:46)
Stage 2: Glenwood House School, George, to Louvain, in the Langkloof
5 September 2023
79km with 1 950m of climbing
Montagu Pass served up drama on Stage 2 of the race as Joubert struggled on the climb and Valley Electrical Toyota attacked. It transpired that Joubert’s saddle height had shifted by a few millimetres, which left him feeling unable to push his usual power. Near the summit of the pass Nortje and Heyns surged to a 20 second lead; but Pieter du Toit, of Imbuko Giant B helped Joubert and Botha limit their losses. The support team rider gave Joubert a couple of pushes on key, steep and rocky sections, which allowed Imbuko Giant A to regain contact with Valley Electrical Toyota before they summited the pass. This allowed the group to enter the Langkloof together. Eventually the day came down to a sprint of sorts with Nortje and Heyns holding off Arno du Toit and Bontekoning of Insect Science. Imbuko Giant A ceded 6 seconds to the day’s winners. Efficient Infiniti Insure continued their march to overall victory in the women’s race, while daylight was emerging between Vivovita-Bell, in second, and the women in third, Team Biogen, too.
To read the full story from Stage 2 click here.
Men’s General Classification 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 General Classification 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)
Stage 3: Louvain, in the Langkloof
6 September 2023
63km with 1 400m of climbing
On Wednesday, 6 September, the four-day Adventure riders joined the seven-day Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, race. This shorter duration event follows the same route as the final four days of the full race and offers riders the chance to experience some of the event, without having to commit to seven days of racing as well as a full week away from work. Though most of the Adventure participants were more relaxed; Wohlters and her partner, Abri Kuhn, took on the short event with renewed vigour. Having ridden Stage 1 and 2 solo, after De Villiers’ withdrawal, Wohlters had roped Kuhn in to race alongside her for the second half of the week. Together they raced to victory on every day of the Adventure and, as a result, the overall victory too, despite being a mixed category team.
In the UCI races Le Court and Sanders continued their dominance. While Sarah Hill and Hayley Smith further cemented their second position. Stumpf and Van Schoor were using the stage to push on, and build a buffer on Ila Stow and Robyn Williams in fourth. That was until Stumpf touched her front wheel against Van Schoor’s rear. The young Biogen rider came down hard on a gravel road descent, enduring road rash and bruising. She did not let that put an end to her race however, and remounted her bike to finish third on the stage once more.
In the men’s race, Joubert’s struggles from the previous day continued on Stage 3. The Imbuko Giant A rider was distanced from the lead group, which also contained the Valley Electrical Toyota and Insect Science teams a number of times, but always managed to claw his way back to parity. In the latter phases of the stage a second group, consisting of the Imbuko Giant B and Trek SA teams joined the top three teams at the front of the race. Shortly thereafter Nortje and Heyns attacked, Joubert punctured and the groups split. Ahead Valley Electrical Toyota, Insect Science and Trek SA worked to drive home their advantage, while behind Imbuko Giant A and B chased in recovery mode. Nortje and Heyns, for the second stage in a row, outsprinted Arno du Toit and Bontekoning to win the day, while Joubert and Botha’s lead was slashed from 1 minute and 49 seconds to just 28 seconds.
To read the full story from Stage 3 click here.
Men’s General Classification after Stage 3:
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (8:44:54)
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (8:45:22 | +0:28)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (8:46:57 | +2:03)
Women’s General Classification after Stage 3:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (11:03:22)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (11:42:32 | +39:10)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (12:18:53 | +1:15:31)
Race With Soul Mini-Report
By Jess Wilkinson (@jessleighwilkinson)
My Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, experience is one that I will hold close to my heart for a long time and I hope to experience many more. It’s hard to put into words just how special this event is. The route keeps you on your toes – it’s both challenging and rewarding, and each day presents a unique element of local charm.
A big part of why I love these multi-day stage events is the opportunity they present to adventure through South Africa, a chance to be reminded just how lucky we are to have these areas and communities on our back doorstep. The Cape Pioneer Trek is a real challenge. In the moments I felt finished I was inspired by the route and the people to keep going, and to be pleasantly surprised by the epic paths and wonderful communities that lay before us around each bend in the trail.
Each day was unique in its own special way. When I reflect back on my experience it’s as though we had an entire year of riding in just one week. We traversed epic mountain passes, flowy singletrack, rocky steep descents, punchy technical climbs, fast rolling gravel roads and we were welcomed by friendly faces and charming communities throughout the event.
The people of the Race with Soul have a great influence on what makes this event so special. There is a down-to-earth feel as the local communities are so involved. There were many reasons to smile each day. From the friendly chef who made sure we were well fed, to the enthusiastic encouraging school kids who cheered us on through the water points and the Dryland staff who engaged and interacted with all riders. It is this community feel that makes this race one not be missed.
Thank you, Dryland, for making this event possible!
Stage 4: Louvain, in the Langkloof, to Langenhoven Gymnasium, Oudtshoorn
7 September 2023
90km with 1 650m of climbing
Stage 4, was the second transition stage of the race, taking teams from Louvain to Oudtshoorn. At 90 kilometres long it was also the longest course of the week. The day featured a difficult start, with a technical climb in the first 10 kilometres which split the UCI men’s field. A further split was enforced by a puncture for Arno du Toit. Fortunately for the Insect Science team their support squad was close at hand, and Alan Gordon sacrificed a wheel for Du Toit. Imbuko Giant B’s Pieter du Toit ensured that Arno du Toit and Bontekoning had a difficult chase back, but the Insect Science team did regain contact with the front of the race. Shortly thereafter Rudi Koen punctured, putting Imbuko Giant B out of the running for stage honours.
The next team to faulter were Trek SA’s Justin Chesterton and Kai von During, leaving Imbuko Giant A, Insect Science, Valley Electrical Toyota and Valley Electrical Titan Racing to contest the sprint finish. Joubert and Botha, who won the sprint into Langenhoven Gymnasium in 2022 put that knowledge of the run in to good use, earning themselves a third victory of the week. Le Court and Sanders continued their dominance in the UCI women’s competition, while Hill and Smith were second behind them for the fifth day in a row. Despite her injuries Stumpf managed to outsprint Stow and Williams to notch up another podium place with Van Schoor.
To read the full story from Stage 4 click here.
Men’s General Classification after Stage 4:
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (12:00:54)
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (12:01:24 | +0:30)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (12:02:58 | +2:04)
Women’s General Classification after Stage 4:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (15:04:46)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (15:57:02 | +52:26)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (16:45:59 | +1:41:23)
Stage 5: Langenhoven Gymnasium, Oudtshoorn, to Die Top, Swartberg Pass
8 September 2023
84km with 2 300m of climbing
The Queen Stage of the 2023 race saw drama from the off in the UCI men’s field. The title chasing Nortje and Heyns were derailed by an early puncture, while Imbuko Giant A, B and Insect Science charged ahead. Valley Electrical Toyota received a wheel from their Valley Electrical Titan Racing support team and were joined in the pursuit of the lead group by Trek SA’s Chesterton and Von During. Sadly, for Heyns, who had suffered the flat, the brake rotor on the replacement rear wheel was rubbing on the callipers for the next 15 kilometres. This sapped the energy from his legs and put an end to any hopes of catching the leaders.
On the approach to the Swartberg Pass Joubert and Botha spotted an opportunity to attack Arno du Toit and Bontekoning. The Imbuko Giant A team established a 20 second lead in no time at all, and with Imbuko Giant B sitting on as the Insect Science team chased the men in yellow gradually extended that advantage to an emphatic, 5 minutes and 54 seconds by the finish line. Pieter du Toit and Koen jumped from the wheels of the Insect Science squad to claim second on the day, while Valley Electrical Toyota had to be content with fourth. This ensured that Joubert and Botha took a 7 minute and 32 second lead into the final stage.
This advantaged paled in comparison to the buffer which the Efficient Infiniti Insure team took into Stage 6. Le Court and Sanders’ dominance throughout the race earned them an hour’s lead heading into the final stage, all but wrapping up the title with a day to go. Hill and Smith were, themselves, comfortable in second. While Stumpf endured a particularly testing ascent of Swartberg Pass, yet she and Van Schoor still finished ahead of Stow and Williams, taking a 14 minute advantage into Stage 6.
To read the full story from Stage 5 click here.
Men’s General Classification after Stage 5:
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (15:15:03)
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (15:22:35 | +7:32)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (15:23:01 | +7:58)
Women’s General Classification after Stage 5:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (19:17:05)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (20:24:04 | +1:06:09)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (21:20:26 | +2:03:21)
Race With Soul Mini-Report
By Charl Neethling (@charl_i_am)
I’d say that, as with other Dryland Event Management races, it was incredibly well organized from start to finish. The absolute highlight was the route. What the team did with the route from Prologue through to Stage 6 was truly impressive and, especially in and around George. The amount of effort that went into creating challenging but super fun singletrack climbs and descents was clear to see.
We were treated to a beautifully green Karoo with much more flowing water and healthy vegetation than usual. Obviously experiencing the vibe and hospitality in the rider zone was something that never gets old. I’d love to give the race another go – without falling on my face – and maybe with a bit more training and planning potentially battle it out for a spot on one of the category podiums!
Stage 6: Langenhoven Gymnasium, Oudtshoorn, to The Queens Hotel, Oudtshoorn
9 September 2023
64km with 1 200m of climbing
The final day of the race took the riders and teams into Chandelier Game Reserve, the home to the start of the infamous Momentum Medical Scheme Attakwas Extreme, presented by Biogen. Famed for its rocky tracks and trails it provided a challenging final day, where punctures and mechanicals were never far from the minds of the riders with leaders’ jerseys on their backs. Le Court and Sanders mitigated that risk by going on the offensive early and riding to a seventh stage victory. They were followed home by Hill and Smith, with Stow and Williams claiming the final podium place on the last day. Stumpf and Van Schoor conceded 3 minutes on the stage but were never at risk of losing third place on the final UCI women’s general classification standings.
In the UCI men’s race Imbuko Giant A were content to shadow the pace set by Valley Electrical Toyota. For their part Nortje and Heyns were eager to ensure that they did not lose second place overall, but once they exited Chandelier and began the race back to Oudtshoorn their focus shifted to stage victory. Insect Science, Imbuko Giant A and Valley Electrical Toyota vied for the prime positions in the group, as they flew through the tracks along the Grobbelaarsrivier.
Having done a reconnaissance ride of the final 3 kilometres that morning, Nortje and Heyns knew exactly what they had to do to win. They outfoxed their rivals to position themselves best heading into the final corner and kicked for the finish line, outsprinting Joubert and Botha. Arno du Toit’s partner, Bontekoning, had missed the final attack and rolled across the line a few seconds later to ensure Insect Science went home with third on the day and on the overall standings. Valley Electrical Toyota’s third stage win of the race was their consolation for second place on the general classification standings. While Imbuko Giant A’s Joubert and Botha won the 2023 Race with Soul title.
To read the full story from Stage 6 click here.
Men’s General Classification after Stage 6:
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (17:39:28)
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (17:46:59 | +07:31)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (17:47:34 | + 08:06)
- Trek SA: Kai von During & Justin Chesterton (18:09:47 | +30:18)
- Imbuko Giant B: Pieter du Toit & Rudi Koen (18:09:49 | +30:21)
Women’s General Classification after Stage 6:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (22:11:10)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (23:26:53 | +1:15:43)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (24:28:53 | +2:17:43)
- Bike Park Uitsig-SCR Academy: Ila Stow and Robyn Williams (24:39:55 | +2:28:44)
- Team Specialized Experience Centre: Linda Hitchings & Nicola Freitas (25:19:58 | +3:08:47)
To view the full results from the 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, click here.