11 July 2014
Though October is still a way off, the list of podium contenders for the 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek is already an impressive one, with national, continental and world champions committing to the international mountain bike stage race.
Recently crowned the elite women’s marathon world champion for a third time, Anika Langvad of Denmark has confirmed she will once again team up with Swiss ace, Ariane Kleinhans (Team RECM), in an effort to defend the women’s title that they secured in 2013.
Also confirmed to contest the women’s title is former European and world champion and Olympic Games bronze-medallist Esther Suss of Switzerland, who will team up with South African marathon specialist, Theresa Ralph, twice a podium finisher in the Absa Cape Epic.
Multiple Swedish national marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag (Cape Brewing Co.), will join forces with multiple South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Biogen Toyota), in another formidable pairing, adding further depth to the growing women’s field.
UCI rankings points
Most of South Africa’s top men’s marathon racing teams have confirmed that they’ll be on the start line of the seven-day race which, for the first time, will offer International Cycling Union (UCI) rankings points, making it only the second mountain bike stage race in South Africa and one of a handful in the world to hold that status.
The RECM team that won the overall title in 2013 has confirmed it will return, probably with the combination of Erik Kleinhans and Nico Bell, while the FedGroup team of Kevin Evans and Max Knox are expected to resume their recently-formed stage-race partnership at the Cape Pioneer Trek.
The German-based Team Bulls has confirmed it will also have a team on the start line, most likely the pairing of Tim Bohme and Simon Stiebjahn, while the current South African marathon champion, James Reid (Trek Factory Racing) will pair up with Rourke Croeser (Kargo Racing). They finished first and second at the recent national marathon championships.
Also confirmed is Matthys Beukes, an Oudtshoorn local who, along with Gert Heyns, won the final stage and the African jersey at the 2014 Cape Epic. It has not yet been finalised who Beukes’ partner will be yet for Scott Factory Racing’s Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek team, but it’s sure to be a combination that will challenge for the overall title.
The route for the 2014 edition was announced last month and will see the 500 participants covering a distance of 574km, with a total vertical ascent of 11 958 metres over the seven days.
Once again the Swartberg Pass will offer a decisive challenge for the competitors on stage two. Besides an iconic mountain-top finish, the 86km leg has a formidable total vertical ascent of 2 781 metres.
It is the richest stage in mountain bike stage racing with a total of R250 000 (about US$25 000) in cash, split equally between the first men’s team and the first women’s team to crest the summit.
“Honouring women with the same prize money as that of the men will be one of our highlights in October, said Neels Grobler, the Chief Growth Officer at Bridge, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We realised that the women put in as much effort in their ride as the men and the next logical step was to reward women equally.
“We believe that the UCI status, as well as the highest stage prize in mountain bike racing, will definitely elevate the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek. Bridge is thrilled to be associated with such an esteemed event in South Africa.”
“The UCI status has raised the level of prestige even higher for the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek and we’re expecting quite a few more big name riders to enter the 2014 event over the next couple of months,” said Carel Herholdt of Dryland Event Management, the company that founded and manages the event.
“But we want to state that while there is increased focus on the front of the race, we remain committed to making every single rider feel special, whether they’re chasing a podium place or trying to just beat the daily time limit. It’s a characteristic of our events that will never change.”
A limited number of 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek entries remain available.