Leading SA MTB race boosts women

30 October 2013

The 2014 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race has been given a fresh boost following the announcement that Bridge, the title sponsor, has significantly increased the prize money for the race’s Swartberg Pass stage with its iconic mountain-top finish.

Neels Grobler, the Chief Growth Officer at Bridge, announced that the third year of the company’s involvement would see increased focus on the women’s category, starting with equal prize money on the Swartberg Pass stage.

This year, the first men’s team to the summit of the Swartberg Pass, Asrin Cycling’s James Reid (RSA) and Jens Schuermans (Bel) collected R112 000 ($12 000). The first women’s team earned prize money of R25 000 ($2 500), which was donated by Khombisa Media.

R250 000

For 2014, the event’s first year as a UCI-graded stage race, Bridge has increased the Swartberg Pass stage prize money to R125 000 for the first men’s team and R125 000 for the first women’s team.

“The top women make just as much sacrifice and show just as much commitment as the men. They deserve the same reward,” Grobler said in a statement on Tuesday.

The women’s field this year included two-time marathon world champion, Annika Langvad, who is also the current Danish national marathon champion. She partnered with current Swiss marathon champion Arianne Kleinhans in the RE:CM Davinci team, which won the women’s title in dominant fashion. Their main rivals were Britain’s Jane Nuessli and Switzerland’s former marathon world champion, Esther Suss.

Other top competitors included former South African marathon champions, Yolande Speedy and Cherise Stander, current South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot and current Swedish marathon champion, Jennie Stenerhag.

‘A lot more depth’

“We had a strong, but small women’s field in the race this year. With UCI points on offer next year and this big prize money boost from Bridge, we are expecting similar high quality riders, but a lot more depth in the women’s race in 2014,” said Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management.

“This is really great news. It’s a huge step towards equality in a sport that has been dominated by men for so many years,” said 2013 women’s champion Ariane Kleinhans.

“I take it somehow as a reward for all us ladies that put a huge amount of effort into the sport and push ourselves to the absolute limit. But it should also act as motivation for me and all the other ladies to live up to the expectations and grow in our numbers as well as our performance,” she added.

The R250 000 total prize money for the two winning teams (male and female) on the Swartberg Pass stage is the biggest cash prize for any mountain bike race stage in the world.

‘Rare’

“It’s rare to have a mountain-top finish in a mountain bike race because of the logistical challenge involved, especially in a remote area like the Swartberg Mountains, but Bridge and our other sponsors have embraced this challenge and have helped us make it into a special feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek,” said Carel Herhold of Dryland Event Management.

The 2013 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek – the fifth edition of the event – attracted 400 entrants who tackled a total distance of over 500 kilometres with more than 11 500 metres of vertical ascent over seven days. A total of 20% of the field was from outside South Africa, with 13 countries represented, including the host nation.

SAinfo reporter