Ben Melt Swanepoel’s Cape Pioneer Trek

Ben Melt with girlfiend Yolandi du Toit.  Photo by www.zcmc.co.za

Ben Melt with girlfiend Yolandi du Toit.
Photo by www.zcmc.co.za

The Cape Pioneer Trek is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most beautiful but underrated week long stage races. From its humble beginnings in 2009 the race has matured and continually adapted to take its place among the best South African MTB events.

Traversing both the Garden Route and the Klein Karoo, the route encompasses some of South Africa’s most pristine landscapes with a course that focuses on quality riding rather than pure quantity. Despite its late-in-the-season date, this approach lures a quality field every year with an ever growing international flavour.

Like last year I teamed up with silent assassin Alan Gordon (Navworld) to tackle the 500-odd kilometre challenge. We make a good team as we understand each other well and always race to the benefit of the team.

The Mossel Bay prologue with its stunning views over the Indian Ocean was followed by a brand new stage through Gondwana Nature Reserve where a close encounter with a family of Giraffe gave us some extra spring in our step (pedal).

After 2 days in Mossel Bay we faced the ‘queen stage’ which took us to George via the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains and more than 2 000m of climbing.

Thankfully stage 3 was a shorter day which included loads of singletrack and although it was intense, we had more time to recover afterwards.

Stage 4 saw the field scaling the Montagu Pass and rolling over ostrich farmlands into Oudtshoorn and the heat of the Klein Karoo. Arnaud Rapillard of the unfortunately named Mountain Tschopp team hit a tortoise which resulted in race ending injuries. We passed them just after it happened and in all fairness, the tortoise was the size of a small ant hill – only in Africa!

For the last 2 stages around Oudtshoorn Alan and I stuck to our trusted smooth and steady approach avoiding any crashes or mechanical issues while going as fast as we could. This yielded a 7th place overall after 7 days of racing which is probably a fair reflection as we were just off the pace of the fastest teams every day with consistency being our secret weapon.

Final Results:

  1. NAD Pro MTB Team (Nico Bell & Gawie Combrinck)
  2. Team Stappenbelt Specialized (Jeroen Boelen & Erik Groen)
  3. Full Sus (Erik Kleinhans & Matt Beers)
  4. Team Spur (James Reid & Julian Jessop)
  5. KOMO/RMW (Peeter Pruus & Peeter Tarvis)
  6. CBC Elite Pro (Konny Looser & Daniel Gathof)
  7. Squirtlube/Navworld (Ben Melt Swanepoel & Alan Gordon)
  8. KMC Fruit to Go (Bram Rood & Gerben Mos)
  9. Craft Rocky Mountain Factory Team (Guido Thaler & Lukas Islitzer)
  10. Hardrocx ABAX Energima (Thomas Engelgjerd & Gregory Saw)

The Cape Pioneer Trek’s slogan is ‘a Race with Soul’ and they manage to live up to that moniker by providing an intimate yet professional experience of a stage race through stunning countryside. From the friendly and helpful staff to the hearty local cuisine, this event covers all the angles.

Coming at the end of a long season I am often tired by the time Cape Pioneer Trek rolls around, but I can’t imagine sitting at home while this event is in full flow.

Until next time, happy trails!

Melt | @benmelt