Stage 3 of the Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, saw a puncture and perhaps a loss in form cause a swing in the race’s momentum; on Wednesday, 6 September. The Langkloof Liaison course, which featured a start and finish at Louvain, did not seem to lend itself to big time gaps, but Tristan Nortje and Gert Heyns made the racing tough from the off. This paid off as the Valley Electrical Toyota team won the stage. While in the UCI women’s race the Efficient Infiniti Insure combination claimed their fourth stage win of the event.
The route, which circled into the northern foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains and into the southern reaches of the Kammanassie, was 63 kilometres long with 1 400 metres of climbing. It began with an ascent of Duiwelskop, along a rocky 4×4 track, before dropping towards the Langkloof through muddy marshlands and old plantations. The middle phase of the day played out on singletracks through the fynbos on a series of sandstone hills before giving way to dual tracks and district roads into a headwind, through the lucerne fields. For the final 5 kilometres the route ducked into a singletrack, along the Kleinplaat River and out of the wind, before climbing up to the finish line at Louvain’s wedding venue.
On the opening climb Nortje pushed a ferocious tempo and enforced a whittling down of the UCI men’s group to the top three general classification teams. Imbuko Giant A and Insect Science followed the Valley Electrical Toyota man’s move, while Trek SA and Imbuko Giant B were best able to counter over the summit of Duiwelskop. Nortje and Heyns then took a small advantage onto the descent, which they held for 10 kilometres as Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning chased at 10 to 15 seconds back, with the yellow First Ascent leaders’ jersey wearers, Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha, dangling another 10 seconds back.
Climbing a muddy singletrack through marshlands the group came back together and the racing reset. “I could see on the first climb who was following wheels and who was leaving gaps, so I knew from early on that some guys were struggling,” Nortje noted, post-stage. “On the open roads, after the second group came back to us, I asked Gert [Heyns] if there was any climbing left. We came over a rise and dropped towards quite a steep and longish climb, and I knew that was our opportunity. Even with the headwind, or cross-headwind you still have to ride hard to stay in the wheels. And I don’t think I created much of a slip to sit in. We tried to put anyone trying to sit on in the gutter and force them to climb in the wind too, which broke it up.”
Joubert, who had been the weaker link in the Imbuko Giant A team, punctured as Valley Electrical Toyota accelerated. He had clipped a rock, flicked up by a wheel in the ten-rider strong group, and stopped at the foot of the pivotal climb to ensure it is sealed. This, coupled with the headwind, meant that there would be no getting back to parity in the 10 kilometres which remained.
“We all had a common cause, to make up time on Imbuko Giant, so the group worked really well together. Even the Trek SA guys, who aren’t really in the GC battle but who were hunting for a good stage result, did their turns on the front in the closing kilometres,” Heyns praised.
Justin Chesterton and Kai von During could however not hold the wheels of the more established stars in the final singletrack, leaving Valley Electrical Toyota and Insect Science to battle it out for stage honours once more. As on Stage 2, Nortje and Heyns outkicked Arno du Toit and Bontekoning on the rise to the line and were able to celebrate their victory without having to sprint it out. Chesterton and Von During were third on the day, while Joubert and Botha came home in fourth.
Imbuko Giant A conceded 1 minute and 20 seconds to the stage winners, Valley Electrical Toyota, which sees their general classification lead slashed to just 28 seconds, heading into the pivotal final three stages. Insect Science gained 2 seconds less than the day’s winners, reducing their deficit to 2 minutes and 2 seconds. Further down the overall standings, Trek SA move up to fourth, but are 12 minutes and 49 seconds off Joubert and Botha in first.
In the women’s race Kim le Court and Samantha Sanders continued their inexorable march to the overall victory with a fourth successive stage win. The pair rode at their own tempo again for much of the day, which is simply quicker than that of their rivals. “It was beautiful out there today,” Le Court smiled; having wrapped up her eighth career Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, stage win. “I’m a bit upset with Paul Valstar [the race’s master of ceremonies] though, he promised no wind for today! And it was quite windy, especially coming back to Louvain. But the scenery was beautiful, especially when we were racing down out of the fynbos towards the orchards and dams.”
Behind the Efficient Infiniti Insure team the Vivovita-Bell combination, of Sarah Hill and Hayley Smith, rode to their fourth second place of the week. Like Le Court and Sanders they have spent the majority of the race thus far in a team time trial, unable to draft the men’s or mixed team around them but too fast to receive assistance from any of the other UCI women’s teams. To avoid this lonely riding, the Biogen Team have been content to race in a group with the lower placed teams for the early part of the day.
“We have quite a buffer to fourth, on the general classification, so there’s no need for us to attack them,” Kelsey van Schoor explained. “But we have been upping the speed towards the end of the last two stages to keep building on that advantage. Today we had a bit of a scary moment just after we rode away from the group.”
“I clipped Kelsey [van Schoor’s] wheel as we started descending a fast section of gravel road,” Karla Stumpf elaborated. “I went down pretty hard, but it’s just grazing. I got up, Kelsey suggested we wait for the group to catch us again, and then we rode with them to the last singletrack. Coming out of that we pushed it up the last little climb and were able to take third again.”
The day’s results mean that Efficient Infinity Insure’s Le Court and Sanders leads Hill and Smith, of Vivovita-Bell, by 39 minutes and 10 seconds. Team Biogen’s Stumpf Van Schoor are an hour and 15 minutes back. The UCI women’s standings look unlikely to change, barring dramatic circumstances over the final three days of the race.
The UCI men’s race however is almost certainly in for an exciting conclusion. Stage 4 is a transition stage once again. It takes the teams from Louvain, in the Langkloof, to Oudtshoorn in the heart of the Klein Karoo. Measuring 90 kilometres in length, it includes 1 650 metres of climbing and flirts with the infamous Kammanassie mountain range. The day begins with a rocky climb out of Louvain, followed by a tricky descent to the Kammanassie River. Thereafter it undulates through the hills and valleys of the Klein Karoo, heading north west before turning south near the Landrani Lodge towards Surval and then Oudtshoorn, for the finish at Langenhoven Gymnasium.
To follow the racing action, on Stage 4, watch the Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen or @capepioneer Facebook or Instagram stories. Additional updates can also be found at @CapePioneerTrek on Twitter. For more information visit www.capepioneer.co.za.
Results: Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen
Stage 3 | Men’s Results:
- Valley Electrical Toyota: Gert Heyns & Tristan Nortje (2:28:22)
- Insect Science 1: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (2:28:25 | +0:02)
- Trek SA: Justin Chesterton & Kai Von During (2:29:20 | + 0:57)
Stage 3 | Women’s Results:
- Efficient Infinity Insure: Kim le Court & Samantha Sanders (3:07:03)
- Vivovita-Bell: Sarah Hill & Hayley Smith (3:20:00 | +12:57)
- Biogen: Karla Stumpf & Kelsey van Schoor (3:29:20 | +22:17)
Men’s GC 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 GC 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)
To view the full results from the 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, click here.