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Shorter. Tougher. And More Exhilarating. Pioneering MTB Stage Race Rebirth

The Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, celebrated its fifteenth anniversary in 2023. Over the decade and a half, the seven-day stage race took riders through the Klein Karoo and across the Garden Route. It traversed high mountains and fertile plains, challenging and rewarding by turns. It grew with the sport of mountain biking, maturing with 29ers into a mainstay of the South African cycling calendar.

Yet one of the only constants in life is change. And 2024 is the year for change. For rebirth and reimagination. For regrowth and renewal. As such the race will become the Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen. A five-day, UCI S1, stage race; complete with longer and more challenging stages, but maintaining the same “race with soul” ethos which made the original Pioneer famous.

Wessel Botha and Marco Joubert, of Imbuko Giant A, lead up the first climb of the day, leaving Louvain and the Langkloof for the Klein Karoo. Photo by

“It was always our intention to pay homage to the pioneers of old, who trekked the ancient game paths along the coastal plains and through the mountains into the Klein Karoo,” Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management explained. “They were not only the founders of our home town of Oudtshoorn, but also the spiritual guides of the pioneering spirit upon which the race was founded. Our desire was to share the landscapes with as many people as possible, to immerse them deeply in nature, so that they too can share in this unique countryside and develop a love for it.”

“We initially envisioned a race from Heidelberg, in the west, to Louvain, in the east, following the historic pioneer wagon trails. The dual desire to include geological and man-made features, like the Swartberg and Kammanassie Mountains as well as the Montagu Pass meant we soon diverted from a pure point-to-point layout,” Rademeyer continued. “We thus added an exploration element, as the pioneers would have done themselves, to allow for the taking in of specific sights and challenges.”

“After fifteen years of developing the race’s route, we felt it was time for a change. An evolution and a refresh,” Rademeyer noted. “The 2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen, will be a five-day event. It will maintain its UCI S1 grading, which means that elite riders will earn UCI marathon and stage race points by taking part, and it will continue to be built around the Race with Soul ethos which made the first Pioneer famous.”

Kim le Court (leading) and Samantha Sanders continued their inexorable match to overall victory with their fourth stage win of the race on Stage 3. Photo by

The race will be more than a celebration of the best mountain biking in the region. It will showcase the Klein Karoo hospitality, share the love of the landscape which the founders hold dear, and treat every participant like the VIP they are. Each individual is sure to emerge emotionally revitalised from the experience, even if they are physically tired after the challenging riding the punchier route serves up.

The 2024 event will take in 380 kilometres of racing with 8 950 metres of climbing. “Starting in George, from Glenwood House School, on the 1st of October the race will begin with a forest and fynbos packed singletrack day in the Jonkersberg Reserve within the greater Outeniqua Mountain Range. It is a tough introduction to the race, with a route that seems easier on paper than it is in reality,” Rademeyer warned. “Stage 2 will take riders over the Outeniqua, via a new and thrilling route which approaches Louvain from the south rather than the west. Stage 3 traverses the foothills of the Kammanassie to Oudtshoorn, through a beautifully wide series of farms and private nature reserves. The Queen Stage then boasts the signature mountain-top finish, with Swartberg Pass providing the decisive test of the day. The grand finale races through the rocky but magnificent Chandelier Game Reserve, where wildlife close encounters are virtually guaranteed, before finishing in luxury at the Queens Hotel in the heart of Oudtshoorn.”

Wessel Botha (foreground) and Marco Joubert, of Imbuko Giant A, won the Queen Stage of the 2023 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, in emphatic fashion atop the Swartberg Pass on Friday. Photo by

The Race with Soul ethos will further be amplified by a finishers’ celebration with a gala dinner on Saturday evening, after the final stage. Prize giving and a final taste of the warm Klein Karoo hospitality as well as the hearty regional cuisine will kick off an evening of revelry. Riders can expect to dance nearly as hard as they rode as the night hots up for an afterparty like the Cape Pioneer used to throw in 2009…

Entries to the 2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen, opened on 4 December 2023 with a special offer on a limited amount of entries for the month of December, commemorating the rediscovery of the #RaceWithSoul.

Sarah Hill (leading) and Hayley Smith matched each other well throughout the race, especially across the most technical terrain. Photo by

Dryland have expanded their entry package offerings, with solo riders and two person teams being able to choose between ride only, standard tented accommodation, and luxury tented accommodation, as well as formal accommodation packages in two tiers, namely gold and platinum.

To find out more and to secure your spot in 2024 visit

Gert Heyns (left) and Tristan Nortje (second from left) edged out Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha to win the final stage, while Arno du Toit (right) crossed the line well ahead of his teammate Keagan Bontekoning. Photo by

2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen, Route:

Stage 1: #OuteniquaOdyssey
1 October 2024
START: Glenwood House School, George
FINISH: Glenwood House School, George
Distance: 55km
Vertical ascent: 1 750m

Stage 1 is not to be underestimated, despite its short distance. It features a sapping 1 750 meters of climbing in just 55 kilometres and is packed with singletracks. Taking in the trails and jeep tacks which criss-cross the Jonkersberg Nature Reserve as well as the greater George Trails network of mountain bike routes. The ascents of Tierkop and the Horse Shoe Bend will stretch and strain the field, while the plethora of singletracks will reward those with the fitness and skill to exploit them. On the homebound leg of the stage the rooty forest trails are shunned for flowing tracks to speed up the race to the stage finish.

Stage 2: #DuiwelskopDash
2 October 2024
START: Glenwood House School, George
FINISH: Louvain Guest Farm, Herold.
Distance: 77km
Vertical ascent: 2 300m

Departing the coast for the interior, the route takes riders in a north easterly direction towards Louvain. This stage is brand new and boasts a challenge of note. Packed with Saasveld singletracks in the opening kilometres, the course joins the iconic Seven Passes Road before traversing the Outeniqua Mountains in a northerly direction. Wild and rugged dual tracks cut deep into a wilderness area of remote and breathtaking beauty. Steep climbs and unforgiving descents ensure the accumulated elevation gain exceeds the 2 000 metre mark, despite the highest point of the stage, Duiwelskop only standing 1 000 metres above sea level. From that summit the views into the Langkloof and back to the Indian Ocean are among the highlights of the entire race, as is the descent to Louvain. Stage 2 may prove to be the hardest of the race, though the fickle weather atop the Swartberg Pass could change that.

Stage 3: #KharismaticKaroo
3 October 2024
START: Louvain Guest Farm, Herold
FINISH: Langenhoven Gymnasium, Oudtshoorn
Distance: 102km
Vertical ascent: 1 950m

Stage 3 is the second transition stage of the race, taking riders from the Langkloof into the heart of the Klein Karoo. Revisiting tracks pioneered for mountain biking by the race’s infamous first route director, Katot Meyer. The day is action-packed from the off and offers spectacular views for those with the skills to raise their eyes from the rutted surfaces ahead of them. As the stage progresses the vegetation changes, leaving the fertile fields of the Langkloof behind and entering the Klein Karoo proper, via the imposing Kammanassie. Despite flirting at times with civilisation, in the form of scattered homesteads and isolated farming communities, the majority of the route is hosted by game reserves, including Madi Madi, Landrani and Buffelsdrift. After 102 tough kilometres of racing the finish line at Langenhoven Gymnasium, and the final race village of the event, will be a very welcome sight.

Stage 4: #SwartbergShowdown
4 October 2024
START: Langenhoven Gymnasium, Oudtshoorn
FINISH: Swartberg Mountain, Oudtshoorn
Distance: 83km
Vertical ascent: 1 750m

The Queen Stage of the 2024 Race with Soul features the only mountain top finish in South African mountain biking. With 1 750 meters of climbing in 83 kilometres, the stage is slightly easier on paper than it will be in reality. Especially if the weather gods choose to deliver cold, wind, or rain atop the Swartberg Pass. Wildehondekloof Game Reserve provides more wildlife close encounters before the ascent into the clouds begins. Upon reaching Kobus se Gat the riders will be able to see exactly what lies ahead; an 8.5-kilometre climb, rising 655 meters at an average gradient of 7.6%. In previous years the showdown on the Swartberg Pass often determined the Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen, winners. This time out a tricky final stage offers the opportunity for redemption.

Stage 5: #KingofQueens
5 October 2024
START: Langenhoven Gymnasium, Oudtshoorn
FINISH: Queens Hotel, Oudtshoorn
Distance: 64km
Vertical ascent: 1 200m

The final stage of the race takes riders into the famous Chandelier Game Reserve. It presents one last chance to make up or lose time, to change the general classification standings. More steep climbs lead into the reserve where the terrain becomes truly rocky. Punctures as well as fatigue could play a role in determining who pulls the final First Ascent leaders’ jerseys on, in front of the Queens Hotel. Especially given the new run into Oudtshoorn, will follow the Grobbelaars River rather than the road to the final finish line on Baron van Reede Street.

2024 Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen
Dates: Race: 1-5 October 2024
Entries Open: 4 December 2023
Early Bird Special: Team of two: R39 900.00 | Solo: R19 900.00 (Until 31 December 2023)
Facebook: Momentum Medical Scheme Cape Pioneer, presented by Biogen
Instagram: @capepioneer
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