Zoon Cronje, pic
The DCM Cape Pioneer trek, presented by KHS, took place over the last 6 days, and what a unique event it was. Riding wise, the race took us through the best and most beautiful parts of the Garden Route, Klein and Groot Karoo. We traversed over the Attakwas mountains, the Outeniqua mountains, the Kamannasie mountains, the Swartberg mountains (twice) and the Rooiberg mountains. 13500meters of vertical climbing over nearly 700km in 6 days, with a winning time of just over 28hrs, it is definitely not a race for the faint hearted, and ensures only the toughest men and women would complete it. If you are one of those who became a Pioneer like myself, you have my utmost respect!
The unique part of the event to me was the social side of the race. Everyone is at the end of a very long season and although the racing was fierce in the front at times, off the bike the vibe between riders was unmatched compared to any other event. With world class riders and previous world champions like Christoph Sauser, every professional rider was approachable at any time and the camaraderie amongst the top teams and amateurs alike was what sets this event apart. What a great race to end off a long season. However, like I mentioned, no easy feat to just finish this race, as Katot, the route designer had made sure you didn’t earn your “stripes” for nothing!
It would be difficult, and long, for me to recap the whole race, stage for stage, but I can just give you a short recap of what transpired at the head of the race over the six days.
Max Knox and Thomas Zanhd (DCM) took control of the race from start to finish. The first day through the Attakwas trail, being such an unforgiving stage, took care of a lot of the competition due to bad luck. Many top teams suffered multiple punctures, crashes and mechanical breakdowns, which essentially shaped the rest of the race to come.
It was basically down to three teams after day 1, DCM1 winning the first stage, Adrien Niyonshuti and myself (MTN/Energade) losing 3minutes to finish 2nd, and DCM2, Brandon Stewart and Jacques Janse van Rensburg losing a further minute to come in 3rd.
Max and Thomas proved strongest again when they beat Adrien and myself again on the second stage by 2minutes, DCM2 unfortunately losing a bit more time after getting lost in the final 5km with Sauser and Bundi.
There was some action again on day3, when after a long stage, it was going to come down to a sprint finish amongst DCM1, Sauser and Bundi, and ourselves. Adrien was looking for his first big stage win, Bundi was on his retirement race and so wanted to win a stage before ending his career. On an uphill finish, Adrien proved the fastest crossing the line first, however I was unable to come around Bundi to try take the stage. Lots of mixed emotions for all of us after a grueling stage. But nothing a cold beer wouldn’t fix between all of us!
Day 4 was essentially the day that ended our hopes of going for the overall win, when Adrien broke his chain 50km into the 110km stage. We lost about 3minutes repairing the chain, but unfortunately the bulk of the time we lost was due to a hot relentless headwind. I had to pace most of the remaining 60km alone, whilst DCM1 and Sauser/Bundi took turns to make up a big time difference. DCM2 had some mechanicals again that day so Adrien and I still managed 3rd, but our stage win hunt was starting to look ominous.
Day 5 took us over the Swartberg Pass, and with a thousand meter climb, the race was split up immediately. Adrien and I won the second of three king of the mountain competitions that day, and after the top of the climb, it was DCM1 and 2, and ourselves (MTN/Energade). Again it was coming down to a sprint finish, this time Brandon being the fastest, Adrien crossing in second, and the Jaqcues just beating me by half a wheel to give DCM2 their first stage win of the tour. Disappointment for Adrien and myself again!
The final stage, 114km, the Rooiberg Pass, and Sauser and Bundi with slightly fresher legs, wanting to end Bundi’s career with a win. On our side, Adrien the talented young rider from Rwanda wanting to win his first big stage race, and myself, with completely smashed legs, owing him that victory! Again it was DCM1, Sauser/Bundi and us. With 15km remaining, I had to resort to “road” tactics, and Adrien and I took a sneaky flier down the right hand side of the road to try ride away. However Bundi and Sauser were quick to shut us down, whilst DCM1 were just enjoying a front row seat to the action.
Bundi then countered and I had to chase. Group together again. The final 5km I attacked, Bundi chased, I attacked again, Bundi again chased me. Sauser then countered and Adrien followed him. Immediately I sat up and watched them get a gap. I knew now it would be sprint between just Bundi and myself. Not knowing the finish, I made sure to stay on the front, and got into the final corner first, winning our first and the final stage. Payback for Adrien at last, who was over the moon with winning a stage.
It was a privilege and pleasure to ride with him, and the whole tour was the most amazing vibe at a race I’ve experienced.
Thanks to Dryland, Carel, Henco and DCM for sponsoring the event. Thanks to our team for our support and anyone else I may have left out, I apologize, I still have too much Karoo dust and rocks stuck in my head.
Next race will be the Addo Mondi, but I might need to travel back to the Karoo to find my legs, and motivation. Till then, cheers.
1st Max Knox/ Thomas Zanhd (DCM1) 28hrs08min
2nd Kevin Evans/ Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN/Energade)
3rd Sauser/ Bundi (Specialized/Songo.info)