The Swartberg Mountains made a mammoth return for the fifth stage of the 2018 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek. In the ‘Queen Stage’, riders were elevated to close to 2,000m above sea level for what was supposed to be an epic mountaintop finish.
Extreme weather conditions changed things drastically, however. While a select group of competitors managed to get the full mountain experience, a large majority were forced to turn around as they attempted to forge through icy rain, heavy winds and subzero temperatures.
Some European cyclists described the conditions as the ‘most extreme they had ever encountered’. After eventually changing the finish line venue entirely to prevent riders from summiting the Swartberg at all, race director Henco Rademayer commented: ‘Usually it’s a tough call to make, but the extreme conditions made this decision easy. Rider safety always comes first.’
Before the conditions became too extreme, event leaders Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys (Team Pyga Euro Steel) managed to snatch yet another stage win.
They broke away with Team Spur Specialized and NAD MTB quite early into the 97km route, and without taking any passengers set off into the Swartberg Mountains for a showdown.
Low clouds ominously hid the landscape, but the riders were fully aware of the monster climb in store. Things got exciting when Beukes and Alan Hatherly (Spur Specialized) pulled ahead of the leading group.
A game of cat and mouse ensued, and Buys dropped Spur Specialized’s Simon Andreassen to cross over to the leading pair. Hatherly had to wait for his teammate, and Beukes and Buys reinforced their dominance as they blazed across the finish line first.
Once again, it will be the unstoppable pair who retain the yellow jersey and overall lead.
The ladies field saw an exciting showdown between leading riders Cemile Trommer and Karen Brouwer (Team KCM Focus), and Yolandi du Toit and Catherine Williamson (Team Garmin).
The lead changed hands a couple of times on the route, but KMC Focus braved the testing conditions to storm to the Swartberg summit first and retain the pink jersey with an impressive eight-minute lead.
Saturday marks the sixth and final stage of the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek presented by Biogen, where the 2018 ‘Race with Soul’ champions will be crowned.