Jennie Stenerhag

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Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek - 7 day MTB stage race


This was the first race Craig and I did as a team, we had lots of fun and learnt a lot about how to race together and we are happy with our result as well. The Cape Pioneer is one of the 3 big stage races in SA and it is known to be one of the hardest, this year they had made it a bit easier, but there was nothing easy about it!


This year saw only 260 riders so it is a small race where everyone gets to know each other and it’s special atmosphere. In the evenings  riders were exchanging their experiences from the days race. Everyone has gone through the same extreme, the weather, the terrain or even the world famous bee-attack! These stories are told after one has done the daily routines of handing the bike in for a bike wash, finding the bag on the truck, finding a tent, shower, washing clothes, rest, check the bike and it is time for dinner, prize giving, race briefing and the popular show with photos and video from the day!


If it is not raining and no one is snoring you usually sleep well in the tents, at 5am it is time to get up to have breakfast and get ready for the start at 7.30am.


This race demands more from the rider and bike than just the actual cycling, you must stay healthy, avoid injuries and checking your equipment thoroughly, it is all part of the game!


We had very tough competition in the mixed category from Germany and Switzerland, none of the other categories had international pro teams at the top. The German team Ergon 24H was Nadine Reider and Max Freiderich. Nadine has been mountainbiking since the age of 9, she was 2nd at the u23 World Marathon Champs, she has been on the podium in XC world cups, and they were both part of the team who won the 24 hour world championship. Max has been the German Marathon Champ 6 times! The Swiss team, Haibike, was Kathrin Steinerman and her boyfriend Sondro, they were 2nd at the Cape Pioneer last year, Kathrin won the junior European champs in 2007, is ranked 28th in the world in XC and has been on the podium in world cups this year. Sondro has also done the Cape Epic before.


So compared to them Craig is quite new to this with his 5 mountainbike starts and I have only been mountainbiking for 6 months :-) So we did not expect much from ourselves, but we still wanted to be up on that podium. We of course had some good SA mixed teams to race with as well.


Sunday 14th of October. Prologue 15 km 310 meters of climbing

We test rode the course the day before, it was technical and basically a 12 km single track up and down and then finally a gravel road the last kilometres to the finish. It was very hot when we started just after 2pm and I saw my  highest heart rate I have ever seen in a mountainbike race!! We went out hard and did well, when we finally got to the gravel road where we thought we could push I was finished:-). We got a 3rd, a minute behind Haibike and 2 minutes behind Ergon. We were happy to make it up on the podium!

Podium after the prologue

Stage 1 Oudtshoorn – Calitzdorp, 104 km1451 metres of climbing

It was a fast and a nervous start to the first long stage of the race. We left Buffelsdrift outside of Oudtshoorn on the way to Calitzdorp. We had a good start and after about 10 km we were second and could see Ergon in front. On the technical sections they rode away from us and Haibike caught us, we were yo yoing with them for a bit until we left them at a water point. On another technical section they caught us and eventually rode away from us. It was a long and tough day out there and we were happy to have given a run for their money.  We finished 3rd, 10 min behind Ergon and 4,5 min behind Haibike. We were 15th team overall.


During the day about 15 riders were stung by bees and it was absolute chaos, people who witnessed the bee attack  said it looked like a war zone,  people and bikes lying everywhere. 3 riders were airlifted to the hospital by helicopters and 14 riders had to go to hospital. 1 rider got stung more then 200 times! Luckily everyone was fine.


At the tent village

Team Newline waiting for prize giving after stage 1.


Stage 2 Calitzdorp – Swartberg pass, 86,4km 2597 metres of climbing

This stage started with a technical uphill followed by a technical descend, this automatically spread the field out. We came out on a gravel road and we hammered it to catch Haibike and soon also Ergon, at the first water point we were all together. Unfortunately the most technical section of the day was just upon us and both teams got away from us. It was lots of climbing today and I did not have a good day, I was already tired when we started the 12 km climb with 1200 meters ascent up Swartberg pass, all I could do was to trust that Craig was strong enough to help me up!:-) The last 3 km of the pass was among the toughest I have done, it was very steep and never ending!


It was rewarding though, we had a fantastic view at the finish, 2100 meters above sea level! And then a 20 km descent to the tent area in Prins Albert was out of this world. At mountainbike races you get to see places you hardly ever see!!


We finished 3rd again, 14 min behind Ergon, 6 min beind Haibike and as 14th team over the line.


Down Swartberg pass after the finish of stage 2


Stage 3 Prins Albert – De Rust, 106 km 1162 meters of climbing

We started the day with a 22 km long flat gravel road. I was greatful for the bunch riding!! After that the speed picked up on the open Karoo terrain, it was rocky and sandy and I just could not keep up with the others, my legs were still stuffed from yesterday. We slowed down and rode our own pace and actually caught up with both Haibike and Ergon and passed the first water point all together. Once again they got away on the rocky uphill where even the pros had to push their bikes at places. The view from the top was amazing! After the long rocky descend we caught up with Ergon, they had had punctures. We rode together for a bit until they had to stop again.


We were now in 2nd and tried to go as hard as we could. Now was when the extreme weather of the week started. We got to the top of a hill and it started to pour down with rain, we soon saw, and felt, that it was hail! The road was flooded on the way down and at places it was a bit scary since you never knew what was under the water when descending.


The stage had a lovely 8km piece of single track, which would have been lots of fun in dry weather…. We ended off with an 18 km stretch on tar and Craig was like a locomotive at the front pulling the bunch, the rest of us were hanging on for dear life! I was as cold as an ice cube when we finished and it had never been nicer to have a warm shower.


So today was our first 2nd place, we were 11 min behind Haibike and 3,5 min ahead of Ergon. 16th team overall.



Craig is preparing to fill my bottle at the water point

Podium after stage 3


Stage 4 De Rust –Louvain, 63,2 km 1738 metres of climbing

I had a mentally tough day today, thoughts and motivation can easily go up and down at such a long event! We were too far back in the start chute and had to work hard to get to the front. My legs felt good and we passed Haibike in to second position. But the air went out of me when they passed us on an uphill on the way to the first water point. We then also entered the Kammanassie mountains, which were rocky and steep, I think we must have walked for about 40min in total this day. The race mode disappeared and became more of a bike ride to the finish. This area is also amazingly beautiful and it is only during the Cape Pioneer one is allowed to cycle there.


We crossed the line 20 min after Haibike and 10 min after Ergon, 3rd mixed and 20th team overall.


The bad weather came in during the afternoon and it poured down the whole evening and night and made it cold and muddy….


Stage 5 Louvain– George, 55 km 1192 metres of climbing

It was only 7 degrees when we woke up in the morning and I think I had more clothes on then I have ever had in a bike race, I still did not feel as if I could ever get warm again. 10 minutes before the start they announced that the first 15km single track were to be taken out of the race. It was of safety reasons, it was too dangerous and would take too long in the cold and the mud. So we had to wait for an hour to start, otherwise we would have been too early at water points etc. So now we started the day with a 3km climb, the route profile showed straight up!!


Right after the start we had our first bad luck of the week! My chain got stuck between the small chain ring and the frame and I could not get it loose, I thought the race was over! When we (Craig) finally got it loose we were basically last! People had gotten off the bikes even before the hill started because of the mud, so all we could do was to run pass people and then try our best to get passed on the climb, it was tricky! We raced hard and after 23 km we were in 3rd position in the mixed again. My legs felt good on the day and it would have been interesting to see what we could have done without that incident. Craig was strong as usual:-)


We finished 3rd only 5 minutes behind Ergon and 8 minutes behind Haibike and 19th overall.


Due to the warnings for heavy rain and storms, they let us sleep inside a hostel tonight, that was like heaven!!! Almost a week since we had been inside a house!



Stage 6 George – Oudtshoorn 82 km 979 meters of climbing

This was to be the muddiest day I have had on a bike!! After the neutral zone through George we went on to the first single track and that was a mud bath. Once again we started as the 3rd mixed team but could see Ergon on every little up hill, we finally passed them and they came with us on the down hill. Nadine took Craig out at the start of a single track, a bit unnecessary! We started Montague pass soon after that and that was were we left them behind. The climb felt good and I started to feel that I had the best day of the week (was about time for the legs to get right on the last day…), the down hill was worse in the cold and the wet. After a while we caught up with a couple, difficult to see who since everyone was covered in mud, after asking for track and passing on a single track and we got on to a gravel road I saw that it was Haibike! We rode together for almost the rest of the race and on the short hills I could hear and feel how tired Kathrin was and I felt strong, it was still difficult to get away since we were in a bunch with some other teams.


Eventually when we reached the tar only a few kilometres from the finish in Oudtshoorn could we get away from the bunch and ride on our own to our first stage win!!! It was an amazing feeling to win that last day in such harsh conditions! And even better that none of the other teams had any mechanicals, we were stronger then them on the day.


We finished 1,5 min ahead of Haibike and 14 min ahead of Ergon and 11th team overall on the day!


It was just a bit muddy....:-) 

A "well done" hug from Craig 

Podium after the last stage!


It has been an incredible week with lots of fun and hard work. I would really recommend anyone to come and do this race!! We finished 3rd  in the mixed, 52 min behind Haibike and 26 min behind Ergon and we were the 13th team overall and we are very happy with our result. We are now looking forward to the Epic in March! We only need to find a co-sponsor first:-) Anyone??


A big thank you to Dryland for organising such a great event!! And a big big thank you to Magdalena and Charl Du Plessis for letting us stay with you and taking such good care of us before and after the race!!! Nice to speak some Swedish for a change;)

Antal kommentarer: 1

2012-11-02 00:32:41 - Stephen gerber,

Hello Jennie, I've been following you and Craig on your blog. I'm so impressed by the two of you! I had to brag to friends over here what you both do and your many accomplishments. You two are rock stars!! Giselle and I like the pic of you and Craig hugging after the muddy race!! We need a copy, :)

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