The 99 kilometre long stage, from Mossel Bay to George, took in 2 000 metres of climbing, but the largely smooth road surfaces made for an easier day than on the preceding, rocky, stage. Once again the wind played its part, but unlike during stage two the South Westerly wind blew the riders towards their destination rather than impeding their progress towards it.
In the elite men’s race the tailwind kept the leading group of riders together until the final water point at the 75 kilometre mark of the stage. By then the NAD Pro team, of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrink, and the Spur/Red-E combination had whittled the initial group of eight teams down to the four main contenders. Joining the general classification leaders and their nearest rivals at the front of the race were the Dutch KMC Fruit to Go team, of Bram Rood and Gerben Mos, and the Czech Kellys Bikeranch team, of Jiri Krivanek and Marek Rauchfuss.
Krivanek and Rauchfuss were the first to falter in the stage’s first singletrack after the final water point. Then an acceleration from Hatherly reduced the group to just NAD and Spur/Red-E. “They are just stronger than us, so we are focusing on third” Rood confessed post stage.
“We tried to race smart today and conserve energy for the final hour” Hatherly said. “We attacked on a sharp singletrack climb and got a little gap on NAD, but then I slipped and moved over on the next little climb – because it is the sporting thing to do – which allowed Nico [Bell] and Gawie [Combrink] past” Beers elaborated. “Then we had to work hard to catch back up to them, and when we did we knew it would come down to a sprint” the Red-E rider concluded.
“I’m not known for my sprint so I knew we would have to go early and make it around the corner onto the sport fields first to take the stage win. I went with about 300 meters to go, but we could not hold them off” Combrink reflected on the decisive moment of the stage. Hatherly powered passed the NAD Pro pairing and Beers hung on as best he could to secure their third successive stage victory by a single second.
The women’s race was also a war of attrition, with the last two days taking their toll on Amy-Beth McDougall in particular. “Yesterday was really hard and I struggled a lot, so I think it’s accumulative. I’ve been having a little bit of a chest problems too, so from 85 kilometres onwards I was suffering” McDougall elaborated. “Robyn [de Groot] and Sabine [Spitz] were leading through the singletrack and after a slippery section, which we had to walk up, I lost concentration and fell. It was not a bad crash but they got a gap and we could not close it” she concluded.
De Groot and Spitz raced to victory and in so doing clawed back 1 minute and 22 seconds to Team Spur/Valencia in the general classification standings. “Today went smoothly” De Groot said, after completing her first stage win of the race. “There was a lot of wind at the start and a few obstacles which kept the bunches together. We were fortunate to have a tailwind which blew us along the contours and towards George. It was pretty muddy and chilly. But I’m happy with how it went” she summarised.
Stage four marks the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen’s first ever mid-race time trial. After a hint of the singletrack conditions in the forests above George, in the final ten kilometres of stage three, the riders by-in-large know what to expect from Wednesday’s 31 kilometre long stage. “It is going to be muddy and slippery, especially on the new trails” Bell predicted. “The downhill sections are fine because you can ride off the track on the grass, but the climbs are going to be tricky.” The leading men will probably take just over an hour to complete the route and while it is unlikely to provide a race winning time gain; it could cost a team the race, should they suffer a serious crash or mechanical. On the muddy trails, with the added pressure of the time trial, emerging unscathed could well prove more important than gaining a few seconds. To see how the action unfolds, during stage four, mountain biking fans can follow the event’s Twitter handle, @CapePioneerTrek, for live updates.
The highlights from every stage of the race of the Cape Pioneer Trek can be viewed on the event Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, daily. For more information on the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, please visit www.capepioneer.co.za.
UCI Men | Stage 3
1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (3:58:17)
2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (3:58:18 | +00:01)
3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (3:59:44| +01:27)
4. Kelly’s Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (4:03:40 | +05:23)
5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (4:04:57| +06:40)
UCI Women | Stage 3
1. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz ( 4:22:33)
2. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (4:23:54 | +01:21)
3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (5:02:54| +40:21)
4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (5:21:40| +59:06)
5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (5:31:31 | +1:08:58)
UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 3
1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (10:36:07)
2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (10:37:10 | +01:03)
3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (10:42:35 | +06:28)
4. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (10:53:09 | +17:01)
5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (10:53:52 | +17:44)
UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 2
1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (11:45:48)
2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (11:51:35 | +05:47)
3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (13:24:49 | +1:39:01)
4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (14:15:02| +2:29:13)
5. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (15:12:09 | +4:36:02)
For all the results from the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen please click here.