What an amazing day it was! I felt great, my legs were back to normal and consolidated my 3rd position in GC with the fourth girl being now over 1 hour behind me.
We started the day with a little spin up the Swartberg Pass this time from Prince Albert side. It felt much easier than the previous day’s grind up from De Rust. I was relieved when my legs came on board this morning, more or less from the start. Nonetheless I struggled to keep pace with Lara-Ann and Carmen up the Swartberg Pass. I had to let them go and start my own mission up the 15 km climb to the summit. I must have lost 20 minutes at least. I just blame it on my heavy alu bike. 😜 I tested my new brake pads on the long winding Pass descent, jumped quickly into the bush to release some pressure and then continued the tar road grind for the next 10 km or so. Nicely sitting in a bunch and flying along the road we turned into cross country terrain at about 40km. That is when the fun began. I felt instantly like a fish in the water and started passing one rider after the other asking on each descent if I may pass. It is so much more beautiful and rewarding to ride inside nature reserves away from the public life and passing cars. The challenge of riding up seemingly unridable climbs, going down technical descents, the constant change of terrain and vegetation and the immersion into the nature away from cars and the public is the reason we mountain bike, right? I would have liked to see much much more of that in each stage. The last 20 km was a fast sprint out of the mountain valley into Calitzdorp. I made up a lot of time in the second half and finished a couple minutes off the girls securing my 3rd position in GC.
The last day of ridding is now lying ahead. It is a relatively short stage with 68 km and less than 1000 m of climbing. We are promised lots of single track on our way from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn. Wohoo! Another chance to go fullgas and maybe take away a stage win. I am a bit sad that the Pioneer is soon over. But W2W and Origin of Trails are just around the corner offering new opportunities to challenge body and mind.
By the way, the Pioneer is a training ride and logistics check for Tour d’Afrique which I will be tackling early next year. It’s a four months race/ride from Cairo to Cape Town and although it is supported by a small crew, each rider is allowed only 2 tog bags to fit everything in needed from spare parts to clothes for 4 months. Pioneer has definitely taught me that less is more when it comes to packing. If you interested keep an eye out for my blog updates on Tour d’Afrique.