At 63km, Stage 4 was short on distance, but high on difficulty, taking the riders up and down very steep, rocky terrain through the Kamanassie Mountains between the Karoo towns of De Rust and Herold, with a total of 1894 metres of vertical ascent.

The battle for the women’s title intensified as Yolande Speedy and Yolande de Villiers (Klein Karoo Chicks) claimed their second successive stage victory and narrowed the lead held by Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson (Bridge bizhub Ladies) from 12 minutes to just over five minutes with two stages remaining.

“Nico and I have wanted to win a stage in a major race for a while now. It’s a good feeling to finally get it,” grinned Combrinck. “We had some mechanical issues earlier in the tour and yesterday we had more hassles and really spent a lot of pennies to reduce the time gap from around four minutes to 30 seconds by the finish line.”

Stage 3 winners; Melt Swanepoel and Matthys Beukes finished third on Thursday, losing time and almost second place overall to Bell and Combrinck, who are now just 29 seconds back. Evans and George still hold a solid 13-minute lead.

“It was a beautiful, but very tough route today. We were spinning out on many of the steep climbs and had to get off and walk. And the downhills were damn steep and scary in places! We came into this tour aiming for at least second place overall and now that’s looking possible,” added Combrinck.

Swiss pair Kathrin Stirnemann and Sandro Soncin (BH – Halbike – Tigers) won the stage and extended their lead in the Mixed category over early leaders Max Fridrich and Nadine Rieder (Ergon 24H Racing Team) from Germany, while Barti Bucher and Ernst Engeli (Bix-Sherpa Tensing Pedalerie) secured a fifth consecutive stage win to increase their grip on the Master’s division lead.

The Veteran’s category saw Germany’s Nico Pfitzenmaier and his South African teammate, Robert Sim (Robert Daniel Momsen) capture stage honours and open up their lead from less than a minute to a slightly more comfortable 19 minutes over the Dutch pair of Micha de Vries and Willem van Heerdt (Cube Nutswerk 1).

Pfitzenmaier and Sim have had to deal with mechanical challenges almost daily, but on Thursday were unhindered and secured an impressive third overall on the stage and moved into fifth in the overall rankings.

In the Solo men’s race, Austrian Heinz Zoerweb had a storming stage to claim the victory well ahead of category leader, Timo Cooper, who still holds a substantial overall lead, while Diana Carolin captured another stage win and closed the gap to Solo women’s category leader Desiree Loubser to just over three minutes.

Friday’s Stage 5 is the penultimate leg of the race and takes the riders from Herold to George over a distance of 75km over the Outeniqua Mountains with a total of 1693 metres of ascent.

Follow @BridgeCPT on twitter for regular updates. On Facebook, visit Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek 2012. See a full gallery of event images and more insight here: http://blog.capepioneer.co.za/ For additional event information, visit www.capepioneer.co.za

Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek 2012

Stage 4 – De Rust to Herold

63km; 1 894 metres ascent

Leading results

Open Men:

1 Nico Bell – RSA / Gawie Combrinck – RSA (Westvaal Columbia) 03:07:07

2 Kevin Evans – RSA / David George – RSA (Nedbank 360Life) 03:07:21

3 Matthys Beukes – RSA / Melt Swanepoel – RSA (Cango MTB.com) 03:19:01

4 Mattijs Eversdijk – NED / Liwald Doornbos – NED (Cube Nutswerk 2) 03:31:43

5 Chris Wolhuter – RSA / Oliver Munnik – RSA (Asrin Cycling) 03:33:04

Women:

1 Yolande de Villiers – RSA / Yolande Speedy – RSA (Klein Karoo Chicks) 03:56:37

2 Ischen Stopforth – RSA / Catherine Williamson – GBR (Bridge bizhub Ladies) 04:03:59

3 Sarah van Heerden – RSA / Jackie Church – RSA (Wilde 2) 04:21:12

Mixed:

1 Kathrin Stirnemann – SUI / Sandro Soncin – SUI (BH – Halbike – Tigers) 03:42:09

2 Max Fridrich – GER / Nadine Rieder – GER (Ergon 24H Racing Team) 03:51:45

3 Craig Gerber – RSA / Jennie Stenerhag – SWE (Newlinesport) 04:02:13

Veteran:

1 Robert Sim – RSA / Nico Pfitzenmaier – GER (Robert Daniel Momsen) 03:17:54

2 Micha de Vries – NED /Willem van Heerdt – NED (Cube Nutswerk 1) 03:36:26

3 Stephan Kuhnel - SUI / Marcel Frel – SUI (Fahrrad–Schmidt Bike-Tigers) 04:03:02

Masters:

1 Barti Bucher – SUI / Ernst Engeli – SUI (Bix-Sherpa Tensing Pedalerie) 03:51:01

2 Neville Ackermann – RSA / Charles Nienaber – RSA (Bridge Masters) 03:56:20

3 Tony Conlon – RSA / Peter Stopforth – RSA (Marsilio Projects Masters) 04:14:38

Solo Men:

1 Heinz Zoerweb – AUT 03:17:54

2 Timo Cooper – RSA 03:36:09

3 Petrus Malherbe – RSA 03:41:58

Solo Women:

1 Diana Carolin – RSA 04:26:07

2 Desiree Loubser – RSA 04:32:56

3 Dianna Ineman – SUI 04:42:25

General Classification after Stage 3

Open Men:

1 Kevin Evans – RSA / David George – RSA (Nedbank 360Life) 15hr 37min 55sec

2 Matthys Beukes – RSA / Melt Swanepoel – RSA (Cango MTB.com) 16:00:27

3 Nico Bell – RSA / Gawie Combrinck – RSA (Westvaal Columbia) 16:00:56

4 Chris Wolhuter – RSA / Oliver Munnik – RSA (Asrin Cycling) 16:59:03

5 Mattijs Eversdijk – NED / Liwald Doornbos – NED (Cube Nutswerk 2) 17:19:35

Women:

1 Ischen Stopforth – RSA / Catherine Williamson – GBR (Bridge bizhub Ladies) 18:58:10

2 Yolande de Villiers – RSA / Yolande Speedy – RSA (Klein Karoo Chicks) 19:03:13

3 Sarah van Heerden – RSA / Jackie Church – RSA (Wilde 2) 20:46:37

Mixed:

1 Kathrin Stirnemann – SUI / Sandro Soncin – SUI (BH – Halbike – Tigers) 17:57:01

2 Max Fridrich – GER / Nadine Rieder – GER (Ergon 24H Racing Team) 18:07:44

3 Craig Gerber – RSA / Jennie Stenerhag – SWE (Newlinesport) 18:40:55

Veteran:

1 Robert Sim – RSA / Nico Pfitzenmaier – GER (Robert Daniel Momsen) 17:17:18

2 Micha de Vries - NED /Willem van Heerdt – NED (Cube Nutswerk 1) 17:36:59

3 Stephan Kuhnel - SUI / Marcel Frel – SUI (Fahrrad–Schmidt Bike-Tigers) 18:49:42

Masters:

1 Barti Bucher – SUI / Ernst Engeli – SUI (Bix-Sherpa Tensing Pedalerie) 17:39:17

2 Neville Ackermann – RSA / Charles Nienaber – RSA (Bridge Masters) 19:12:41

3 Tony Conlon – RSA / Peter Stopforth – RSA (Marsilio Projects Masters) 20:21:27

Solo Men:

1 Timo Cooper – RSA 16:39:36

2 Heinz Zoerweb – AUT 17:00:39

3 Petrus Malherbe – RSA 17:14:09

Solo Women:

1 Desiree Loubser – RSA 21:33:13

2 Diana Carolin – RSA 21:36:36

3 Dianna Ineman – SUI 22:30:01

For full results, visit www.capepioneer.co.za

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A group of riders wind their way along a gravel road early on during Stage 4 of the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

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Stage winners, Nico Bell (front) and Gawie Combinck (Westvaal Columbia) tackle a descent on Stage 4 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Photo credit: Oakpics

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The leading riders approach the start of the climb over the Kamanassie Mountains during Stage 4 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

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A rider negotiates a section of singletrack on Stage 4 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media

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Yolande Speedy (front) and Yolande de Villiers captured their second successive stage win the women's category on Stage 4 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Photo credit: Oakpics

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Gawie Combrinck (front) and Nico Bell (Westvaal Columbia) push up a steep climb through the Kamanassie Mountains on their way to winning Stage 4 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Photo credit: Oakpics

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One rider pedals while another carries his bike up a stoney climb through the Kamanassie Mountains on Stage 4 of the 2012 Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek international mountain bike stage race on Thursday.

Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker/Slingshot Media