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The purpose-built singletrack in the forests around George will be where the time trial stage will be held on Day 4 of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za

The seven-day race, from 15-21 October, once again carries International Cycling Union (UCI) grading, which means guaranteed minimum prize money, media coverage and UCI rankings points for the top finishers. This ensures a strong international field will be on the start line and also sees the rest of the field benefit from the high standards.

This year’s race will cover 572km over the seven days (72km longer that last year) and will include a total 10 650 meters of vertical ascent (1 030m more than in 2016). Unlike the last few years, there will be no prologue time trial. Instead, there will be two stages in the Mossel Bay coastal region then a transition stage to George. That’s followed by a short Stage 4 time trial before the race heads further into the Karoo with the return to the Swartberg Pass before finishing in Oudtshoorn.

After excluding the Swartberg Pass from last year’s edition, the organisers have returned to the iconic mountain, which rises 1000m in 11km and which always has a telling impact on the outcome of the race. It will have a mountain-top finish, which may be the only one in the world for mountain bike stage racing.

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Stage 1 of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen goes through the Gondwana Private Game Reserve, which is sure to result in a number of wildlife sightings. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za

“We wanted to change the rhythm of the race a bit this year, by taking out a prologue. We’ll have three tough stages to start, a short time trail stage, which many can use for recovery and then three tough stages to finish with,” said Henco Rademeyer of Dryland Event Management.

“We’re excited to reintroduce the Swartberg Pass stage with a mountain-top finish. Even though it creates a logistical challenge for us, it’s an iconic feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek and one of the reasons the race has built up such a ‘must-do’ reputation.

“We will in time announce details, but we’ll also ensure that there is a substantial prize for the first men and women’s teams to the summit of the Swartberg on Stage 6. To create a race within the race,” added Rademeyer.

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The 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen will return to the iconic climb up the Swartberg Pass, with a mountain-top finish on Stage 5. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za

From flat beach sand of Mossel Bay to the shaded indigenous and planted forest slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains; from firm loamy soil to hard, loose rock; from moist coastal air to hot, dry desert atmosphere, the contrast will remain extreme and very much a signature feature of the Cape Pioneer Trek.

“We are heading west of Mossel Bay early on, which is an area new to the Cape Pioneer Trek and the stage to the Swartberg Pass takes us quite far north compared to last year. The Swartberg mountain range divides the Great Karoo and the Klein Karoo so the riders will experience exceptional diversity in terrain and vegetation in just one week of racing,” said Rademeyer.

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The 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, will spend more time at the coast around Mossel Bay during the first three days. Photo credit: www.zcmc.co.za