The sudden loss of Margaret River local and popular Cape to Cape MTB competitor Johan Pienaar just one day after he completed the 2017 event with his son Christiaan, sent shockwaves through the South West community as well as the mountain biking fraternity gathered to take part in the annual race.
Long time friend Corey Verwey said Mr Pienaar’s family, friends, colleagues and fellow riders will return to the four day stage race this year as part of the ‘Ride4Johan’ to honour and to share memories of their much loved friend.
“Johan is remembered for his loving nature, patience and calm effect on everyone around him,” said Mr Verwey.
“He had no idea how many people’s lives he touched by just being himself – a humble man. He finished the race of life well and he did that with his family.”
“In 2010, Johan learned that he had cancer, which started in his mouth and spread into his lymph glands. His treatment was difficult, but he came through it with a smile on the outside.
“He continued living life and doing the things that he enjoyed and they built their house and made it a home.”
Mr Verwey said the illness spurred Mr Pienaar to take up the sport of mountain biking.
“I remember sitting with Johan and asking him what he was going to do with his second chance on life,” he said.
They took off together on day one but Christiaan eventually thought that dad was a bit slow and asked if he could go ahead. This brought Johan the most joy. He never talked about his own performance during the 2017 event but could not stop talking about how well Chris was doing.Corey Verwey
“He said his focus was his family and especially his son, Christiaan. He also said that he wanted to rebuild some strength and fitness and promised to do the next Cape to Cape with me, as I had completed my first event in 2014.
“Johan bought his bike and started training and his goal was to finish the Cape to Cape, which he did in 2015.
“His next goal was to complete the Cape to Cape with his son to share this common interest and spend valuable time together,” he said.
Mr Verwey said the opportunity to ride with Christiaan presented itself in 2017 and Johan was delighted to finally share the starting line with his son.
“They took off together on day one but Christiaan eventually thought that dad was a bit slow and asked if he could go ahead.
"This brought Johan the most joy. He never talked about his own performance during the 2017 event but could not stop talking about how well Chris was doing,” Mr Verwey said.
Christiaan Pienaar holds precious memories of his time on the bike riding Cape to Cape with his proud father.
“Riding was a passion I shared with my dad,” he said.
“In 2017, after two years training, I was able to join him in the race and I finally beat him. What a wonderful race that was.
“He passed away shortly thereafter, now in memory of my dad, I am competing in this race again with all his wonderful friends.”
The Cape to Cape MTB family have expressed their pride at the commitment and determination of Mr Pienaar‘s wife Sonja, who has made to transition from spectator to rider and will join his friends on the trails during this year’s event.
“I was a spectator last year while my husband did his third race and our son his first race,” said Mrs Pienaar.
To celebrate his memory a group of old and new riders have challenged ourselves to race again. Riding has been my pick-me-up-and-never-give-up medicine while I am on the bush tracks close to my maker.Sonja Pienaar
“I loved the excitement and camaraderie and met so many people. My husband passed away one day after finishing the race and the best four days with our son, myself and his friends.
“To celebrate his memory a group of old and new riders have challenged ourselves to race again. Riding has been my pick-me-up-and-never-give-up medicine while I am on the bush tracks close to my maker,” she said.
Mr Verwey recalled one particular moment in 2017 that he said would forever be etched into his memory.
“Cape to Cape is about the enjoyment, the spirit of the race, the camaraderie and the people - there are so many things that makes this a great event,” he said.
“At the end of Day 3 in 2017, we cleaned our bikes and our group – the Pienaar family, Ash Vincent, Emma George, Zacca Rinaudo and myself - regrouped at Prevelly Beach.
“We stood in a circle in the cold water and reflected on the race and simply enjoyed good company – this is the moment we will all remember from 2017 Cape to Cape.”