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  1. With a large lead going into the final day, the racing was a formality for Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E). They simply had to get from start to finish without any hiccups - perhaps easier said than done consider the number of issues they pair had in the first two days of racing. In the end, they were able to ride comfortably and hassle-free through the short 50km day, taking second place on the day and claiming the overall win at their first attempt. Erik Kleinhans follows his teammate Matt Beers through a wine cellar on the day three of the 2017 Gravel & Grape Extreme MTB event. With a large lead going into the final day, the racing was a formality for Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E). They simply had to get from start to finish without any hiccups, which they duly achieved to claim overall honours at the event. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock. First over the line on stage 3 was Jurgens Uys and Nicols Carstens (02:01:13), but as they had withdrawn on stage 2, they were out of contending in the racing. The stage winners for the day were Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse & Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) in a time of 02:03:54, with Kleinhans and Beers home in second (02:03:58). Third on the stage went to Alexander Rohrer & Martin Freyer (Alex & Martin). “Overall, this was an excellent even with a great route,” said Erik Kleinhans. “There was a little bit of sand at the start in the finish on some days, but that is a minor point. It was all about the single track at Gravel & Grape, and it was fantastic.” Kleinhans and Beers kept it mellow on the final day. “Today we rode with Charl-Pierre (Esterhuyse) and Robert (Hobson); it was bit of an easier day for us and we had no mechanical issues, crashes or punctures today for the first time in the race,” said Kleinhans. “We had no need to ride hard today because of our comfortable lead, so we just rode with Charl-Pierre and Robert for the whole day, and let them take the stage win at the end. Our aim was simply to have a good time and get to the finish without any hassles. Matt and I both had a lot of fun.” Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock. In the Gravel & Grape Adventure, the two-day event that covers approximately half the distance of the Extreme’s final two days on the same route and terrain, Heine Kriegler Beukes and De Wet Steyn (Mohein) walked away as stage 1 and stage 2 winners, claiming the overall title comfortably ahead of second-placed Daniel Jacobus Van Tonder and Pieter Zirki du Toit (Rough and Ready). Third on the stage and overall were Francois de Wet and Andre Venter (Team Kallahariferarrie). “This was just a very enjoyable two days of racing,” said Beukes. “Even in the Adventure the route was quite challenging - with some decent climbs to keep the ego in check. For us, it was an amazing race. Today we attacked on the first climb and rode away from the field there - I dropped my bottle but luckily De Wet saw it; that was our only major issue! We will definitely be back to ride in this area again. It was a brilliant route.” The winners of the women’s category were Nicky Giliomee and British rider Catherine Williamson (Junto Ladies). Giliomee soldiered through the race with a broken foot, while Williamson was using the Gravel & Grape as a short farewell tour of South Africa. After arriving in the country for the Cape Epic, Williamson is heading home for the British summer. Nicky Giliomee and British rider Catherine Williamson (Junto Ladies) race to victory on the final stage of the 2017 Gravel & Grape Extreme, which took place in the stunning Breedekloof Wine Valley. Giliomee soldiered through the race with a broken foot, while Williamson was using the Gravel & Grape as a short farewell tour of South Africa. After arriving in the country for the Cape Epic, Williamson is heading home for the British summer. Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock. “This was quite a special three days of riding,” said Williamson. “I am heading back to England now, and this was a fantastic way to end my stay in South Africa. Today was a good day of riding, nice and short but with some great trails; just a fun day on the bike in a beautiful setting.” To further highlight the unique nature of the Gravel & Grape, the last team to cross the line on the Adventure was the Oddwheelers pair of Donna Kisogloo & Piotr Wolski. They did the two-day ride on unicycles. “I’ve been riding a unicycle for 10 years,” said Kisogloo. “They are not many stage races that we can enter, so it was cool to ride at the Gravel & Grape. We did come in last; so clearly it’s quite tough on a unicycle! But we came here to enjoy the trails and scenery, and that’s exactly what we did.” ResultsGravel & Grape Extreme stage 3 1 Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse & Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) 02:03:54 2 Erik Kleinhans & Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E) 02:03:58 3 Alexander Rohrer & Martin Freyer (Alex & Martin) 02:08:01 Gravel & Grape Extreme final GC 1 Erik Kleinhans & Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E) 07:59:31 2 Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse & Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) 08:08:39 3 Alexander Rohrer & Martin Freyer (Alex & Martin) 08:22:23 Gravel & Grape Adventure stage 2 1 Heine Kriegler Beukes & De Wet Steyn (Mohein) 01:19:56 2 Daniel Jacobus Van Tonder & Pieter Zirki du Toit (Rough and Ready) 01:23:12 3 Francois de Wet & Andre Venter (Team Kallahariferarrie) 01:30:00 Gravel & Grape Adventure final GC 1 Heine Kriegler Beukes & De Wet Steyn (Mohein) 02:59:37 2 Daniel Jacobus Van Tonder & Pieter Zirki du Toit (Rough and Ready) 03:04:04 3 Francois de Wet & Andre Venter (Team Kallahariferarrie) 03:19:28
  2. Leading South African professional Erik Kleinhans has reunited with Matt Beers (Red E-Topeak Ergon) in a combination that will probably start as favourites when the gun goes off for Stage 1 on May 5. They will, however, have a fight on their hands from the established pairing of Chris Wolhuter and Dylan Rebello (Imbuko Wines), who won the race last year and are highly motivated to defend their title. Dylan Rabello and Chris Wolhuter (Imbuko Wines) on their way to victory at the 2016 Gravel & Grape MTB stage; they'll be back in 2017 and highly motivated to defend their title at this year’s event. Photographer credit: Chris Hitchcock. “Matt and Erik will for sure most likely be our main rivals. They are both strong riders who we race against frequently,” says Wolhuter. “That being said, Jurgens (Uys) and Nicol (Carstens in Team Versus Socks) cannot be underestimated. Jurgens is coming back from an injury lay off and looks very motivated to get back to a high level.” Wolhuter says he and Rebello had a “good Cape Epic” last month but were hampered by some mechanical troubles: “So we are looking to make amends for that and will be going for the title again this year.” Beers, asked if he and Kleinhans would be going for the win, says: “Yeah for sure! But we always want to keep it fun and light-hearted after the race and talk nonsense with friends … I think it really helps mentally.” “We ride extremely well together and complement each other’s riding styles really well: our strengths are almost exactly the same. We are both powerful riders on the flats and can smash the descents too,” Beers adds. Riding together Beers and Kleinhans won the Berg&Bush stage race last year and four stages of the Cape Pioneer Trek. This is the third staging of the Gravel & Grape, which Wolhuter describes as “a great event”. “There are some great trails in the area. I know they have also done a lot of work in the Slanghoek region and the riding there last year was already fantastic,” he says. “The route profiles sometimes suggest an easier stage, but the region has some tough rocky sections which make it tougher than what it looks like on paper.” “Then there is a relaxed vibe in the evenings, which creates a great environment to interact with the other riders and enjoy a glass of wine.” Beers is also a fan of mountain biking in the area: “I have raced this event before back in 2015 in the mixed category with Nicola Giliomee. Apparently, they have done a lot of work so I am looking forward to riding some new trails and seeing different scenery.” The Gravel & Grape is taking place from 5 to 7 May. The event features two rides, the Gravel & Grape Extreme and the Gravel & Grape Adventure. In the women’s race the standout pairing is likely to be British pro Catherine Williamson and up-and-coming Knysna youngster Nicky Giliomee. “We'll be hoping to race as best as we can. I know Nicky is a strong rider and have raced against her at a few races last year and I know we'll have fun whatever happens,” says Williamson, a former winner of the women’s category at the Cape Epic. “I've never ridden Gravel & Grape before. I know the terrain can be very difficult, dry and rocky. But I always love racing in the Cape and as it’s getting towards winter I'm sure it'll be a bit cooler than the last time I was that way,” adds the Briton. The Extreme is the same three day race that hardcore mountain bikers have come to know and love over two years, while the Adventure is a two day challenge that covers 65km of cycling over the course of its stages. The Adventure is a solo or team event. Entries are for teams of two in two different categories: junior and open. The junior category is for both team members between the ages of 16 and 18 years, while the open category can be a son/daughter, husband/wife, daughter/father team or any two adults who would like to experience their first stage race. Both events feature expertly hand-cut singletrack. The Gravel & Grape is an event that sets out to take mountain biking back to its roots, focussing on fun but challenging riding with trails that reward the effort put in. “The Gravel & Grape delivers raw, rough mountain biking,” says Wolhuter. “A highlight was riding through some parts of the valley that were completely isolated. It was very beautiful, very serene.” “We want people to experience the valley and region as it is for us; beautiful, challenging, unique and exciting,” says one of the race organisers and Slanghoek Cellar’s Pieter Carstens. By involving a number of wine farms in the race, each day offers something different, from the highest peaks to the lowest valley floors.“Make no mistake, this is an event that will test you, but will also provide warm hospitality and the opportunity to indulge in our award-winning wines after each day’s riding,” says Carsten. The Breedekloof Valley is just one hour from Cape Town, and includes Rawsonville, Slanghoek, Goudini & Breerivier. The event race village is based at Goudini Spa, making this a family weekend. Participants of the Gravel & Grape will have full access to the resort’s facilities, including the iconic warm baths. Although entries have already closed, the Gravel & Grape are offering an opportunity for 10 teams to enter by Sunday, 23 April.
  3. This is Lourens’ fifth and Giliomee’s maiden Epic. Why did Giliomee enter? “My aunty forced me,” she joked. Lourens said she had asked Giliomee to ride with her when her regular racing partner Anne Harrison wasn’t available. Giliomee, who is doing a BComm honours at Stellenbosch University, declined. A few weeks later, though, Lourens’ received a text message from Giliomee. “I’ve got FOMO. I’ll do it.” And with that message, Team Speed Structures was formed. Marleen Lourens (front) Nicky Giliomee (Rear) during the Prologue of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at Meerendal Wine Estate in Durbanville, South Africa on the 13th March 2016. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS But Giliomee nearly didn’t make it to the start line. A month earlier she was racing the Tankwa Trek, and was in the lead in the mixed category, when she went down a drop too fast. “I woke up in an ambulance,” she said. Her doctor only gave her the go-ahead to take part in the Cape Epic a week before the start. “I’m not as fit as I wanted to be, but at least I’m here,” said Giliomee. Lourens said she was impressed with what a strong rider her former flower girl is. “She’s got so much talent, her head is very strong, and she doesn’t give up. I will go to war with anyone who will crawl to the end,” she said. After Wednesday’s stage, the two, covered from helmet to toe in dust, were making themselves human again in the riders’ recovery zone with fellow riders giving them high-fives. Lourens said she loves this race because it’s so unpredictable. “You can’t have any expectations. If you’re not a pro, you come to enjoy it – and then deal with any misfortune.” So far, they’ve had a puncture on the Prologue and a bent hanger. Hopefully Giliomee will enjoy the Epic a bit more than Lourens’ wedding. The pretty toddler’s flower girl services were in huge demand and this was her fifth wedding. “I’m not going to get married ever again,” she told her mother.
  4. When Marleen Lourens got married 3-year-old Nicky Giliomee, was her flower girl. That was 19 years ago - on Tuesday, the pair rolled across the Absa Cape Epic’s finishline in Wellington, as riding partners. They had completed the 103km stage in a smidgen under 7 hours – and the fourth South African women’s team to finish. “Today was long and hot,” said Lourens, “But it’s Epic, which is why we keep coming back.” Click here to view the article
  5. The Fairtree Simonsberg Contour was a drive for trail expansion in the Simonsberg Conservancy and during stage 2 riders enjoyed more than 10km of new singletrack. The race venue was Delvera outsider Stellenbosch. Just more than a week ago most of the Simonsberg Mountain and the mountain bike trails burnt extensively in fire that raged for more almost a week. The damage was very visible on route and all the riders marvelled at the fact that the race took place despite it all. “It was much better than what I expected after the fire,” said Louw, who won both stages. “You have to respect the work Meurant Botha and his team has done.” Youngster Jurgens Uys and Belgian Ken van den Bulke joined Louw on the overall winner’s podium. Nicky Giliomee won the women’s race. Michelle Lombardi and Ann Harrison joined her on the winner’s podium on day two. Ariane Kleinhans won stage 1, but took a wrong turn on day two and ended up on the short route. Uys said that day two’s route was a bit more of a challenge than first stage. “There was this one long climb which was a quite a breath-taker,” said Uys. “Today we could see the extensive damage the fire caused. The Fire Ride for sure. Meurant Botha and his team really did an amazing job making sure we could ride here. I’m certain every single rider appreciate what they did very much.” The legendary Michelle Lombardi could not stop smiling when talking about the stage. “The routes were absolutely amazing. Tough for sure, but really awesome. All the fire damage added something different to the race and I think the photos will be special. Riders must keep what they saw today and yesterday in the memory banks for when it all is green again and we can ride all the trails we are used to…”
  6. Adriaan Louw and Nicky Giliomee won the inaugural Fairtree Simonsberg Contour mountain bike stage race. This two-day race gave the riders a chance to see for themselves why the race was affectionately renamed to “The Fire Ride” after the Simonsberg fire. Click here to view the article
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