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  1. To stoke the Serious GEES for mountain biking in the absence of the 2020 events, the FNB Wines2Whales presents the FNB Wines2Whales Champions Chase! A virtual challenge that allows riders to compete against the world’s best mountain bikers in a pro-am pursuit style Zwift event, and against local legends on many of South Africa’s favourite trails via Strava. Plus, with prizes from the event and its partners up for grabs, there’s every reason to ride this summer. LAY DOWN SOME WATTAGE ON ZWIFT The virtual leg of the FNB Wines2Whales Champions Chase is a pursuit challenge on Zwift. Amateur riders will be able to race against legends of the sport, including Annika Langvad, Manuel Fumic, Maxime Marotte, Barbara Benko, Samara Sheppard, Calle Friberg, and a growing selection of elite South African mountain bikers, like Matt Beers and Mariske Strauss. Amateur riders will be given a head-start and will give it their all to hold off the hard-charging professionals on the Road to Ruins course on Zwift.Taking place on Sunday 1 November, the FNB W2W Zwift Champions Chase will be broadcast live on the FNB Wines2Whales Facebook page and YouTube channel. South African downhiller Andrew Neethling and Shaun Peters will be commentating on the racing from 09:00. The amateurs set-off at 09:10 while the professionals will start a few minutes later. Entry is free and riders can sign up on Zwift. Please join the ‘Community Riders’ bunch. GET SERIOUS ON STRAVA For riders who prefer to hit the trails, the FNB W2W Strava Champions Chase provides another reason to ride and will happen from 30 October – 8 November. Currently there are 10 Strava segments created across the country, all of which cater to the trail-loving nature of FNB W2W’s riders.To take part in the action, riders will need to join the FNB Wines2Whales Strava club and download the GPX files for their closest trails, and then head off for some outdoor action. Each of the routes is between 20 and 25 kilometres long; all riders who complete any of the segments are in the running to win prizes, and random winners will be selected from the Strava Leaderboards. King and Queen of the Mountain prizes will be awarded to the fastest men and women for each segment too. WHAT YOU CAN WIN The FNB Wines2Whales and its amazing sponsorship family have put together a fantastic list of prizes that includes entries to the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback events, FNB W2W merchandise vouchers, Cape Brewing Co. caps and beers, Ciovita cycling kits, Land Rover driving experiences, Falke sock hampers, Oakley sunglasses, Squirt bike care hampers, wine from the area’s finest farms, Woolworths hampers, accommodation packages, Thule luggage, Specialized hampers, and a brand new bike from BH Bikes South Africa, valued at +- R90 000. And last but not least, one lucky participant can win a virtual training session with Team INEOS Grenadiers! #GEES4GOOD In keeping with the spirit of Serious GEES, the professional riders taking part in the Zwift Chase have agreed that their prize money will be donated to the FNB Wines2Whales beneficiaries. Initiatives like the Botriver Educational Foundation and the De Rust Futura School, as well as Cape Trails, rely upon funds raised through the events to continue their charitable work in the area the race passes through. By simply taking part, riders can ensure that these organisations remain front of mind and continue to benefit from the FNB Wines2Whales. To find out more visit wines2whales.comJoin the Zwift event here: https://www.zwift.com/events/view/1107541?eventSecret=8ebadcad8ce1ccaa55ee Join the FNB Wines2Whales Strava Club here: https://www.strava.com/clubs/fnbwines2whales
  2. Race the world’s best mountain bikers from home or hit the trails in search of King and Queen of the Mountains trophies in the FNB Wines2Whales Champions Chase. Take part on Zwift or Strava and win amazing spot prizes. Click here to view the article
  3. Here it is… plotted, planned and most importantly pre-ridden by Johan ‘JK’ Kriegler and Hendrico Burger. Serious GEES is a go at the 2020 FNB W2W Switchback. Photo by Xavier Briel. Stage 1 Start: Curro Hermanus Finish: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin Distance: 65km Elevation Gain: 1500m Water Points: 17km (Karwyderskraal), 37km (Wildekrans Wines) & 54km (Lebanon Village) The FNB W2W Switchback starts at a new venue, the Curro School in Hermanus. Located on the outskirts of Hermanus, riders will be pleased to note that the start at Curro Hermanus incorporates a few flat kilometres before the climbing begins on Rotary View Drive; which offers spectacular views over Hermanus, to ease the burden. An exhilarating descent into the Hemel en Aarde Valley follows before a climb out of the far side of the valley via The Gorge and its freshly built bridge. The 2019 Stage 3 Land Rover Experience section requires a kick of power to conquer the ramp up onto the catwalk which marks the end of the segment, but nothing passionate mountain bikers can’t handle. Karwyderskraal gravel road then provides free-flowing riding before the climb into Gaf-se-Bos and a brand-new singletrack section. Built especially for the Switchback, Karwyders Contour is the first tailor-made answer to the question of how to take riders from whales to wines. It is a trail of nearly 4 kilometres that promises Serious GEES in every metre thanks to its two bridges that span the length of two rather large cliffs. The route to Water Point 2, at Wildekrans Wines, then takes in trails never before ridden during the previous 11 editions of the FNB W2W. Riders enjoying the morning sun and amazing trails. Photo by Nick Muzik. Riders are encouraged to fuel up at the second water point because there is no way to sugar coat the fact that you'll be climbing Kat Pass, from Botrivier to Houw Hoek. A contour path singletrack then links the Houw Hoek Inn to the Pines and Berms singletracks, past Water Point 3 and on to the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre. From there it is largely downhill to the finish line, at Oak Valley, via the flowing Oak Valley Red Route through the cattle grazing pastures before kicking up your feet with a cold CBC beer and a Spur burger. Stage Icons: Rotary View Drive, Onrus Gorge, Karwyders Contour, Wildekrans, Pines and Berms, Oak Valley Trails. Hendrico’s Stage Advice: The FNB W2W Switchback is all about a new take on a familiar concept. Riders should keep their eyes peeled for views that may have never been noticed before, when riding in the opposite direction, like the Karwyders Contour trails and its incredible bridges. Riding wise, do not underestimate Kat Pas; it can be a tricky climb so fuel up well at Wildekrans and keep the Serious GEES levels high. Stage 2 Start: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin Finish: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin Distance: 63km Elevation Gain: 1 500m Water Points: 17km (Oak Valley), 30km (Paul Cluver Amphitheatre) & 52km (Hickory Shack) Play day reimagined, Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback combines old favourites in new ways with the spice of virgin trails. The stage starts with a new loop to the southern reaches of Oak Valley. Using vineyard roads to spread the field for the singletracks to come; the early morning segment is designed to be scenic and to offer those who want to test their legs the chance to get ahead of their batch. A 13km loop on Oak Valley takes riders to where the fun starts and Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge, Indensity and Sounds of Silence roll into one before Water Point 1 at 17km and then there’s even more trail time on Cow’s Trail and Rietvlei Roller. Gert Heyns showing some style. Photo by Nick Muzik. The climb to Witklippies then challenges the lungs before the rewards of the all-new Rietvlei Magic singletrack descent can be enjoyed. Rietvlei Magic is another of the purpose-built FNB W2W Switchback trails; it is a long and gradual downhill on Paul Cluver with berms, switchbacks (obviously), and a long bridge over the Rietvlei Dam! Snake Trails follow, with a sneaky short-cut between Mamba and Boomslang. Then the route traverses towards the south east and slips under the N2 to explore Lebanon, before returning to the 2020 incarnation of the Peri-Kromco Play Park via the Thandi Switchbacks. A familiar downhill run to Oak Valley follows the crate and pallet creation. Looping around the race village, riders will get a quick blast of finish line gees drifting through the oak trees, to spur them on for the final singletrack kilometre before returning to the race village for a delicious lunch spread from our friends at Woolworths. Varsity mtb riders racing through one of the famous FNB W2W bridges. Photo by Nick Muzik. Stage Icons: Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge, Indensity, Sounds of Silence, Cow’s Trail, Rietvlei Roller, Witklippies, Rietvlei Magic, Lebanon and all the Snake Trails. Hendrico’s Stage Advice: As in previous years, you’ll do well not to underestimate play day. The trails are great fun but riders will need to be fit to make the most of them. If you are not that confident riding up and downhill switchbacks, book a skills lesson or two before the 2020 FNB W2W Switchback. Don’t lose concentration on the newly built Rietvlei Magic, or a swim may be the result. Stage 3 Start: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin Finish: Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West Distance: 62km Elevation Gain: 1 350m Water Points: 15km (Country Club), 30km (Idiom Wines) & 46km (Lourensford) Stage 3 provides a spectacular finale to the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback, with the Gantouw Pass descent boasting breath-taking views worth the efforts to get there. The adventure starts with a climb up past the Oak Valley greenhouses and across the foothills of the mountains towards the Eikenhof Dam. The route then loops around the back of the dam, exploring 4km of thrilling trails. The Grabouw Country Club still features, as a water point, as do Willie’s Trail and singletracks G to A; of the A to Z trails. Walking down the Gantouw pass is certainly easier than going up it, and the views across the Helderberg Basin are incredible. Just remember to watch your step, as staring at the view rather than the rocky descent is a sure-fire way to twist an ankle. After the pass, the oasis of Idiom Wines is reached via yet another new section of trail. Idiom Single begins before Water Point 2 and ensures that riders reach the water point full of gees and, once fuelled up, get straight back into the action before the route traverses Vergelegen towards Lourensford Wine Estate. Ariane Lüthi and Samara Sheppard navigate a Switchback during the 2019 FNB W2W Chardonnay. Photo by Xavier Briel. A final climb in Lourensford Wine Estate, after Water Point 3, takes riders to the trailhead of a brand new singletrack that is in the process of being built; from here, breathtaking views of False Bay are on offer before entering the trail. Cut into the pine plantations especially for the Switchback, the Lourensford Ultimate will provide the final excitement that ensures riders finish the race on a whooping high. Once safely across the line at Lourensford Wine Estate, all riders will be able to enjoy a glass of their award winning wines in celebration of being among the first to have completed the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback. Stage Icons: Willie’s Trail, Gantouw Pass, Idiom Single, Peri Bridge to Vergelegen and the Lourensford Ultimate. Hendrico’s Stage Advice: We had fun designing this new route and we know riders will enjoy it too, so save some energy for the final stage. It’s not every day that riders get to ride in Lourensford Wine Estate and with the brand new trails in there, you won’t soon forget it, so enjoy every moment. Plus, with the race now finishing closer to Cape Town why not get your family to meet you in Lourensford Wine Estate? They can cheer you across the line sharing in your #SeriousGees. A final word from JK: "That my friends is the Switchback Story. Cape Trails are already half way with Rietvlei Magic and plan to finish it by end of February. The remaining construction trail sequence will be Karwyders Contour, Lourensford Ultimate and Idiom Single, just in time for the Switchback kick off by end of October. Get your names written into the FNB W2W history books as the first people to have ridden the FNB W2W Switchback.”
  4. Matt Beers and Wessel Botha were in fine form throughout the three stages of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. “From the start, today, we set quite a hard pace” Botha recounted about how the final stage was won. “The plan was to test the other guys a bit. On the Houw Hoek climb, we saw DSV Pro Cycling struggling a little bit. So, we knew we were the stronger team. On the Kat Pas, we took it easy, to avoid punctures, and they re-joined us.” The NAD Pro MTB team and DSV Pro Cycling’s Gert Heyns and Arno du Toit went through the first waterpoint, at Botrivier Primary School together. The quartet then raced their way through the Wildekrans singletracks in close formation, before the open climb towards waterpoint 2 provided an opportunity for Beers and Botha to attack. “On the climb to the Art House, Matt wound it up and we managed to get a gap” Botha continued. “From there it was just heads down to the finish. We went full gas on the road sections but took it a little easier in the singletracks, just to avoid any punctures or mechanicals. Luckily we could hold it to the finish and take the third stage win.” DSV Pro Cycling's Arno du Toit and Gert Heyns during Stage 3 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. “To come back as the defending champs is not always easy” Beers reflected. “There is always extra pressure and it doesn’t happen often that a team can defend their title. To get three stage wins in doing so was just a bonus. I’m really happy to get another win.” “I was a last-minute call-up. Nico Bell phoned me on Wednesday and told me that he couldn’t race because he had a chest infection” Beers clarified. “I’ve been riding a Specialized Epic Evo Comp, so I actually raced on Nico’s bike. Fortunately, we both ride extra-large frames - it went way better than I expected. Wessel has progressed so much since he joined the team; people underestimate him because he is so softly spoken, but he is one of the best mountain bikers in the country” he concluded, praising his young partner. Wessel Botha and Matt Beers of NAD Pro MTB celebrate after claiming the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz title. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. DSV Pro Cycling was caught by a recovering PYGA Euro Steel in the Gaf se Bos singletracks between the Art House waterpoint and the Karwyderskraal Road. That set up a tense final 20 kilometres for Heyns and Du Toit, who had clearly burnt too many matches trying to take the race to NAD Pro MTB. “The prize money for second is still a nice bonus at the end of the year [R50 000]” Heyns confessed after finishing second on the stage and second overall. “Matt and Wessel rode really well. We tried our best, so second is not too bad.” “Today we kept up with NAD really well” Heyns explained how the day unfolded from a DSV Pro Cycling perspective. “When they decided to really go, we just didn’t have the firepower to follow them. But luckily, we could still hold onto second overall.” PYGA Euro Steel’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes finished the stage in third, after losing out to Heyns and Du Toit in the sprint for second. The result secured them third overall, on the final general classification standings. NAD Pro MTB’s time of 7 hours, 32 minutes and 37 seconds was a massive 27 minutes faster than the event record, set by Buys and Beukes in 2017. DSV Pro Cycling and PYGA Euro Steel both comfortably beat the previous record time, as did the fourth-placed team of Keagan Bontekoning and Jean-Pierre Lloyd. The fifth spot on the overall standings was filled by SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch’s Timothy Hammond and Julian Jessop. The Elite Men's podium after Stage 3 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. The Exxaro Special Jersey competition was won by Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo le Roux. The BMT Fairtree pair claimed their third successive stage victory, capitalising on a crash by one of the Exxaro/PwC1 riders. Lucky Mlangeni and Anrique Davids were helped to the line by the Exxaro/RMB1 team of Thabiso Rengane and Khutso Tlou. Though Rengane and Tlou outsprinted Mlangeni and Davids to claim second on the stage, Exxaro/PwC1 maintained second in the Exxaro Special Jersey race’s overall classification, while Exxaro/RMB1 completed the podium. Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo le Roux celebrate their Exxaro Special Jersey race win. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. Along with the prize money that Thobigunya and Le Roux won for their stage wins and general classification title, the pair also won education bursaries. Curro Schools donated two scholarships, covering school fees from Grade 1 to Grade 12 for a family member of each of the winning riders. Valued at 1.2 Million Rand each, the prize truly showcases that “bicycles change lives.” Back on a cycling front, there was excitement on the final day in the Mixed category as a three-way sprint for second unfolded. Conway Brett Oliver and Catherine Williamson pipped Marco Schaer and Yvonne Waltert, along with the Linaqua team of Henry Liebenberg and Christie Hearder. The overall standings remained unchanged, with Fairtree’s Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber securing the title by 4 minutes. Giordana’s Schaer and Waltert maintained their second position in the category’s general classification standings, despite finishing third on the final stage. While PITSTOP SPORT 2’s Oliver and Williamson completed the podium; behind the dominant Stenerhag and Gerber. With the Shiraz champions crowned, the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales series of events came to its conclusion. Attention now turns to 2020 when the famous race from the wines of Lourensford to the whales in Hermanus will change direction. The Switchback event sees the race change direction and 2019 riders have access to priority entries to this exciting initiative until midnight on Sunday. General entries to the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback open on Tuesday, 5 November 2019. For more information please visit www.wines2whales.com. Results: FNB Wines2Whales ShirazElite Men Stage 3: NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (02:23:50.4) DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (02:27:20.4 | +03:30.0) PYGA Euro Steel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (02:27:20.6 | +03:30.2) Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (02:31:06.7 | +07:16.3) Canyon Werner: Sebastian Stark & Robert Hobson (02:35:09.6 | +11:19.2) Exxaro Jersey Stage 3: BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (02:42:49.9) Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (02:49:26.7 | +06:37.8) Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (02:49:27.0 | +06:38.1) Mixed Category Stage 3: Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (02:55:34.2) PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (02:57:32.5 | +01:58.3) Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (02:57:32.9 | +01:58.6) Elite Men’s General Classification after Stage 3: NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (07:32:37) DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (07:37:40 | +05:03) PYGA Euro Steel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (07:40:04 | +07:27) Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (07:54:34 | +21:57) SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch: Timothy Hammond & Julian Jessop (08:10:09 | +37:32) Exxaro Jersey General Classification after Stage 3: BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (08:30:58) Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (08:45:04 | +14:06) Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (08:55:21 | +24:22) Mixed Category General Classification after Stage 3: Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (09:11:24) Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (09:15:24 | +04:00) PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (09:20:26 | +09:02) For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race please visit www.wines2whales.com.
  5. In the Elite Men’s category, Beers went on the charge from the first climb of the day. Ascending out of Oak Valley, the NAD Pro MTB rider split the field with a stinging acceleration. Only his partner, Wessel Botha, along with his fellow Stage 1 protagonists, DSV Pro Cycling and PYGA Euro Steel could follow the early move. The Elite Men set a blistering pace on Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. “The plan was to make it tough from the off” Beers explained. “I tried to set a high tempo on the first climb and only Matthys Beukes, Philip Buys, Arno du Toit and Gert Heyns could follow Wessel and myself. I saw HB Kruger and Frans Claes trying to close the gap to us after the climb, so I drove on again. The more riders there are in the front group, the harder it makes it to navigate the singletracks safely. Because of that, I really didn’t want them to catch us.” “We saw yesterday that we could put Matt and Wessel under pressure a bit in the singletracks” Du Toit revealed. “But we hardly got a chance to lead into any trails today, Matt controlled the race too well.” With nearly 80 percent of the Play Day route being made up of singletrack, the battle for the first 40 kilometres was to lead the group into each trail. Beers and Botha were virtually ever-present at the front of the trio. With Beers setting a consistently ferocious pace. “I think Matt is probably the best mountain biker in the country right now” his NAD Pro MTB teammate Botha praised. “It’s an honour to race alongside him.” Gert Heyns leads Philip Buys during Stage 2 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. After softening up their rivals for the first 47 kilometres, the NAD Pro MTB team launched the stage winning move. On the climb towards the Hickory Shack waterpoint, Beers and Botha increased the tempo. Beukes was the first to drop off, forcing Buys to slow down to help his PYGA Euro Steel partner through the final 17 kilometres of the stage. Then DSV Pro Cycling started to falter, initially holding NAD Pro MTB in sight until the Thandi Switchbacks; 10 kilometres from the finish, the elastic snapped. Beers and Botha rode home as comfortable stage winners, putting 1 minute and 32.2 seconds into Du Toit and Heyns. Beukes and Buys crossed the finish line third, 3 minutes and 56.7 seconds after the stage winners. The result sees NAD Pro MTB extend their general classification lead to 1 minute and 33 seconds. Matt Beers and Wessel Botha celebrate their second stage victory during the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. Behind the podium finishers, Kruger and Claes bounced back from their puncture on Stage 1, to finish fourth on Stage 2. The Devonbosch Stellenbosch pair’s result leapfrogged them into fifth on the general classification. While the young Jaguar Power Products team, of Keagan Bontekoning and Jean-Pierre Lloyd, maintained their fourth place on the overall standings. In the Exxaro Jersey competition, Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo le Roux extended their category lead by winning the stage ahead of Lucky Mlangeni and Anrique Davids of Exxaro/PWC1. The BMT Fairtree team recovered from Le Roux crashing into a tree, to put another 4 minutes and 24 seconds into the Exxaro/PwC1 team. Exxaro/RMB1’s Thabiso Rengane and Khutso Tlou were third on the stage. That result moved them into third on the Exxaro Special Jersey overall standings, behind Exxaro/PwC1 and BMT Fairtree. The Mixed category stage honours went to the category leaders; Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber. The Fairtree team extended their general classification advantage to 2 minutes and 1 second over Giordana’s Marco Schaer and Yvonne Waltert. PITSTOP SPORT 2’s Conway Brett Oliver and Catherine Williamson are third in the competition, 7 minutes and 3 seconds behind Stenerhag and Gerber. On Sunday, 3 November, FNB Wines2Whales departs Oak Valley for Onrus. Racing to the whales on the Atlantic Coast, the teams will have a challenging 69 kilometres to complete their Shiraz event adventure. Despite their advantage, Beers and Botha are weary of the potential for disaster, having seen what happened to the Faces team of Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath in the Chardonnay race. “It’s not over until we reach Onrus” Botha stated. “Tomorrow will be a tough day and I’m sure the other teams will take the fight to us. But after the final stage having to be rerouted to finish at Oak Valley last year, I’m looking forward to finishing at the sea. It’s going to be an exciting last day of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz.” Results: FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Elite Men Stage 2: NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (02:27:59.3) DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (02:29:31.5 | +1:32.2) PYGA EuroSteel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (02:31:56.0 | +03:56.7) Devonbosch Stellenbosch: Frans Claes & HB Kruger (02:33:38.2 | +05:38.9) SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch: Timothy Hammond & Julian Jessop (02:37:43.2 | +09:43.9)Exxaro Jersey Stage 2: BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (02:46:35.6) Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (02:51:00.5 | +04:24.9) Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (02:57:05.4 | +10:29.8) Mixed Category Stage 2: Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (03:01:52.0) Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (03:02:54.6 | +01:02.6) PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (03:03:44.3 | +01:52.3) Elite Men’s General Classification after Stage 2: NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (05:08:47) DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (05:10:20 | +01:33) PYGA EuroSteel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (05:12:44 | +03:57) Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (05:23:27 | +14:40) Devonbosch Stellenbosch: Frans Claes & HB Kruger (05:23:58 | +15:11) Exxaro Jersey General Classification after Stage 2: BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (05:48:08) Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (05:55:37 | +08:28) Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (06:05:54 | +17:45) Mixed Category General Classification after Stage 2: Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (06:15:50) Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (06:17:51 | +02:01) PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (06:22:54 | +07:03) For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race please visit www.wines2whales.com.
  6. The Elite Men's race during the 2018 FNB Wines2Whales. Photo credit: Nick Muzik NAD Pro MTB, the 2018 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz winners, earn the right of headlining the list. Wessel Botha starts his title defence alongside Matt Beers this year, who returns from a road racing campaign for UAE Team Emirates. “Winning last year’s event was a great accomplishment and highlight of the year for me” the 20-year old Botha stated. “I also gained some experience in where time can be made or lost during this race. It does add some pressure but has also given me the confidence of knowing it can be done and has made me prepare for this event to the best of my ability. I am confident that we will be in the mix for the title again!” PYGA EuroSteel 1 and 2 were both trumped by NAD Pro MTB in KwaZulu-Natal and will be out for revenge. Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys have started virtually every South African stage race in the last five years as the race favourites. The same holds true for the Shiraz, though they start with only the sani2c title as a major local stage race win to their names in 2019. “We had a great year overall and sure, we didn’t reach all of our goals,” Beukes reflected, before adding: “but I think we stepped it up and showed that we can ride with the big dogs. Coming to FNB W2W actually feels like a nice weekend away at this stage. As you said, in the past we have swept up SA stage races but we are looking at new horizons now. Our focus has definitely shifted to the world stage and I think it shows in our recent results at Worlds.” Beukes and Buys have the advantage of a support team, in the form of Phillimon Sebona and Pieter du Toit. “Our tactics will not be affected much” Buys explained, on the advantages of having two teams in the race. “Thanks to our sponsors, we are fortunate to have two teams at most of our events and this puts us all under less pressure and presents great opportunities for all our athletes. Having our whole team at events also creates a lekker vibe and we enjoy being at races even more.” For their part, Sebona and Du Toit are gearing up for a support role, should anything major go wrong for the PYGA EuroSteel 1 team. “As the second team for PYGA EuroSteel, we have a lot of freedom,” Pieter du Toit said. “But the main objective is to stay as close to team one as possible, so that we can help them if they have a problem, like a puncture. That said, if we are stronger than them, we will be free to try to win a stage. But that is very unlikely.” Buys and Beukes’ former teammates Arno du Toit and Gert Heyns are also a pair with clear aspirations for victory. The DSV Pro Cycling team boasts the current South African marathon champion, as well as the 2018 champion. The DSV duo starts the FNB W2W off the back of success at the Eselfontein Mountain Biking Festival; which may not have featured the most competitive field but certainly provided them with the chance to hone their already impressive technical riding skills to a razor-sharp level. They and the more established South African stage racing teams will have to best the young upstarts of the 2019 season, Imbuko Giant. Nicol Carstens and Marco Joubert have been knocking on the door of a big win this year and have their sights firmly set on FNB W2W. “We've been beating the other top SA teams throughout the year, but just not all of them at once, just yet” Carstens revealed. “We're one of the youngest teams and we've gained valuable experience over the last few months and I believe that's all we've needed to make the final step and defeat the other top SA teams.” The teams Imbuko Giant will need to defeat include the SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch combination of Timothy Hammond and Julian Jessop. Having raced the Swiss Epic together in August, the pair have their teamwork dialled. “The opportunity to race overseas and elsewhere in South Africa is special and improves you as a rider when you compete in different places and against different nations” Hammond mused. “But the FNB Wines2Whales has some of the best singletracks and race organisation in the world, which makes the last race of the season very enjoyable. It also draws all the biggest names in South African mountain biking, so you get a chance to really test yourself and see how you’ve improved through the season, or gone backwards” the SPOT Africa rider laughed. “The FNB Wines2Whales is almost like the Grand Finale of the racing mountain bike scene in South Africa” his partner, Jessop added. “The last showdown before a break and then pre-season training for the following year. The FNB W2W also has a great route, and always brings a super competitive field which makes the racing super hard and the most rewarding.” Frans Claes and HB Kruger are also looking forward to the hard racing and rewarding trails. The pair will race in the colours of Devonbosch Stellenbosch. 2019 is Belgian, Claes’ second FNB W2W experience and the second time he and Kruger will team up. With more event and team experience under their belts, the pair could strike up a formidable partnership. As could Canyon Werner’s Sebastian Stark and Robert Hobson. Remarkably it is Stellenbosch resident, Hobson’s FNB W2W debut. In Stark, he has a supremely experienced partner. Though, as Stark explained, their build-up was anything but smooth. “After Rob had crashed badly at the Cape Pioneer Trek leaving him with an injured shoulder and a concussion; we had to wait with a final decision on whether to enter FNB W2W until very late” the German rider, who now resides in South Africa explained. “It's difficult to make any predictions right now. I won't have been back on the mountain bike for quite a while when we line up at the start. So, we'll have to see how stage one goes and take it from there. For now, our cards are close to our chests” his young South African partner added. The final team to watch is more likely to cruise rather than race but made-up as it is of two supremely talented and competitive riders, whether or not they can stick to the goal of a fun ride remains to be seen. Hobson’s mentor and former FNB Wines2Whales champion, Erik Kleinhans starts the 2019 event alongside Katusha-Alpecin’s Willie Smit. The all-star pairing will ride as Katusha-Alpecin Canyon and though Smit is sure to be fatigued after a long World Tour season, his obvious pedigree means their rivals will need to keep a close eye on the road racer from Nelspruit. Time and the FNB Wines2Whales route – from Lourensford to Onrus, via Oak Valley – will tell which team will ride home R100 000 richer on the 3rd of November. The 2019 Shiraz race is sure to be one for the history books, and with no major pre-race advantage lying with any of the favourites, it could be the most open and competitive edition in the eleven racings of this famous event.
  7. Gert Heyns leads Arno Du Toit during Stage 1 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. At the very front of the field, the Elite Men ensured the race got off to a firecracker start. NAD Pro MTB outsprinted PYGA Euro Steel and DSV Pro Cycling to take the finest of advantages into Stage 2. Nobody would have guessed that Stage 1 would end in a sprint the way it started. “Our plan was to get rid of as many teams as possible” Matt Beers of NAD Pro MTB revealed. “And we managed to get rid of all the teams, but we knew it was a long way to go to Oak Valley; so, while we made it hard for PYGA Euro Steel to get back, we were glad that they caught us.” The catch happened at Water Point 1, after 20 kilometres of the 65-kilometre-long stage. “We didn’t panic when NAD got away on the Lourensford Neck climb” Philip Buys pointed out. “We could still see them and we knew we could close the gap. We struggled a little with the fast start but we knew we would get stronger as the stage progressed.” It did not quite turn out as PYGA Euro Steel would have liked, however. With Matthys Beukes nursing a cough, it appeared that he and Buys would be in trouble going up the Gantouw Pass portage. Their canny racing experience negated any physical disadvantage though. “We went to the front in the singletrack before the portage and were able to slow it down to our pace” Beukes confessed. “I’m glad we didn’t go up there any faster, I hate running!” Wessel Botha, of NAD Pro MTB, laughed at Beukes’ revelation. Philip Buys leads Matthys Beukes during Stage 1 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Image Nick Muzik. PYGA Euro Steel’s slowing of the pace allowed DSV Pro Cycling’s Gert Heyns and Arno du Toit to join the front group. The pair had been a minute behind at the Idiom Wine Estate waterpoint, just 7 kilometres before the start of the portage. The trio of teams summited the Gantouw Pass portage together, setting up a thrilling finale to the stage. “From the top of the pass to Oak Valley there aren’t many places to get away” Buys explained. “Descending at over 50 kilometres per hour on the gravel road towards the finish made overtaking dangerous, so the order was pretty much set 2 kilometres out,” he said. Picking up the story of the sprint Beers concluded: “I’ve lost enough sprints to Alan Hatherly to know exactly what to do.” The Elite Men sprint for the Stage win during the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Stage 1. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. Beers crossed the finish line first, but with the second rider from each team determining the order, the result came down to Botha. The young NAD Pro MTB rider did not disappoint his senior colleague, holding off Beukes by 0.2 seconds and DSV Pro Cycling’s Du Toit by 0.9 seconds. The top five places were rounded out by the surprise package of Jaguar Power Products and the SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch teams. Keagan Bontekoning and Jean-Pierre Lloyd inherited fourth after the Devonbosch Stellenbosch team of Frans Claes and HB Kruger punctured on the Vergelegen Climb, 28 kilometres into the stage. The Jaguar Power Products then held the position throughout the rest of the stage. Timothy Hammond and Julian Jessop finished the stage in fifth, 7 minutes and 30.4 seconds behind the sprint for first. Frans Claes leads HB Kruger through a turn during Stage 1 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Photo credit: Nick Muzik. In the Exxaro Jersey competition, the BMT Fairtree team finished an impressive fifteenth overall, on their way to stage victory. Luyanda Thobigunya is a formidably strong rider and won the Exxaro Jersey at the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event last year; alongside Baphelele Mbobo. In 2018 he ended up eighteenth overall, so he and Lorenzo le Roux are on course to improve that result. “Today was easy” Thobigunya smiled. “I knew the trails from last year and that really helped. The portage is always hard though, and I was cramping a bit after that. It makes it difficult to get going again.” Get going again he and Le Roux did, and they finished 3 minutes and 3.8 seconds ahead of the Exxaro/PwC1 team of Lucky Mlangeni and Anrique Davids. FNB Change a Life 1’s Bongumusa Zikhali and Sipho Kupiso claimed third. In the Mixed category, Jennie Stenerhag returned to the FNB Wines2Whales, just a week after securing third overall in the Chardonnay race. She and her partner, Craig Gerber, won the stage by 58.8 seconds over Marco Schaer and Yvonne Waltert. Conway Brett Oliver and Catherine Williamson were third on the opening stage of the Shiraz race. On Saturday, 2 November, the FNB Wines2Whales action continues with the Shiraz race’s Play Day. The 64-kilometre-long out-and-back stage starts and finishes at Oak Valley; taking in 1 400 metres of climbing. Filled with singletrack as it is, it will reward the riders with the best technical skills; but on past evidence, that means it is nearly impossible to pick a favourite for the stage from Stage 1’s main contenders. Another fiercely contested day could well be on the cards. So, mountain biking fans would be wise to tune in from 06:00 when the racing kicks off. The earlier start is to ensure more time is provided for the slower riders to get back to Oak Valley in time for the IRB Rugby World Cup final, which takes place at 11:00. The game will be broadcast live from the FNB Rider Lounge and in the Cape Brewing Co Chill Zone. Results: FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Elite Men Stage 1: 1. NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (02:40:47.8) 2. PYGA EuroSteel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (02:40:48.0 | +0.2) 3. DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (02:40:48.7 | +0.9) 4. Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (02:45:44.5 | +4:56.7) 5. SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch: Timothy Hammond & Julian Jessop (02:48:18.2 | +7:30.4)Exxaro Jersey Stage 1: 1. BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (03:01:32.7) 2. Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (03:04:36.5 | +03:03.8) 3. FNB Change a Life 1: Bongumusa Zikhali & Sipho Kupiso (03:08:48.1 | +07:15.4) Mixed Category Stage 1: 1. Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (03:13:58.4) 2. Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (03:14:57.2 | +58.8) 3. PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (03:19:09.6 | +05:11.2) For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race please visit www.wines2whales.com.
  8. Michael Lambrecht from UCT on the charge. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. Stage 3 was not without drama though. The men’s race saw mechanicals, Simpson taking a brief swim, and a broken handlebar for Tuks’ Andries Nigrini scuppered his and Antonie Joubert’s chances of a stage win. The women’s race was smoother, with UCT racing without incident to the finish. “Andries and Antonie really made it hard for us today” Simpson confessed. “I finally popped in the Wildekrans singletracks. But missing the bridge had nothing to do with that. I just couldn’t see where it was and I underestimated how deep the stream was. I thought I could just ride through it” he recounted, still wet and starting to shiver, on the finish line. “Tuks had a lead of nearly 2 minutes at the end of the singletracks, but when we got to Water Point 2 [44 kilometres into the 69-kilometre-long stage] we saw them stopped with a broken handlebar” Simpson explained. “I come from a road racing background and we tried to use road tactics on them today” Nigrini said, clarifying how the stage unfolded from a Tuks point of view. “We managed to get a gap in the Wildekrans singletracks, but then, approaching the next water point, I slipped on a bridge” Nigrini added. “I took it a bit wide and lost my front wheel when it rolled off the mesh and onto the wet wood. My front wheel washed out and I fell, snapping my handlebar.” UCT's men's team wrapped up the Varsity MTB title through a solid performance. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. The only option for Nigrini and Joubert was to duct tape Nigrini’s shifter and brake lever in. That left his bike lopsided and though Tuks were able to catch up to UCT again, Nigrini was at a definite disadvantage, in the final 10 kilometres. “Shame, it must have been really difficult for him in those singletracks” Simpson commiserated. In the singletrack-filled closing kilometres, Nigrini was unable to keep up with Simpson and Lambrecht. He and Joubert slipped from parity to 2 minutes and 6 seconds behind the general classification victors by the time they crossed the finish line. UCT’s stage win secured them the overall title by 7 minutes and 36 seconds over the Tuks team. The Maties men were third on the stage and the general classification. Things were less dramatic in the women’s race, though it was no procession to the sea for Webb and Tait. The Nelson Mandela University team, of Jean-Marie Roelofse and Stacey Hyslop, along with the Stellenbosch University team, of Catherine Pellow-Jarman and Susan Kruger ensured the racing was tough on the final stage. Celebrations in style for Amy Tait and Courteney Webb from UCT as they claim the Varsity MTB title. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. Roelofse and Hyslop had endured a difficult day on the muddy trails of Stage 2, but the pair enjoyed the drying conditions and more open roads of Stage 3. They pressed Webb and Tait all the way to the final 10 kilometres, after Pellow-Jarman and Kruger had dropped off the pace a little earlier. There was no stopping the UCT women, as Webb and Tait proved unbeatable. “This was the most amazing experience ever” Tait grinned after securing her third stage win of the race, alongside Webb. “The trails were amazing and everything was just great, especially my partner Courteney!” “Getting to the sea here in Onrus was special. It was such a stunning ending to a fantastic FNB Wines2Whales and Varsity MTB event” Webb enthusiastically added. Webb and Tait’s winning time was 4 minutes and 43 seconds faster than the Madibaz pair’s 3 hours, 35 minutes and 51 seconds. “I raced the Varsity MTB in 2017 when it was a stand-alone stage race” Hyslop remembered, choosing to focus on the race as a whole. “It being part of the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage this year was so special. It was great to be part of a bigger event and to represent our universities on a big stage” the Stage 3 runner-up said. After finishing second for the first two days of the race, Pellow-Jarman and Kruger had to settle for third on the final stage. They did enough to remain second on the overall classification though, finishing 23 minutes and 14 seconds behind the race winners. Roelofse and Hyslop’s storming race through Stage 3, was enough to leapfrog them up into the final general classification podium position. Results: Varsity MTB within the FNB Wines2Whales PinotageMen’s Stage 3 Results: 1. UCT Men: Richard Simpson & Michael Lambrecht (02:53:11) 2. Tuks Manne: Andries Nigrini & Antonie Joubert (02:55:17 | +02:06) 3. Maties Men: Michael Sutton & Morné Hollander (03:14:37 | +21:26) Women Stage 3 Results: 1. UCT Women: Courteney Webb & Amy Tait (03:31:08) 2. Madibaz Ladies: Jean-Marie Roelofse & Stacey Hyslop (03:35:51 | +04:43) 3. Maties Ladies: Catherine Pellow-Jarman & Susan Kruger (03:37:15 | +06:07) The Varsity MTB men's podium. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. Men’s General Classification after Stage 3: 1. UCT Men: Richard Simpson & Michael Lambrecht (08:37:45) 2. Tuks Manne: Andries Nigrini & Antonie Joubert (08:45:21 | +07:36) 3. Maties Men: Michael Sutton & Morné Hollander (09:51:00 | +01:12:15) Women’s General Classification after Stage 3: 1. UCT Women: Courteney Webb & Amy Tait (10:57:54) 2. Maties Ladies: Catherine Pellow-Jarman & Susan Kruger (11:21:08 | +23:14) 3. Madibaz Ladies: Jean-Marie Roelofse & Stacey Hyslop (11:54:19 | +56:25) The Varsity MTB women's podium. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage race please visit www.wines2whales.com.
  9. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. Team dormakaba had put the pressure on all stage, and forced Faces into an error. De Groot and McDougall accelerated from the Elite Women’s group on the Houw Hoek switchbacks. They established an advantage of 15 seconds, which they held through Water Point 1 in Botrivier; but in the Wildekrans singletracks, after 30 kilometres of racing, Lill and Morath caught them. For the next 30 kilometres the two teams went head-to-head through the trails, jockeying for any advantage. Towards the end of the stage’s Land Rover Experience Section, the technical descent through The Gorge, Morath punctured. “Adelheid had a puncture in the last singletrack before Water Point 3” Lill explained. “Then we somehow managed to go past the tech-zone without communicating that she had a puncture. So, we had to fix it ourselves. But we didn’t do the greatest job, so she had to ride with a flat to the finish line. It’s unfortunate, but that’s racing. Hats off to Team dormakaba for a great race” she philosophically concluded. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. “It’s never nice to win because of someone else’s misfortune” a gracious De Groot began. “But it happens and we had to take the opportunity when it arose. We saw Adelheid stopping and then we knew we had to go flat out for the line.” “It was pretty much a 10-kilometre sprint” McDougall added. “I was counting down every metre.” The dormakaba women sprinted over the line, unsure of how far behind the Faces team of Lill and Morath were. As the clocked ticked closer to the 1 minute and 34 seconds which separated dormakaba and Faces overnight, Paul Valstar, the finish line announcer, provided a count-down while De Groot and McDougall nervously watched the final corner for a glimpse of their rivals. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. When they were confirmed the victors, De Groot and McDougall’s first actions were to commiserate with Lill and Morath. The final margin of victory was 1 minutes and 3.5 seconds, meaning that Morath’s puncture had produced a 2 minute and 37.8 second swing in just 10 kilometres. Behind the stage winners, Fairtee-Rotwild and Kross Spur sprinted for third as Ariane Lüthi and Samara Sheppard raced to make up places on the general classification. The Swiss/New Zealand combination had lost nearly an hour after Lüthi destroyed her rear derailleur by tangling it in a piece of trail-side wire. They had been holding third position for much of the stage, but Jennie Stenerhag and Nadine Rieder caught them on the Onrus beach. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. Racing across the Peri bridges on the beach and up onto the beach-front road into the finish line, the Kross Spur and Fairtree-Rotwild teams jostled for position. Lüthi lead the quartet across the line while Sheppard split Rieder and Stenerhag to secure the final podium position on the stage. Rieder and Stenerhag’s fourth on the day secured third on the final general classification standings. The SA Trippers team of Katie Lennard and Laura Stark were fifth on the stage and fourth overall. Their consistency over the course of the three days was enough to hold off Lüthi and Sheppard by 3 minutes and 19.1 seconds. Photo credit: Xavier Briel. Results: FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay Stage 3: 1. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (02:51:43.1) 2. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (02:54:20.9 | +2:37.8) 3. Kross Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (02:56:13.3 | +4:30.2) 4. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (02:56:14.0 | +4:30.9) 5. SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (03:02:02.9 | +10:19.8)General Classification after Stage 3: 1. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (09:00:18.1) 2. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (09:01:21.6 | +01:03.5) 3. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (09:15:16.4 | +14:58.3) 4. SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (09:42:25.0 | +42:06.9) 5. Kross Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (09:45:44.1 | +45:26.0) For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race please visit www.wines2whales.com
  10. The FNB Wines2Whales Switchback is no simple route reverse. It is a dramatic reimagining of the trails which usually take riders from the winelands to the whales each year. The 2020 FNB Wines2Whales will switchback; leading riders from the whales, in Hermanus, to the wines of Lourensford Wine Estate, over three spectacular three-day stage races. Chardonnay: 30 October 1 November | Pinotage: 2 – 4 November | Shiraz: 6 – 8 November “Our route team, under the guidance of Johan Kriegler, has been refining the FNB Wines2Whales route since 2010,” Race Director, Hendrico Burger said. “In the last decade, countless singletracks have been built in mountain biking hotspots, like the Hemel en Aarde Valley and Elgin, but also in less well-ridden areas like Gaf se Bos and the Helderberg basin. The team has added new trails annually but to fully make use of some of the most exciting trails we had to re-look at the route.” “That’s where the concept of the Switchback was born” Burger elaborated. “Not only is it an interesting twist on the well-established FNB Wines2Whales race format, but it also gives us a chance to utilise trails which the traditional direction simply cannot. Going forward, the Switchback will run in alternate years with the historic FNB W2W route, starting in 2020; 2021 then sees a return to the traditional Lourensford, Oak Valley, Onrus course” he explained. Stage 1, of the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback, will start in Hermanus. From there the route will snake up Rotary Drive, spreading the start batches for the Hemel en Aarde singletracks. Climbing through the wine region famous for its Pinot Noir, the race then diverts out of the valley onto the Karwyderskraal road before slipping into the Gaf se Bos singletracks. With the first half of the day’s climbing conquered, the Switchback will twist and turn through Wildekrans, along all-new trails. Then it is onwards and upwards; ascending Kat Pas, after passing through Botrivier, to Houw Hoek. Avoiding the brutal Houw Hoek switchbacks, riders cross under the N2 and enjoy the thrills of Lebanon’s trails. After dipping under the highway again it is homeward bound via Paul Cluver and a final fun section of Oak Valley singletrack. With Oak Valley hosting the race village, the usual FNB Wines2Whales luxuries will be on hand with the now familiar race village lay-out. Frequent FNB W2W riders might be unfamiliar with the route to Oak Valley, but they will feel right at home once they arrive. Staples like the FNB Rider Lounge and the CBC Chill Zone will remain, as will the Spur Steak Ranches burger station and the Squirt Kränzle bike wash. Stage 2 will remain the famous ‘Play Day’. In the spirit of switching it up, there will be investing in trail building specifically for the 2020 edition and the route will feature old favourites in new orders, interspersed with brand-new trails. Riders will be able to explore Paul Cluver and Oak Valley like never before, while also experiencing more of the Lebanon Trails and a reimagined Peri Playpark. The final stage will take riders from Oak Valley to Lourensford Wine Estate. This ensures a glamourous finale to a truly special edition of the race. Starting with a new, and as yet, top-secret route out of Oak Valley towards the Eikenhof Dam; there the revamped A to Z trails await. Then, for the first time in the race’s history, riders will descend, rather than ascend, the Gantouw Pass. It will remain a compulsory portage however, but carrying bikes down a mountain is undoubtedly easier than up it. At the foot of the Gantouw Pass, the trails of Knorhoek and Wedderville will lead riders across the Helderberg Basin onto the extensive Vergelegen farm. From Vergelegen it is fun and games on a combination of virgin trails and new approaches to existing singletracks on Lourensford Wine Estate. In summary, the Switchback will feature three stages that hover around the 70 kilometre mark. The route team has worked hard to ensure that Serious GEES wins the day, and with the new route starting and finishing at sea level, riders can expect similar amounts of climbing to the traditional FNB W2W route. The new direction makes the opening stage arguably more challenging, while Stage 2 will remain similarly difficult to the 2019 edition, and the final stage could well prove easier without the trials of the Art House climb. “The FNB Wines2Whales is steeped in history and changing up a route that has become a firm favourite amongst mountain bikers is never a decision that is made without research and consideration. With the support of the race founders, Johan Kriegler and Hendrico Burger, as well as our various partners, we are extremely excited to offer riders this new route and experience, backed up with the same trusted organisational excellence and world class rider experience. We know that the fresh, unique route is sure to carve its way into South African, and international, mountain bikers’ hearts and yearly calendars” said Michael Flinn, Managing Director of the FNB Wines2Whales. Karen Clements, Event Director for the FNB Wines2Whales shared the sentiment and added, “The FNB Wines2Whales has always been a race that places rider satisfaction at the forefront of every decision made, be it a sponsor partnership, the gear included in the race pack, and of course route changes. The 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback is sure to showcase even more of the spectacular riding that the Overberg has to offer, but in a format many riders have not experienced prior as they make their way from Hermanus, to Oak Valley, and finally to Lourensford.” Entries to the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback will open to the general public on the 5th of November, 2019 and can be secured by visiting www.wines2whales.com.
  11. The ladies under starting orders during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage 2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Nick Muzik After the relentless rain, which fell throughout the opening stage of the race, the roads and trails were exceptionally muddy, even though the sun was shining. Riders crossed the finish line caked in mud. “You can see from my face how muddy it was out there. I’m covered from head to toe” Lill laughed. “If anything, the sun coming out made it more slippery. The singletracks were tacky, but not in a fun way” Lill explained. “Because we had a minute and a half lead, we could afford to be conservative today. It would have been so easy to make a mistake and crash in the slippery conditions. We could only relax once we crossed the finish line today. It was quite stressful.” Leading riders during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel The presence of the dormakaba and Fairtree-Rotwild teams alongside them, for much of the stage, ensured a tense day. “I couldn’t quite stay with the group on the climbs” Jennie Stenerhag, who finished third alongside Nadine Rieder, confided. “But on every descent, we would catch back up again. By the third time it happened, I was quite relaxed. On the Lebanon singletracks, we caught the Faces and dormakaba teams again, after having been distanced on the climb to the trails. It was great fun riding that section again in an FNB Wines2Whales. Unfortunately just before the last waterpoint, at the Hickory Shack, a piece of wire got tangled in my cassette. It took quite a while to get it out and I knew then that we would not be able to catch the other two teams” the Fairtree-Rotwild rider clarified. Stenerhag’s misfortune left dormakaba and Faces to sprint it out for stage honours. “I was stuck in a gear because my derailleur had stopped working with all the mud” Morath revealed. “Candice let me lead into the last singletrack and created a bit of space for me to get a head-start for the sprint.” Amy Beth McDougall and Robyn de Groot from team Dormakaba during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel “I was on the limit for most of the day” McDougall said, providing the dormakaba perspective of how the race unfolded. “I didn’t have anything extra for an attack or to really contest the sprint.” “We are 1 minute and 34 seconds behind” McDougall’s partner De Groot pointed out. “If we are to make that up, we will have to make our move early tomorrow.” Team Kross Spur’s Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard also experienced challenges today, but theirs weren’t limited to the mud. Lüthi found herself running for the final kilometres of the race, with her bike at hand, after her rear derailleur snapped off. Ariane Lüthi and Samara Sheppard from team Kross Spur during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel The fact that more rain is predicted to fall on Sunday will ensure an exciting finale to the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay. The 69-kilometre-long route from Oak Valley to Onrus provides opportunities aplenty for aggressive racing. With the record-setting R100 000 prize on the line, Lill and Morath will have another day of high stress as De Groot and McDougall do everything in their power to usurp the current leaders. Candice Lill from team Faces during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel Results: FNB Wines2Whales ChardonnayStage 2: Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (03:03:48.8) dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (03:03:51.0 | +2.2) Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (03:05:15.8 | +1:27.0) SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (03:11:34.7 | +7:45.9) Ghost Factory Racing: Barbara Benko & Mariske Strauss (03:13:27.0 | +9:38.2) General Classification after Stage 2: Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (06:07:00.7) dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (06:08:35.0 | +1:34.3) Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (06:19:02.3 | +12:01.6) SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (06:40:22.1 | +33:34.3) dormakaba 2: Alice Pirard & Sabine Spitz (06:45:35.0 | +38:34.3) For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race please visit www.wines2whales.com.
  12. Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath claimed Stage 1 of the 2019 FNB W2W. Photo Credit: Xavier Briel. Lill and Morath won the 2018 race in commanding fashion, claiming two stage victories on their way to the general classification crown by 9 minutes and 47 seconds. Their push for victory was founded on a strong start to the opening stage last year, and this year’s race is off to a similar start. The pair attacked from the off, capitalising on the cold legs of their rivals; after the start had been delayed by the ceaseless rain. “The plan was to push the pace on the first climb, like we did last year” Lill explained, after crossing the finish line in Oak Valley. “We managed to get a little gap over the dormakaba team of Robyn de Groot and Amy McDougall, but they closed it again on the rolling section that followed. Then, on a little kicker before Water Point 1, Amy seemed to be struggling a bit, so we accelerated again. We got a gap and pretty much held it steady all the way to the finish”. Amy Beth McDougall leads Robyn de Groot during Stage 1 of the 2019 FNB W2W. Photo Credit: Xavier Briel. Adding colour to Lill’s tale Morath said: “That was tough! Racing in the pouring rain from the start made it really difficult to see where we were going, especially following in the slippery and muddy singletracks.” The Faces team’s winning margin was 1 minute and 32.1 seconds over the second-placed dormakaba team. “We rode nicely together” McDougall reflected on her budding partnership with De Groot. In just their second stage race together, the pair worked well to keep Lill and Morath in sight for most of the stage. “From what I can remember, the trails in Oak Valley and Paul Cluver get pretty slippery when they’re wet. So, anything can happen tomorrow” a muddy McDougall concluded. The Elite Women charged out into the elements. Photo Credit: Xavier Briel. Jennie Stenerhag and Nadine Rieder were third on the stage, crossing the line 10 minutes and 34.7 seconds after the stage winners. “Candice and Adelheid got away on the first climb, Robyn and Amy followed them. Then it was us who summited third” the Fairtree rider, in the Fairtree-Rotwild combination, clarified. “After that, we were on our own for the rest of the stage. It was pretty lonely, to be honest. The temperature wasn’t too bad at least, once we got going.” Stenerhag reiterated the general theme reported by the stage finishers. Behind the top three teams, Ariane Lüthi and Samara Sheppard had fought back from a slow start to finish fourth. The Kross Spur team was just under 4 minutes faster than the fifth-placed Multitask Industries combination, of Alice Pirard and Sabine Spitz. Katie Lennard and Laura Stark were sixth, Sarah Hill and Danielle Strydom were seventh and the most social elite riders in the field, Barbara Benko and Mariske Strauss crossed the line in eighth. Mud baths were available at no extra charge during Stage 1 of the 2019 FNB W2W. Photo Credit: Xavier Briel. The rain is predicted to fall until late on Friday evening, but it is looking positive for overcast skies but no further precipitation on Saturday. At 64 kilometres long, Stage 2, is the play day of the FNB Wines2Whales and the singletrack packed route could offer opportunities for the chasing teams to make up time on Lill and Morath, especially if the leaders can be forced into taking undue risks. Challenging conditions typically reward the strongest riders though, so, the 2019 Chardonnay race is sure to see worthy winners crowned in Onrus, on Sunday. Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath go into Stage 2 as the Race leaders. Photo Credit: Xavier Briel. Results: FNB Wines2Whales ChardonnayStage 1 1. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (03:03:11.8) 2. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (03:04:43.9) 3. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (03:13:46.5) 4. Kross Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (03:24:17.8) 5. Multitask Industries: Alice Pirard & Sabine Spitz (03:28:11.3) For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race please visit wines2whales.com
  13. The universities represented are the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of Pretoria (UP-Tuks), Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Nelson Mandela University (Madibaz), North West University (NWU) and Stellenbosch University (Maties). Along with bragging rights for their schools the students will be competing for cash prizes and a men’s and women’s race Ciovita leaders’ jersey. The jerseys will be awarded to the Varsity MTB team with the lowest accumulated time after each stage of the race; while the men’s and women’s stage winners will each receive R1 000, per stage. A total of R39 000 in prize money will be awarded to the teams after three days of racing, with the winning men’s and women’s teams taking home R6 000 each. In the absence of cycling stars like Tiffany Keep, Tristan de Lange, and Gert Heyns – who is racing FNB W2W Shiraz, which starts on Friday the 1st of November – the full-time students will have a chance to shine. Aside from the University Sports South Africa Cycling Championships, which took pace in July, many of the riders do not get the opportunity to race against each other. That makes it exceptionally difficult to pick a favourite. UCT’s Courteney Webb is, to her fellow Western Cape cyclists at least, one of the most recognisable names in the line-up. “I've heard of, or know, most of the women on the roster, but regrettably I have basically never raced against them on a mountain bike” the 2019 Around the Pot 100 Miler champion confessed. “If I had to guess, I would say that the Tuks women's team is a strong partnership. But it is also so hard to say because the racing will be taking place in teams, so I can't say confidently how these riders will perform together... I'm excited though, it looks to be a great line-up and I’m sure the whole FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage experience will be great fun!” Webb’s pick of the women’s team to watch is the combination of Tanya Kotze and Michelle Benson. The pair placed fourth and sixth in the cross-country race at the University Sports South Africa Cycling Championships, in July; either side of Webb’s fifth. None of the podium finishers from that event will start the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage though, so the Tuks pair are the slight favourites. Webb and her partner, Amy Tait are sure to be competitive for UCT however, as are the Maties pairing of Catherine Pellow-Jarmain and Susan Kruger. Though Brendan van Eeden, from NWU, could well be the strongest individual in the race. The men’s race is also likely to feature a three-way battle between the two Western Cape universities and the famous sporting institution from Pretoria. UP-Tuks’ Andries Nigrini and Antonie Joubert are both strong riders, although Ngrini has shown more pedigree on the road than on a mountain bike. Michael Sutton and Mornè Hollander are racing to defend local honour, as Stellenbosch University is the closest geographically to the race’s start point in Lourensford. They will have an uphill battle on their hands however. UCT’s Richard Simpson and Michael Lambrecht arguably hold a slight advantage over the rest of the men’s field. This advantage comes in the form of Simpson’s stage race experience. which sets him apart from the rest of the field who will be making their stage race debuts at FNB Wines2Whales.
  14. Headlining the elite women’s category are the defending champions Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath. Lill has continued on from her strong 2018; securing her first senior South African title and is the highest UCI ranked rider lining up in the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales events. The South African XCO champion will continue her successful partnership with 2019 Swiss Epic champion Morath, who stormed to victory in the five-stage race, which took place in the Graubünden canton of Switzerland in August. “Yes, we're returning to defend our title, but it does not add any pressure” Morath revealed. “I see it as a gift to be the team which sets out to defend the title. We will do our best and race all out. After the race we will see which team will win the title in 2019” the German rider pragmatically stated. “I also enjoy the feeling of teaming up with such a strong woman and as a result I want to give my very best [to support Candice Lill]. In stage races it's not all about a once-off performance – you have to perform well every day. The challenge is to take care of yourself, your bike, your partner and the team around you, which supports you, throughout the race” Morath advised. “The season has been quite long – beginning with the Cape Epic in March – with no break in between – until my final race of the season, at the end of October with FNB W2W. I'm honestly a little bit tired mentally and physically, but I’m still very motivated about it” she confided. “I'm coming with a lot of self-confidence, taken from the Marathon World Championships in September. I missed the bronze medal there by just 1 second and finished in an unlucky fourth position!” The woman who pipped Morath to third place in the XCM World Championships is South African, Robyn de Groot. De Groot will be racing alongside dormakaba teammate Amy McDougall. The pair come into the FNB Wines2Whales straight from a general classification victory at Berg and Bush, in KwaZulu-Natal, where they held off Galileo Risk’s Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph to claim the title. In Ralph’s absence, Hill will be teaming up with Danielle Strydom for the 2019 race. “As much as I love the Western Cape, I unfortunately don’t get many chances to visit; however, that’s part of the reason why I’m so excited to be racing the FNB Wines2Whales” Strydom enthused. “The province is known for its amazing mountain biking trails with their spectacular scenery. I know that W2W will take us through the cream-of-the-crop of those trails and I cannot wait! It will be my first W2W, but from what I hear, I think the routes and trails will suit my riding style; as I love singletracks and the challenges of climbing.” Like Hill and Strydom, the Fairtree-Rotwild, SA Roadtrippers and Ghost Factory Racing teams feature untested line-ups. Swedish XCM champion and former FNB Wines2Whales champion Jennie Stenerhag will start alongside Nadine Rieder for Fairtree-Rotwild. SA Roadtrippers will be represented by the South African/German combination of Katie Lennard and Laura Stark. While Barbara Benko and Catherine Colyn are another international/local duo. “FNB Wines2Whales is my last target of the season and it fits perfectly as I will stay in South Africa after the race, for a little bit of a holiday” the Hungarian XCO champion, Benko explained. “I love South Africa and the weather will be good there too, as we will enter winter in Europe soon. I have a bit more of a reason now to stay longer too, as my boyfriend lives in South Africa. It will be time to reconnect again after the long season and spend some quality time together. Plus, I have a new, South African, coach. So, it makes sense to stay there, do some testing and planning with him for the next season. All-in-all racing FNB W2W is quite a winning situation for me!” In order to match the winning rationale off the bike with results on the bike at FNB Wines2Whales, Benko and Colyn will have to best the Kross Spur team. Swiss XCM champion Ariane Lüthi, will team-up once more with New Zealand’s Samara Sheppard. Lüthi, who needs no introduction to South African mountain biking fans, but the woman from the Land of the Long White Cloud is somewhat of a dark horse. Having placed fifth in the XCM World Championships in 2019 after racing to third in the Swiss Epic, alongside Lüthi, Sheppard is in formidable form. Unlike most of her rivals, her racing season does not end with FNB Wines2Whales either, as she is targeting The Pioneer, fuelled by Nutri-Grain in her native New Zealand in December. The friendly Kiwi is also a proven stage racer, having secured victories in the Australian – Port to Port, Reef to Reef, and Cape to Cape – Epic Series races. The final team, making up the formidable FNB Wines2Whales elite women’s line-up, is the pairing of Alice Pirard and Sabine Spitz, who will also be flying the dormakaba flag. Although an untested pairing, the Belgian – German team appears on paper to be a strong one as Spitz recently claimed a top 10 finish at the UCI Marathon World Champs and Pirard secured second place at the Swiss Epic.
  15. Photo credit: Greg Beadle. To ensure the safety of their fellow riders all E-Bikers, and their non-pedal assisted partners, will start in the event’s final batch. But they will be able to ride the entire route and with a battery swap service (conditional to you bringing your own spare battery of course), the distance won’t be a concern. With the added power of an electric motor helping them along, the E-Bikers will be able to take in the route like never before. They’ll be able to cruise up the Vergelegen Climb and conquer any obstacle the race throws at them. As long as, of course, their E-Bikes have the walk-assist function… pushing 20+kg bikes up the Gantouw Pass without that handy function might be a touch tricky. And you can be sure no rider on a one HP (human power in this case) mountain bike is going to lend a hand. Photo credit: Greg Beadle. “The rationale behind allowing E-Bikes to take part in the mid-week event is to make it more inclusive,” Sarah Harrop, Head of Marketing and Communications for FNB Wines2Whales explained. “We’re hoping to attract riders who would otherwise not be able to take part in an MTB stage event for reasons that could vary from disability, age, health issues or simply fitness. It also allows the opportunity for stronger partners to introduce friends, family members or youngsters to the sport without the “10 hours per week” training sacrifice. We will ensure that the inclusion of E-Bike riders will not interfere with the race itself.” Charging E-Bikes can pose an issue in a race village, however AMPED has come to the rescue and will be ensuring that all E-Bikes are charged and ready to rumble each morning.
  16. Winter in the Western Cape is trail building time. The soil is softer allowing Johan Kriegler and his Cape Trails route team to cut virgin trails, sculpt exquisite berms and seek lines between immovable obstacles. Kriegler, as any FNB Wines2Whales rider will attest, is the Zen master of flow. So any hint of what he and his team are up to will surely be eagerly received. His Midas touch is currently being put to great use on the Stage 1 route. After the addition of new singletrack in Lourensford in 2018 the focus for 2019 is Vergelegen. Not too much can be revealed at this point, but long-time riders need not fear the infamous climb in that storied wine farm remains – just to test the legs a bit. Later in the stage; the A2Z trails have received some much needed TLC; after safely navigating A2N riders can look forward to racing down Willie's Trail towards WP3 at the Grabouw Country Club. Thereafter, breaking from tradition, a new route to Oak Valley is blazed, making use of gees-inducing trails like Protea Heights, Waterfall, and Hothouse Effect before celebratory high-fives are awarded under the finish arch. Stage 2 is the real winner when it comes to updates and perfections; many changes were due to the veld fire that ripped through the area earlier this year, others are for the sole purpose of serious gees, including the rebuilding of bridges, improving the flow of old trails, and seeking out trails never ridden by any Wines2Whales rider before. A significant amount of trail building has been taking place on more familiar soil, in the Paul Cluver Wine Estate with the help of Dr Cluver himself and his team of trail builders, under the guidance of Andries Burger. Pofadder, Witklippies 1 and 2 all needed a healthy dose of trail surgery after the fire; this gave the team the chance to not only rebuild the resident bridges, but give them a complete overhaul. There are all-new trails on the farm too, with the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre getting a much needed revamp. The iconic spot, which is a fan and rider favourite, now features new singletracks which swoop through the trees. The changes aren't limited to just one side of the N2 and later in the Stage the route dives under the national highway for the first time since the third edition of FNB Wines2Whales. The highlight of this rejuvenated section is without a doubt the return to the lower trails in the Lebanon network. The fun does require some effort and to get there riders will have to climb, but the Cape Trails team will be ensuring that the climb is not too arduous as they are creating an all new singletrack section that winds gradually upwards, ensuring riders are well spread for the descent to follow. From there it’s homeward-bound via the Hickory Shack and of course the KROMCO-PERI Play Park and Oak Valley's breathtaking singletracks. Stage 3’s route to the seaside town of Onrus has also been rejuvenated. On the run-in towards the Houw Hoek Hotel the Jakkals River singletrack has been rebuilt entirely, taking a higher contour. The climb from the river bed to the Houw Hoek Switchbacks has as a result been halved. The first significant section of trail on the final day will help ensure riders are treated to a ride to the coast as spectacular as the preceding day. Smiles will be working overtime as riders reach the top of the Gorge and pin their ears back for a fast and furious descent through the Land Rover Experience section down the famous Hemel-en-Aarde trails; gone as a result is the torturous Water Works climb. 2019 riders, and those who have experienced an FNB Wines2Whales finale in Onrus before, will be blown away by the entire experience; a festival atmosphere awaits in the seaside village where all things mountain biking and Wines2Whales will be celebrated in style. The Wines2Whales team will continue to work towards perfecting the 2019 route and we guarantee that there will be #SeriousGEES aplenty! For regular updates on the process and hints of what exactly lies in store, be sure to follow us on social media: Wines2Whales on Facebook, @w2wmtb on Twitter and @wines_2_whales on Instagram. Entries can be purchased on www.wines2whales.com
  17. To coincide with the event’s 10-year birthday celebrations the logo was given a fresh overhaul to commemorate the milestone. While it represents somewhat of a departure from the previous version’s ornate iconography, the new version pays homage to race founder Johan Kriegler’s original idea which comprised a bike cog as its central theme. “The logo I initially drafted in 2009 was a lot different to the one we eventually rolled out,” said Kriegler. “It featured a bike cog with a whale fin. FNB W2W Race Director, Hendrico Burger, came up with the wine bottle and whale tail silhouette of the previous logo and it stuck.” The new logo’s modern aesthetic adds a sophisticated twist to that of the previous version. Not only does it retain the colour palette of title sponsor FNB, the new logo aims to be re-establish its outlook as South Africa’s favourite MTB trails with a focus on fun, enjoyment, participation, gees, history and the notion that everybody gets a medal. “By keeping the same feel and ethos of its predecessor, the new 10-year version of the FNB W2W logo alludes to the race’s newfound contemporary stance,” said Christo Toua, FNB W2W Brand Manager. “It represents and respects its illustrious history while celebrating the 10-year birthday at the same time, too.” Keen to race the 10th edition of the FNB Wines2Whales? Well, there are still limited entries available for both the Pinotage (29 – 31 October 2018) and Shiraz (2 – 4 November 2018) races – register now and avoid missing the biggest birthday bash of the year!
  18. Things are getting real for w2w this year. Just received the starting group notification. Who else is doing the Ride this year?
  19. Given the popularity of the race and limited entries, participants are encouraged to enter as soon as possible to avoid the disappointment of missing out. This is especially key for the 2019 race as the organising team at Grandstand Management have big plans to continue to improve the rider experience. “2018 was a baptism by heat, wind and protest action for us as the new owners of FNB Wines2Whales” Michael Flinn, the Managing Director of Grandstand Management smiled. Hinting at what is to come Flinn continued: “Without tempting fate, we hope that has got the natural disasters out of the way for a few years and we can really show off what Grandstand can bring to the W2W experience. Riders can expect us to continue to refine and evolve the events, with the riding and post-stage experiences our key focus. So stay tuned for updates throughout the year as we announce subtle improvements to the route and race village.” Rather than dampen the mood the challenges really brought out the gees in the field. “Well done to all the race organizers and crew! Thank you for always making us the riders and our safety a first priority! And handling the unexpected with such professionalism, it definitely puts W2W in a different league when it comes to events! That and the gees is why I have been back for a third time. Awesome memories, the big pyjama party included,” Connie-Marlene Theyse enthused after the windswept Pinotage event. Adding his praise, after the rerouted final stage of the Shiraz event Wade Gomes had this to say: “well done guys on getting a route sorted. Other stage races would have just cancelled the day... no wonder the big boys decided to buy W2W, you guys know what mountain biking is all about! This is why we ride." One of the key traditions of FNB Wines2Whales is the opening of entries on Valentine’s Day. Riders who took part in any of the 2018 events will have 24 hours to beat the rush though, as entries open for them at 09:00 on Wednesday the 13th of February. General entries open the following day, on the 14th, also at 09:00. Entrants can choose from three entry options. The standard tent entry includes a two person tent per rider, while for those requiring more comfort there is a luxury tent option. Riders wishing to stay off-site in one of the Elgin Valley’s many bed and breakfasts can select the ‘meals only’ entry option without a tent in the race village. Do not miss the trills of riding from Lourensford Wine Estate – trekking up the historical Gantouw Pass, whooping through the Elgin Valley, relaxing at the spectacular Oak Valley Wine Estate and descending to the azure waters of the Indian Ocean – to Hermanus. Save the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales dates.
  20. The Marine Hotel was an undeniably beautiful finishing venue. The cliff-top setting provided stunning photos and the opportunity for riders to indulge themselves, post-race, in one of Hermanus town centre’s many fantastic restaurants. Onrus – with its sprawling campsite, dotted with milkwoods, and pristine white sand beach – is similarly keeping with the FNB Wines2Whales gees. A gees which riders can expect to be amplified as the organisers pull together a world-class set-up. Food trucks, chill zones, ample shade and direct access to the tidal pool will ensure riders and their families can relax at the finish line and soak up every last second of the event’s famous vibe. Returning to Onrus also means a great riding experience in the final ten kilometres of the third stage. Riders will swoop down the lowest sections of the Hemel en Aarde mountain bike trails with a seaside view run-in to Onrus. This jaunt is a real treat along the Onrus Beach on the PERI boardwalks, which provide an easy path across the white sand and take riders to the every edge of the Indian Ocean to ensure a truly “to whales” feeling. The iconic photos of riders making their way across the beach, with the azure waters in the background, will be back by popular demand this year. The scene is much a part of the W2W’s image in popular mountain biking culture as Gantouw Pass and Oak Valley’s exceptional singletracks. Oak Valley and Paul Cluver’s singletracks meanwhile will be undergoing a fire-enforced facelift. Two weeks after the Elgin Fire the damage has been assessed and FNB Wines2Whales will be spearheading the rebuilding programme. The supplies have been ordered to being the construction of new bridges, to replace those which were damaged in the blaze, and the Cape Trails team are standing by to aid the farm’s trail builders. As the 2019 entry opening dates approach the pieces for a spectacular FNB Wines2Whales are coming together. The eleventh edition will be one which mountain bikers will not want to miss. 2018 participants will have the first opportunity to secure entries, when early bird entries open on Wednesday the 13th of February at 09h00. General entries open 24 hours later on Valentine’s Day. For more information on the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales please visit www.wines2whales.com.
  21. The third and final stage ended in a sprint involving five teams with Under-23 cross country world champion Alan Hatherly of South Africa and his Danish teammate Simon Andreassen (Spur Specialized) getting across the line first. Belgians Frans Claes and renowned road rider Jasper Stuyven (Waypoint Leuven) were second with Beers and Botha third. Late last night the FNB Wines2Whales organisers were instructed by emergency services in Hermanus to stay away from the town – where the race was scheduled to end – because of the protests. A road near the town had been blocked by burning tyres and rocks. A decision was taken to hold the stage in the Elgin/Grabouw area on an out-and-back course starting and finishing at Oak Valley wine estate. The race’s route team worked through the night to plan a new course and then mark it. The stage they came up with was 56km long and was mostly held on trails in the area that had not been used in the previous two stages. “It was a really cool course … they did really well to design it and mark it in that time,” said Botha afterwards. The 19-year-old from Pretoria and Beers began the final stage with a 2 minute and 54 seconds cushion. They had a setback halfway through the ride when Beers got a puncture. Their support team of Gawie Combrinck and Nico Bell (NAD 2) was with the front group “so we swopped a wheel and then it was a mad dash to get back”, said Botha. They were helped when the front riders missed a route marker and had to turn back. “We just all rode together from there. For the last five kays we just had to hang tight,” said Beers. After celebrating on the line in a spray of champagne, Beers said his first FNB Wines2Whales win “is such a good feeling”. For Botha it was his first win in a major stage race and the more experienced Beers said “Wessel has been really great … our riding styles are very similar and we gelled very well”. Hatherly had also suffered a puncture early on in the ride and chased back after plugging it. At about 40km he and Andreassen caught the front group and immediately attacked up a switchback climb. “Then we took a wrong turn and that’s where everybody came together again,” he said. Hatherly and Andreassen were, however, able to celebrate their second stage win in two days – they had also won Stage 2 in a sprint. Andreassen, a former junior world champion, said the course had been quite dusty and, because of the late rerouting, they had little idea what lay ahead: “But it was the same for everybody, so we’ve got no complaints.” Second in the dash for the line were Claes and Stuyven, an accomplished road rider who finished fifth at the Paris Roubaix classic this year and who was taking part in his first mountain bike race. Stuyven said he had gone for skills training in Stellenbosch the day before the event and became more comfortable on a mountain bike as the race progressed. “On the first day I bonked (ran out of energy) but yesterday and today were great. I enjoyed it a lot but I’ve still got a lot to learn on a mountain bike,” he added. Bell and Beers were third in the sprint, fourth went to Calle Friberg and HB Kruger (HiQ Ellsworth) and Bell/Combrinck finished fifth. Another team celebrating their accomplishment were Dutchmen Mitchel Steenman and Matthijs Jasperse, the only riders to finish the Jereboam – all three three-day FNB Wines2Whales events (the Chardonnay, Pinotage and Shiraz). Steenman, an Olympic rower who stands a full 2m tall, said they had enjoyed their nine days of riding and the new course today had made for a bit of a change from what they had expected. They finished the stage in 2 hours and 33 minutes, placing them a commendable 30th overall. They also won the whale category for teams in which both riders weigh more than 90kg. “It’s an amazing feeling to have finished them all,” said Jasperse before the pair headed off for the airport and their flight back to Holland. FNB Wines2Whales Other Category Results | Shiraz Stage 3: Sub vets: Team NAD 2 (Nico Bell/Gawie Combrinck) 7:43.09,8 Vets: Dormakaba 3 (Nico Pfitzenmaier/Paris Basson) 8:22.37,8 Masters: Robert Daniel (Doug Brown/Robert Sim) 8:54.56,5 Mixed: Rockhopper Adventures (Corne Barnard/Mariske Strauss) 8:56.55,6 Exxaro: BMT Fairtree 1 (Baphelele Mvovo/Luyanda Thovigunya) 8:48.23,6FNB Wines2Whales Results | Shiraz Stage 3: 1 Spur Specialized (Alan Hatherly/Simon Andreassen) 2:13.06,4 2 Waypoint Leuven (Frans Claes/Jasper Stuyven) 2:13.07,9 3 Team NAD (Matthew Beers/Wessel Botha) 2:13.11,4 4 HiQ Ellsworth (Calle Friberg/Hendrik Kruger) 2:13.12,9 5 Team NAD 2 (Nico Bell/Gawie Combrinck) 2:13.25,3 FNB Wines2Whales Results | Shiraz General Classification after Stage 3: 1 Team NAD (Matthew Beers/Wessel Botha) 7:35.26,9 2 Spur Specialized (Alan Hatherly/Simon Andreassen) 7:38.16,3 3 Team NAD 2 (Nico Bell/Gawie Combrinck) 7:43.09,8 4 Waypoint Leuven (Frans Claes/Jasper Stuyven) 7:44.38,9 5 HiQ Ellsworth (Calle Friberg/Hendrik Kruger) 7:46.56,4
  22. This means that the race’s third stage from Oak Valley to Hermanus cannot take place as scheduled. Instead, the route team will be working through the night to set up a third stage starting and finishing at Oak Valley. As far as possible, the route will not use trails that have already been included in the event. Race director Hendrico Burger said the FNB Wines2Whales regretted the development, but some of the protests were on the route to Hermanus “and we obviously cannot jeopardise the safety of our riders”. Race managing director Michael Flinn added: “The route tomorrow will be an excellent and fun one and we are looking forward to greeting all the riders in style at Oak Valley at the finish of their 2018 FNB Wines2Whales.” This afternoon the Head of Overberg disaster management, Reinhart Geldenhuys, advised the race against finishing in Hermanus. A section of the R43 near Hermanus has been closed by burning tyres and rocks in the road. Anybody driving in the area has been advised to follow instructions from traffic officials. The route team began working immediately on the new route, which will be approximately 55km. The stage will start at 8:30am. Vehicles that have been taken to Hermanus by the Rotary shuttle service will be brought back via a safe route tomorrow. Burger appealed to riders to be patient if vehicles were not back early.
  23. Hatherly, legs pumping at full speed, crossed the line in Oak Valley first ahead of Beers, Andreassen and then Botha. In the team format, the time of the second finisher counts, so Hatherly/Andreassen took the stage by one second. Beers and Botha retain the overall lead with a 2 minute and 54-second cushion thanks to their commanding win on Stage 1. Belgian mountain biker Frans Claes and top road rider Jasper Stuyven – who finished fifth at the Paris Roubaix classic this year – were delighted to finish in third place a minute behind the leaders but just ahead of NAD 2’s Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck, who crashed during the ride when his handlebar clipped a tree. “There were quite a few teams that stayed together most of the time – there were no real climbs to separate the group until towards the end,” said Hatherly afterwards. A longish singletrack climb with switchbacks about 6km from the end presented an opportunity to break away and Hatherly pushed hard. “We rode away but NAD stayed with us and we basically time-trialled to the finish,” he said at the finish line. Yesterday on Stage 1 Hatherly’s “lights went out” and they dropped back, but “I felt great today, perfect”. Beers and Botha spent the day marking their nearest challengers and were both happy with the result afterwards. “It was really good,” said Beers. “There were a lot of guys with us which changes the racing dynamic in all the singletracks.” 19-year-old Botha is riding with Beers for the first time and believes his partner “may be the strongest rider in the race, so it was a hard race”. Towards the end of the stage he could “feel the legs”, he laughed. Like the other riders, Stuyven paid tribute to the many trails that the riders cover on the so-called “play day” of the FNB Wines 2Whales. “The trails were beautiful and it was a nice day,” said Stuyven. “We had a better day than yesterday – it was more punchy and technical and we felt good.” Hatherly said he had thought the trails would be rutted after the rain in the Pinotage event earlier in the week, “but 90% of them were as new … I’m glad I persuaded Simon to ride because he’s loving it”. Andreassen, a former junior world champion, agreed, saying “I really enjoyed it today”. Beers said new singletrack sections introduced by the route team made the stage “very different from previous years … some trails were a bit loose but they were good to ride on”. Conditions overhead were just about perfect too – mostly mild with some cloud and virtually no wind. Beers and Botha will start tomorrow’s final and third stage as favourites to take the overall win. The route suits their marathon skills and it is unlikely that cross-country specialists Andreassen and Hatherly will be able to make up the time difference unless the leaders have issues. The route should also suit Claes and Stuyven, who might be aiming to head home to Belgium with a stage win in their bags. FNB Wines2Whales Results | Shiraz Stage 2: 1 Spur Specialized (Alan Hatherly/Simon Andreassen) 2:26.13,0 2 NAD (Matthew Beers/Wessel Botha) 2:26.14,2 3 Waypoint Leuven (Frans Claes/Jasper Stuyven) 2:27.13,3 4 NAD 2 (Nico Bell/Gawie Combrinck) 2:27.18,7 5 HiQ Ellsworth (Calle Friberg/Hendrik Kruger) 2:27.20,2FNB Wines2Whales Results | Shiraz General Classification after Stage 2: 1 NAD (Matthew Beers/Wessel Botha) 5:22.15,5 2 Spur Specialized (Alan Hatherly/Simon Andreassen) 5:25.09,9 3 NAD 2 (Nico Bell/Gawie Combrinck) 5:29.44,4 4 Waypoint Leuven (Frans Claes/Jasper Stuyven) 5:31.30,9 5 HiQ Ellsworth (Calle Friberg/Hendrik Kruger) 5:33.43,5
  24. Beers and his 19-year-old partner had to chase back and catch Under-23 cross country world champion Alan Hatherly of South Africa and his Danish teammate, former Junior World Champion Simon Andreassen (Spur Specialized), over the last quarter of the 67km mountain bike course. Beers said afterwards that he had flatted on a section of gravel road about halfway through the ride and before the compulsory portage of more than a kilometre up the Gantouw Pass. “We plugged it and got back to Alan and Simon on the portage, but just before the tech zone (at Water Point 3 on 50km) the plug came out again.” At the tech zone they swopped Beers’ wheel and began chasing after Hatherly and Andreassen, who had left the water point nearly a minute-and-a-half ahead. “We saw them in the distance and I could see that Alan’s lights were going out,” said Beers. The lanky South African said “Alan never ever rides second” but was following Andreassen through the trails and falling back – a sure sign that he was in trouble. “I also know that he comes alive again after about 10 minutes so I said to Wessel ‘we must go now’.” Hatherly was struggling with a “sugar low” and said that Andreassen was “very patient when the lights went out”. “I felt good on the portage up Gantouw Pass. I trained for it so the run was not that bad, but I think the headwind on the A2Z (trails immediately after the pass) got the best of me.” Beers and Botha pushed hard for the finish and the youngster said afterwards: “When Matt said we had to go I had to dig deep, but fortunately we got away.” They swept across the line in 2hr 56min with Hatherly and Andreassen 2min and 56 seconds behind them. “We just had to work through (the bad patch) to minimise damage. I came back a couple of kilometres from the end,”said Hatherly afterwards. Andreassen said he had struggled a little bit with the pace early on after a long season but then got into his rhythm. “The trails were really cool … I like loose corners and sandy stuff,” said the Dane. Riders had to overcome a strong headwind and some dusty conditions, but all were complimentary about the course and the trails. It was a good day for NAD, with their second team of Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck coming home third 6 mins 24 secs behind the leaders. “I struggled up the first climb but from there it was better,” said Combrinck. “I’m really happy that Matt and Wessel took the win today.” Arno du Toit and Tim Hammond (SPOT Africa) finished fourth, eight minutes behind the leaders and Belgian mountain biker Frans Claes and road rider Jasper Stuyven – who finished fifth at the Paris Roubaix classic this year– another 16 seconds back in fifth. “I was quite ill two weeks ago,” said Claes. “Today I still felt it and in the second half I was nearly dying.” He added that Stuyven, not being a mountain biker, struggled a bit on the trails: “On the singletracks we lost a few seconds and had to fight back, which also made it tough.” The relatively short and fast stages on the FNB Wines2Whales mean that it is unlikely the leading two teams will be caught. However, Saturday’s Stage 2 around Grabouw and Elgin should suit the cross country skills of Hatherly and Andreassen and give them an opportunity to close the gap on the leaders before Sunday’s final stage to Hermanus. As Hatherly said at the finish: “There’s still two days of racing … it’s not over until it is over.” Top team PYGA Eurosteel was a late withdrawal from the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz this morning when Philip Buys’s wife went into labour. The former Olympian flew back to Gauteng for the birth this morning while partner Matthys Beukes watched the start at Lourensford Wines Estate. “This morning we woke up to exciting news … that Philip’s wife had gone into labour,” said Beukes. “He got on the first flight home to Pretoria. I would have liked to have raced but that’s life – family comes first." FNB Wines2Whales Results | Shiraz General Classification after Stage 1:1 Team NAD (Matthew Beers, Wessel Botha) 2:56.01,2 2 Spur Specialized (Alan Hatherly, Simon Andreassen) 2:58.56,9 3 Team NAD 2 (Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck) 3:02.25,6 4 SPOT Africa (Arrno du Toit, Timothy Hammond) 3:03.59,3 5 Waypoint Leuven (Frans Claes, Jasper Stuyven) 3:04.17,6
  25. All of which followed a fire fanned by the wind yesterday afternoon and which had been approaching the race village at Oak Valley. The flames were bought under control some distance from the tents and infrastructure, but there was much more drama to follow. Strong winds had been buffeting the temporary village on the Oak Valley rugby field but as evening approached the gusts got more powerful. In one blast tent poles inside the bedouin tent housing the CBC chill zone were dislodged and fell to the ground. The FNB Wines2Whales management team and senior emergency services personnel gathered in the Venue Operations Centre (VOC) to discuss their options. While they were busy with their deliberations the yellow one-man rider tents on the field were straining against their tethering. Gazebos were blown over and some hoardings were torn from fences. It was decided to evacuate the area. “We were sleeping at about 10.30pm when a car with its siren switched on drove between the tents,” recalled George’s Shawn Buckley. “We were told to pack everything and to go to the buses and were taken to the primary school at Paul Cluver (wine estate).” Buckley said the organisers had taken the “best option to ensure everybody’s safety”. He added that it was “amazing to organise that in such a short time”. Another rider, Candice Ilic, said she had been trying to sleep in the gusting winds when the “wake up” call came through. “We got out of there quickly and after a ‘mini-heart attack’ we got into the buses and off to the school.” Capetonian Koos Jordaan said he was “very impressed with the evacuation” while his brother and riding partner Johannes said it “went very well”. Johannes added that his fellow riders had handled the situation well too and “I got the feeling that people were happy with the way it was handled … the gees (spirit) is good”. That certainly seemed to be the case after the evacuees had been fed breakfast at venues outside the race village and returned to ride a shortened 40km course with a 11am start (delayed from a scheduled 8am). Shortly before the start the rain returned and riders had to put up with repeated showers and extremely muddy conditions – with quite a few turning back towards the race village after only riding a few kilometres. Once again it was the diminutive Lesotho pairing of Phetetso Monese and Malefetsane Lesofe (Team Sufferfest African Dream Team) who negotiated the course fastest, getting home a minute ahead of the chasing pack. Monese and Lesofe had been among those evacuated. 21-year-old Lesofe said he had not had a great amount of sleep but it was better sleeping in the school than in a wind-whipped tent. Monese had damaged the rotor on his back brake and had lost some time repairing it. The FNB Wines2Whales management thanked riders for their co-operation and the good spirit in which they had handled the disruption yesterday evening. “The FNB Wines2Whales organisers are extremely grateful to Gaffley’s bus company for providing buses at late notice on Monday evening,” said FNB Wines2Whales marketing and communications manager Sarah Harrop. “And then they made a plan to get the riders back to the race village this morning in spite of having other commitments.” Harrop added: “A huge thanks to those who opened their doors to accommodate the people – Paul Cluver wine estate, the Houw Hoek Inn and Trail’s End Bike Hotel.”
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