The organisers of the FNB Wines2Whales take pride in the fact that every year the route includes more, and new singletrack. These additional kilometres of trail are built by the Cape Trails team.

Ashwell Swartz, Brendon Booysen, Denzel Scheepers and Keenan Cupido are the men behind the brush cutters, spades and rakes which create many of FNB Wines2Whales’ favourite trails. In their decade of involvement with the event, they have gone from novices to master builders and are now often hired by other events and landowners to construct trail networks beyond the FNB W2W route. For the Switchback edition they had to build new linking singletracks, which helped make the race one for the trail riding enthusiasts.

When the concept of the Switchback was first mooted, the first concern was how to make the transition stages, from the Curro School in Hermanus to Oak Valley, and from Oak Valley to Lourensford, not only interesting but memorable and exciting for the teams racing. Cape Trails and the cooperation of the various landowners along the route made that possible.

“The first brand-new, purpose-built for the Switchback, singletrack the teams encountered in the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales events was the Karwyders Contour” Johan Kriegler, FNB Wines2Whales and Cape Trails founder, explained. “Then on the way towards Kat Pas the Cape Trails team cut a new singletrack, JK’s Switchbacks, in order to make it possible to detour around Botrivier itself. Both of these trails served a definite purpose in terms of the route, but also added to the magic of the FNB Wines2Whales.”

“Stage 2’s highlight was, undoubtedly, the extended Rietvlei Magic trail and the 120-metre-long bridge across the dam. The team from Paul Cluver Wines drove the project, with assistance from Cape Trails and Kaap Agri, and made this dream a reality” Kriegler continued. “Yet what riders perhaps don’t realise is the amount of work that goes into maintaining existing trails. Particularly this year, due to Covid-19 enforcing the cancellation of the 2020 race, there was a lot of clearing and cleaning of existing routes. Paul Cluver is now also closed to mountain biking outside of events, so their trails needed touching up before the event. But the break between events turned out to be positive as it gave us the chance to really explore what was possible.”

“The biggest build was the Lourensford Ultimate, however” Kriegler pointed out. “We had a lot of help from Lourensford, particularly with running earth moving equipment through the sections where pine trees had recently been felled. But Cape Trails still had to fine-tune the trail bed to ensure the singletrack flowed from start to finish.”

“We’ve been building a lot in Lourensford this year” the Cape Trails’ team leader, Swartz, highlighted. “Not just for FNB Wines2Whales but also on the farm’s growing network of trails. Once we’re done there, we’ll probably start working on new sections for the 2022 route. The return to the ‘normal’ direction, from Lourensford to Onrus, gives us a chance to perfect a few trails we couldn’t use this time and build a few new pieces. As mountain bikers ourselves we know how everyone looks forward to riding new singletracks and we are proud to be a part of the FNB Wines2Whales and the race it is.”

“Seeing riders so excited to ride to trails we built makes the hard work we put in worthwhile” he smiled.

 

If you want to experience all the incredible trails that the Cape Trails have carved, by hand, be sure to secure your spot on the FNB Wines2Whales startline when entries open on 14 February 2022.

The Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1 pairing of Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo Leroux repeated their 2019 FNB Wines2Whales success when they completed a commanding Exxaro jersey victory in Lourensford; on Sunday, 14 November. In so doing the pair each won either a Grade 0 to 12 bursary from Curro Holdings or the higher education qualification of their choice from STADIO.

Luyanda Thobigunya was one of the stories of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales when he gifted his partner, Lorenzo Leroux, his share of the Curro bursary. That meant that Leroux’s twin daughters were able to start the 2020 school year together, at the Curro school of their choosing. The pair thus had an important reason to win the 2021 Exxaro jersey competition in the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.

“I owe him a victory” Leroux laughed before the race. “Especially because we missed the opportunity to take part in 2020, due to Covid. Fortunately, we had one more year in the Exxaro competition, before we get too old.”

The development category is only open to riders who hail from historically disadvantaged backgrounds and are 26 years of age, or younger. Over the course of three days of racing, Thobigunya and Leroux’s victory was never in doubt. From the first climb, on Rotary Drive, the Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1 team, were in a class apart from the rest of the Exxaro jersey teams. They won all three stages to claim their second Exxaro Special jersey title and raced to an impressive twelfth position on the overall general classification.

“Today was great; I really enjoyed the climbs, especially the last one” Thobigunya said. “The route was amazing all weekend really and it was great to take the victory, at FNB Wines2Whales, again.”

“Luyanda was so strong” Leroux praised. “He’s definitely the strongest partner and I’m really thankful to him for helping me with another Exxaro jersey in the FNB Wines2Whales. The victory in 2019 was life changing for my family and this one will ensure my youngest daughter can join her sisters at Curro.”

The pair now have the choice of nominating a family member to take up the Curro bursary, which will cover the school fees from Grade 0 to Grade 12. Or to take up a STADIO bursary for themselves. The option to nominate a family member for the STADIO bursary also exists. These are truly life-changing prizes, with Curro’s industry leading education or one of STADIO’s distance learning qualifications from Milpark Education, AFDA or their STADIO group of higher education institutions.

“I’ll be giving my sister’s daughter the Curro bursary” Thobigunya revealed as to his choice of which prize to take up. “She’s five years old now and will be going to school next year.”

“Luyanda is an amazing person; God will bless him” Leroux thanked. “He donated his half of the Curro bursary to me in 2019 and now he’s helping his sister by giving her his prize his year. He’s not only an amazing rider but also such a kind person.”

FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz | Exxaro Jersey Results

General Classification Results after Stage 3:

  1. Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo Leroux (9:02:01)
  2. Exxaro / RMB: Keneth Kabelo Tshukudu & William Sello Majapholo (9:39:22 | +37:22)
  3. Exxaro / PWC 1: Tlotlo Selala & Halalisani Ndebele (9:41:17 | +39:16)
Philip Buys and Gert Heyns raced to a perfect three from three at the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz on Sunday, 14 November. The PYGA Euro Steel team won all three stages, with {type}DEV Nanotime placing second every day and Imbuko Giant third.
Despite all three stages of the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event featuring the same top three, in the same finishing order, the racing was exciting throughout. Only 1 minute and 22 seconds separated first and second going into the final stage, from Oak Valley to Lourensford. Additionally, Imbuko Giant were eager to empty their tanks and do all they could to snatch a stage victory on the last opportunity of the race and the season.
“There was no point in holding back today” Marco Joubert, of Imbuko Giant stated. “We decided to empty our tanks in pursuit of stage victory.” “PYGA Euro Steel made a few mistakes in the early kilometres today and Philip [Buys] even crashed. It was after that, in the A-to-Z trails that we went all in” Tristan Nortje said, picking up the story. “Near the second water point we had a minute lead, but after that the trails flattened out and we knew it would be really tough to stay ahead of [Matt] Beers and the PYGA guys on the flat roads. They caught us about a kilometre from the top of the last climb.”
“Today was tough” Beers added to the tale of how the stage unfolded. “First Imbuko Giant got away from us, then on the Gantouw Pass PYGA Euro Steel got away too. We just had to chase and chase; eventually caught both of them. But again Philip [Buys] and Gert [Heyns] were faster than us and they distanced us in the last few kilometres. It was a great weekend of racing though, and I really appreciate how aggressively PYGA raced the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz.”
The victors for, their part, were relieved to have not suffered too much, during the stage, from Buys’ crash. “The champagne is starting to find all the cuts and scrapes now” Buys laughed, having been doused in Lourensford MCC by Gert Heyns. “I clipped a tree stump in the A-to-Z trails and went over the bars. Fortunately, despite a bit of swelling above my knee, it didn’t impact my riding at all. We were still able to catch Imbuko Giant and put in a last effort to secure the stage win ahead of Matt [Beers] and Wessel [Botha].”
“Winning the FNB Wines2Whales means so much to me” Heyns confessed. “It’s something I’ve dreamt about for a long time. We couldn’t have done it without all the hard work the PYGA Euro Steel crew put in behind the scenes.”
PYGA Euro Steel’s winning time was 7 hours, 33 minutes and 26 seconds. {type}DEV Nanotime were 1 minute and 39 seconds down on the race winners, with Imbuko Giant completing the podium, at 10 minutes and 4 seconds back. Insect Science Pro finished fourth overall, despite Keagan Bontekoning completing the final stage without a saddle after crashing inside of the first 20 kilometres. He and Arno du Toit managed to hold off First Move Sport’s Jaco Venter and Matthew Keyser, who completed the top five.
Stage 3 of FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz brings the three-event series to a close. The 2022 event will return to the traditional Lourensford to Hermanus route format and is scheduled for 28 October to 6 November, in the Chardonnay, Pinotage and Shiraz format. Entries open on 14 February 2022.
FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Results:
Elite Men | Stage 3:
1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (2:36:17)
2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (2:36:33 | +17)
3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (2:37:23.5 | +1:07)
Elite Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (7:33:26)
2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (7:35:05 | +1:39)
3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (7:43:30 | +10:04)
Exxaro Jersey | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo Leroux (9:02:01)
2. Exxaro / RMB: Keneth Kabelo Tshukukudu & William Sello Majapholo (9:39:22 | +37:22)
3. Exxaro / PWC 1: Tlotlo Selala & Halalisani Ndebele (9:41:17 | +39:16)
Sub-Veteran Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Anna Foundation 2: Adrian Enthoven & Cory Wallace (9:10:27)
2. Hollard Namibia: Gerhard Mans & Ingram Cuff (9:11:51 | +1:24)
3. 2 Man Wolf Pack Andre Vermeulen & Braam Vermeulen (9:24:28.5 | +14:01)
Dimension Data Veteran Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Madmacs: Charles Mcfall & Andreas Studer (8:46:58)
2. RDX Powerbar: David Garrett & Ignus Oosthuizen (9:04:59 | +18:02)
3. Anna Foundation Vets: Hannes & Sakkie Hanekom (9:19:39 | +32:42)
Masters Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Cape Airconditioning: Gavin Viljoen & Thorkild Nielsen (9:27:26)
2. Sale’s Hire: Shaun Sale & Dawid de Bruin (9:34:30 | +7:05)
3. Q 36.5: Felix Prinz & Mario Kummer (9:36:13 | +8:47)
Mixed Category | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Valley Electrical Titan Racing Mixed: Robert Hobson & Barbara Benko (9:11:15)
2. SPOT Galileo Risk: Samantha Sanders & Danny Fowler (10:02:07 | +50:52)
3. Madmacs Mixed: Etnard & Sarita Louw (10:15:57 | +1:28:23)
For more information and to view all the results from the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales events visit: www.wines2whales.com.

Between them Reuben van Niekerk and Dane Wilson have seven FNB Wines2Whales finishes. Yet for the amputees each edition has its own challenges. The more-ridable Switchback route is making the race far more enjoyable.

Reuben van Niekerk is no stranger to mountain biking fans. While his partner Dane Wilson represented South Africa at the 2016 Paralympics, in Rio. Van Niekerk lost his lower leg in a motorcycle accident thirteen years ago and Wilson’s left arm is amputated below the elbow. Despite their physical disadvantages the pair are undaunted by the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.

“For, each of, our own reasons riding is preferable to walking” Wilson pointed out. “Anywhere I can ride is better than places I can’t” Van Niekerk added. “Because I have to climb seated the long, steady, climbs of the Switchback route’s Stage 1 suit me better.”

“Today’s steeper climbs were hard, but the singletracks were great” Van Niekerk pointed out. “I took a break from mountain biking for focus on the track ahead of Rio” Wilson recalled. “And I have to say FNB Wines2Whales now is more technical than the Cape Epic was in 2008.”

“Bike technology has of course improved massively in that time too” Wilson continued. “For riders like Reuben and myself that technology is a great help.” “One by drivetrains for example make it easier for me to change down into an easier gear” Van Niekerk highlighted. “You can shift 2 or 3 gears at a time and get into an easy climbing gear quickly. In the days of two by drivetrains my chain would often drop as I shifted into the inner ring. Additionally, the modern drivetrains are better at shifting under pressure, so if I get my gearing wrong on a climb I can still adjust.”

Wilson also appreciates the shift to one by drivetrains. “One by has simplified my cockpit massively” he stated. “Previously I had a trigger shifter for the rear derailleur and a grip shifter for the front. Plus, both my front and back brake leavers on one side. I had to learn to use my index finger to apply the one brake and my middle for the other.”

“Currently I’m waiting for a friend to bring a new Hope braking system out from the UK. It has both brake levers on one clamp, which will further simplify my cockpit” Wilson said.

Looking ahead to Stage 3 Van Niekerk knows what lies ahead. “I went down Gantouw Pass in the Cape Epic, so I know what to expect. It’s far easier going down than it is going up. Your momentum sort of carries you down. Prosthesis are either made for walking or riding, so hike-a-biking with my cycling prosthesis on is always a struggle.”

Team Driepoot are fans of the Switchback route more generally too. “The route works so well on a practical level” Van Niekerk specified. “Finishing in Lourensford is logistically far easier. The traffic leaving Hermanus was always a concern for those of us who have to fly back to Johannesburg.”

Stage 2 of FNB Wines2Whales had long been known as Play Day. But with the route being reimagined for the Switchback the route team had the opportunity to reinvent Play Day.

At 66 kilometres long, with 1 500 metres of climbing, Play Day is no walk in the park. It requires some hard riding too, as the climbs are steep but short. That said few riders seem to remember the climbs. They only speak about the fantastic trails.

“So nice!” enthused multiple-Hungarian cross-country champion Barbara Benko. “It was great racing with A-Batch, we had a good group and so much fun. I’m so bad on the flats, so today’s singletrack packed stage was perfect. It was so much fun and the trails were super nice!”

“That was awesome” a sadly unidentified rider gushed in the FNB Rider Chill Zone. “Definitely Play Day of note. The cloud cover in the early part of the stage also helped with that.”

“The trails were great, quite dusty; but I think we were very fortunate to only be a group of four riders” stage winner Philip Buys said, adding his praise to the Switchback route. “It was a little loose here and there, but we expect that an put beefier tyres on to provide us with more grip.” The risk of loose sections did not prevent Buys and his partner, Gert Heyns, from taking to the air though.

“Flippen great, great, route” Full Sus publisher Shayne Dowling said, adding his opinion to the ground swell of praise. “The Switchback is honestly the best thing ever. I think I’ll miss every second FNB Wines2Whales from now on and only do the Switchback. It’s a great innovation!”

The highlight of the stage was the new Rietvlei Magic Bridge. Built by Paul Cluver and Cape Trails, with lumber donated by AgriMark, the bridge is 120 metres long and snakes across the Rietvlei Dam at the bottom of the 2 kilometre long Rietvlei Magic singletrack.

Play Day on the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race lived up to the pre-event hype, with spectacular trails and fast paced racing. Yet, also, as predicted, it was difficult for PYGA Euro Steel or {type}DEV Nanotime to make a stage winning move. Thus, the day culminated in a sprint, which Philip Buys and Gert Heyns won.

For the second time in two days Philip Buys and Gert Heyns crossed the Oak Valley finish line, of FNB Wines2Whales in first position. The overnight leaders of the Shiraz event were able to extend their general classification lead – on Saturday, 13 November – by a further 2.7 seconds. Matt Beers had surged ahead but with Wessel Botha unable to match the PYGA Euro Steel team in the sprint the {type}DEV Nanotime combination had to settle for second.

“It was a fast start again this morning and it was great to get away with the {type}DEV Nanotime team early in the stage” Heyns explained. “They both have great technical skills which makes racing a day filled with singletrack, like today, a lot less stressful. It was very dusty out there on the trails, so you have to trust the wheel in front of you.”

“We did try to shake Matt [Beers] and Wessel [Botha] a few times today, but the course never really made it possible to make a significant break” Heyns added. “We do have an advantage going into tomorrow though and I think Stage 3 is going to be a great one. I hope it breaks up early on again because the Gantouw Pass will be very interesting if you have to run down there in a group.”

Beers had expected Stage 2’s route to make it difficult to make inroads into PYGA Euro Steel’s lead. “We had a good day today, but Phil [Buys] and Gert [Heyns] were flying” the South African marathon champion confided. “We have kept the race alive heading into Stage 3. But I know from past experience that the PYGA Euro Steel guys are fast runners. Keeping up with them on the portage will be a challenge, but there are opportunities to make up time on the general classification.”

Imbuko Giant were third on the day, strengthening their grip on the final podium place, despite a spectacular crash for Marco Joubert. “I think I clipped a rock or a tree stump with my foot” Joubert confessed. “It ejected me straight over the bars and onto the trail. Fortunately, it was more dramatic than hard, so I think I’ll be okay for the last stage tomorrow.”

If Joubert and Tristan Nortje were to falter on the final day, Insect Science Pro’s Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning are poised to strike. The pair are only 2 minutes and 41 seconds off the podium places. First Move Sport’s Jaco Venter and Matthew Keyser will set out for Lourensford, in fifth position, on Sunday.

Mountain biking fans can tune in, from 07:00, on Sunday to witness the conclusion of the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales series of races. Live updates will be available on www.wines2whales.com and on Twitter, @w2wmtb. Stories, videos and photos from the 70-kilometre-long route, can be viewed on Instagram, @wines_2_whales.

 

FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Results:

Stage 2:

  1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (2:26:24)
  2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (2:26:27 | +2.7)
  3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (2:30:09 | +3:45)

 

General Classification Results after Stage 2:

  1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (4:57:09)
  2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (4:58:31 | +1:22)
  3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (5:06:06 | +8:57)

John Smit and Schalk Burger are taking on the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event in a reunion which brings two of South Africa’s most celebrated Springboks back together. The event is also Burger’s first MTB stage race.

“It reminded me of Test matches, where I used to rely heavily on Schalk to get us out of trouble” Smit puffed on the Oak Valley finish line. “Schalk [Burger] was patient today. It was a long 27 kays to the finish, from the Wildekrans water point, and despite being a stage race beginner he hasn’t even broken a sweat.”

“It was glorious” Burger smiled. “Barny [John Smit] went well today, until right at the end. I think it was the heat that got to the big ginger.”

“Obviously it’s my first race, so I’m heavily reliant on John’s experience. Similar to Test matches” Burger continued. “I have to do a lot of the hard work, still, which is not always fun.”

With both men riding what are surely the longest travel bikes in the race. As such they are looking forward to Saturday’s singletrack filled play day. First though there is the small matter of post-stage recovery. “Beers!” was the unanimous answer of what the plan was, after Stage 1. “Beers and then more beers” Burger reiterated.

The pair are not the only retired rugby stars in the race however. Former Blitz Bok captain, Kyle Brown, is also racing FNB Wines2Whales. Riding in the colours of route partners Land Rover, Brown has teamed up with Clinton Mackintosh.

“We went unnecessarily hard today. Or at least he did” Brown said pointing at Mackintosh with a grin. “Tomorrow will be fun though. I love trail riding and I’m looking forward to Play Day!”

Philip Buys made a big step toward reclaiming his crown as the king of South African stage racing when he and Gert Heyns blitzed the elite men’s field on the opening day of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event. The PYGA Euro Steel combination put a minute and 20 seconds into the defending champions, {type}DEV Nanotime and over 5 minutes into Imbuko Giant.

Not since 2017 has Philip Buys and his PYGA Euro Steel team stood atop the FNB Wines2Whales podium after a stage of the famous race. Buys and Gert Heyns’ victory on the opening stage in 2021 – on Friday, 12 November – may not in and of itself be surprising, but the margin was unexpectedly dramatic. With open roads and dual track climbs, interspersed with rolling singletracks, the expectation for the day was a tighter stage with a possible sprint finish.

“We are highly motivated for the FNB Wines2Whales” Buys emphasised after the stage win. “The plan hadn’t been to attack so early on, but after Matt [Beers] had strung the field out on the Rotary Way climb Gert [Heyns] put in an acceleration. Only Matt and Wessel [Botha] could follow. Which turned out to be a good thing as there were lots of open sections where having another team to help set the pace was a big advantage. It was great to be able to have a clearer run through the singletracks too, as riding these trails in a big group can be very risky.”

Buys’ warning was highlighted by the fact that Jan Withaar crossed the finish line in Oak Valley with a destroyed rear wheel. The Computer Mania rider hit a tree stump in the final 300m of the route having not followed, Daniel van der Walt, his partner’s line into a singletrack.

“We were pushing the pedals all day, the pace was really high. We had a good race out there” Beers pointed out. “I was kind of banking on a 2 hour and 45 minute stage, but we did it in 2 hours 30 something. I could see the kilometres were ticking by very quickly, sitting at 40 kilometres per hour a lot of the time. That said it was a fun stage.”

“Making up time tomorrow will be difficult though” Beers allowed. “Anything can happen though so we’ll keep the pressure on PYGA Euro Steel. If we can do that, we will keep the race alive going into Stage 3, which also provides the opportunity to make up a good amount of time,”

Beers’ assessment was not shared by Tristan Nortje. The Imbuko Giant team finished third on the stage, having recovered from a slow start. “We were down in sixth around the half way mark but rode the Katpas Climb strongly” Nortje said. “I believe that today was the day where big time gaps can be made. The next two days should be closer. But the singletracks are dusty and if you are in a train of riders there’s always the chance that you could clip a stump or a rock.”

For Buys and Heyns the challenge with thus be to spend as much time on the front of the group on Stage 2 as possible. Leading from the front is the safer course of action. If {type}DEV Nanotime, Imbuko Giant, Insect Science Pro, Hollard Namibia Elite, Computer Mania and First Move Sport will allow PYGA Euro Steel to do so is another matter.

Mountain biking fans can tune in, from 07:00, on Saturday to see how Stage 2 unfolds. Live updates are available on www.wines2whales.com and on Twitter, @w2wmtb. Stories, videos and photos from the 66-kilometre-long route, can be viewed on Instagram, @wines_2_whales.

 

FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Results:

Stage 1:

  1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (2:30:45)
  2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (2:32:05 | +1:20)
  3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (2:35:57 | +5:12)

The 2022 FNB Wines2Whales is set to take place from 28 October to 6 November 2022 and will return to the original route taking teams from the wines of Lourensford Estate to the whales of Hermanus. Entries to the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales will open on Monday 14 February 2022.

When the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event gets underway from the Curro School in Hermanus on Friday, 12 November, South Africa’s male stage race specialists will all be in attendance. The battle for the R100 000 first place prize is sure to be fierce, but it is by no means the only point of interest in the event. Also at stake are the men’s age group titles, the mixed category title and life-changing prizes in the Exxaro jersey competition.

The 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback edition comes to a close with the Shiraz event, which takes place from Friday, 12-, to Sunday, 14 November. As the final event of the South African mountain biking season, it provides the opportunity for redemption, for those who have underperformed, and the chance to place an exclamation point at the end of a dominant run, for those who have enjoyed success this year. With the high-flying Matt Beers headlining the elite men’s field the rest of the leading contenders will have to be on top form to topple the reigning double champions; Beers and Wessel Botha.

The {type}DEV Nanotime are the undoubted favourites for the 2021 title. Not only have Beers and Botha won the last two editions of the race, in 2018 and 2019, but they start with Beers on the high of having just completed the biggest victory of his career thus far. As such they have the weight of momentum and the race winning know-how on their side.

In mountain biking there are no foregone conclusions, however. The favourites will have to overcome a stacked field to achieve a historic FNB W2W threepeat. Insect Science Pro’s Keagan Bontekoning and Arno du Toit start the race as the second ranked team. Having run Beers and Botha closest in 2019 Du Toit is a rival the {type}DEV Nanotime team know well. While Bontekoning has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, and like Botha in the build-up to the 2018 race, could be on the cusp of his first major victory.

Another rider hot-off a stellar recent performance is Computer Mania MTB Racing’s Daniel van der Walt. He will be partnered by the experienced Jan Withaar in the Shiraz race. They, like the Imbuko Giant pairing of Marco Joubert and Tristan Nortjé, arrive in Hermanus without the weight of overblown expectations on their shoulders. Both squads will be able to roll the dice and race aggressively, taking the fight to the favourites without the pressure of expected success.

PYGA EuroSteel are less fortunate. Philip Buys was, until recently the undisputed king of South African stage racing. Since the rise of Beers, however, his victories have been harder fought. He and Gert Heyns remain the most likely rivals for the {type}DEV Nanotime team’s crown. The 70-odd-kilometre stages, explosive climbs and technical trails of FNB Wines2Whales should play to the PYGA EuroSteel team’s strengths. The pressure of media and fan expectations will pale in comparison to the standards Buys and Heyns hold themselves to. If they can reach their highest levels for three consecutive days, they could well dethrone Beers and Botha.

The Singletrack & The Cycling Academy, Imbuko Giant B, First Move and Valley Electrical Contractors teams are outside contenders for the podium places. Marc Fourie and Zack Swart, as well as Jaco Venter and Matthew Keyser will need race intelligently and take their chances well if they are to challenge for the top places. While Tristan de Lange and Rudi Koen have the fire power to challenge, if team orders do not see them working to soften up the likes of {type}DEV Nanotime and PYGA EuroSteel for Joubert and Nortjé.

Rossouw Bekker, meanwhile, is not targeting an overall place as such. Racing with Valley Electrical Contractors managing director, Matthew Miller, the Valley Electrical Titan Racing team principle is building bonds to ensure his team’s sponsors remain committed to the sport in 2022 and beyond. Valley Electrical Titan Racing will be represented in the mixed category race however, where Robert Hobson and Barbara Benko are the team to beat.

The Exxaro jersey competition is a major sub-plot in the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz story. In addition to the life-changing Curro bursary, which provides each winner with the opportunity to send a child to the Curro school of their choice from Grade 0 to Grade 12, the category now also features an additional educational prize. STADIO, one of South Africa’s leading private higher education institutions, will provide the winners with access to any of their distance learning programmes. The Exxaro category winners at FNB Wines2Whales will each have the choice of nominating a family member to take up the Curro bursary or to take up a STADIO tertiary qualification bursary for themselves or a family member.

 

Key Information: FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz

2021 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Elite Men’s Field
Team No. Team Name Riders Names
1 {type}DEV Nanotime Matt Beers & Wessel Botha
2 Insect Science Pro Keagan Bontekoning & Arno du Toit
4 Computer Mania MTB Racing Daniel van der Walt & Jan Withaar
5 Imbuko Giant Marco Joubert & Tristan Nortjé
6 PYGA EuroSteel Philip Buys & Gert Heyns
7 Singletrack & The Cycling Academy Marc Fourie & Zack Swart
8 Imbuko Giant B Tristan de Lange & Rudi Koen
9 First Move Jaco Venter & Matthew Keyser
10 Valley Electrical Contractors Rossouw Bekker & Matthew Miller

 

Stage Start/Finish Distance Elevation
Stage 1 Curro Hermanus /Oak Valley 70km 1 600m
Stage 2 Oak Valley/Oak Valley 66km 1 500m
Stage 3 Oak Valley/Lourensford 70km 1 350m

 

The FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz racing gets underway at 07:00 – on Friday, 12 November – at the Curro School in Hermanus. Mountain biking fans can follow the action on www.wines2whales.com; or on the race’s social media handles @wines_2_whales, on Instagram, and @w2wmtb, on Twitter.

Not since 2015 has Erik Kleinhans won an FNB Wines2Whales title. Though the former professional mountain biker and the retired elite track athlete, Johan Cronje, do not count their FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage success as a race win however.

The Mood Coffee Baristas’ Erik Kleinhans and Johan Cronje rode to victory in the mid-week FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage event, from 8 to 10 November. They completed the three stages in a combined time of 9 hours, 38 minutes and 4 seconds to earn the top step of the podium ahead of Honeycomb and Megatech1. Kleinhans, is not eager to claim the win however.

“I didn’t win anything” he laughed, when told it was his first FNB Wines2Whales win in a good few years. “This was just about having fun with Johan. We weren’t racing!”

During his professional career Kleinhans won the FNB Wines2Whales Race, as the Shiraz event was then known, alongside James Reid (in 2015) and Oliver Munnik (in 2009). His partner, Cronje, is one of South Africa’s best ever track athletes. Having specialised in the 1 500 metre distance Cronje still holds the South African record, at 3 minutes and 31.93 seconds, which he set in 2013.

The pair are not only riding partners, but are also business partners in the Mood Café coffee shop in Stellenbosch. “I had lot of fun here at FNB Wines2Whales. And it was great to ride with Johan” Kleinhans enthused. “I love this race. I’ve been doing it for so many years, so it’s always great to be here.”

“To be honest I actually enjoy the Switchback route more than the traditional direction” he added. “It’s great to finish in Lourensford! It’s a little closer to my home in Stellenbosch and I think the way it works starting in Onrus and finishing here is actually pretty good.”

“It’s not just the riding which makes FNB Wines2Whales a must-do event” Cronje interjected. “You have to buy a ticket and come ride. But also the vibe in the Oak Valley race village is amazing! If you love mountain biking you definitely need to take part in FNB Wines2Whales.”

While Kleinhans and Cronje had a drama free time on the trails the women’s race winners, Bianca and Cally Silberbauer, had a more eventful three days. It all started with a loose headset and a crash, on Stage 1, for Cally Silberbauer. While the sisters only inherited the overall lead when the opening day’s winners, Linda Hitchings and Tyla Setzkorn, suffered a catastrophic mechanical. The Grabouw Animal Welfare team were joined on the final podium by Hiive’s Hitchings and Setzkorn, who recovered well on Stage 3, as well as by the Blitz + Vinnig team of Siska van der Bijl and Juanita Mackenzie.

The eBike race was won by Max Sullivan and Jason Boulle. Giant Overdrive!! were joined on the general classification podium by Carl and Andrew Liebenberg, and Ralf Bochnig and Günther Hein.

With the Pinotage event drawing to a conclusion the next event on the FNB Wines2Whales schedule is the Shiraz race. It features prize money for the elite and age group men, as well as the mixed and Exxaro categories. The racing gets underway at 07:00 – on Friday, 12 November – at the Curro School in Hermanus. Mountain biking fans can follow the action on www.wines2whales.com; or on the race’s social media handles @wines_2_whales, on Instagram, and @w2wmtb, on Twitter.