There is no denying the winter rains have returned to the Cape and with that a host of challenging riding conditions.

From first time riders to seasoned pros, bombing down a winter trail requires a little more knowledge and preparation but the rewards are worth it.

 

Two-time FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz winner Matt Beers is no stranger to riding in wet conditions, with conditions in last year’s event testing everyone’s skills and bike setup.

Two-time FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz winner Matt Beers during stage 3 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales: Image by Nick Muzik

Here are Matt’s top tips for riding winter trails:

One of the most important things is to not be afraid to ride in the rain and mud, it’s actually a lot of fun and it will help you in a race situation, just make sure you are dressed for it.

Take a look at Candice Lill’s top winter gear tips here: https://wines2whales.com/seriousgeessunday-with-candice-lill/

Moving onto bike setup, your contact with the ground is the most impact factor to consider when riding wet or loose trails. I normally drop my tyre pressures by 2-3psi from what I normally ride, just to get a bit more grip.

With wet trails the bike tends to move around a lot more, be it from riding through mud or over wet rocks, it’s important to stay calm and not fight the bike, let it move freely underneath you and use momentum to your advantage. Another important skill to work on is your ability to select the right line. Trails can be ridden in many different ways and challenge different aspects of your riding, this means that one section can often have many lines and being able to see them at speed, commit and link turns together will help you ride with more confidence. If needs be, take a moment to ride a section of trail a few times, trying different lines and testing yourself on new sections you’ve never ridden before.

In winter your post ride routine is very important, you want to ensure both you and your bike get clean and dry. Start with yourself of course, it is important to get warm and fuelled up. As for your bike, make sure to give it a good wash, especially if it has been a particularly muddy ride, applying a little extra Squirt Cycling Product’s wet chain lube will ensure your drivetrain runs smoothly all winter long.

Matt has years of experience racing at the sports highest level, with both his FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz titles coming with partner Wessel Botha. Image by Nick Muzik

Having completed the event a few times, 2018 was my first time partnering with Wessel Botha. Taking the win that year as a new pairing was very cool and the start of a good partnership. Returning last year and managing to defend the title against a strong field showed Wessel and I had something special. Finishing in Onrus on the beach (due to the change of route as a result of protests) was an awesome feeling, but the highlight was being able to watch SA win the Rugby World Cup final in the race village, that was a vibe.

I am looking forward to the Switchback route as it’s something I have suggested before, it will present new challenges and allow us to experience the trails in a new way.

Over the past few months, indoor training and the ecosystems around them have quickly evolved from a simple supplement to your riding to a separate discipline altogether, with dedicated events and races taking place world-wide.

The forerunner in the evolution of indoor training is Californian based company, Zwift. Founded in 2014 the platform has quickly become the software of choice for anyone looking to focus their training efforts indoors, to reap the rewards when back on the trail.

One such adopter of Zwift is 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage winner Courteney Webb, the University of Cape Town student has been racing both on and off-road for a few years and has incorporated indoor sessions into her training plans for as long as she can remember. 

Courteney Webb and partner Amy Tait, winners of the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Pinotage, at the finish in Onrus. Image by Xavier Briel

We sat down with her to find out how she keeps the #SeriousGees alive during her indoor rides:

This year has obviously changed a lot of things up! Often in the winter period I am actually fairly busy racing various mtb/road races, so I have taken this opportunity to increase my training intensity and work on my sustained power. Something I found helped a lot last year. The steady climbs on stage 1 out of Lourensford really played to my and my partner Amy Tait’s strengths, as we were able to get into a good rhythm and build a lead that allowed us to win the overall title.

Looking at this year’s route, the back end of stage 1 will again be an important part of the race. Seeing how much indoor training helped me focus on long steady power for last year, I saw this lockdown as a chance to further build on that.

Courteney Webb using her mtb skills to build an unassailable lead in the 2019 FNB Wines2Whale Pinotage.
Image by Nick Muzik

Indoor training can seem pretty boring and the thought of sitting staring at a wall or computer for 2hrs, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but having recently joined Zwift, my perceptions towards indoor training have completely changed.

My top bit of advice is to make your workouts fun and spice things up with new challenges and with friends! 

Zwift has so many challenges, workouts and races you are bound to find something you enjoy, so try them all.

My friends and I have held each other accountable by making sure we do our workouts or races, and have been using Discord to talk while doing the sessions, which has been a fun way to catch up and make the time fly by.

With all the time spent in a static position on the indoor trainer, it’s even more important to focus on stretching to prevent injuries, it’s something that is so easily overlooked.

I’m really excited to see how Zwift evolves and becomes a bigger part of my racing calendar throughout the year, with long wet winters down here in the Cape, I am really grateful to have the option to ride on Zwift and already seeing how much it has benefitted my outdoor riding, it’s going to make this years Switchback even more fun.

I’ll be hoping to repeat last year’s win in 2020, it was such a surreal feeling crossing the line in Onrus. I will never forget how stoked Amy and I were being able to take home the Varsity Cup and getting our moment on the finishing line with champagne, all the hard work over the 3 days all came together.

The Gees in the race village is like no other, with the best food and snacks, I never feel guilty stuffing my jersey pockets, as I know the climbing will make me earn them. The chill zones are such awesome places to catch up with old riding friends and make new friends. I can’t wait for all the new twists and turns of the 2020 Switchback.

As we emerge from lockdown to the dreaded dark winter mornings, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to sit down with some of SA’s best MTB riders, and see how they keep the #SeriousGees alive & what they focus on, to ensure they are stronger when the warmer weather returns.

Candice Lill from team Faces during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage1 from Lourensford to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel


Reigning SA XC Champion and 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay runner-up, Candice Lill, is no stranger to a Cape winter. The Cape Town resident, clearly has her winter riding setup dialled with a win on last year’s first stage, from Lourensford to Oak Valley, in some of the most challenging conditions in the races history, “I was so impressed with and proud of all the women who showed up and raced in such wild conditions, all with a smile on their faces. Their attitudes made it so much fun.”

From riding gear to kicking back with a glass of red wine, here are Candice’s winter tips:

In terms of gear for winter training, there are a few things to note.

“If you’re wanting to ride in the rain then do invest in a proper rain jacket that is fully waterproof. It makes the world of difference. Even if you don’t set out to ride in the rain, Cape Town’s four seasons truly can hit you in one day. I always carry one of Ciovita’s light rain jackets, as they fold up small and trust me you’ll be happy you have it when the time comes.

For those less brave to tackle the elements, use layering to your advantage, my go-to is an undershirt, arm warmers and a gilet. It keeps my core perfectly warm and allows me to remove layers as the day warms up.

Knowing how to regulate your temperature is very important, but if your hands and feet are cold, you are already on the back foot. A good pair of gloves and a set of foot warmer booties (I think that’s what you call them) will go a long way to ensuring you don’t get caught trying to brake down the trail, just to find out you can’t feel your fingers.”

Now for off the bike…

“In summer it’s important to maximise the hours of daylight, with early morning rides before it gets too hot, in winter it’s important to do the same with the hours of darkness. I focus on getting into a good routine of enough sleep and recovery, your body will thank you later.

I also take this time to focus on my diet. Now more so than ever, it is important to eat right, I pack my winter comfort foods, curries, soups and stew, with lots of veggies and spices, to keep my immune system strong. In the mornings, a hot pot of oats with banana, nuts/nut butter/seeds and protein powder is a great way to fuel up before or after a ride.

Remember to look after your mental health too. Do things that make you happy, have that glass of red wine, chocolate cake or bubble bath. I always find having that balance makes me a happier and healthier person which always leads to a better performance on the bike.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s Switchback. I think day 1 is going to be really hard, with a lot of climbing out of Hermanus. Day 2’s “play day” is always a highlight, but with the new sections, this year it’s going to be an interesting challenge. Coming into Lourensford to end it all off is going to be something special and I can’t wait to get out there.”

Candice Lill has a laugh at the start of the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage1 from Lourensford to Oak Valley. Image by Nick Muzik

The Covid-19 lockdown has inspired some extreme exercise measures from cyclists, runners and triathletes. In a series of Home Challenge stories, we look at a few FNB Wines2Whales legends’ backyard adventures; starting with Matthys Beukes.

 

PYGA Euro Steel’s Matthys Beukes is one half, along with Philip Buys, of South Africa’s most successful stage racing team; in recent years. Among his illustrious list of wins is the 2017 FNB Wines2Whales title. For a man used to going on long training rides and spending weekends away racing, the lockdown has been particularly tough.

 

“After Cape Epic was cancelled and I got back home I was severely depressed. The reality of what was going to happen hit me hard” Beukes confessed. “After 3 or 4 days I realised that I had a decision to make. I could take control of how I handle the situation. I started working on the lap around our house to get it ready for something special, exactly what I didn’t know at the time; but I knew it would have to be something that would push my boundaries and hopefully inspire other people in this tough time.”

 

The origin of Beukes’ idea for a 24-hour challenge came from Netflix. Fortunately, he found inspiration from Carroll Shelby rather than Joe Exotic, or the challenge could have been very different. “One night my wife Michele and I were watching Ford vs Ferrari on Netflix” Beukes explained. “It’s about the battle to win the Le Mans 24 Hour race between Ford and Ferrari. I thought it must be so cool to do something like that, the rest is history! I highly recommend watching that movie too.”

 

“The lap is around 400 metres long, super technical with loads of twists and turns, stairs up and down, and a bridge up onto a wall that I built from a piece of fence I took out” he pointed out. “At best I can average 14 kilometres per hour on it, so the going is slow. My lap times vary from 1.5 to 2 minutes per lap. I also didn’t have a 24-hour solo ride in mind when I set out the course. It is probably the hardest course I could design around our house. When the 24-hour idea came up I knew doing it on this course would be a challenge, but that was what I was looking for so I didn’t change anything.”

 

The ride itself turned into a test of psychological endurance rather than physical, Beukes revealed: “The craziest thing about that experience, for me, is how mental it was. I’m always very aware of the mental side of things and how important it is but doing this just highlighted what I’ve come to learn very, very, clearly… Once you are in the right state of mind, pretty much anything is possible. I found the hardest part of the 24-hours were the first 20 minutes.  It really felt like a massive weight on my shoulders. In both the days leading up to the ride and especially during those first 20 minutes; but once I tuned into the right mindset, it was plain sailing all the way through to the end.”

 

“That was the mental side of things, but physically I struggled with severe pain in my hands for the last 8 hours. The mental/physical battle was never going to be lost though. So, I knew the pain was just something that I was going to have to accept, manage it if I can (which I never could) and deal with it. That physical challenge was minor compared to the mental battle of the first 20 minutes.”

 

“It is ok to feel overwhelmed by the mountains we face and if it gets us down, that is ok too” Beukes philosophised. “The human mind is way more powerful than we think and anyone has the ability to tune into a better mindset to turn things around; it’s not easy but it is possible. When I struggled during those first 20 minutes, a metaphorical mountain loomed over me, I started thinking about how beautiful the mountain is and how I’m going to enjoy climbing it. I tried to look forward to experiencing the ups and downs it was going to give me. It’s difficult but you should try to find the positives in every situation; and when there are none, embrace the challenges.”

 

Family has proved to be more important than ever during the lockdown and Beukes feels fortunate to have the support of his wife, in lockdown and beyond. “The people in your team can make or break you, my wife, Michele was super supportive of me and that meant the world to me. Also, my neighbours came out at 2am to give some support and the boost that gave was really important. This made me realise the importance of giving people more love and support. If it’s free to give, why not?”

 

“It really is about the journey and not the destination, I never really went anywhere but I loved it” Beukes concluded.

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, the reveal of the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback route! Here it is… plotted, planned and most importantly pre-ridden by Johan ‘JK’ Kriegler and Hendrico Burger.

Stage 1 of the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback

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 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 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 of the 2020 FNB W2W Switchback

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.

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.

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 of the 2020 FNB W2W Switchback

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.

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 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. 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 book as the first people to have ridden the FNB W2W Switchback.”

In 2019, the FNB Wines2Whales introduced eBikes to the mid-week Pinotage event. For 2020, the eBike division is growing within the Switchback, expanding from the eTour to include an eRace too! For riders wishing to (battery)power their way from the Curro School in Hermanus to Oak Valley to Lourensford Wine Estate, on the 2nd to the 4th of November 2020, this is what you need to know.

eRace

“We saw in 2019 that many of the eBikers in the inaugural eBike field wanted to push their limits” explained FNB Wines2Whales Race Director, Hendrico Burger. “The FNB W2W has always looked to balance the riding experience of those mountain bikers who take part for the joy of taking in the famous trails, but also for those riders who want to push themselves a bit. Riding an eBike doesn’t change the fact that some riders are happy to tour while others want to race. To accommodate both approaches we have introduced an eBike race which will take place during the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.”

 

The eBike race will start 30 minutes before the A Batch riders on each of the three stages. To be part of the eRace, would-be-riders have to apply to the event, using race results or Strava (or similar) data to support the fact that they are capable of maintaining an average speed of over 22 kilometres per hour for 60 kilometres. The reason for this is to ensure that the eRacers do not inadvertently interfere with the students who rev to their limits during the Varsity MTB race.

 

To assist the eRacers maintain a high average speed, there will be a battery change service at Water Point 2, on each stage. Riders can bring their own spare battery and swap it out, at the designated battery swap point, in order to ensure they do not have to use their power too conservatively.

 

“It goes without saying that the riders taking part in the eBike race, in the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage will not be eligible for overall podium places” Burger clarified. “There will be a specific eBike subsection for the eRace and eTour but as the Pinotage is the non-competitive event within the FNB W2W stable, there is no prize money allocated to the eBikers at this point in time. The winners can of course claim the significant bragging rights of being the unofficial eBike stage race champions of South Africa though and claim a bottle of wine or two.”

eTour

“The eTour will continue to capture the essence of the FNB Wines2Whales” Burger continued. “eBikes make it possible for riders who, due to fitness or heath reasons, wouldn’t usually be able to ride 180 kilometres in three days share in the FNB W2W gees. It’s a concern I know all-too-well myself, having been booked off mountain biking by my doctor for a heart issue for nearly a year. My eBike was an absolute saving grace during that time, as I was still able to get out in nature and participate in the sport I love; without putting my heart under strain and doing it further damage.”

 

“The eTour really is a spectacular way to take in the route, the area and share in the FNB Wines2Whales experience” Burger enthused. “In fact, I might be getting JK (Johan Kriegler) to take up the Race Director duties for the Pinotage so I can ride as an eBike guide during the eTour.”

 

eTour riders will set off an hour after the last batch starts and will have to ride behind the eGuides at all times. This is to ensure that the slower riders on conventional bikes are not affected by eBikes passing them or putting them under undue pressure in the singletracks. The guides will all be knowledgeable local mountain bikers who will no doubt add tremendous value to the riders around them, in terms of both area specific insights, riding tips and, of course, Serious GEES.

 

eRules

To ensure that every participant in the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage is offered the same opportunities to enjoy the trails and gees of the event the eBike Race and Tour will be conducted under the following rules. Please visit www.wines2whales.com/e-bikes to find out more and to enter the event.

How many of the same MTB trails can a mountain biker cycle before s/he gets bored? The answer my friend ain’t blowing in the wind.

Switchbacks will be the order of the day during the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback. Image by Nick Muzik

It’s probably the main reason many riders over the years have asked us; “Why don’t you do W2W in reverse?” and our response was; “We can’t, as the route can’t simply be cycled in reverse”.

But then after cycling the route for 11 years, we also thought “Let’s look at how we can develop a new route, applicable only to Stages 1 and 3, as Stage 2, the play day loop, stays the same”. It can be viewed as revolutionary and risky MTB trail and event thinking, considering that the existing route and event is a winning recipe. However, consider that over the past decade we have built an extraordinary set of trail development skills and a huge network of trails, which can easily be applied to ensure that we create the same “FNB W2W Fun-on-a-bike” experience. That’s why we named it the “Switchback”, as many trail sections on Stages 1 (Onrus to Oak Valley) and 3 (Oak Valley to Lourensford) will be different, some completely new, and some new combinations of existing trails.

For instance on Stage 1, Rotary View Drive, near the start at Curro School, Onrus, with its spectacular views of Walker Bay, becomes the new Lourensford Climb to sort out the start bunches. Only the first section of The Gaf-se-Bos trail in Karwyderskraal will be utilised. A completely new trail will take you on a 120m high contour route, above and past the Arthouse (WP 2 on Stage 3 of Oak Valley – Onrus route) towards Wildekrans, one of the numerous new Switchback water point locations. The main climb is up Kat Pas, a long gradual climb, instead of walking up Gantouw. The Houw Hoek switchbacks won’t be part of the 2020 Switchback route and existing trails in Paul Cluver and Oak Valley that we haven’t used in years will create a new finish experience.

Same for Stage 3, a new combination of the existing A2Z trails to the top of Gantouw, an easier walk down than up, and new trail sections towards Idiom and Vergelegen. In Lourensford we plan to build a spectacular, long and easy riding singletrack to the finish. And of course, the 8km Lourensford climb to the Saddle, won’t be part of the 2020 Switchback.

Agreed, it’s always a risk to try something new, but if it’s managed and executed properly, as we’ve done for the last decade, it will create a new and similar magic experience.

In 2020, riders can expect a brand new route that takes them on the world’s first ever FNB W2W Switchback. Image by Xavier Briel

The FNB W2W Switchback gives us the opportunity to rotate the route annually; one year Lourensford to Onrus and the next year the other way round; the Switchback. Another reason why the FNB W2W has been selected by SA mountain bikers as their favourite 3-day stage race (survey conducted by Tread magazine in 2019). We pride ourselves on not only continuously improving and being the best but also in leading by example in the creative space.

Enter now at https://wines2whales.com/ and join us on a new, but similar and best MTB experience; the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback, in 2020.

Adios JK (Founder)

Create unique memorable experiences by exploring some of the best trails in the Western Cape. Image by Nick Muzik

One of the attractions of the FNB Wines2Whales is the fact that it showcases a number of the Western Cape’s best trail networks. The race links established trails, which are open to the public throughout the year, by traversing private land to create a unique and memorable route. Outside of the event, mountain bikers can explore some of the trails at their own pace. With that in mind, we thought we would share the FNB Wines2Whales Summer Fun Destinations with you…

 

Oak Valley

Trail Head: 127 Oak Avenue, Grabouw, 7160 | Google Maps

Permit Fee: R50 for adults and R30 for kids

Website: www.oakvalley.co.za

 

As the hosts of the FNB Wines2Whales race village, Oak Valley is a familiar destination for mountain bikers. The trails are among the most celebrated in the route and favourites you can ride throughout the year include Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge and Sounds of Silence. You will be directed from the farm’s main entrance gate to the trailhead and once on the trails, there are two routes to follow; a shorter blue route and a longer red route. The red route also features technical detours, marked with blackboards, for riders who want to try trails like the Greenhouse Effect and Wagyu Trail.

Oak Valley is home to phenomenal trails that cater to riders of all skill levels. Image by Nick Muzik

 

Paul Cluver

Trail Head: On Paul Cluver Wine Estate, just off the N2 | Google Maps

Permit Fee: R50 for adults and R30 for kids

Website: www.cluver.com

 

Home to the famous snake trails and the bridges of the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre Paul Cluver’s trails the farm is crisscrossed by a vast network of singletracks. The trailhead is at the estate’s office and mountain bikers can explore as far afield as Thandi and the Hickory Shack. Signature trails in the network include Witklippies, Pofadder and the Pine Singles. If you would like to extend your ride you can follow the yellow boards into Oak Valley, just remember to ask for a permit to ride both when signing in. The day fee to ride both farms is R70 per adult and R40 per child.

 

If you’ve ridden an FNB W2W, you’ll be familiar with the incredible trails and bridges of Paul Cluver. Image by Xavier Briel

 

Wildekrans

Trail Head: Wildekrans Wine Estate, R43, Bot River, 7185 | Google Maps

Permit Fee: R50

Website: www.wildekrans.com

 

The trails which kick-start the singletrack fun on the final day of the traditional route, and which will be a key feature of the opening day of the Switchback are open to ride year-round. Twisting and turning through the Overberg’s rolling hills before following the course of the Botrivier, the singletracks are largely non-technical, but are exceptionally fun and even challenging if ridden at full speed.

 

Wildekrans’ trails twisting and turn through rolling hills, with singletracks that are non-technical but fun and challenging. Image by Xavier Briel

Hemel en Aarde Trails

Trail Head: Corner of the R43 and R320, Onrus River, Hermanus, 7200 | Google Maps

Permit Fees: R60 for adults and R30 for kids.

Website: www.hermanusadventures.co.za

 

The trails which provide the finale to the traditional FNB Wines2Whales route, and which will form the early kilometres of the Switchback, extend far further than the race has been able to encompass. Totalling 65 kilometres, for the longest back route, the Hemel en Aarde trails provide a full day’s adventures. Keep in mind that riding the full black route is no easy feat and the 1 750 advertised meters of climbing feels significantly more. Riding that will certainly off-set the effects of a big festive season meal.

 

For those looking for a bit more of a challenge, the Hemel en Aarde trails pack a punch but are always a blast. Image by Nick Muzik

 

Other Activities:

Somerset West, Elgin and Hermanus offer a range of other outdoor activities, not to mention the region boast wine farms and award-winning restaurants aplenty. Off your bike, you could go cable water skiing at Blue Rock, go for a hike in Hermanus’ Fernkloof Nature Reserve or satiate your need for thills with a Canopy Tour in the Hottentots Holland mountains, near Grabouw. There’s also no going to Grabouw without a pie-stop at Peregrine Farm Stall!

 

When heading out some festive fun on the trails, please always remember:

  • Let your friends and family know where you are headed
  • Give an ETA of your return
  • Pack more food and water than you think you’ll need
  • Ensure you have spares and that you know how to use them
  • Always have a fully charged cellphone with you
  • Try ride with a buddy where possible
  • Be friendly and full of #SeriousGEES when you encounter riders with the same idea as you

Lorenzo Le Roux and Luyanda Thobigunya, winners of the Exxaro Special Jersey at the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales, received their bursaries from Curro Holdings.

Most mountain bike stage races, including FNB Wines2Whales are raced in teams of two for a reason. When crossing high alpine passes and snaking through rugged terrain, the presence of a partner is necessary for safety. In a sport which takes riders into areas where the weather can change quickly or a fall can leave them unable to help themselves, help needs to be close at hand.

For riders who enter simply to soak up the experience, having a partner by your side gives you someone to share the memories with. While for racers, who are contesting for podium positions, the balance is a little trickier. As the old cycling saying goes: “sometimes you are the hammer and sometimes you are the nail.” Therefore, teammates have to look after one another, nurse them through the moments of weakness and thrive together, rather than racing against one another.

Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo Le Roux of BMT Fairtree are one such team. In fact, they go beyond helping one another on the bike. The story began with them aiding each other to the Exxaro Jersey victory in the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales.

The Exxaro Jersey is a competition within the Shiraz race, in the FNB Wines2Whales series. It allows riders from historically disadvantaged communities to compete in one of the world’s premier stage races and race for prize money. In 2019, the stakes were raised by Curro Holdings, when they added two full scholarships to the prize the winning Exxaro Jersey team would ride away with. Valued at R1.2 million each the bursaries are set to cover the education of two young South Africans, from Grade 1 to Grade 12 at any Curro school. The idea behind the prize was that the winners would each be able to nominate a family member to take up the scholarship.

Thobigunya and Le Roux won the competition by 14 minutes and 6 seconds after three challenging days of racing. In so doing providing their children with a lifechanging opportunity. There was however one issue, Le Roux has twins who turn six in 2020, meaning they will start Grade R next year.

In an act of truly inspiring generosity Thobigunya nominated the second of Le Roux’s twins as the recipient of his Curro scholarship. “It was a chance for our kids to have a better start in life and that is why we rode like we did!” Thobigunya explained. “Cycling has provided me with a reason to avoid getting involved with nonsense, like alcohol and drugs, but also now with the chance to provide a great education to Lorenzo’s children.”

His generosity comes as no surprise to those who know Thobigunya. Though shy by nature he is the key figure in the BMT Fairtree academy. “Luyanda is power” praised BMT Fairtree Academy founder Chris Norton. “I wish I could see him in action on a road team. I think he would amaze people with how strong he is. His climbing, in particular, is exceptional. He has put in a massive amount of hard work, on and off the bike, to become the great rider he is and the rest of the guys really look up to him.”

Le Roux, who works for South Industries – a South African company specialising in the manufacturing of hand-built carbon bicycle wheels – is eternally grateful to his FNB Wines2Whales partner. “This is why we ride; to constantly improve ourselves and our families” he said “I cannot thank BMT, Chris Norton, Fairtree, Exxaro and Wines2Whales enough, for providing us with the opportunity to race for such amazing prizes, let alone Luyanda and Curro. I’m so grateful to them and I’m sure my kids will be too!”

For Curro, education is a lifelong journey. “FNB Wines2Whales is more about the journey than the destination and, as South Africa’s largest independent education provider, we’ve spotted great synergy in this message” Marí Lategan, Head: Marketing and Communications at Curro Holdings, stated. “We are looking forward to starting Le Roux’s children on the journey to an outstanding education at the Curro group of schools.”

Luyanda Thobigunya has started two FNB Wines2Whales races in the Exxaro Jersey competition and has won both. The BMT Fairtree rider has proved unbeatable, winning six stages with two different partners in the process. In 2019, he defended his title alongside Lorenzo le Roux, beating the Exxaro/PwC1 team of Lucky Mlangeni and Anrique Davids.

 

Along with the prize money, awarded by the competition’s title sponsors Exxaro, the winning team members will each receive a bursary to a Curro School of their choice. As the bursary covers education from Grade 1 to Grade 12, Thobigunya and Le Roux will each be able to nominate a young family member to take up the bursary. Valued at 1.2 Million Rand each, the prizes will change the life of a young person, from a historically disadvantaged community, in a way which cycling has been able to improve the lives of the BMT Fairtree team.

 

“It’s an incredible prize” a clearly emotional Le Roux enthused. “My twins turn six next year, so they are nearly ready for Grade 1. I will have to speak to some people and see what we can do. Otherwise, I have an impossibly difficult choice on my hands.”

 

Thobigunya meanwhile did not indicate who he would gift the scholarship to. He is a man of few words who prefers to let his riding do the talking. “It was easy” he said, after the victory sealing race through the third and final stage of FNB Wines2Whales. “One of the Exxaro/PwC1 riders crashed early in the stage, so we knew we just had to keep ahead of them and get safely to the finish line.”

 

The undisputed powerhouse of the team drove himself and Le Roux to an impressive twelfth overall. A result made more impressive by the fact that the BMT Fairtree team spent the second half of Stages 2 and 3 riding within themselves to conserve their Exxaro Jersey lead. One has to wonder how well they would perform if they had chosen to race for the overall general classification rather. The result is a six-position improvement on Thobigunya and Baphelele Mbobo’s eighteenth in 2018.

 

“Luyanda is power” praised BMT Fairtree Academy founder Chris Norton. “I wish I could see him in action on a road team. I think he would amaze people with how strong he is. His climbing, in particular, is exceptional” Norton revealed, explaining why Thobigunya found defending his Exxaro Jersey so easy.

 

“We have to thank Exxaro, FNB Wines2Whales and Curro for the opportunity” Le Roux thanked, as the realisation of victory sunk in. “We also have to thank Chris Norton for being such a great mentor, for believing in us and helping us every step of the way. And of course; thank-you too to Stephen Brown, of Fairtree Capital, for sponsoring us throughout the year and to Trek South Africa for our bikes” the more talkative member of the team concluded.

 

Exxaro/PwC1’s Mlangeni and Davids joined BMT Fairtree on the final Exxaro Jersey podium, in Onrus. Their Exxaro Mountain Biking Academy stablemates, Thabiso Rengane and Khutso Tlou overcame a difficult first stage with strong performances on Stage 2 and 3 to secure third place in the competition.

 

In total, twelve teams contested the Exxaro Jersey during the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event. Seven of those teams finished in the Top Fifty, overall, in a highly competitive field. While Mlangeni and Davids joined Thobigunya and Le Roux in the Top Twenty. Former Exxaro Jersey rider Sithembiso Masango, meanwhile joined Oliver Munnik in the sub-veteran age group, racing to a category podium place for team Land Rover 7.

 

The future of the Exxaro Jersey competition is thus brighter than ever, with young riders developing through the Spur School’s Mountain Biking League every year. With the manageable step into stage racing provided by the FNB Wines2Whales, it is only a matter of time before the next Phillimon Sebona emerges to ascend into the elite ranks. That rider could well be Luyanda Thobigunya.

 

Results: FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz

Exxaro Jersey General Classification after Stage 3:

  1. BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (08:30:58)
  2. Exxaro/PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (08:45:04)
  3. Exxaro/RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (08:55:21)
  4. FNB Change a Life 1: Bongumusa Zikhali & Sipho Kupiso (09:00:38)
  5. FXTM-VELOKHAYA 2: Loyiso Fulu & Mthetheleli Boya (09:09:00)
  6. FNB Change a Life 4: Nkululeko Pewa & Nhlanhla Mthembu (09:29:06)
  7. Exxaro / Pepto: Mphodisa Sebopa & Anele Mtalana (09:37:02)
  8. Kinetic Racing Snakes: Chris Engel & Denver Isaacs (10:48:58)
  9. songo.info: Sipho Futhela & Ntlantla Nonkasa (11:47:50)
  10. Roderick MYW 3: Roderick Price & D’Angelo Mouries (12:42:09)
  11. Exxaro/PwC2: Keneth Kabelo Tshukukudu & Andisiwe Skeyi (12:59:01 | Mixed Team)
  12. Jamian MYW2: Jamian Soldaat & Lu-Wayne Khani (15:35:33)