Rowena Kemp won a pair of BH mountain bikes in the FNB Wines2Whales Champions Chase in November 2020. Since receiving her bike, she’s clocked up 700 fun-filled kilometres of riding. Here’s how it’s going for Rowena and ‘Antonio’ the BH.

Rowena Kemp was the ultimate winner in the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Champions Chase competition. Her name was drawn from the, digital, hat securing her the prize of either a top of the range BH eBike or a top end BH full suspension mountain bike. Kemp, however, negotiated with BH South Africa to rather exchange her prize for two lower value bikes; in order that she could gift one to her riding partner, Irma Schoeman.

Read the story of Rowena Kemp’s generosity here.

Since Kemp and Schoeman took delivery of their BH Lynx mountain bikes the former has clocked up 700-kilometres on it. “I’ve gone on 19 rides. It has, literally, been an amazing and fun rollercoaster ride” Kemp enthused.

Looking back on the moment when she first found out that she had won the main prize in the Champions Chase she reflected: “I was so shocked and in total disbelief when I first got a call to say I won the bike. Once I was sure that it was true, I was so excited to get the bike and even more excited when I heard that I could get two bikes, so I could share the prize with Irma.”

Having upgraded from an old 26er, which belonged to her father, her riding had gone to new heights on the BH. “I am riding at least once a weekend and I try to ride once on a weekday every second week” the single mom stated. Then adding with a smile: “I have even named my bike Antonio, since it is a Spanish name and the bike has Spanish origins. The new bike has given me a new confidence. I feel I can do more and even ride a little faster.”

“As I said, this bike has been so good for my confidence” Kemp continued. “It is so much better riding a 29er versus a 26er. I used to feel like I had to jump off my previous bike when things got a bit hectic, but on my new bike, Antonio, I just carry on and try not to fall. It feels so responsive and I feel safe and secure on it. I went to Dullstroom last week and on my own did two long rides, one of 50-kilometres (the Kruisfontein Loop) and one of 75-kilometres (Tonteldoos – De Berg Ring Road). Both rides were on gravel roads, and very muddy. I really enjoyed them and actually felt so safe.”

A big contributing factor in Kemp’s increased confidence was a gift from Schoeman. “After I gave her a bike, she gave me a dropper post, new cycling shoes and new pedals” Kemp smiled. “Last year was a real spoil for me, winning the bike and getting new accessories!” As anyone who has fitted a dropper seatpost will attest, it immediately inspires increased confidence on technical terrain.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021 Kemp is keen to get as much riding in as possible. “Well, my goal is to ride as often as I can” she stated, simply. “I would like to just improve my skills on the bike, tackle the singletracks with more confidence and up my speed on the gravel roads.”

Racing wise, like most mountain bikers, she’s hoping to be able to take part in a few events, Covid allowing. “I have entered the Jackal Dash in March 2021, I am cycling Ride the Berg in May, with the company I work for. Then in June, Irma and I taking part in the Berg and Bush and then hopefully we’ll get entries into FNB Wines2Whales, at the end of the year. Six of my colleagues are eager to enter W2W with Irma and myself, so if we can secure entries for the whole group of us it’ll be quite a festive stage racing experience.”

“I’m sure our new BH bikes will give us the edge Irma and I need to complete and enjoy all those events” Kemp laughed. “I am eternally grateful to BH and the FNB Wines2Whales team for the new bikes. They have just made my passion for MTB grow! Life is too short; so you really have to make the most of every opportunity given to you and just keep moving forward.”

If you’ve been motivated by Rowena Kemp’s story you too can join the FNB Wines2Whales Strava Club. It will help you stay motivated and allow you to stay updated on all the news from the FNB W2W Switchback, which is scheduled to take place from the 5th to the 14th of November 2021.

 

Rowena Kemp was the ultimate winner of the FNB Wines2Whales Champions Chase competition. The Johannesburg rider did not keep the prize for herself, however, having won the lucky draw for a top of the range BH mountain bike she negotiated with the bike brand to receive two lower-specification bikes rather. One for her and one for her cycling partner.

The FNB Wines2Whales allowed the Serious GEES of the usual end of season mountain biking celebration to continue in a virtual capacity, despite the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Riders were able to join the fun on the trails or on Zwift, as the FNB W2W Champions Chase pitted amateurs against some of the best elite mountain bikers in the world. Strava segments in Bloemfontein, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape provided the incentive to hit the trails. While Watopia’s Road to Ruins ensured a challenging Zwift race.

Lucky draw prizes were awarded to riders who completed either a Strava segment or took part in the virtual Champions’ Chase on Zwift. With prizes from the trail centres, wine farms and other sponsors there was every reason to get involved. The ultimate prize of a BH mountain bike was the one that most riders had their eye on however.

BH South Africa had graciously offered the choice of either a DX851 Lynx Race EVO Carbon 8.5 or an ER720 Atom X Lynx 5.5 Pro e-Bike to the lucky winner. Given the fact that it was a lucky draw the thought was that the victor may prefer an e-Bike to a full suspension race bike, but as it transpired, the lady whose name was drawn from the virtual hat preferred to share her prize.

Rowena Kemp was the fortunate rider, having ridden the Northern Farms route. “I was so surprised” Kemp confessed, taking up the story of how she found out that she had won. “Firstly, I nearly missed the message on my Strava app, luckily a friend of mine let me know and I immediately emailed FNB Wines2Whales. I honestly thought I had won some socks or a cycling shirt. I was so surprised and shocked that I won a bike; never mind the fact that it as such an expensive bike! I actually could not believe it until I saw my name as a winner on Facebook.

“I am a single mom so cycling is my escape and challenge” she continued. “My friend, and riding partner, Irma Schoeman’s kids are out of school and her husband is happy for her to go cycling on the weekend. We have both been mountain biking for just under two years and love it so much. I try to ride at least once on the weekend and every second Wednesday, at Cradle Moon. I entered the Champions’ Chase because Irma told me to. Our dream was that one of us would win an FNB Wines2Whales entry for 2021. I didn’t even know there was a bicycle up for grabs.”

“I joined the challenge on the final Friday and rode the route at Northern Farms with a few friends” Kemp explained. “Northern Farms is one of my favourite places to cycle. It was a great day out, as usual, and also cool to try a slightly different route to the one we usually ride.”

Having been informed of her victory Kemp was eager to find out if she could swap the high-spec prize bike for two lower-spec models worth the same value as the top-of-the-range one. “I have a 26-inch Trek bicycle that I have been using. It’s an old bike of my dad’s, so any bike would be an upgrade for me” she laughed. “Just having my own bike would be fantastic! When I spoke to Mathew, from BH, he said it was possible to get two bikes for the same value as the original prize. He even suggested an e-Bike and a mountain bike. Whilst I would appreciate the expensive bike with all the top-end components even a bike of half that price would be awesome!”

“Since Irma got me to enter the competition, I thought why not let us both get new bikes” she graciously allowed. “Neither of us have a carbon bike. BH was so accommodating and arranged two bikes for us. As you can imagine we’re super excited about the bikes!”

“Our hearts went out to her when we heard her story” Ray Wilson, the Director of BH South Africa smiled. “She needed a bike for herself but also one for Irma as they are both borrowing old bikes. We’re shipping two BH mountain bikes to her. They are highly capable full suspension bikes which are sure to excel on the trails of Cradle Moon and Northern Farms, where Rowena rides most frequently.”

“Most importantly, though, they’ll help her take her riding to the next level” Wilson promised. “We hope to see her and Irma, on their BH bikes at next year’s FNB Wines2Whales. I’ve already been in touch with Exxaro to find out if there will be space in the bus, with their Exxaro Jersey teams, to give her and her partner a lift down from Pretoria to Onrus.”

“We have entered Berg and Bush, which takes place in February 2021” Kemp said of her riding plans on her new bike. “Our ultimate goal is to enter the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback though. So, we’re saving up and improving our skills every weekend. Fingers crossed we’ll be on the FNB W2W start line!”

The FNB Wines2Whales Challenge, which encouraged riders to donate R1 for every kilometre that they rode throughout 1 and 2 August, raised R100 000 for the Botrivier Crèche Initiative.

2020 has been a year that has challenged everyone, especially the events industry.

While many may see the FNB Wines2Whales as “just” a mountain bike event, the fact is that the event is much, much more. The FNB Wines2Whales has a rich history of supporting the communities through which the race passes; one such community is Botrivier.

Botrivier is a small town situated between Grabouw and Hermanus and within this small town is the Botrivier Crèche Initiative – home to six crèches that proudly offer a haven to the town’s youngest children. During the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the globe, these six crèches have been closed, resulting in many children being confined to their homes and going hungry as the meals they receive at the crèches are, sometimes, the only meal that they get to enjoy during the day.

The FNB Wines2Whales team formulated a plan to assist these crèches with much-needed funds, and the FNB Wines2Whales Challenge was born.

On the weekend of 1 and 2 August, the FNB W2W community was called upon to get out on their bikes to pedal in the name of #GEES4GOOD and then donate R1 per kilometre that they rode. To facilitate a social element during the challenge, an official Zwift event was held and riders from across the world joined in the fun and donated the Rand value of the kilometres ridden.

Every person who donated R40 or more was entered into the draw to win an FNB Wines2Whales entry, and amazing prizes from our sponsors, Ciovita, Falke, Squirt Cycling Products, and Oakley. Sune Henning was randomly drawn from a list of over 260 donations as the winner of the FNB W2W entry and she was ecstatic to have won by donating to the FNB Wines2Whales Challenge.

In total, R38 000 was donated by riders during the weekend. Title sponsor, FNB, added a further R30 000 to the pot, and then a silent donor contributed an additional R10 000. The FNB Wines2Whales staff then rallied together and donated R22 000, taking the total to R100 000!

“The FNB Wines2Whales Challenge was an incredibly fun and humbling campaign to be a part of” exclaimed Michael Flinn, Managing Director of the FNB Wines2Whales. “To see passionate riders from across the world, and all walks of life, supporting this incredible initiative which is so close to our hearts is absolutely fantastic. The funds raised during the Challenge will go towards PPE kits to allow the crèches to reopen safely and will go a long way to helping the Kammaland crèche to replace their roof, which was blown off during a recent storm. On behalf of the educators, and the Botrivier community, I wish to thank our partners, FNB, and every single person who donated!”

“The moments of help demonstrated by the riders to make a positive impact to the Botrivier community are aligned to the core values that the FNB Wines2Whales event abides by. We are very appreciative to everyone who heeded the call and made an effort to assist the community, especially during this difficult time” said Nancy Lockett, FNB, Head of Marketing and Events.

We would like to extend our deepest thanks to every rider who took the time to be a part of the FNB Wines2Whales Challenge, the donations will make the lives of the children in Botrivier that much better and we are sure that they’ll be cheering you on when the next FNB Wines2Whales passes through the town.

Happy Women’s day.

The FNB Wines2Whales has always placed a large emphasis on equality, through the focus the Chardonnay has on women’s racing, to the coverage of the event itself, with dedicated teams following every pedal stroke.

We caught up with 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay defending champion, Amy McDougall, to hear her top tips on breaking barriers and getting more women into cycling.

Amy McDougall of team Dormakaba during the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay.
Image by Xavier Briel

My advice to women getting into the sport for the first time is to go for skills training and get a coach.
I am extremely passionate about teaching skills because I made so many mistakes and wasted a lot of blood and tears by blundering through.
It obviously worked out well in the end but I could have saved myself a lot of grief had I had proper guidance from the beginning.

Many women start riding with more experienced men who put pressure on them to “just ride it” which creates massive anxiety and insecurity for the woman.

This is purely a generalisation, I know it’s not all men and I know it’s not necessarily malicious, but I’ve been a skills coach for 8 years and it’s a consistent pattern. There are so many nuances in skills and in getting strong on the bike, it is impossible to figure it out alone, especially if you didn’t start riding as a kid (and this goes for men and women equally). There is tons of advice I could give, but for me, this is the most important.
It is a very daunting sport at first, but absolutely worth it!
 
It is very exciting to see such a big surge in young female riders and a huge depth of talent in all our youngsters which I am very excited to see in the future. I feel that the industry as a whole has already really stepped up to the plate with the Schools MTB series and coaching kids from a young age.
Stage race and marathon events are starting to offer shorter distances specifically for them.

My generation definitely didn’t have that, I didn’t even know mountain biking was a thing until I was 19. I guess we could see more mentorship programs specifically for women, and that is actually the responsibility of us pro’s and accomplished women mountain bikers.

Amy McDougall and partner Robyn de Groot during the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay.
Image by Xavier Briel

I have always enjoyed the challenge of the sport and it is that, that brings me back to the FNB Wines2Whales. The excitement on event is amazing and last year’s weather provided even more #SeriousGees. I tend to strive in adversary so it suited me perfectly and also, I’m definitely happiest covered in mud.

Mechanicals come with the territory in the world of mountain biking with equipment being pushed to its absolute limit as riders descend loose trails and rip through berms at high speed. Finding the limits and pushing through them are daily occurrences for professional riders the world over, but sometimes the gods of cycling are not in your favour.

 

In last year’s FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz, HB Kruger partnered with, 2016/2017 Belgian XC National Champion, Frans Claes, in a pairing that had many pundits anticipating an even more competitive race with the likes of NAD MTB, DSV PRO CYCLING and Pyga Euro Steel readying their riders for the 3 day event from Lourensford Wine Estate to Onrus.

 

Unfortunately it was not to be, with the duo suffering punctures and mechanical issues that saw their FNB Wines2Whales title hopes slip away. Having raced at the sport’s highest level for a number of years, both HB and Frans were able to push through and finish in 7th place after a troublesome 3 days of racing.

Frans Claes & HB Kruger during stage 2 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz. Image by Nick Muzik

We caught up with HB to get his top tips on dealing with mechanicals and what he enjoys most about the race as he switches gears to a more road cycling focus for the future:

 

When it comes to mechanicals, the most common one is definitely a puncture, having suffered my fair share in last year’s race, despite having tubeless tyres, it’s important to know how to fix one. It takes time to learn to correctly plug a wheel, without making an even bigger hole or worse… pinching a new one in the tyre with the tool. Take some time to practice this, it can save you valuable time when done right.

HB Kruger suffering a puncture during stage 1 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales.
Image by Nick Muzik

Over the past couple of years on the MTB, I’ve been able to take part in various high profile multi-stage races, it has definitely given me new depth as a rider.

In longer MTB stage races there are certainly no easy days; you can’t relax a bit and ease off the pedals for a day or two like you can on the road. That really forces you to keep pushing the limits all the way to the end and I’ve seen my depth as a rider improve.

I’ve been able to race these top events with world-class athletes and really feel that that resilience learned in MTB will help me in road racing.

Having been introduced to the FNB Wines2Whales by Adriaan Louw back in 2015, the race’s vibe has always been a big draw card for me. Often the SeriousGees isn’t even out on the trails. When South Africa won the Rugby World Cup and all the riders, event staff and families came together in the CBC Chill Zone, regardless of country, religion, race or beliefs, we were all there to celebrate and it really emphasised the words of our beloved Madiba, “sport can unite people”. I will never forget that FNB Wines2Whales moment.

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.”