South African sports nutrition company, USN, has signed a deal with the FNB Wines2Whales as the Official Sports Nutrition Partner to the race.

The FNB Wines2Whales attracts riders from every corner of the country and often internationally, too. These riders range from World Champions and Olympians to weekend warriors and first timers, each arriving with a different goal.

While the riders at the sharp end of the field are chasing podium spots, those with less competitive mindsets are making memories and having a blast on their mountain bikes . Though ambitions and goals may differ, each rider has something in common: the need to fuel their bodies.

That’s where USN, the Official Sports Nutrition Partner of the FNB Wines2Whales, comes in – giving all riders the fuel they need to chase their goals.

As Official Sports Nutrition Partner to the FNB W2W, USN will take care of riders’ mid-stage nutrition needs at the dedicated water points throughout the day. Riders can expect to find USN’s Epic Pro, Cyto Power HP, Hydrating Energy drink, Energy Oat Bars, and more at each water point. This product offering is sure to keep legs turning up the most challenging of climbs and the minds sharp while whipping through Oak Valley and Paul Cluver’s famous singletracks.

“When I think of the FNB Wines2Whales, two things jump to mind; world-class organisation like I’ve never experienced in any other country, and the overwhelming feeling of happiness while riding my bike through the most pristine landscapes of the world.” enthused Albé Geldenhuys, CEO and Founder of USN. “Even with burning legs and dust in your teeth, you cannot help but continuously remind yourself of how blessed we are. We at USN are extremely honoured to be partnering with this prestigious event and we’re looking forward to spoiling riders with nutritional supplements and ice-cold recovery drinks during and after every stage of the FNB W2W.”

Once riders have crossed the finish line after each stage, they can kick their recovery into gear by visiting the USN recovery area where USN Pro Recover, Epic Pro, and various bars will be readily available.

“USN has been a trusted brand in the sports nutrition space since 2000 and we are ecstatic to have them on board as our Official Sports Nutrition Partner” explained FNB Wines2Whales Managing Director, Michael Flinn. “I have always turned to USN’s products to stave off the dreaded bonk during my training rides and races; so I am confident that having access to their scientifically proven, world-class range of products during our events will keep riders’ legs turning over, and the levels of  #SeriousGEES high, even after a few hours on the bike (exactly how many hours, I’ll leave to your imagination).”

The inaugural FNB Wines2Whales Switchback is set to take place from 5-14 November 2021 with riders tackling the breathtaking trails from Hermanus to Oak Valley Estate, and finally to Lourensford Wine Estate for the first time.

 

For more than a decade, the FNB Wines2Whales has delivered world-class mountain biking, taking riders from the wines of Lourensford Wine Estate to the whales of Hermanus via some of the Western Cape’s most loved and enjoyed trails

In 2021, the FNB Wines2Whales is switching back on itself, and riders will tackle an all-new adventure that sees the route roll away from the whales and head inland towards the wines. It has been named the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.

Aside from the staples of the FNB W2W of years prior, like mid-race wine stops, Woolworths catering for breakfast, lunch and dinner, free bike washes, and, of course, the world-class trails and times, the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback promises even more reasons for riders to secure an entry.

With racing action returning to the weekends thanks to a slight relaxing of restrictions, here’s a look at five reasons why you should enter the FNB Wines2Whales, today.

1) Entries are limited

While we have strived, with all our might, to host an event on the same scale as the FNB Wines2Whales of the past decade, we’ve reduced entry numbers for the 2021 FNB W2W to address Covid-19 restrictions and precautionary measures, and to ensure that #SeriousGEES wins the day.

2) Race in 2021 for the price of 2019

Yes, you read that correctly. Register and pay before 5 May 2021 and you’ll be racing the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales for the same price that it cost to race the 2019 event! There are also new entry options, like Ride Only, Double Luxury Tents, and Single Luxury tents for riders wishing to err on the side of Covid caution.

3) Your money is safe with us.

We’re not runners! If you enter and pay for the 2021 FNB W2W Switchback, your money is safe. If the worst-case scenario occurs and the event has to be cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19, 100% of the money you have paid will be transferred to the 2022 FNB W2W. We commit to communicating any big decisions or changes with at least 90 days’ notice to race day and will provide regular updates as we get closer to the event.

4) #Goals

Goals give us all something to work towards. Make the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback your MTB goal for the year and kick your training into overdrive as the event is rapidly approaching.

5) The Lourensford Ultimate.

Over the past year, we’ve told you all about how the Cape Trails team, working alongside JK himself, have carved out countless switchbacks, moved boulders, wrangled puff adders, and carved out new trails that’ll have even the most seasoned adventure seekers grinning from ear to ear. But now, we can show you some of their finest work to date. Here’s a quick look at what you can expect when you drop into the Lourensford Ultimate on Stage 3 of the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.

If these reasons tickle your fancy and have whet your appetite for some #SeriousGEES and MTB stage racing, secure your FNB Wines2Whales Switchback entry today.

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