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)

Riders during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Shiraz 3 day mountain bike event stage 3 from Oak Valley to Onrus. Image by Nick Muzik

NAD Pro MTB wrapped up the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz title in fine style, by winning their third successive stage, on Sunday, 3 November. Stage 3, which started in Oak Valley and finished at the seaside in Onrus, saw Matt Beers and Wessel Botha cross the line first; their stage-winning feat was matched by BMT Fairtree in the Exxaro Special Jersey.

 

“From the start, today, we set quite a hard pace” Botha recounted about how the final stage was won. “The plan was to test the other guys a bit. On the Houw Hoek climb, we saw DSV Pro Cycling struggling a little bit. So, we knew we were the stronger team. On the Kat Pas, we took it easy, to avoid punctures, and they re-joined us.”

 

The NAD Pro MTB team and DSV Pro Cycling’s Gert Heyns and Arno du Toit went through the first waterpoint, at Botrivier Primary School together. The quartet then raced their way through the Wildekrans singletracks in close formation, before the open climb towards waterpoint 2 provided an opportunity for Beers and Botha to attack.

 

“On the climb to the Art House, Matt wound it up and we managed to get a gap” Botha continued. “From there it was just heads down to the finish. We went full gas on the road sections but took it a little easier in the singletracks, just to avoid any punctures or mechanicals. Luckily we could hold it to the finish and take the third stage win.”

 

“To come back as the defending champs is not always easy” Beers reflected. “There is always extra pressure and it doesn’t happen often that a team can defend their title. To get three stage wins in doing so was just a bonus. I’m really happy to get another win.”

 

“I was a last-minute call-up. Nico Bell phoned me on Wednesday and told me that he couldn’t race because he had a chest infection” Beers clarified. “I’ve been riding a Specialized Epic Evo Comp, so I actually raced on Nico’s bike. Fortunately, we both ride extra-large frames – it went way better than I expected. Wessel has progressed so much since he joined the team; people underestimate him because he is so softly spoken, but he is one of the best mountain bikers in the country” he concluded, praising his young partner.

 

DSV Pro Cycling was caught by a recovering PYGA Euro Steel in the Gaf se Bos singletracks between the Art House waterpoint and the Karwyderskraal Road. That set up a tense final 20 kilometres for Heyns and Du Toit, who had clearly  burnt too many matches trying to take the race to NAD Pro MTB.

 

“The prize money for second is still a nice bonus at the end of the year [R50 000]” Heyns confessed after finishing second on the stage and second overall. “Matt and Wessel rode really well. We tried our best, so second is not too bad.”

 

“Today we kept up with NAD really well” Heyns explained how the day unfolded from a DSV Pro Cycling perspective. “When they decided to really go, we just didn’t have the firepower to follow them. But luckily, we could still hold onto second overall.”

 

PYGA Euro Steel’s Philip Buys and Matthys Beukes finished the stage in third, after losing out to Heyns and Du Toit in the sprint for second. The result secured them third overall, on the final general classification standings. NAD Pro MTB’s time of 7 hours, 32 minutes and 37 seconds was a massive 27 minutes faster than the event record, set by Buys and Beukes in 2017. DSV Pro Cycling and PYGA Euro Steel both comfortably beat the previous record time, as did the fourth-placed team of Keagan Bontekoning and Jean-Pierre Lloyd. The fifth spot on the overall standings was filled by SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch’s Timothy Hammond and Julian Jessop.

 

The Exxaro Special Jersey competition was won by Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo le Roux. The BMT Fairtree pair claimed their third successive stage victory, capitalising on a crash by one of the Exxaro/PwC1 riders. Lucky Mlangeni and Anrique Davids were helped to the line by the Exxaro/RMB1 team of Thabiso Rengane and Khutso Tlou. Though Rengane and Tlou outsprinted Mlangeni and Davids to claim second on the stage, Exxaro/PwC1 maintained second in the Exxaro Special Jersey race’s overall classification, while Exxaro/RMB1 completed the podium.

 

Along with the prize money that Thobigunya and Le Roux won for their stage wins and general classification title, the pair also won education bursaries. Curro Schools donated two scholarships, covering school fees from Grade 1 to Grade 12 for a family member of each of the winning riders. Valued at 1.2 Million Rand each, the prize truly showcases that “bicycles change lives.”

 

Back on a cycling front, there was excitement on the final day in the Mixed category as a three-way sprint for second unfolded. Conway Brett Oliver and Catherine Williamson pipped Marco Schaer and Yvonne Waltert, along with the Linaqua team of Henry Liebenberg and Christie Hearder. The overall standings remained unchanged, with Fairtree’s Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber securing the title by 4 minutes.

 

Giordana’s Schaer and Waltert maintained their second position in the category’s general classification standings, despite finishing third on the final stage. While PITSTOP SPORT 2’s Oliver and Williamson completed the podium; behind the dominant Stenerhag and Gerber.

 

With the Shiraz champions crowned, the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales series of events came to its conclusion. Attention now turns to 2020 when the famous race from the wines of Lourensford to the whales in Hermanus will change direction. The Switchback event sees the race change direction and 2019 riders have access to priority entries to this exciting initiative until midnight on Sunday. General entries to the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback open on Tuesday, 5 November 2019. For more information please visit www.wines2whales.com.

 

Results: FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz

Elite Men Stage 3:

  1. NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (02:23:50.4)
  2. DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (02:27:20.4 | +03:30.0)
  3. PYGA Euro Steel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (02:27:20.6 | +03:30.2)
  4. Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (02:31:06.7 | +07:16.3)
  5. Canyon Werner: Sebastian Stark & Robert Hobson (02:35:09.6 | +11:19.2)

 

Exxaro Jersey Stage 3:

  1. BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (02:42:49.9)
  2. Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (02:49:26.7 | +06:37.8)
  3. Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (02:49:27.0 | +06:38.1)

 

Mixed Category Stage 3:

  1. Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (02:55:34.2)
  2. PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (02:57:32.5 | +01:58.3)
  3. Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (02:57:32.9 | +01:58.6)

 

Elite Men’s General Classification after Stage 3:

  1. NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (07:32:37)
  2. DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (07:37:40 | +05:03)
  3. PYGA Euro Steel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (07:40:04 | +07:27)
  4. Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (07:54:34 | +21:57)
  5. SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch: Timothy Hammond & Julian Jessop (08:10:09 | +37:32)

 

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 | +14:06)
  3. Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (08:55:21 | +24:22)

 

Mixed Category General Classification after Stage 3:

  1. Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (09:11:24)
  2. Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (09:15:24 | +04:00)
  3. PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (09:20:26 | +09:02)

 

For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race please visit www.wines2whales.com.

 

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The Race Village erupts as the Springboks secure the Rugby World Cup title. Image by Nick Muzik

There was nervous tension aplenty on the start line of Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race; on Saturday, 2 November. The start time was brought forward to 06:00 and a short-cut was added to ensure everyone who wanted to watch the Rugby World Cup Final was able to. So, when the Springbok’s kicked off against England – at 11:00 local time – the Race Village was filled with riders and crew.

 

Few were to be seen riding or strolling around between the marquees, tents or stalls,  however. Virtually every eye in Oak Valley was locked on a television screen. 80 minutes later, the 04:00 am wake-up call, the hour and a half time adjustment for taking the short cut, and all the nerves were worth it.

 

Despite starting the match as underdogs, following England’s barnstorming win against the world number one All Blacks, the men in green and gold prevailed – turning physical dominance into a resounding 32-12 win. A victory margin only exceeded by Australia when they defeated France, 35-12, in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

 

There was no early indication that the game would finish with a 20-point margin of victory. “I expect it to be a 3-point game” former Springbok captain Corné Krige predicted earlier in the day. A tense first half, which finished 12-6, pointed to the wisdom of Krige’s prediction.

 

Willed on by the throngs of riders gathered in the FNB Rider Lounge, Woolworths Rider Dining, and Cape Brewing Co Chill Zone, along with the 58 Million South Africans watching from within the Rainbow Nation and abroad, the Springboks tightened the noose. Utilising their scrum dominance to keep piling on the pressure, they drove the English back and kept the scoreboard ticking over.

 

A brief swing in momentum, when England were awarded two kickable penalties in three minutes, was stopped by Owen Farrell missing the second kick at goal. During those brief moments, one could hear a freehub spin in the silent Race Village. The few English fans in attendance had the good sense to stifle their cheers.

 

The tide turned for the good when Handrè Pollard slotted his sixth penalty of the match. 9 points up with 20 minutes to play, even the most sceptical Springbok fans were starting to believe. A fourth penalty for Farrell and England did little to dent the growing confidence, which was spectacularly rewarded in the 66th minute.

 

One of the quirks of watching the game in the Race Village was the timing of the various feeds. While the main viewing areas were connected to SuperSport via satellite, small clusters of fans were gathered around laptops watching on DSTV Now. With the online streaming feed delayed by over a minute, the fans watching through that service were forwarded of any significant moment.

 

Makazole Mapimpi’s try was the loudest such instance. It sounded for all the world as if the massive Bedouin tent, which houses the Cape Brewing Co Chill Zone, would be blown from its tethers. Such was the wall of noise which erupted from it. When Pollard added the 2 extra points, by way of a simple conversion, the 13-point buffer it provided sent the Race Village into raptures.

 

When Cheslin Kolbe scored the try which put the game beyond doubt, 9 minutes later, the FNB Wines2Whales Oak Valley Race Village was already in full party mode. Queen’s “We are the Champions” was blaring over the emotional rugby commentary being piped through the loudspeakers. Siya Kolisi’s men had defied the odds and united a nation.

 

Sunday’s 69-kilometre-long final stage may seem longer and more arduous than it otherwise would be, though rumours of a later start to accommodate those who continue the celebrations late into the night are entirely unfounded. There is prize money to be won and who knows; maybe South African Marathon Champion Arno du Toit, and his DSV Pro Cycling partner Gert Heyns, will upset the odds on Stage 3 by drawing inspiration for the Springboks to overrun the favourites NAD Pro MTB.

Matt Beers and Wessel Botha secured their second stage victory by blitzing the Elite Men’s field. Image by Nick Muzik

Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales is known as Play Day. There was no fun and games to be had for the riders who tried to hold Matt Beers’ wheel however, as he and Wessel Botha blitzed the trails of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver. The NAD Pro MTB pair claimed their second stage victory to extend their general classification lead on Saturday 2 November, while their exploits were copied by the BMT Fairtree and Fairtree teams in the Exxaro Jersey race and Mixed category.

 

In the Elite Men’s category, Beers went on the charge from the first climb of the day. Ascending out of Oak Valley, the NAD Pro MTB rider split the field with a stinging acceleration. Only his partner, Wessel Botha, along with his fellow Stage 1 protagonists, DSV Pro Cycling and PYGA Euro Steel could follow the early move.

 

“The plan was to make it tough from the off” Beers explained. “I tried to set a high tempo on the first climb and only Matthys Beukes, Philip Buys, Arno du Toit and Gert Heyns could follow Wessel and myself. I saw HB Kruger and Frans Claes trying to close the gap to us after the climb, so I drove on again. The more riders there are in the front group, the harder it makes it to navigate the singletracks safely. Because of that, I really didn’t want them to catch us.”

 

“We saw yesterday that we could put Matt and Wessel under pressure a bit in the singletracks” Du Toit revealed. “But we hardly got a chance to lead into any trails today, Matt controlled the race too well.” With nearly 80 percent of the Play Day route being made up of singletrack, the battle for the first 40 kilometres was to lead the group into each trail.

 

Beers and Botha were virtually ever-present at the front of the trio. With Beers setting a consistently ferocious pace. “I think Matt is probably the best mountain biker in the country right now” his NAD Pro MTB teammate Botha praised. “It’s an honour to race alongside him.”

 

After softening up their rivals for the first 47 kilometres, the NAD Pro MTB team launched the stage winning move. On the climb towards the Hickory Shack waterpoint, Beers and Botha increased the tempo. Beukes was the first to drop off, forcing Buys to slow down to help his PYGA Euro Steel partner through the final 17 kilometres of the stage. Then DSV Pro Cycling started to falter, initially holding NAD Pro MTB in sight until the Thandi Switchbacks; 10 kilometres from the finish, the elastic snapped.

 

Beers and Botha rode home as comfortable stage winners, putting 1 minute and 32.2 seconds into Du Toit and Heyns. Beukes and Buys crossed the finish line third, 3 minutes and 56.7 seconds after the stage winners. The result sees NAD Pro MTB extend their general classification lead to 1 minute and 33 seconds.

 

Behind the podium finishers, Kruger and Claes bounced back from their puncture on Stage 1, to finish fourth on Stage 2. The Devonbosch Stellenbosch pair’s result leapfrogged them into fifth on the general classification. While the young Jaguar Power Products team, of Keagan Bontekoning and Jean-Pierre Lloyd, maintained their fourth place on the overall standings.

 

In the Exxaro Jersey competition, Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo le Roux extended their category lead by winning the stage ahead of Lucky Mlangeni and Anrique Davids of Exxaro/PWC1. The BMT Fairtree team recovered from Le Roux crashing into a tree, to put another 4 minutes and 24 seconds into the Exxaro/PwC1 team. Exxaro/RMB1’s Thabiso Rengane and Khutso Tlou were third on the stage. That result moved them into third on the Exxaro Special Jersey overall standings, behind Exxaro/PwC1 and BMT Fairtree.

 

The Mixed category stage honours went to the category leaders; Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber. The Fairtree team extended their general classification advantage to 2 minutes and 1 second over Giordana’s Marco Schaer and Yvonne Waltert. PITSTOP SPORT 2’s Conway Brett Oliver and Catherine Williamson are third in the competition, 7 minutes and 3 seconds behind Stenerhag and Gerber.

 

On Sunday, 3 November, FNB Wines2Whales departs Oak Valley for Onrus. Racing to the whales on the Atlantic Coast, the teams will have a challenging 69 kilometres to complete their Shiraz event adventure. Despite their advantage, Beers and Botha are weary of the potential for disaster, having seen what happened to the Faces team of Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath in the Chardonnay race.

 

“It’s not over until we reach Onrus” Botha stated. “Tomorrow will be a tough day and I’m sure the other teams will take the fight to us. But after the final stage having to be rerouted to finish at Oak Valley last year, I’m looking forward to finishing at the sea. It’s going to be an exciting last day of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz.”

 

Results: FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz

Elite Men Stage 2:

  1. NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (02:27:59.3)
  2. DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (02:29:31.5 | +1:32.2)
  3. PYGA EuroSteel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (02:31:56.0 | +03:56.7)
  4. Devonbosch Stellenbosch: Frans Claes & HB Kruger (02:33:38.2 | +05:38.9)
  5. SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch: Timothy Hammond & Julian Jessop (02:37:43.2 | +09:43.9)

 

Exxaro Jersey Stage 2:

  1. BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (02:46:35.6)
  2. Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (02:51:00.5 | +04:24.9)
  3. Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (02:57:05.4 | +10:29.8)

 

Mixed Category Stage 2:

  1. Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (03:01:52.0)
  2. Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (03:02:54.6 | +01:02.6)
  3. PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (03:03:44.3 | +01:52.3)

 

Elite Men’s General Classification after Stage 2:

  1. NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (05:08:47)
  2. DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (05:10:20 | +01:33)
  3. PYGA EuroSteel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (05:12:44 | +03:57)
  4. Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (05:23:27 | +14:40)
  5. Devonbosch Stellenbosch: Frans Claes & HB Kruger (05:23:58 | +15:11)

 

Exxaro Jersey General Classification after Stage 2:

  1. BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (05:48:08)
  2. Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (05:55:37 | +08:28)
  3. Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (06:05:54 | +17:45)

 

Mixed Category General Classification after Stage 2:

  1. Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (06:15:50)
  2. Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (06:17:51 | +02:01)
  3. PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (06:22:54 | +07:03)

 

For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race please visit www.wines2whales.com.