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. Second in the series is the back-yard 70.3 distance triathlon completed by Cally and Bianca Silberbauer.

Bianca and Cally on the charge during the bike leg of their at home 70.3

Cally and Bianca Silberbauer are no strangers to the FNB Wines2Whales. The sisters are the daughters of Trail’s End owner Pieter Silberbauer and if you’ve bought a bottle of Oak Valley wine in the race village in the last two years, you’ve probably been helped by one of them. Aside from being purveyors of fine wines they are both FNB Wines2Whales finishers in their own rights, and endurance sport junkies.

Unable to take part in any ultra-distance sports events during lockdown, the Silberbauers, or the Sillies as they are affectionately known, devised their own challenge. With their garden bordering on Trail’s End’s grounds and having access to a 25-metre pool made the task of setting out a 70.3 distance triathlon course a little easier than it would be for most. They also decided to take on the challenge for a good cause; raising funds for songo.info, a Stellenbosch based cycling and education charity, while they cycled, swam and ran.

For mountain bikers unfamiliar with triathlon’s 70.3 distance, the event entails a 1.9-kilometre swim, a 90-kilometre bike and a 21.1-kilometre run. In miles those distances add up to 70.3-miles. It is, in short, a challenging event; especially when undertaken off-road, as the Silberbauers did.

“At the beginning of lockdown, our Dad started clearing a route in the garden which we later connected to the flow trail at Trail’s End via a loop around the house, dodging the washing line and swings, around the pool and off the deck and into our more technical section of the route: the rock garden” Cally Silberbauer explained. “The whole route wasn’t exactly what you’d call ‘manicured’ but after 70 plus laps we forged a pretty compact path through the pine needles.”

“The lap distance for the cycle was about 1.3 kilometres and our run lap was about 1 kilometre” the elder sister elaborated. “It was a gruelling course that required a lot of leg power and concentration for every metre. There were also five gates which we had to open on the first lap, which kicked off at 7:30 am. There were also a few large rocks that were relocated to make ramps and to create space for a more flowing (kind of) ride.”

“We started with the cycle because we knew it would be the toughest aspect of the day, what with such a short, technical loop and many laps to make up our 90-kilometre target” Cally revealed. “We had also hoped that the day would warm up making the 1.9-kilometre swim a little bit easier, as neither of us have wetsuits. Bibs (Bianca) didn’t even have a costume at our parent’s house. By the time we finished the cycle, at around 3:30 pm, the weather had barely warmed up. We even had a bit of rain on lap 60.”

“In total it took us 12 and a half hours to complete the 70.3” Cally said. “We definitely did stop for food and water breaks; as well as for our sanity. We also had to warm-up with a Trail’s End coffee post-swim. Our total moving time was about 10 hours. Food is important okay,” she laughed.

“Our parents definitely kept us motivated” Cally continued. “My Mom, Brenda, supplied us with whatever food we wanted, while my Dad documented our every move on the socials. When we stopped for too long, they’d send us back out onto the course. After 50 plus laps of the cycle, it did seem to take forever to make up any distance. With the weather being quite icy, it was a huge effort to get into the pool. We both sat there for a while mustering up the courage but once we got in, the cold definitely motivated us to keep moving.”

“The run was tough from start to finish; and just got progressively worse” Cally added. “Especially when the light faded and we had whip out the headlamps, all the while smelling homemade soup and being taunted by our parent’s G&T’s. The thought of beer definitely kept us going; that and a shower and food!”

“We decided to do this challenge because we know just how privileged we are in this lockdown” she reflected. “Not only do we have a family for company, enough food to enjoy wholesome meals. And not even just the set three, there has been plenty of snackage in between. But we also have a garden, that we’ve subsequently proved is big enough to complete a 70.3 in. This is definitely not the case for the majority of South Africa and we wanted to use our privilege for good and to inspire others who are in similar circumstances to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The lockdown sure has a way of pointing out the imbalances in society but rather than feeling guilty about it, or simply not caring; we wanted to make a difference by doing something that might be a bit extreme and uncomfortable. However, not having food for a couple of days and not knowing how you’ll be able to support your family is a lot more extreme and uncomfortable.”

“We contacted songo.info to see whether we could partner with them to ensure the money we raise gets to the people that need it most” she stated. “They were more than happy to have us on board and helped us set up the donation links and communication. We’ve raised R6 350, which the charity has used to create food parcels for the families in Kayamandi, and we’re hoping to see that figure rise with a few people still wanting to donate.”

The FNB Wines2Whales takes riders through one of the most spectacular regions in South Africa and offers a truly memorable experience both on and off the bike for riders of all skill levels.

While making their way through incredible singletracks and trails on some of the Western Cape’s finest wine farms, riders experience breathtaking views over mountain ranges, wine farms, and the ocean.

Whether you come to race or you come to have a blast on the bike with a bunch of friends, the FNB Wines2Whales has the race for you.

This is the Race With Gees!

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.”

South Africa’s best loved athletic sock brand, Falke, has partnered with FNB Wines2Whales to bring their mountain biking specific socks to the events with #SeriousGEES.

Falke has a proud 124-year history of producing world leading knitted garments. In 2019 they have partnered with FNB Wines2Whales to introduce their latest mountain bike specific socks to riders at the country’s most gees-filled stage race. In celebration of their sponsorship of the three, three-day, stage races Falke are also launching a competition to win an entry to one of the races.

Founded in Germany in 1895 Falke has been producing socks in South Africa since the early 1980s. Well before socks were the expression of one’s personality on the bike that they are today. Their socks are purpose-designed and refined for ultimate confidence in the demanding Southern African climate.

Falke’s mountain biking specific socks are designed to ensure comfort, while not sacrificing durability. Boasting a seamless toe, to prevent blisters, deep heel pockets to keep your sock in place and mesh panels to ensure proper ventilation, they have been designed to ensure that whilst you are riding, your feet are supported.

Riders who have not yet entered one of the FNB Wines2Whales events will be excited to hear that Falke are offering the chance to win a team entry, and a Falke Gift Pack, for you and your riding partner. To enter the competition riders will need to purchase a pair of Falke socks at selected Cycle Lab Stores before the 31st July 2019 and you will be entered into the draw. Visit www.falke.co.za/w2w-competition for the full competition details and for the full list of the participating Cycle Lab Stores.

To find out more about Falke and to view their latest AW19 sock ranges please visit www.falke.co.za. For more news and promotions from Falke – including regular updates on their exciting plans for 2019 riders in the build-up to the FNB Wines2Whales – follow them on Twitter @FalkeSA, on Instagram @falke_sa and FalkeSA on Facebook.