It’s the 10th anniversary of the FNB Wines2Whales and a select group of 19 riders are this year riding it for the 10th time.
Seven of them are taking part in the opening Chardonnay event and finished today’s Stage 2 – an out-and-back stage from the Oak Valley race village which includes many of the legendary trails of the Elgin/Grabouw area.
It was super hot, but that didn’t appear to wilt the enthusiasm of the 10-year riders.
“It’s a lekker event. Today was just splendid, even with the heat,”said one of them, Philip Lambrecht. “It’s got a nice ending too. I hate it when they make you finish on a downhill and here it’s a lekker fast downhill.”He added: “FNB has also been a good sponsor. They’ve activated their sponsorship very well.”
“Today was good …pretty hot but it’s been a fantastic day,”said Graham Meyer. He said the FNB Wines2Whales goes up to a “new level every year”.
“There’s an amazing vibe and it’s a nice way to escape from the day-to-day stresses. There’s lots of camaraderie out there. Friendships and bonds are made here,”said Meyer.
The event had grown from “strength to strength –it gets better every year”, said Dominic Paine. Thinking back on the first event, he remembered the ride up the tar on Sir Lowry’s Pass, but mostly the fact that it “rained properly”. Botrivier on Stage 3 was so full of water that part of the riders’legs were submerged.“I grew up in Elgin and I love to come back. It’s a long weekend in special countryside,”said Paine. “Logistically, for a Capetonian, it’s peachy too.”
“It’s grown over 10 years into the best organised race in the country,”said Hanlie Booyens after crossing the line.”She kept coming back because “it’s like a family …I don’t really race anymore so for me it is a chance for everybody to reconnect. It’s very much a community”.
Richard Newton fell under the FNB Wines2Whales spell back in 2009: “From the first one I just loved the concept of coming through the mountains”.
“I think it’s amazing how it’s changed over the years.”The race village is “such a pleasure and creates a happy space”. He added that the food supplied by Food Lover’s Market “is just amazing”.
The course had “more and more singletrack every year”and its designers have “listened to the riders and taken out the really harsh hills”from the early years.
Another plus was that training for the event also “gets you out of bed in the winter”.
Detlef Meinert said he kept coming back “basically because it’s such a beautiful event and the riding is fantastic –every year is better than the last, an improvement from the year before”.
He added: “Today was the best singletrack in the past 10 years,”
He said the event had “got massive”over the years but it was well-managed and the cycling experience improved every year.
Asked if they would be back next year, both Lambrecht and Meyer responded identically: “Ask me tomorrow.”Paine said: “I am sure I will. Quite a few of our group of friends who will be on their 10th ride next year, so many of us will be back.”Newton will be there too: “I’ve got to keep doing it.”And Meinert “will be back next year”.
The seven 10-year riders taking part in the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay event are Hanlie Booyens, Richard Newton, Graham Meyer, Andrew Bradley, Philip Lambrecht, Detlef Meinert and Dominic Paine.