Lots of changes on early parts of Stage 1
Less than two weeks to the starting gun for the FNB Wines2Whales and all indications are that the landmark 10th year of the race will be a special one.
Yesterday about 150 riders were treated to a pre-ride of the early parts of Stage 1 – and there is a lot of new stuff in there. The pre-riders covered the first 17km of the stage before being treated to another 13km of Lourensford’s mountain biking delights on their way back to the wine estate.
The first 8.5km of the route remains the same – the long haul up to the saddle behind Lourensford with some of the best views on the entire Peninsula. Riders who are not racing would be wise to keep a steady pace up here and preserve energy.
Then the route twists down again but the next 8km has changed quite fundamentally from previous years. First riders are introduced to the twisty Schoeman’s singletrack – named after the Schoeman’s Dam down in the valley below – and a short stretch later they will enter the Old Pines trail.
Next they will be thanking race founder and route designer Johan Kriegler for JK’s Contour – a contour trail cut along the hillside which saves them from a tough climb.
And shortly before they reach the 18km water point two treats that run into one another – the Witboom and Canary singletracks. They are twisty and fun but not technical – an excellent way to give riders a buzz as they reach the water point. The Witboom, by the way, is named after a bluegum tree that was struck by lightning and turned white, and the Canary after the Cape Canary that breeds in the forest.
FNB Wines2Whales Managing Director Michael Flinn joined the pre-ride: “That was a real treat. JK and the Cape Trails team have done an incredible job making the route really fun … after that climb,” he laughed. "A special thanks must go to Lourensford for hosting us," he added. "And the same applies to all our landowners along the route – without their support and generosity there would be no FNB Wines2Whales."
Chris Whitfield, a nine-time FNB Wines2Whales finisher, concurred: “Kudos to Johan and Hendrico (Burger) and all those who have worked on the trails … every year the Wines2Whales course gets better and better.”
After the first 17km of the route the pre-riders got to take a fairly easy route home. Riders in the actual event will have quite a bit of work to do still: not long after the water point they will go up the super steep Vergelegen climb and a little while later the portage over the historic Gantouw Pass, a national monument which is a compulsory portage for riders.
Then they get some excellent reward for their efforts in the form of the fabled A2Z network – some of the best in the country – above Grabouw and a mix of singletracks and vineyard roads on the way home to Oak Valley Wine Estate.
Stage 1 is 69km in total and includes 1 650m of altitude gain.