After the wind and the rain had blown over, Wednesday brought with it perfect riding weather for the final day of the 2018 FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage. The drying singletracks of Elgin were tacky and grippy while at the bottom of Katpas the sandy soil of Botrivier, Wildekrans and the Hemel en Aarde Valley was damp and firm. Overhead the skies were blue and the temperatures were in the low teens. What more could one ask for on the trails from Oak Valley to The Marine Hotel in Hermanus?
For the first time in 6 days the stage started at the pre-event scheduled time of 7am too, which felt a little odd. But heading out of Oak Valley spirits were high. Riders clearly felt a bit more of a buzz than usual having survived the evacuation and the soggy ride the day before. The geeswas unmistakable.
Scenic gravel roads through the Elgin Valley spread the field for the Houw Hoek singletracks. Then the Katpas descent waved a final good bye for the Pinotage field to the Valley which had provided so much entertainmentover the last 36 hours. The pas itself is a little rocky in places but spectacularly good fun to bomb down if you get a clear run at it, with only the tighter corners requiring one to get onto the brakes in any serious way.
While Elgin is technically part of the Overberg, it always feels like the region only starts once you reach the wheat fields. After the day’s first water point at Botrivier Primary the first field of golden, sun ripened, wheat loomed tall on the left. Then it was under the N2 and onto the singletracks of Wildekrans Wine Estate. The lengthy Land Rover Technical Terrain provided a great mix of trails. Some swooping down low koppies on surfaces littered with loose pebbles. Others were a smoother and based on the mixed clay/loam soils of the watercourses which the trail followed. All were fun and out of the South Easter which was blowing into the rider’s faces.
Once out of the Wildekrans trails there was no hiding from the wind though. A road and then duel track grind to the second water point at the Art House required jackets to be put on as the wind was a little icy. From there on out the previous day’s rain proved a game changer – rather than soft and sandy trails the Chardonnay riders had experienced four days earlier the route to Hermanus was pleasantly firm.
The damp sand even provided a little more grip than usual on The Gorge and though the lower reaches of the Hemel en Aarde trails. Then one final climb took riders onto the tar of Rotary Drive and through the back streets (and singletracks off the back streets). The second to last corner provided a straight run to the Atlantic Ocean, down Stemmet Street and then the final turn brought the finish line into view.
Rolling across the line with The Marine on the right and the ocean on the left is a unique experience. And one every Pinotage rider will hold that little bit more dear after the experiences of the event. Sometimes riding bikes pales into insignificance in comparison to serious issues – but at others it is definitively life affirming.