Philip Buys made a big step toward reclaiming his crown as the king of South African stage racing when he and Gert Heyns blitzed the elite men’s field on the opening day of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event. The PYGA Euro Steel combination put a minute and 20 seconds into the defending champions, {type}DEV Nanotime and over 5 minutes into Imbuko Giant.

Not since 2017 has Philip Buys and his PYGA Euro Steel team stood atop the FNB Wines2Whales podium after a stage of the famous race. Buys and Gert Heyns’ victory on the opening stage in 2021 – on Friday, 12 November – may not in and of itself be surprising, but the margin was unexpectedly dramatic. With open roads and dual track climbs, interspersed with rolling singletracks, the expectation for the day was a tighter stage with a possible sprint finish.

“We are highly motivated for the FNB Wines2Whales” Buys emphasised after the stage win. “The plan hadn’t been to attack so early on, but after Matt [Beers] had strung the field out on the Rotary Way climb Gert [Heyns] put in an acceleration. Only Matt and Wessel [Botha] could follow. Which turned out to be a good thing as there were lots of open sections where having another team to help set the pace was a big advantage. It was great to be able to have a clearer run through the singletracks too, as riding these trails in a big group can be very risky.”

Buys’ warning was highlighted by the fact that Jan Withaar crossed the finish line in Oak Valley with a destroyed rear wheel. The Computer Mania rider hit a tree stump in the final 300m of the route having not followed, Daniel van der Walt, his partner’s line into a singletrack.

“We were pushing the pedals all day, the pace was really high. We had a good race out there” Beers pointed out. “I was kind of banking on a 2 hour and 45 minute stage, but we did it in 2 hours 30 something. I could see the kilometres were ticking by very quickly, sitting at 40 kilometres per hour a lot of the time. That said it was a fun stage.”

“Making up time tomorrow will be difficult though” Beers allowed. “Anything can happen though so we’ll keep the pressure on PYGA Euro Steel. If we can do that, we will keep the race alive going into Stage 3, which also provides the opportunity to make up a good amount of time,”

Beers’ assessment was not shared by Tristan Nortje. The Imbuko Giant team finished third on the stage, having recovered from a slow start. “We were down in sixth around the half way mark but rode the Katpas Climb strongly” Nortje said. “I believe that today was the day where big time gaps can be made. The next two days should be closer. But the singletracks are dusty and if you are in a train of riders there’s always the chance that you could clip a stump or a rock.”

For Buys and Heyns the challenge with thus be to spend as much time on the front of the group on Stage 2 as possible. Leading from the front is the safer course of action. If {type}DEV Nanotime, Imbuko Giant, Insect Science Pro, Hollard Namibia Elite, Computer Mania and First Move Sport will allow PYGA Euro Steel to do so is another matter.

Mountain biking fans can tune in, from 07:00, on Saturday to see how Stage 2 unfolds. Live updates are available on www.wines2whales.com and on Twitter, @w2wmtb. Stories, videos and photos from the 66-kilometre-long route, can be viewed on Instagram, @wines_2_whales.

 

FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Results:

Stage 1:

  1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (2:30:45)
  2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (2:32:05 | +1:20)
  3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (2:35:57 | +5:12)

The 2022 FNB Wines2Whales is set to take place from 28 October to 6 November 2022 and will return to the original route taking teams from the wines of Lourensford Estate to the whales of Hermanus. Entries to the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales will open on Monday 14 February 2022.