Stage 1: 69km & 1 650m
Lourensford Wine Estate to Oak Valley Wine Estate
The elegant Lourensford Wine Estate marks the start of your three-day journey to Hermanus. The climbing starts almost immediately with a long and fairly steep gravel drag taking you up to the saddle, where you can enjoy spectacular views of Stellenbosch and Cape Town. From the saddle there’s a long and steep downhill so please take heed – it’s very fast with tight, blind corners and water humps. While you’re still on the Lourensford estate you’ll get to experience two new trails – Old Pine and JK’s Contour – and veterans of the W2W might notice that some trails from earlier years have been reintroduced, including Schoeman’s, Witboom and Canarie. Water Point 1 arrives at the 18km mark before the notoriously steep Vergelegen climb makes an appearance. It’s the toughest climb in the race but it’s not very long and the reward is a relatively easy passage to Water Point 2 (38km) at Idiom Vineyards, a superb spectator point. The iconic challenge of the day comes in the form of the historic Gantouw Pass – an old ox wagon trail and compulsory portage section where you can still see the grooves worn in the rocks by the Voortrekkers’ wagon wheels. The reward on the other side is some of the best singletrack in the country – the fabled A2Z network of Grabouw, which has been extensively rebuilt for this year’s event. A change from previous years sees Water Point 3 move to Grabouw Country Club,via the new Willie’s trail, which now doubles up as a second spectator point and an excellent place to watch the racing or greet your favourite riders. The last 10km to the finish in Oak Valley offers a mix of singletracks and open vineyard roads. If you listen closely before you get to Oak Valley you’ll hear the race commentators welcoming riders home for a well-earned meal and recovery drink.
Stage icons: Lourensford and Vergelegen climbs, portage over Gantouw Pass, A2Z singletracks
Land Rover Technical Terrain: The Vergelegen climb, though just under 400 meters long features the steepest uphill gradient of the 2018 FNB Wines2Whales route. Riders will be wishing for four wheel drive and traction control when they reach it at the 28km mark.
Hendrico’s stage advice: Don’t get sucked in by the hype, nerves and emotions at the start – cycle at your own pace and find a rhythm, there’s still 60km to go. Stay calm and modulate your brakes on the downhills: they’re fast and somewhat technical at speed.
Terrain: Good quality gravel roads, dual tracks and singletracks. Gantouw Pass is the only portage section in the race – it’s steep, rocky and exposed to the elements.Onward to Stage 2