The FNB Wines2Whales is almost as famous for its variable weather, as it is for its scintillating singletracks and Serious GEES. In 2019, the riders can now live in hope, that the worst of the weather coincided with the first day of the three, three-day, events. The clouds opened in the early hours of Friday morning, drenching Lourensford, and continued all day, soaking Oak Valley. The riders did not let it impact their enjoyment however as banter and jokes kept the spirits high until well after the stage was over.

 

Riders lined up in the morning, huddled in the shelter of the Lourensford fruit packing shed, dressed in all manner of wet-weather gear, from the organised teams who purchased official FNB W2W Ciovita waterproof jackets, to the ones who realised at the last minute that it was going to be a long, wet day. Many bin bags were modified in the hopes of remaining dry.

 

The women who had the most gees at the start were still smiling at the finish. With mud-caked smiles, Joanna Dobinson and Kasha Dickie excitedly reflected on the stage. “I reckon that defines what insanity is” Dickie began her roundabout tale of how she came to enjoy every moment of the stage. “To get on your bike when it’s pouring with rain, in the Lourensford hanger, while the commentator, Paul Valstar, is saying the stage is voluntary. Everyone just looked at each other and said ‘great let’s ride’. And that’s insane!” she smiled at her folly.

 

“It was a bit like Forrest Gump, there was rain coming from the bottom. Rain coming from above. And from the side. Hard rain, soft rain…” Dickie trailed off as Dobinson jumped in. “But we’re dry” the effervescent MTB skills coach pointed out. The pair had ridden in waterproof jackets, shower caps and with dishwashing gloves over their riding gloves. Only their faces were exposed to the elements, stark contrast to the goggles and snorkels they’d arrived in at yesterday’s registration.

 

“Every singletrack was a raging stream” Dobinson added. “I think the whales, of the FNB Wines2Whales, were out there on the trails today” Dickie joked. “We just couldn’t see them in the muddy water!”

 

The conditions made for a memorable day on the bike and nobody who started Stage 1 of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay is likely to forget it in a hurry. “You had to let your bike go a bit, let it slide under you”  advised Stage winner, Adelheid Morath, with the benefit of hindsight. “It was almost like dancing at times.” Dancing in the rain for the FNB Wines2Whales’ rainy day women.