South Africa’s best loved mountain bike stage race is back to full capacity in 2022 and returning from the Switchback to the traditional route. So, if you’re looking for reasons to sign up for some SERIOUS gees look no further.

  1. The Route is King

After the Switchback route of 2021, FNB Wines2Whales returns to its traditional Lourensford to Onrus route in 2022. But its not simply a return to the 2019 route. Cape Trails as well as the Lourensford and Hermanus Trail builders have been busy sculpting new singletracks day in and day out. With the winter trail building season ahead Johan Kriegler has been out scouting and laying down markers for the teams to get stuck into once the soil softens up thanks to the increase in rainfall. Stay tuned to our social media handles for updates on the various builds planned but you can expect even more singletrack, refinements to the existing trails, and the best three days of riding the Helderberg-, Elgin- and Hemel en Aarde- Valleys have to offer.

  1. Chill in Style

As anyone who has ridden FNB W2W before can attest after Stages 1 and 2 the Oak Valley race village is all about the chill. Relax in style in the FNB Rider Lounge – where even those who can’t quite unwind completely, because they have work to do – can find a spot to put their feet up. If making your friends back home jealous is the aim of the game (or if you have to check in on emails), NTT has WiFi sorted. Alongside the FNB Rider Lounge, the Chill Zone, with its bar and TV screens, is the perfect place to eat lunch or spend a lazy evening sharing war stories from the trails.

  1. Wine and Dine

Speaking of bars and lunch… FNB W2W is famous for its food. Woolworths caters in ample quantities with fresh vegies and salads in abundance to supplement the meats, cheeses and vegan protein options. Once refuelled riders can, and most do, make their way to the Tipsy Gipsy Bar or to Oak Valley’s Wine Bar to further the relaxation process with the aid of a bottle of the hosts’ Sounds of Silence Pinot Noir or a beer from Devil’s Peak.

  1. It’s for the Kids

The charitable aspects of FNB W2W make the race about more than just riding bikes and having a good time. Along with the FNB Wines2Whales Botriver Crèche Initiative, the event supports the Botriver Educational Foundation, the De Rust Futura School, the Anna Foundation and the Pebbles Project. Other beneficiaries also include the Timothy Harlow Foundation and the Cape Leopard Trust, who also have educational elements to their programmes. So, while you’re having fun on the trails, the kids are winning. And while you’re digging deep up a climb think of the gift of education your perspiration is providing.

  1. The Gees of a MTB Reunion

Since March 2020 the world, it’s safe to say, has been a strange place. Bike races were cancelled or postponed. And everyone missed their MTB communities. Those people you only ever see at races, but who make races all the richer for their presence. With a return to full capacity the 2022 FNB W2W events are going to be a full-on mountain biking reunion. A place to catch up with old friends, from the trails, and share stories from years gone by, as well as the day before. It’s going to be a festival of gees. Don’t miss it.

Essential Info for Would-Be FNB W2W Riders to Know:

Race Dates:

Chardonnay:   28 – 30 October

Pinotage:         31 October – 2 November

Shiraz:              4 – 6 November

Stages:              3

Distance:         ±200km

Climbing:        ±4 500m

Entry Fees:     R16 500 (Standard Entry: including 1 x 2-person tent per rider)

Upgrades:       R22 700 (Double Luxury Tents: 1 x Luxury Canvas Tent per team) or

R23 950 (Single Luxury Tents: 1 x Luxury Canvas Tent per rider)


Standard Pricing valid until 30 June 2022, thereafter late entry fees apply until 7 October.

At the FNB Wines2Whales there’s racing, good times and #SeriousGEES; there are thrills and spills, and there are memories made that will last a lifetime. There is also an element that often goes unnoticed to many, but to the benefactors of the charity angle of the FNB Wines2Whales, the efforts are nothing short of life-changing.

Charity and giving back have long been key characteristics of the FNB Wines2Whales, and in 2021 R144 000 was raised via the official GivenGain charity page. Of this total amount, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA team raised a whopping R55 795, with Vernon Rudman leading the charge in funds raised (R30 195). Every cent raised during the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales goes towards caring for the 300+ dogs and cats in the Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s care.

“It costs us on average R110 per animal per day to meet the needs of all the animals in our care awaiting loving homes,” explained Natasha Johannes of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. “All the funds raised through this initiative will go directly into our adoption centre, which operates at R2.5 million annually. Passion is everything; and it’s united in this passion that we can change the lives of animals.”

In addition to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA now having an additional R55 795 to assist their heartfelt efforts, they, and Vernon Rudman each won an entry into the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales!

To Vernon, racing the FNB Wines2Whales was incredible, but doing it for a good cause was the cherry on top.

“To ride the iconic FNB Wines2Whales for a good cause this year made it that much more enjoyable and special. The FNB Wines2Whales has set the bar high with the new trails which both thrilled and excited all who participated as we were making history riding the Switchback for the very first time,” enthused Vernon Rudman. “The huge support along the route and at the finish each day, while wearing the Cape of Good Hope SPCA cycling kit was very touching, making all our fundraising efforts that more meaningful. We want to extend our gratitude and thank the FNB Wines2Whales Team for their kindness in allowing all the charities who participated a platform to raise much needed funds during these very challenging times.”

Entries to the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales are now open and riders can secure their entries immediately. For any riders wishing to add additional purpose to their pre-event training and racing, they can sign up to ride and fundraise for one of the FNB Wines2Whales’ official charities, or for a charity that’s close to their heart.

For more information on the official FNB W2W charities and beneficiaries, click here:

To secure an entry into the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales, click here:

The Epic Series and Squirt Cycling Products have announced a multi-year deal wherein Squirt Cycling Products increases its involvement with the Epic Series and becomes the Official Bicycle Care Products partner to the Epic Series and its global portfolio of class-leading mountain bike stage races.

Squirt Cycling Products has been involved with the Epic Series since 2010 through their partnership with the FNB Wines2Whales. In 2018, Squirt Cycling Products increased their involvement in the Epic Series by partnering with the Swiss Epic and then in 2019, the partnership was extended to the pinnacle event.

Squirt Cycling Products’ wax-base Squirt Chain Lube, Biodegradable Bike Cleaner, Squirt SEAL Tyre Sealant, and Squirt Barrier Balm have long been a favourite of mountain bikers across the world thanks to the brand’s distribution in 42 countries, sustainable approach to products and production, and their proven history of success.

“The IRONMAN®️ Group is excited to partner with Squirt Cycling Products as the brand is already globally recognised for their high-quality product and commitment to sustainability and biodegradability,” said Matt Wikstrom, Chief Partnership Officer at The IRONMAN®️ Group. “Squirt’s products have been tried and tested in the harshest conditions during the Epic Series races in Africa and they have always stood up to the challenges at hand. We look forward to welcoming Squirt Cycling Products to the entire Epic Series.”

As Official Bicycle Care Products supplier to the entire Epic Series, Squirt Cycling Products will offer complimentary bike washes after each stage, pre- and mid-stage chain lube stations to keep drivetrains running smooth, and Barrier Balm samples for all teams.

“Squirt Cycling Products is excited to once again be the Official Bicycle Care Product supplier to the 2022 Absa Cape Epic and the entire Epic Series,” explained Danie Van Wyk, Director Squirt Cycling Products. “We will be providing premium quality environmentally friendly products in line with our, and the Epic Series’ ethos of sustainability and care for the communities and environment we play in.”

Both the 2019 and 2021 FNB Wines2Whales encountered torrential downpours during the events, but the rain did little to dampen the spirits of the teams as they raced through the trails from Lourensford Wine Estate, to Oak Valley, to Hermanus. Squirt’s Chain Lube was the saviour of the day for many teams as it kept bikes going and thus ensured that riders could continue to enjoy the #SeriousGEES, despite the conditions.

“The Epic Series races take place in the most iconic regions that the world has to offer, and we strive to leave the trails and regions in as perfect condition as before the event arrived,” explained Kati Csak, Epic Series Senior Director of Global MTB. “Squirt Cycling Products’ dedication to recyclable and reusable packaging and the fact that their products are all biodegradable aligns perfectly with our mission of offering world-class experiences with little to no negative impact on the environment and I am excited to have them onboard across the global Epic Series.”

To learn more about Squirt Cycling Products, please visit

Entries to the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales are now OPEN and selling fast; secure yours today!

After the successful running of the inaugural FNB Wines2Whales Switchback, the Race with Gees returns to its origins and will take teams from the wines of Lourensford Wine Estate to the whales of Hermanus.

Entries open on 14 February at 09:00 GMT+2.

In 2021, we turned things on their head by switching back on our traditional route and took teams from the coast to the vineyards during the inaugural FNB Wines2Whales Switchback. Though in 2022, we are returning to our origins as the traditional route is back on the cards and teams can secure their entries on 14 February at 09:00 GMT+2.

From 28 October to 6 November 2022, teams will tackle the original FNB Wines2Whales route from Lourensford Wine Estate to Oak Valley Estate, and then on to the whales of Hermanus. Though when we say we’re returning to the original, we don’t mean to exactly the same route as was last raced in 2019.

By now everyone knows that Race Founder, Johan Kriegler (affectionately known as JK) and the Cape Trails team of trail-building-magicians have a passion for creating trails that induce ear-to-ear grins, therefore teams who enter the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales can expect all the usual trails that they’ve come to know and love and are guaranteed many new twists, turns and bridges.

And yes, trekking up Gantouw Pass is a part of the route once again!

On 14 February, at 09:00 GMT+2, entries to the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales will open and teams who act swiftly will secure themselves a spot on the start line and they’ll also receive:

  • A Ciovita FNB W2W rider jersey
  • A Ciovita FNB W2W rider garment
  • Seven meals from Woolworths
  • Fully stocked water points overflowing with Woolworths food and USN products
  • Free wifi in the race village

If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s what the 2021 riders had to say:

“The package is complete – the food was great, the route variety was awesome, and the “gees” that goes with the event is like immersing yourself in happiness”

“What an awesome adventure, and it was my first ever stage race. The W2W team helped from start to end and I was never in doubt where to, when to, why to, and what to. The trails were beyond my expectations, the goodie bag was a total blessing, the food top notch.

And the Gees was a blast !”

In 2022 there are several entry packages available for teams wishing to enter and they range from a “Ride Only” option to living in the utmost luxury in the “Single Luxury Tents”. Here’s a look at the options:

Ride Only: Teams stay offsite and meals are not included in the entry fee. All accommodation and transport is to be self-arranged.

Meals Only: Teams stay offsite and meals are included in the entry fee. All accommodation and transport is to be self-arranged.

Standard Tent: Each rider in the team is allocated their own single tent. Meals and all.

Double Luxury Tents: Each team is allocated a larger canvas tent that is shared. The tent is complete with interiors, carpeted flooring, beds and linen, and camping chairs for kicking back and relaxing after each stage.

Single Luxury Tents: Each rider in the team has their own individual luxury canvas tent. The tent is complete with interiors, carpeted flooring, beds and linen, and a camping chair for kicking back and relaxing after each stage.

To secure your entry into the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales, be sure to click here on 14 February at 09:00 GMT+2!

The organisers of the FNB Wines2Whales take pride in the fact that every year the route includes more, and new singletrack. These additional kilometres of trail are built by the Cape Trails team.

Ashwell Swartz, Brendon Booysen, Denzel Scheepers and Keenan Cupido are the men behind the brush cutters, spades and rakes which create many of FNB Wines2Whales’ favourite trails. In their decade of involvement with the event, they have gone from novices to master builders and are now often hired by other events and landowners to construct trail networks beyond the FNB W2W route. For the Switchback edition they had to build new linking singletracks, which helped make the race one for the trail riding enthusiasts.

When the concept of the Switchback was first mooted, the first concern was how to make the transition stages, from the Curro School in Hermanus to Oak Valley, and from Oak Valley to Lourensford, not only interesting but memorable and exciting for the teams racing. Cape Trails and the cooperation of the various landowners along the route made that possible.

“The first brand-new, purpose-built for the Switchback, singletrack the teams encountered in the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales events was the Karwyders Contour” Johan Kriegler, FNB Wines2Whales and Cape Trails founder, explained. “Then on the way towards Kat Pas the Cape Trails team cut a new singletrack, JK’s Switchbacks, in order to make it possible to detour around Botrivier itself. Both of these trails served a definite purpose in terms of the route, but also added to the magic of the FNB Wines2Whales.”

“Stage 2’s highlight was, undoubtedly, the extended Rietvlei Magic trail and the 120-metre-long bridge across the dam. The team from Paul Cluver Wines drove the project, with assistance from Cape Trails and Kaap Agri, and made this dream a reality” Kriegler continued. “Yet what riders perhaps don’t realise is the amount of work that goes into maintaining existing trails. Particularly this year, due to Covid-19 enforcing the cancellation of the 2020 race, there was a lot of clearing and cleaning of existing routes. Paul Cluver is now also closed to mountain biking outside of events, so their trails needed touching up before the event. But the break between events turned out to be positive as it gave us the chance to really explore what was possible.”

“The biggest build was the Lourensford Ultimate, however” Kriegler pointed out. “We had a lot of help from Lourensford, particularly with running earth moving equipment through the sections where pine trees had recently been felled. But Cape Trails still had to fine-tune the trail bed to ensure the singletrack flowed from start to finish.”

“We’ve been building a lot in Lourensford this year” the Cape Trails’ team leader, Swartz, highlighted. “Not just for FNB Wines2Whales but also on the farm’s growing network of trails. Once we’re done there, we’ll probably start working on new sections for the 2022 route. The return to the ‘normal’ direction, from Lourensford to Onrus, gives us a chance to perfect a few trails we couldn’t use this time and build a few new pieces. As mountain bikers ourselves we know how everyone looks forward to riding new singletracks and we are proud to be a part of the FNB Wines2Whales and the race it is.”

“Seeing riders so excited to ride to trails we built makes the hard work we put in worthwhile” he smiled.


If you want to experience all the incredible trails that the Cape Trails have carved, by hand, be sure to secure your spot on the FNB Wines2Whales startline when entries open on 14 February 2022.

The Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1 pairing of Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo Leroux repeated their 2019 FNB Wines2Whales success when they completed a commanding Exxaro jersey victory in Lourensford; on Sunday, 14 November. In so doing the pair each won either a Grade 0 to 12 bursary from Curro Holdings or the higher education qualification of their choice from STADIO.

Luyanda Thobigunya was one of the stories of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales when he gifted his partner, Lorenzo Leroux, his share of the Curro bursary. That meant that Leroux’s twin daughters were able to start the 2020 school year together, at the Curro school of their choosing. The pair thus had an important reason to win the 2021 Exxaro jersey competition in the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.

“I owe him a victory” Leroux laughed before the race. “Especially because we missed the opportunity to take part in 2020, due to Covid. Fortunately, we had one more year in the Exxaro competition, before we get too old.”

The development category is only open to riders who hail from historically disadvantaged backgrounds and are 26 years of age, or younger. Over the course of three days of racing, Thobigunya and Leroux’s victory was never in doubt. From the first climb, on Rotary Drive, the Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1 team, were in a class apart from the rest of the Exxaro jersey teams. They won all three stages to claim their second Exxaro Special jersey title and raced to an impressive twelfth position on the overall general classification.

“Today was great; I really enjoyed the climbs, especially the last one” Thobigunya said. “The route was amazing all weekend really and it was great to take the victory, at FNB Wines2Whales, again.”

“Luyanda was so strong” Leroux praised. “He’s definitely the strongest partner and I’m really thankful to him for helping me with another Exxaro jersey in the FNB Wines2Whales. The victory in 2019 was life changing for my family and this one will ensure my youngest daughter can join her sisters at Curro.”

The pair now have the choice of nominating a family member to take up the Curro bursary, which will cover the school fees from Grade 0 to Grade 12. Or to take up a STADIO bursary for themselves. The option to nominate a family member for the STADIO bursary also exists. These are truly life-changing prizes, with Curro’s industry leading education or one of STADIO’s distance learning qualifications from Milpark Education, AFDA or their STADIO group of higher education institutions.

“I’ll be giving my sister’s daughter the Curro bursary” Thobigunya revealed as to his choice of which prize to take up. “She’s five years old now and will be going to school next year.”

“Luyanda is an amazing person; God will bless him” Leroux thanked. “He donated his half of the Curro bursary to me in 2019 and now he’s helping his sister by giving her his prize his year. He’s not only an amazing rider but also such a kind person.”

FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz | Exxaro Jersey Results

General Classification Results after Stage 3:

  1. Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo Leroux (9:02:01)
  2. Exxaro / RMB: Keneth Kabelo Tshukudu & William Sello Majapholo (9:39:22 | +37:22)
  3. Exxaro / PWC 1: Tlotlo Selala & Halalisani Ndebele (9:41:17 | +39:16)
Philip Buys and Gert Heyns raced to a perfect three from three at the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz on Sunday, 14 November. The PYGA Euro Steel team won all three stages, with {type}DEV Nanotime placing second every day and Imbuko Giant third.
Despite all three stages of the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz event featuring the same top three, in the same finishing order, the racing was exciting throughout. Only 1 minute and 22 seconds separated first and second going into the final stage, from Oak Valley to Lourensford. Additionally, Imbuko Giant were eager to empty their tanks and do all they could to snatch a stage victory on the last opportunity of the race and the season.
“There was no point in holding back today” Marco Joubert, of Imbuko Giant stated. “We decided to empty our tanks in pursuit of stage victory.” “PYGA Euro Steel made a few mistakes in the early kilometres today and Philip [Buys] even crashed. It was after that, in the A-to-Z trails that we went all in” Tristan Nortje said, picking up the story. “Near the second water point we had a minute lead, but after that the trails flattened out and we knew it would be really tough to stay ahead of [Matt] Beers and the PYGA guys on the flat roads. They caught us about a kilometre from the top of the last climb.”
“Today was tough” Beers added to the tale of how the stage unfolded. “First Imbuko Giant got away from us, then on the Gantouw Pass PYGA Euro Steel got away too. We just had to chase and chase; eventually caught both of them. But again Philip [Buys] and Gert [Heyns] were faster than us and they distanced us in the last few kilometres. It was a great weekend of racing though, and I really appreciate how aggressively PYGA raced the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz.”
The victors for, their part, were relieved to have not suffered too much, during the stage, from Buys’ crash. “The champagne is starting to find all the cuts and scrapes now” Buys laughed, having been doused in Lourensford MCC by Gert Heyns. “I clipped a tree stump in the A-to-Z trails and went over the bars. Fortunately, despite a bit of swelling above my knee, it didn’t impact my riding at all. We were still able to catch Imbuko Giant and put in a last effort to secure the stage win ahead of Matt [Beers] and Wessel [Botha].”
“Winning the FNB Wines2Whales means so much to me” Heyns confessed. “It’s something I’ve dreamt about for a long time. We couldn’t have done it without all the hard work the PYGA Euro Steel crew put in behind the scenes.”
PYGA Euro Steel’s winning time was 7 hours, 33 minutes and 26 seconds. {type}DEV Nanotime were 1 minute and 39 seconds down on the race winners, with Imbuko Giant completing the podium, at 10 minutes and 4 seconds back. Insect Science Pro finished fourth overall, despite Keagan Bontekoning completing the final stage without a saddle after crashing inside of the first 20 kilometres. He and Arno du Toit managed to hold off First Move Sport’s Jaco Venter and Matthew Keyser, who completed the top five.
Stage 3 of FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz brings the three-event series to a close. The 2022 event will return to the traditional Lourensford to Hermanus route format and is scheduled for 28 October to 6 November, in the Chardonnay, Pinotage and Shiraz format. Entries open on 14 February 2022.
FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Results:
Elite Men | Stage 3:
1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (2:36:17)
2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (2:36:33 | +17)
3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (2:37:23.5 | +1:07)
Elite Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (7:33:26)
2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (7:35:05 | +1:39)
3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (7:43:30 | +10:04)
Exxaro Jersey | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Fairtree Imperial Cannondale 1: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo Leroux (9:02:01)
2. Exxaro / RMB: Keneth Kabelo Tshukukudu & William Sello Majapholo (9:39:22 | +37:22)
3. Exxaro / PWC 1: Tlotlo Selala & Halalisani Ndebele (9:41:17 | +39:16)
Sub-Veteran Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Anna Foundation 2: Adrian Enthoven & Cory Wallace (9:10:27)
2. Hollard Namibia: Gerhard Mans & Ingram Cuff (9:11:51 | +1:24)
3. 2 Man Wolf Pack Andre Vermeulen & Braam Vermeulen (9:24:28.5 | +14:01)
Dimension Data Veteran Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Madmacs: Charles Mcfall & Andreas Studer (8:46:58)
2. RDX Powerbar: David Garrett & Ignus Oosthuizen (9:04:59 | +18:02)
3. Anna Foundation Vets: Hannes & Sakkie Hanekom (9:19:39 | +32:42)
Masters Men | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Cape Airconditioning: Gavin Viljoen & Thorkild Nielsen (9:27:26)
2. Sale’s Hire: Shaun Sale & Dawid de Bruin (9:34:30 | +7:05)
3. Q 36.5: Felix Prinz & Mario Kummer (9:36:13 | +8:47)
Mixed Category | General Classification Results after Stage 3:
1. Valley Electrical Titan Racing Mixed: Robert Hobson & Barbara Benko (9:11:15)
2. SPOT Galileo Risk: Samantha Sanders & Danny Fowler (10:02:07 | +50:52)
3. Madmacs Mixed: Etnard & Sarita Louw (10:15:57 | +1:28:23)
For more information and to view all the results from the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales events visit:

Between them Reuben van Niekerk and Dane Wilson have seven FNB Wines2Whales finishes. Yet for the amputees each edition has its own challenges. The more-ridable Switchback route is making the race far more enjoyable.

Reuben van Niekerk is no stranger to mountain biking fans. While his partner Dane Wilson represented South Africa at the 2016 Paralympics, in Rio. Van Niekerk lost his lower leg in a motorcycle accident thirteen years ago and Wilson’s left arm is amputated below the elbow. Despite their physical disadvantages the pair are undaunted by the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.

“For, each of, our own reasons riding is preferable to walking” Wilson pointed out. “Anywhere I can ride is better than places I can’t” Van Niekerk added. “Because I have to climb seated the long, steady, climbs of the Switchback route’s Stage 1 suit me better.”

“Today’s steeper climbs were hard, but the singletracks were great” Van Niekerk pointed out. “I took a break from mountain biking for focus on the track ahead of Rio” Wilson recalled. “And I have to say FNB Wines2Whales now is more technical than the Cape Epic was in 2008.”

“Bike technology has of course improved massively in that time too” Wilson continued. “For riders like Reuben and myself that technology is a great help.” “One by drivetrains for example make it easier for me to change down into an easier gear” Van Niekerk highlighted. “You can shift 2 or 3 gears at a time and get into an easy climbing gear quickly. In the days of two by drivetrains my chain would often drop as I shifted into the inner ring. Additionally, the modern drivetrains are better at shifting under pressure, so if I get my gearing wrong on a climb I can still adjust.”

Wilson also appreciates the shift to one by drivetrains. “One by has simplified my cockpit massively” he stated. “Previously I had a trigger shifter for the rear derailleur and a grip shifter for the front. Plus, both my front and back brake leavers on one side. I had to learn to use my index finger to apply the one brake and my middle for the other.”

“Currently I’m waiting for a friend to bring a new Hope braking system out from the UK. It has both brake levers on one clamp, which will further simplify my cockpit” Wilson said.

Looking ahead to Stage 3 Van Niekerk knows what lies ahead. “I went down Gantouw Pass in the Cape Epic, so I know what to expect. It’s far easier going down than it is going up. Your momentum sort of carries you down. Prosthesis are either made for walking or riding, so hike-a-biking with my cycling prosthesis on is always a struggle.”

Team Driepoot are fans of the Switchback route more generally too. “The route works so well on a practical level” Van Niekerk specified. “Finishing in Lourensford is logistically far easier. The traffic leaving Hermanus was always a concern for those of us who have to fly back to Johannesburg.”

Stage 2 of FNB Wines2Whales had long been known as Play Day. But with the route being reimagined for the Switchback the route team had the opportunity to reinvent Play Day.

At 66 kilometres long, with 1 500 metres of climbing, Play Day is no walk in the park. It requires some hard riding too, as the climbs are steep but short. That said few riders seem to remember the climbs. They only speak about the fantastic trails.

“So nice!” enthused multiple-Hungarian cross-country champion Barbara Benko. “It was great racing with A-Batch, we had a good group and so much fun. I’m so bad on the flats, so today’s singletrack packed stage was perfect. It was so much fun and the trails were super nice!”

“That was awesome” a sadly unidentified rider gushed in the FNB Rider Chill Zone. “Definitely Play Day of note. The cloud cover in the early part of the stage also helped with that.”

“The trails were great, quite dusty; but I think we were very fortunate to only be a group of four riders” stage winner Philip Buys said, adding his praise to the Switchback route. “It was a little loose here and there, but we expect that an put beefier tyres on to provide us with more grip.” The risk of loose sections did not prevent Buys and his partner, Gert Heyns, from taking to the air though.

“Flippen great, great, route” Full Sus publisher Shayne Dowling said, adding his opinion to the ground swell of praise. “The Switchback is honestly the best thing ever. I think I’ll miss every second FNB Wines2Whales from now on and only do the Switchback. It’s a great innovation!”

The highlight of the stage was the new Rietvlei Magic Bridge. Built by Paul Cluver and Cape Trails, with lumber donated by AgriMark, the bridge is 120 metres long and snakes across the Rietvlei Dam at the bottom of the 2 kilometre long Rietvlei Magic singletrack.

Play Day on the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race lived up to the pre-event hype, with spectacular trails and fast paced racing. Yet, also, as predicted, it was difficult for PYGA Euro Steel or {type}DEV Nanotime to make a stage winning move. Thus, the day culminated in a sprint, which Philip Buys and Gert Heyns won.

For the second time in two days Philip Buys and Gert Heyns crossed the Oak Valley finish line, of FNB Wines2Whales in first position. The overnight leaders of the Shiraz event were able to extend their general classification lead – on Saturday, 13 November – by a further 2.7 seconds. Matt Beers had surged ahead but with Wessel Botha unable to match the PYGA Euro Steel team in the sprint the {type}DEV Nanotime combination had to settle for second.

“It was a fast start again this morning and it was great to get away with the {type}DEV Nanotime team early in the stage” Heyns explained. “They both have great technical skills which makes racing a day filled with singletrack, like today, a lot less stressful. It was very dusty out there on the trails, so you have to trust the wheel in front of you.”

“We did try to shake Matt [Beers] and Wessel [Botha] a few times today, but the course never really made it possible to make a significant break” Heyns added. “We do have an advantage going into tomorrow though and I think Stage 3 is going to be a great one. I hope it breaks up early on again because the Gantouw Pass will be very interesting if you have to run down there in a group.”

Beers had expected Stage 2’s route to make it difficult to make inroads into PYGA Euro Steel’s lead. “We had a good day today, but Phil [Buys] and Gert [Heyns] were flying” the South African marathon champion confided. “We have kept the race alive heading into Stage 3. But I know from past experience that the PYGA Euro Steel guys are fast runners. Keeping up with them on the portage will be a challenge, but there are opportunities to make up time on the general classification.”

Imbuko Giant were third on the day, strengthening their grip on the final podium place, despite a spectacular crash for Marco Joubert. “I think I clipped a rock or a tree stump with my foot” Joubert confessed. “It ejected me straight over the bars and onto the trail. Fortunately, it was more dramatic than hard, so I think I’ll be okay for the last stage tomorrow.”

If Joubert and Tristan Nortje were to falter on the final day, Insect Science Pro’s Arno du Toit and Keagan Bontekoning are poised to strike. The pair are only 2 minutes and 41 seconds off the podium places. First Move Sport’s Jaco Venter and Matthew Keyser will set out for Lourensford, in fifth position, on Sunday.

Mountain biking fans can tune in, from 07:00, on Sunday to witness the conclusion of the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales series of races. Live updates will be available on and on Twitter, @w2wmtb. Stories, videos and photos from the 70-kilometre-long route, can be viewed on Instagram, @wines_2_whales.


FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Results:

Stage 2:

  1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (2:26:24)
  2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (2:26:27 | +2.7)
  3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (2:30:09 | +3:45)


General Classification Results after Stage 2:

  1. PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Gert Heyns (4:57:09)
  2. {type}DEV Nanotime: Matt Beers & Wessel Botha (4:58:31 | +1:22)
  3. Imbuko Giant: Tristan Nortje & Marco Joubert (5:06:06 | +8:57)