Amy Beth McDougall and Robyn de Groot from Team dormakaba after winning the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event. Image by Xavier Briel

In the world of mountain biking, the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay is unique. It is the only event which features a women’s specific start group, which starts first every day. In addition to that, all the media attention and all the prize money, which totals over R250 000, is paid to the women’s teams.

For the Elite Women, whose chances of competing entirely without the interference of male riders is limited to cross country races, it is a truly special experience. “It is so nice racing with just women” Amy McDougall, one half of the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay winning combination, confided. “The next group started 15 minutes behind us, so there was no chance that the men would catch us and inadvertently interfere with the racing.”

“We felt we had to put on a show” Candice Lill, who finished second alongside Adelheid Morath, revealed. “It is important to support the event, the sponsors and fans who support us. And racing hard throughout the three days is the best way to do that.”

Lill and Morath certainly made the racing exciting, but not in the way they would have intended. The pair, riding as Team Faces, established a healthy 1 minute and 32 second lead on the opening stage. Then defended it by adding a further 2 seconds on Stage 2. It looked as if they had the title wrapped up when they reeled Team dormakaba’s early attack on Stage 3. Misfortune, in the form of a puncture, in the final 10 kilometres put pay to their aspirations of defending the title they won in 2018.

Team Faces’ loss was dormakaba’s gain. Though De Groot was magnanimous in victory, showing that the women’s racing is not just captivating but also contested in the spirit of sportsmanship. Having embraced the unluckily Lill and Morath, she commiserated: “It’s never nice to win because of someone else’s misfortune. But that is racing. It just goes to show that you should never give up, in sport or life, we lost ground on Stage 1. Then battled back on Stage 2 and tried to put them under pressure on Stage 3.”

Behind the battle for first, the fight for the remaining places was equally intense, but fair. Despite the focus on racing, in the final mountain bike stage race of most of the Elite Women’s calendars, the fun nature of FNB Wines2Whales ensured that they still had a great time. “South Africa is beautiful; the weather is usually good – or better than it has been this weekend – and the trails are fantastic” Germany’s Nadine Rieder praised. “Despite the rain and the mud, I had a really great time. The race is small enough to have a family feeling. Which is really special.”

Hungary’s Barbara Benko agreed: “I’ve been looking for a stage race to ride with my dad for a long time. After racing the FNB Wines2Whales last year I realised it would be perfect. The stages aren’t too long. The trails are lots of fun. And even if you aren’t that fit you will be able to ride it and enjoy it.”

Having raced alongside Mariske Strauss in the Chardonnay event, Benko will return with her father for the second weekend’s Shiraz race. “It was my parent’s thirtieth wedding anniversary this year. So, I bought them a set of plane tickets to South Africa and organised entries for my dad and myself. It is going to be really special riding with him” Benko concluded.

The FNB Wines2Whales SeriousGEES continues, with the Pinotage, before the Benkos take to the trails on Friday for the Shiraz. Starting on Monday; it is the most relaxed of the three events and for many riders in the Pinotage field, besides those racing the Varstity MTB Race, the only reason to rush is to reach the FNB Rider Lounge or Cape Brewing Co Chill Zone sooner.

The FNB Wines2Whales Switchback is no simple route reverse. It is a dramatic reimagining of the trails which usually take riders from the winelands to the whales each year. The 2020 FNB Wines2Whales will switchback; leading riders from the whales, in Hermanus, to the wines of Lourensford Wine Estate, over three spectacular three-day stage races.


Chardonnay: 30 October 1 November | Pinotage: 2 – 4 November | Shiraz: 6 – 8 November


“Our route team, under the guidance of Johan Kriegler, has been refining the FNB Wines2Whales route since 2010,” Race Director, Hendrico Burger said. “In the last decade, countless singletracks have been built in mountain biking hotspots, like the Hemel en Aarde Valley and Elgin, but also in less well-ridden areas like Gaf se Bos and the Helderberg basin. The team has added new trails annually but to fully make use of some of the most exciting trails we had to re-look at the route.”


“That’s where the concept of the Switchback was born” Burger elaborated. “Not only is it an interesting twist on the well-established FNB Wines2Whales race format, but it also gives us a chance to utilise trails which the traditional direction simply cannot. Going forward, the Switchback will run in alternate years with the historic FNB W2W route, starting in 2020; 2021 then sees a return to the traditional Lourensford, Oak Valley, Onrus course” he explained.


Stage 1, of the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback, will start in Hermanus. From there the route will snake up Rotary Drive, spreading the start batches for the Hemel en Aarde singletracks. Climbing through the wine region famous for its Pinot Noir, the race then diverts out of the valley onto the Karwyderskraal road before slipping into the Gaf se Bos singletracks. With the first half of the day’s climbing conquered, the Switchback will twist and turn through Wildekrans, along all-new trails. Then it is onwards and upwards; ascending Kat Pas, after passing through Botrivier, to Houw Hoek. Avoiding the brutal Houw Hoek switchbacks, riders cross under the N2 and enjoy the thrills of Lebanon’s trails. After dipping under the highway again it is homeward bound via Paul Cluver and a final fun section of Oak Valley singletrack.


With Oak Valley hosting the race village, the usual FNB Wines2Whales luxuries will be on hand with the now familiar race village lay-out. Frequent FNB W2W riders might be unfamiliar with the route to Oak Valley, but they will feel right at home once they arrive. Staples like the FNB Rider Lounge and the CBC Chill Zone will remain, as will the Spur Steak Ranches burger station and the Squirt Kränzle bike wash.


Stage 2 will remain the famous ‘Play Day’. In the spirit of switching it up, there will be investing in trail building specifically for the 2020 edition and the route will feature old favourites in new orders, interspersed with brand-new trails. Riders will be able to explore Paul Cluver and Oak Valley like never before, while also experiencing more of the Lebanon Trails and a reimagined Peri Playpark.


The final stage will take riders from Oak Valley to Lourensford Wine Estate. This ensures a glamourous finale to a truly special edition of the race. Starting with a new, and as yet, top-secret route out of Oak Valley towards the Eikenhof Dam; there the revamped A to Z trails await. Then, for the first time in the race’s history, riders will descend, rather than ascend, the Gantouw Pass. It will remain a compulsory portage however, but carrying bikes down a mountain is undoubtedly easier than up it.


At the foot of the Gantouw Pass, the trails of Knorhoek and Wedderville will lead riders across the Helderberg Basin onto the extensive Vergelegen farm. From Vergelegen it is fun and games on a combination of virgin trails and new approaches to existing singletracks on Lourensford Wine Estate.


In summary, the Switchback will feature three stages that hover around the 70 kilometre mark. The route team has worked hard to ensure that Serious GEES wins the day, and with the new route starting and finishing at sea level, riders can expect similar amounts of climbing to the traditional FNB W2W route. The new direction makes the opening stage arguably more challenging, while Stage 2 will remain similarly difficult to the 2019 edition, and the final stage could well prove easier without the trials of the Art House climb.


“The FNB Wines2Whales is steeped in history and changing up a route that has become a firm favourite amongst mountain bikers is never a decision that is made without research and consideration. With the support of the race founders, Johan Kriegler and Hendrico Burger, as well as our various partners, we are extremely excited to offer riders this new route and experience, backed up with the same trusted organisational excellence and world class rider experience. We know that the fresh, unique route is sure to carve its way into South African, and international, mountain bikers’ hearts and yearly calendars” said Michael Flinn, Managing Director of the FNB Wines2Whales.


Karen Clements, Event Director for the FNB Wines2Whales shared the sentiment and added, “The FNB Wines2Whales has always been a race that places rider satisfaction at the forefront of every decision made, be it a sponsor partnership, the gear included in the race pack, and of course route changes. The 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback is sure to showcase even more of the spectacular riding that the Overberg has to offer, but in a format many riders have not experienced prior as they make their way from Hermanus, to Oak Valley, and finally to Lourensford.”


Entries to the 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback will open to the general public on the 5th of November, 2019.

Evidence of the worn brake pads. Photo by Nick Muzik

New brake pads were the first order of business, for the mechanics, on every bike that rolled out of the Squirt Kränzle Bike Wash and into a bike shop work station. Across the board, the stores reported replacing every set of pads they encountered after Stage 1. They even had to send drivers back to Cape Town in order to purchase more pads for the coming days.

“I bought R9 000 worth of pads with me and I’ve just ordered another R20 000” Francois Esterhuizen of Manic Cycles marvelled. “We must have replaced over 100 sets. Most of them were worn though the resin and down into the metal back plates. One set was even worn deep into the metal.”

“We’re looking after 47 bikes during the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay” Dewald Oosthuizen of BMT said. “We replaced the brake pads on every bike yesterday. And we replaced more at Water Point 3 today, where we were running the tech-zone. Along with the brake pads we’ve had to replace cables and service drivetrains. Despite the mud today, the bikes are looking a lot better than yesterday, and after a good wash and lube they’re looking and sounding okay. Yesterday was chaos.”

BMT run a relatively lean operation at the FNB Wines2Whales, compared to Recycles. “We had 60 bikes pre-booked and we took another 60 walk-ins yesterday” Nicola Prangley, who was manning the mobile workshop’s front desk, stated. “We were busy until one this morning, and had to send a driver back to Cape Town to fetch extra brake pads.”

The work to get each bike ready for the next stage starts at the Squirt Kränzle Bike Wash. Armed with Squirt’s Bio Bike, biodegradable bike wash, and Kränzle washers, equipped with a diffuser on the nozzle to stop grime being sprayed into the bikes’ bearings, the 26 person bike wash team gave over 1 000 mountain bikes a good wash. Then, for those bikes not booked in for a service, a generous squeeze of Squirt Lube completes the job.

Squirt Lube was also instrumental in the One Earth team of Louise Ferreira and Marleen Lourens winning Stage 2 in the Veterans category. “We were with Fienie [Barnard] and Hanlie [Booyens] up to the first water point, but rather than chase through with them Louise suggested we stop to lube our chains” Lourens recounted. “We stopped at all three waterpoints to reapply Squirt Lube and got to the finish without an issue. We passed Hanlie and Fienie who were fixing Hanlie’s chain of the side of the road. In the mud your drivetrain really takes a beating and you have to do everything you can to take care of it” Lourens concluded.

The final stage of the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay could be near as wet as the opening stage. Rain is predicted to fall from 08:00 already, but the race will start at 06:00 to help riders finish before the worst of the rain begins to fall at 14:00. With the added incentive of reaching Onrus in time to watch the Springboks play Wales, at 11:00, Stage 3 is sure to be the fastest of the race. Usually riders do not rush to complete the FNB Wines2Whales adventure; but in this instance the #SeriousGEES could well be more evident in the Cape Brewing Co Chill Zone, for the rugby, than out on the trails.

Adelheid Morath, from team Faces, splashes through one of the puddles left on the route after the previous day’s downpour. Image by Xavier Briel

Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay saw the general classification leaders of the Elite Women, Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath, outsprint Robyn de Groot and Amy McDougall; on Saturday, 26 October. Racing a circular loop of the famed Elgin trails from Oak Valley, the Faces team secured their second stage victory, and in so doing, extended their overall lead by a further 2.2 seconds.


After the relentless rain, which fell throughout the opening stage of the race, the roads and trails were exceptionally muddy, even though the sun was shining. Riders crossed the finish line caked in mud. “You can see from my face how muddy it was out there. I’m covered from head to toe” Lill laughed.


“If anything, the sun coming out made it more slippery. The singletracks were tacky, but not in a fun way” Lill explained. “Because we had a minute and a half lead, we could afford to be conservative today. It would have been so easy to make a mistake and crash in the slippery conditions. We could only relax once we crossed the finish line today. It was quite stressful.”


The presence of the dormakaba and Fairtree-Rotwild teams alongside them, for much of the stage, ensured a tense day. “I couldn’t quite stay with the group on the climbs” Jennie Stenerhag, who finished third alongside Nadine Rieder, confided. “But on every descent, we would catch back up again. By the third time it happened, I was quite relaxed. On the Lebanon singletracks, we caught the Faces and dormakaba teams again, after having been distanced on the climb to the trails. It was great fun riding that section again in an FNB Wines2Whales. Unfortunately just before the last waterpoint, at the Hickory Shack, a piece of wire got tangled in my cassette. It took quite a while to get it out and I knew then that we would not be able to catch the other two teams” the Fairtree-Rotwild rider clarified.


Stenerhag’s misfortune left dormakaba and Faces to sprint it out for stage honours. “I was stuck in a gear because my derailleur had stopped working with all the mud” Morath revealed. “Candice let me lead into the last singletrack and created a bit of space for me to get a head-start for the sprint.”


“I was on the limit for most of the day” McDougall said, providing the dormakaba perspective of how the race unfolded. “I didn’t have anything extra for an attack or to really contest the sprint.” “We are 1 minute and 34 seconds behind” McDougall’s partner De Groot pointed out. “If we are to make that up, we will have to make our move early tomorrow.”


Team Kross Spur’s Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard also experienced challenges today, but theirs weren’t limited to the mud. Lüthi found herself running for the final kilometres of the race, with her bike at hand, after her rear derailleur snapped off.


The fact that more rain is predicted to fall on Sunday will ensure an exciting finale to the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay. The 69-kilometre-long route from Oak Valley to Onrus provides opportunities aplenty for aggressive racing. With the record-setting R100 000 prize on the line, Lill and Morath will have another day of high stress as De Groot and McDougall do everything in their power to usurp the current leaders.


Results: FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay

Stage 2:

  1. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (03:03:48.8)
  2. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (03:03:51.0 | +2.2)
  3. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (03:05:15.8 | +1:27.0)
  4. SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (03:11:34.7 | +7:45.9)
  5. Ghost Factory Racing: Barbara Benko & Mariske Strauss (03:13:27.0 | +9:38.2)


General Classification after Stage 2:

  1. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (06:07:00.7)
  2. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (06:08:35.0 | +1:34.3)
  3. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (06:19:02.3 | +12:01.6)
  4. SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (06:40:22.1 | +33:34.3)
  5. dormakaba 2: Alice Pirard & Sabine Spitz (06:45:35.0 | +38:34.3)

For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race please visit

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.

The Elite Women during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event Stage 1 from Lourensford to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel

The Faces team of Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath got their FNB Wines2Whales title defence off to a winning start on Friday, 25 October. Departing Lourensford Wine Estate in consistent rain, the Elite Women endured a muddy day on the bike, but that did little to dampen Lill and Morath’s spirits as they thrived in the wet conditions.

Candice Lill from team Faces during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event Stage 1 from Lourensford to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel

Lill and Morath won the 2018 race in commanding fashion, claiming two stage victories on their way to the general classification crown by 9 minutes and 47 seconds. Their push for victory was founded on a strong start to the opening stage last year, and this year’s race is off to a similar start. The pair attacked from the off, capitalising on the cold legs of their rivals; after the start had been delayed by the ceaseless rain.


“The plan was to push the pace on the first climb, like we did last year” Lill explained, after crossing the finish line in Oak Valley. “We managed to get a little gap over the dormakaba team of Robyn de Groot and Amy McDougall, but they closed it again on the rolling section that followed. Then, on a little kicker before Water Point 1, Amy seemed to be struggling a bit, so we accelerated again. We got a gap and pretty much held it steady all the way to the finish”.


Adding colour to Lill’s tale Morath said: “That was tough! Racing in the pouring rain from the start made it really difficult to see where we were going, especially following in the slippery and muddy singletracks.” The Faces team’s winning margin was 1 minute and 32.1 seconds over the second-placed dormakaba team.


Amy Beth McDougall and Robyn de Groot from team dormakaba during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event Stage 1 from Lourensford to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel

“We rode nicely together” McDougall reflected on her budding partnership with De Groot. In just their second stage race together, the pair worked well to keep Lill and Morath in sight for most of the stage. “From what I can remember, the trails in Oak Valley and Paul Cluver get pretty slippery when they’re wet. So, anything can happen tomorrow” a muddy McDougall concluded.


Jennie Stenerhag and Nadine Rieder were third on the stage, crossing the line 10 minutes and 34.7 seconds after the stage winners. “Candice and Adelheid got away on the first climb, Robyn and Amy followed them. Then it was us who summited third” the Fairtree rider, in the Fairtree-Rotwild combination, clarified. “After that, we were on our own for the rest of the stage. It was pretty lonely, to be honest. The temperature wasn’t too bad at least, once we got going.” Stenerhag reiterated the general theme reported by the stage finishers.


Behind the top three teams, Ariane Lüthi and Samara Sheppard had fought back from a slow start to finish fourth. The Kross Spur team was just under 4 minutes faster than the fifth-placed Multitask Industries combination, of Alice Pirard and Sabine Spitz. Katie Lennard and Laura Stark were sixth, Sarah Hill and Danielle Strydom were seventh and the most social elite riders in the field, Barbara Benko and Mariske Strauss crossed the line in eighth.


The rain is predicted to fall until late on Friday evening, but it is looking positive for overcast skies but no further precipitation on Saturday. At 64 kilometres long, Stage 2, is the play day of the FNB Wines2Whales and the singletrack packed route could offer opportunities for the chasing teams to make up time on Lill and Morath, especially if the leaders can be forced into taking undue risks. Challenging conditions typically reward the strongest riders though, so, the 2019 Chardonnay race is sure to see worthy winners crowned in Onrus, on Sunday.


Results: FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay

Stage 1

  1. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (03:03:11.8)
  2. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (03:04:43.9)
  3. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (03:13:46.5)
  4. Kross Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (03:24:17.8)
  5. Multitask Industries: Alice Pirard & Sabine Spitz (03:28:11.3)


For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race please visit

Photo: Image by Nick Muzik

Having made its debut in the FNB Wines2Whales in 2018, the Exxaro jersey, for riders under the age of 26 from historically disadvantaged communities, expanded its life-changing reach. The category inspires riders to train and race for two major goals in the mountain biking season and rewards riders with financial prizes. In 2019 Curro Holdings has collaborated with Exxaro as a prize sponsor and is arguably offering the largest ever prize to be awarded at a mountain biking race to the FNB Wines2Whales Exxaro jersey winners.


The prize is a full bursary, for two learners, to a Curro school; covering their education from Grade 1 to Grade 12. As the Exxaro jersey riders have passed school-going age, they will be able to nominate a family member to receive the bursary. This prize, which has a current value of R1,2 million each (excluding inflation over the next 12 years), will undoubtedly be truly life-changing for two children from historically disadvantaged areas. No financial figure can adequately put a value to the benefit of education.


‘Curro Holdings is thrilled to be involved in the FNB Wines2Whales. The organisers state that this adventurous event is more about the journey than the destination and we’ve spotted great synergy in this message,’ said Marí Lategan, Executive: Marketing and Communications, at Curro Holdings. ‘As the biggest independent education provider in South Africa, we aim to widen access to quality schooling. We know that an enriched education journey will translate into a bright future – life’s ultimate destination. At Curro we look forward to growing our relationship with FNB Wines2Whales and we will certainly help add #SeriousGEES.’


‘As a mountain bike race, we aim to inspire people to live healthier, more active lifestyles,’ Michael Flinn, Managing Director of the FNB Wines2Whales, stated. ‘Curro’s generous prize to the wining Exxaro jersey competition team, is a first for us. It will change the lives of two young people and unquestionably the lives of their families. Education goes so far beyond sport in general and mountain biking in particular that it is rather humbling for us as an event to be able to facilitate such generosity. I can only hope that Curro’s lead will be followed by individuals and other corporates taking part in the race and that we can expand on the real, life-changing, benefits to people from historically disadvantaged communities.’


The Exxaro jersey will be contested in the Shiraz event of the FNB Wines2Whales, which gets underway from Lourensford Wine Estate, on Friday, 1 November 2019. Of the 30 development teams taking part, 19 qualified for the Exxaro category and the competition is sure to be fierce for the title. Defending champions, BMT Fairtree, return with the added experience of having raced the Swiss Epic in Graubünden during August. As such Luyanda Thobigunya and his partner from the Swiss Epic, Zola Ngxakeni, are among the favourites.


They will be up against two teams from the FNB Change a Life Academy. Bongumusa Zikhali and Sipho Kupiso are the KwaZulu-Natal-based designated first team, with Nkululeko Pewa and Nhlanhla Mthembu also representing Martin Dreyer’s charity. Exxaro has six squads contesting for the jersey which they sponsor. The twelve riders are all members of the Exxaro Development Academy and are co-sponsored by PWC, Rand Merchant Bank, Pepto and Deloitte.


Lucky Mlangeni is the winner of the Exxaro jersey on the 2019 Cape Epic Exxaro roster. He will start the FNB Wines2Whales alongside Anrique Davids; as his partner from earlier in the year, Tshepo Tlou, is racing in another Exxaro Development Academy team.


Other teams taking part in the race include three squads from the McGregor MTB Warriors, a FXTM-Velokhaya combination, Bhoni4Kasi, two Kinetic Racing Snakes teams, Khalthsa Cycles and an all-women’s team. Neo Setlhare and Zile Tshongolo have dubbed their team Sister Soweto, though they too form part of the Bhoni4Kasi Cycling Academy.


With Curro ensuring the Exxaro jersey teams will be competing for a life-changing prize, the competition is sure to be intense throughout the three days. To follow the racing action, tune in on Twitter, @w2wmtb,  from 07:00 on the morning of Friday, 1 November 2019.


About Curro

Curro Holdings is the biggest JSE-listed independent school operator in South Africa, offering quality education to learners from the early childhood development phase to Grade 12. The group strives to contribute towards the sustainable growth of South Africa and beyond, by widening access to quality schooling across a spectrum of education models. These include Curro Schools, Curro Select Schools, Curro Academy Schools, Meridian Schools, Curro Castle Nursery Schools, Curro DigiEd Schools, Curro Private College and Curro Assisted Learning. Curro Holdings provides a values-based environment, and offers a balanced, innovative and relevant curriculum across the various schooling models. The group is currently continuing with their expansion strategy. For more information, visit


Facebook: @CurroHoldings |Twitter: @Curro_Schools


Ariane Lüthi leading the Elite women’s group at the 2018 FNB W2W. Photo: Dwayne Senior

Hailing from Switzerland, but making her summer home in South Africa, Ariane Lüthi is no stranger to local mountain biking fans. Her three-time New Zealand XCO champion partner, Samara Sheppard, is making her South African racing debut though; having missed the 2018 UCI World Cup’s opening round. Here is what the pair had to say ahead of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race.


FNB W2W: Samara, you’ve been out to South Africa to race the Epic World Cup in 2018, but ended up missing the race. Tell us a bit about your experience of riding in South Africa and your sense of what FNB Wines2Whales will be like.

Samara Sheppard: Yes, I have been to South Africa once before for the Epic World Cup in 2018, but unfortunately, I got a terrible dose of food poisoning just before the race. What I did see of the trails around Stellenbosch, I absolutely loved! Lovely flowing trails and steep technical rocky climbs. I suspect the FNB W2W will treat us to their great singletracks, open tracks through vineyards and a spot of whale watching by the sea.


FNB W2W: Does this mean that we will be seeing the two of you team up for The Pioneer, in Samara’s native New Zealand, in December?

AL: Unfortunately, not this year; but it would be amazing if we could make things work for The Pioneer 2020. I’d love to ride my bike in beautiful New Zealand one day.

SS: Pioneer 2019 is not possible for us but we are looking at 2020. 2020 will be an exciting new Pioneer edition as it moves from the South to the North Island of New Zealand.


FNB W2W: It looks like the 2019 W2W Chardonnay race could feature the most competitive elite women’s field in the event’s 11-year history. Who do you see as your main rivals?

AL: Defending champions Candice and Adelheid will be the favourites in my eyes. But as you say, it will be a very competitive field this year and I’m sure we will have a hard-fought battle for the podium places over the three days.

SS: It is super exciting to race the Chardonnay amongst such a strong field. Having a separate women’s race means there will be no interference with other competitors so we can expect a fair, exciting and tactical race. With so much talent on the start list I couldn’t pick a favourite. I just look forward to teaming up again with Ariane for the challenge and to share the experience.

Thanks to Varsity Sports and FNB the top university mountain bikers from across the country will be contesting for the Varsity MTB title during the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage event. The midweek race, which takes place from Monday 28 to Wednesday 30 October, will see students from six institutions of higher education do battle. Each university will be represented by two teams of two, with a men’s and women’s team Varsity MTB champion determined after three days of racing.


The universities represented are the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of Pretoria (UP-Tuks), Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Nelson Mandela University (Madibaz), North West University (NWU) and Stellenbosch University (Maties). Along with bragging rights for their schools the students will be competing for cash prizes and a men’s and women’s race Ciovita leaders’ jersey. The jerseys will be awarded to the Varsity MTB team with the lowest accumulated time after each stage of the race; while the men’s and women’s stage winners will each receive R1 000, per stage. A total of R39 000 in prize money will be awarded to the teams after three days of racing, with the winning men’s and women’s teams taking home R6 000 each.


In the absence of cycling stars like Tiffany Keep, Tristan de Lange, and Gert Heyns – who is racing FNB W2W Shiraz, which starts on Friday the 1st of November – the full-time students will have a chance to shine. Aside from the University Sports South Africa Cycling Championships, which took place in July, many of the riders do not get the opportunity to race against each other. That makes it exceptionally difficult to pick a favourite.


UCT’s Courteney Webb is, to her fellow Western Cape cyclists at least, one of the most recognisable names in the line-up. “I’ve heard of, or know, most of the women on the roster, but regrettably I have basically never raced against them on a mountain bike” the 2019 Around the Pot 100 Miler champion confessed. “If I had to guess, I would say that the Tuks women’s team is a strong partnership. But it is also so hard to say because the racing will be taking place in teams, so I can’t say confidently how these riders will perform together… I’m excited though, it looks to be a great line-up and I’m sure the whole FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage experience will be great fun!”


Webb’s pick of the women’s team to watch is the combination of Tanya Kotze and Michelle Benson. The pair placed fourth and sixth in the cross-country race at the University Sports South Africa Cycling Championships, in July; either side of Webb’s fifth. None of the podium finishers from that event will start the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage though, so the Tuks pair are the slight favourites. Webb and her partner, Amy Tait are sure to be competitive for UCT however, as are the Maties pairing of Catherine Pellow-Jarman and Susan Kruger.


Though Brendan van Eeden, from NWU, could well be the strongest individual in the race. The men’s race is also likely to feature a three-way battle between the two Western Cape universities and the famous sporting institution from Pretoria. UP-Tuks’ Andries Nigrini and Antonie Joubert are both strong riders, although Nigrini has shown more pedigree on the road than on a mountain bike. Michael Sutton and Mornè Hollander are racing to defend local honour, as Stellenbosch University is the closest geographically to the race’s start point in Lourensford.


They will have an uphill battle on their hands however. UCT’s Richard Simpson and Michael Lambrecht arguably hold a slight advantage over the rest of the men’s field. This advantage comes in the form of Simpson’s stage race experience. which sets him apart from the rest of the field who will be making their stage race debuts at the FNB Wines2Whales.


Mountain biking fans can follow the action, live from the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage, on the race’s social media channels or online at The first stage starts at 07h00, from Lourensford Wine Estate, on Monday 28 October. Coverage from within the Pinotage event can be found on Twitter, @w2wmtb, while Facebook, Wines2Whales, and Instagram, @wines_2_whales, will feature the best photos and videos from the three-days of superb mountain biking.

Jennie Stenerhag crosses the famed FNB W2W bridges. Photo: Dwayne Senior

The Swedish/German combination of Jennie Stenerhag and Nadine Rieder have experience and class aplenty between them. But will they have what it takes to battle for FNB Wines2Whales victory in Rieder’s debut in the Chardonnay race? We spoke to them to find out.


FNB Wines2Whales: Jennie, you’ve had great success at the FNB Wines2Whales in the past, having won the 2016 & 2017 editions. In 2018 you were coming back from injury. So, in light of last year’s relative disappointment, how motivated are you to get back to your best at W2W and what is it about the race that suits you so well?

Jennie Stenerhag: The FNB W2W is always a highlight of my year for many reasons. First of all, the route is always lots of fun and the route team always puts new little tweaks into the race. It is one of the best organised races of the calendar and since it is the last big race of the year, people seem more relaxed and there to have fun, so the atmosphere is very nice. I always like racing in this area too, since I stay here for most of the year.


FNB W2W: Nadine, what convinced you to come back out to South Africa to race the FNB Wines2Whales alongside Jennie?

Nadine Rieder: Racing here earlier this year was such a great experience and I’m still impressed by how special it was to race in South Africa. The atmosphere, the race itself, people around it and the brilliant organisation to name but a few reasons. Because of that I was happy to get Jennie’s request and I decided straight away to come back for the FNB W2W.


FNB W2W: Jennie, you will have obviously had to explain the Gantouw Pass portage to Nadine – who has been down there during this year’s Cape Epic – how do you explain it to someone who doesn’t know what to expect and how do you approach racing up there?

JS: I am glad she saw it earlier in the year so at least she knows what it looks like. Otherwise it is difficult to explain to a mountain biker who is used to riding the bike not running with the bike. Nadine is also a bit taller than I am, which will help. I always wish I had longer legs, when I walk/try to run up there. But it is so unique to the race that it adds something exciting yet challenging.


FNB W2W: It looks like the 2019 W2W Chardonnay race could feature the most competitive elite women’s field in the event’s 11-year history. Who do you see as your main rivals?

JS: It is great to see how the women’s field is growing, both in numbers of teams and the standard of racing, which is going up year on year! There are so many top-class teams and it is really difficult to pick out the team that stands out as favourites; but if I must pick one team, I would say last year’s winners Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath. They have both had strong seasons and are in very good form.