3 Days, 191km and 4800m of E-Bike Shredding

The FNB Wines2Whales is a world-class 3-day stage race in the Western Cape of South Africa.

Since inception in 2009, it has become a must-do event on the mountain bike calendar for riders from the farthest reaches of the country queueing for the chance to experience South Africa’s favourite MTB trails. This year, the ‘Pinotage’ event on the 28, 29 and 30th of October will welcome E-Bike riders to the trail party.

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race.
For 2019, the FNB Wines2Whales ‘Pinotage’ event on the 28, 29 and 30th of October will have an E-Bike class.

The events biggest drawcard is undoubtedly the route which charts an exquisite yet challenging path that embraces much of the Overberg’s history and splendour. Riders are treated to a mix of terrain, including private farm roads, historic wagon paths and majestic mountain singletracks, as they make their way from Lourensford Estate to the coastal town of Hermanus. The spirit of the FNB Wines2Whales is “gees” – a truly South African phrase that you need to experience to understand. The organizers offer three events that are spread over the ten-day race period – essentially these events are exactly the same as the route does not differ between them; the difference comes in terms of the races’ focus. For 2019 the race already known for it’s #seriousGEES will incorporate some #E-BikeGees as it opens the event up to assist riders to enjoy. Here is a look at the route and some advice for E-Bike riders taking part.

Stage 1: 61km & 1 900m – Lourensford to Oak Valley

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race stage 1 route profile.

Route description: The elegant Lourensford Wine Estate marks the start of your three-day E-Bike rally to Onrus. The climbing starts almost immediately with a long and fairly steep gravel drag taking you up to Lourensford Nek. From the summit, on a clear day, you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of Stellenbosch and Cape Town. A long and steep downhill follows, so please take heed – it’s very fast with tight, blind corners and water drainage 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 before the notoriously steep Vergelegen climb – 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 at Idiom Vineyards, which doubles as 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.

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race.
The portage up Gamtouw Pass on an E-Bike will be physically demanding.

The reward on the other side is some of the best singletrack in the country – the fabled A2Z network of Grabouw, where you’ll whizz down the A2N trails in the run into the Grabouw Country Club and the day’s Land Rover Experience. Willie’s Trail provides the first of Route and Vehicle partner’s Land Rover’s designated singletracks for the race and it is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating sections of the route. The last 10km to the finish in Oak Valley offers a mix of singletracks and open vineyard roads, but blaze a new trail to the race village through Glen Elgin farm. 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 (or two).

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.

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race.
Pace yourself so you can arrive at the finish with a smile and sufficient #Gees to enjoy the afternoon and evening festivities in the race village.

Bike Network’s advice for E-Bike Riders on Stage 1

It’s a long day with a lot of climbing in the beginning so moderate your assist level accordingly. If you are doing the stage on one battery make sure you minimize the assist level as much as possible in the first 40km. If you are swopping batteries for a freshie mid-way then by all means – go full gas. Always pay due respect to non-E-Riders and to marshals, event organizers and the wildlife. After all, we want to be invited back in 2020. If you see us out there (yup, we will be riding) – stop, say hi and let’s take in the views. Probably the most important advice is to do a full bolt check on your bike after each stage, especially this stage. Things tend to vibrate loose on E-Bikes – more so than on a non-E-Bike – so nip everything up before you hit the wine.

Stage 2: 63km & 1 500m – Oak Valley to Oak Valley

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race rage, stage two, route profile.

Route description: Dubbed ‘Play Day’, Stage 2 is one of the FNB Wines2Whales’s many draw cards, with sublime singletrack, manicured berms, and mind-blowing descents. For 2019 the route reshuffle means that riders remain in Oak Valley for the first 15 kilometres, climbing initially and then descending Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge, Sounds of Silence, Indensity and Cow’s Trail. Then it’s uphill again towards Witklippies One and Two before dropping towards the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre at the 35 kilometre mark.

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race.
These are the scenes in the first half of the stage – views for days, smiles and good times. Just be sure to save some power for the last 20km.

With tanks topped up by Woolworths’ water point spread riders then take on FNB W2W’s famous snake singletracks. Cobra, Mamba, and Boomslang lead into the day’s Land Rover Experience: Pofadder. Having been rebuilt following the February 2019 fire, Pofadder is now faster and more flowing but still a challenge for those who ride singletracks at full speed. From Pofadder the route hugs the mountains before passing under the N2 and climbing on new singletracks towards the Lebanon trails. The lower two Lebanon singletracks lead the field back under the highway to the stage’s final water point at the Hickory Shack, after 52 exhilarating kilometres of mountain biking. The Thandi Switchbacks are the final sting in the tail before the thrilling, purpose-built KROMCO-PERI Play Park. From there it’s a 10km dash to the finish through farm roads and “The long way home” singletrack.

Hendrico’s Stage Advice: Ride as many singletracks as you can in preparation. Singletrack requires more concentration and work than open roads so work on your skills!

If you roll up behind anyone on the singletrack just chill and wait for a safe spot to overtake – especially if they are non-E-Shredders.

Bike Network’s advice for E-Bike Riders on Stage 2

It’s a play day but remember, no power means no play, so once again, manage your assist level well. On the technical single track sections remember to brake a little earlier so that you can scrub the speed off neatly and well before arriving at the turn or obstacle. Have fun and enjoy it – there are some fantastic sections of trail here which, as you know, on an E-Bike are very enjoyable. Don’t forget to eat and hydrate so that you are in good shape for Day 3. Also, unlike day 1, the last 10km has more climbing than descending, so factor that in when using assist. Enjoy the trails and it’s not a race so chill and enjoy. Don’t forget to do another bolt check at the end of the stage.

Stage 3: 67km & 1 400m – Oak Valley Wine Estate to Onrus

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race stage 3 route profile

Route description: The third and final day of the FNB Wines2Whales is a challenging affair – especially with nearly 130 kilometers of riding and 3 000 meters of climbing in the legs. Do not be fooled by the route profile and make sure not to get sucked into racing dynamics early on – most of the climbing comes in the last 30 kilometers, so save something for the end. The trickiest section of this stage is the Kat Pas descent just after the Houw Hoek trails.

This is why we ride E-Bikes – more trails! Braaap!

Caution is advised as this is a particularly fast downhill with a rocky, loose and sometimes quite rutted surface. Water Point 1 is located at the Botrivier School where you’ll experience a truly memorable moment as local schoolchildren and their families line up in support. The next 20 kilometer section, which takes in a large portion of the Wildekrans trails before rising to Water Point 2 is arguably the most important portion of Stage 3. It is essential that you pace yourself correctly as a nasty series of ups and downs await – the breathtaking Gaf-se-Bos and Hemel en Aarde trails. Here you’ll confront as many climbs as you will descents before ducking under the road and following a downhill towards the Atlantic Ocean. On the Onrus beach, spectacular views await, before a final little kick up onto the tar road allows for an easy roll across the finish line.

Hendrico’s Stage Advice: Ride within your limits down the Kat Pas and remember 80% of the climbing is after the 40km mark. Save some energy to enjoy the run in to Onrus across the beautiful beach. 

FNB Wines2whales mountain bike race.
On each day the race organizers will transport your spare battery to a water point / tech zone for you.

Bike Network’s Stage Advice for E-Bike riders on Stage 3

Use minimal assist up until the 40 or 45km mark if you are riding the stage on a single battery. Fatigue will start to kick in from the previous two days so you want to work hard early on in the day, then be able to enjoy the assist up the last few climbs and the roll down to the beach. The route can be quite rocky in places so carry a few bombs and even better – start with the correct tyre pressure. Perhaps 35psi rear and about 25psi upfront – you want to be in and around that range to optimize control, traction and durability. Be respectful of the other riders, especially when you are passing them on climbs – we recommend gearing up and actually slowing down a little as you pass non-E-Bikers; just to keep the peace. Some of the last singletracks are quite fast and a lot of fun – be safe and respectful.

If you have any questions feel free to message or mail us: crew@bikenetwork.co.za See you there!

Message from the Race Organizers

E-Bikes are the fastest growing sector in cycling but events have been slow to allow them into races due to a number of restrictions. Luckily the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage event is unbound by such limitations, so for 2019, E-Bikers are welcome!

To ensure the safety of their fellow riders all E-Bikers, and their non-pedal assisted partners, will start in the event’s final batch. But they will be able to ride the entire route and with a battery swap service (conditional to you bringing your own spare battery of course), the distance won’t be a concern.

With the added power of an electric motor helping them along, the E-Bikers will be able to take in the route like never before. They’ll be able to cruise up the Vergelegen Climb and conquer any obstacle the race throws at them. As long as, of course, their E-Bikes have the walk-assist function… pushing 20+kg bikes up the Gantouw Pass without that handy function might be a touch tricky. And you can be sure no rider on a one HP (human power in this case) mountain bike is going to lend a hand.

“The rationale behind allowing E-Bikes to take part in the mid-week event is to make it more inclusive,” Sarah Harrop, Head of Marketing and Communications for FNB Wines2Whales explained. “We’re hoping to attract riders who would otherwise not be able to take part in an MTB stage event for reasons that could vary from disability, age, health issues or simply fitness. It also allows the opportunity for stronger partners to introduce friends, family members or youngsters to the sport without the “10 hours per week” training sacrifice. We will ensure that the inclusion of E-Bike riders will not interfere with the race itself.”

The race village will have a charge station to ensure all the bikes and spare batteries are charged and ready to rumble for each stage.

To enter the E-Bike friendly Pinotage event, visit www.wines2whales.com.

All images supplied by FNB Wines2Whales 2018 edition.

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *
Name *
Email *