skip navigation
[FNB Wines2Whales]

SA’s Best Ready to Take on FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Race

By FNB Wines2Whales, 11/01/22, 6:45AM HST


The FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race has attracted the very best South African mountain bikers, as well as a few international names.

With R100 000 in prize money for the winning team and year-long bragging rights at stake, the FNB Wines2Whales is always fiercely contested. No other race on the local calendar attracts so many of South Africa’s top mountain bikers. It is no surprise therefore that the defending champions, Pyga Euro Steel, are raring to go; as are their likely rivals.

When the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race gets underway from Lourensford, on the 4th of November, there will be 20 top teams in the Men’s start group. While not all of them may stand a realistic chance of reaching Onrus, on the 6th of November, in the yellow Ciovita leader jerseys, all of them have goals to aspire to and a role to play in the final major race of the season. None more so than the defending champions, Philip Buys and Gert Heyns of Pyga Euro Steel.

“FNB Wines2Whales is usually our team's last high-profile race for the season and has great publicity, so it’s important for us to end the year off on a high note for ourselves and our sponsors,” Buys stated. Before confessing: “I’m scrambling a little bit in terms of training, because I’ve already taken my 4 week end of season break. This time off the bike meant I only had about 7 weeks to prep for FNB W2W. This is a bit short, but it is important for us to draw that line somewhere and take the break. We’ve had a good year and our team partners are all satisfied, so there is no outside pressure on Gert and myself. The only pressure would be from ourselves. That said, we want to win!”

With the route returning to the classic, Lourensford to Onrus, direction the question was put to Buys if the Switchback course did not perhaps better suit his and Heyns’ strengths? “I actually prefer the original direction of the route like we are going to do it this year,” the double 2022 South African champion said. “The key with any team stage race is how well the partnership works. In mountain biking things are going to go wrong somewhere; it's about how you can handle those issues, quickly recover and adapt as a team. Gert and I have done quite a few races together now and I enjoy riding with him.”

Buys and Heyns’ main rivals for victory are likely to be the Toyota Specialized team. Matt Beers won FNB Wines2Whales in both 2018 and 2019, alongside Wessel Botha. 2022 marks his first start in this event with Tristan Nortje at his side. “It’s definitely been a while since we raced together as a team!” Nortje allowed. “We always race ‘with’ each other during single day events, but it’s been a long time since we raced a team event. Lining up with Matt [Beers] is always exciting. I can’t wait to race the last team race of the year together and hopefully finish the season on a high!”

The stacked field means Nortje is under no illusions of how difficult finishing on a high will be. “All the top SA riders will line up at the FNB W2W,” he reiterated. “Along with Pyga Euro Steel the likes of Imbuko {type}DEV, Insect Science and Valley Electrical Titan Racing are all scheduled to start. It makes for exciting racing.”

“We have plans already,” Nortje hinted. “But you must also be able to scrap those plans in the race and think of a new one! In mountain biking but especially at FNB W2W anything can happen. We’ll see how it plays out…”

A squad who has raced creatively in 2022 is the Imbuko {type}DEV outfit. With two evenly matched teams, they have multiple cards to play and will be looking to put Botha back on the top step of the FNB Wines2Whales podium. The 2018 and 2019 winner will pair up with Pieter du Toit for the Shiraz event, with Marco Joubert partnering Rudi Koen. “We have four strong riders at the moment and I'm sure both teams will be in the mix and able to help each other” Botha confirmed. “I'm happy to be partnering with Pieter [du Toit] this time as we have always wanted to race together but haven't had the chance yet. I think we will be a good match for the punchy flat out racing that FNB W2W always provides.”

“The racing at FNB W2W is normally super tight and all the editions which I have raced were won in a different way” Botha said of the tactics required for victory. “With the classic route I don't think there will be a specific point where the race will be won or lost. We will just try to race smart and take any opportunity where we can gain time.”

Like the other big favourites, the Insect Science team are eagerly anticipating an almighty battle at the FNB Wines2Whales. “The FNB W2W is a real iconic and fun event,” Arno du Toit began. “It is very important for us individually, as well as for the team as a whole. This year will be special with two racing teams and a corporate team. It is the last big goal event for the year and of course it's always great to finish the season on a high note, but we're just excited to have some fun out there.”

“With all the top teams in the country taking part it will require a lot of full gas racing and a bit of luck to win!” Du Toit, who will be lining up alongside Keagan Bontekoning emphasised. “To win will be challenging, given not only the level of the competition but also the diversity and punchiness of the route. Looking after our equipment and ourselves will be a key aspect. The days are shortish, but managing your effort over the three days will still be important.”

Along with the five-star favourites, Team Honeycomp Procycling’s Konny Looser, himself a former FNB Wines2Whales winner in 2014 and 2016, and Marc Pritzen are another team to watch. As are HB Kruger and Matthew Keyser, of Valley Electrical Titan Racing. Cycle2Ride’s Jaco Venter and Jan Montshioa, as well as 1RACE/Caleo’s William Mokgopo and Namibian Xavier Papo should also be in contention for a top result. The ultimate dark horses of the field, however, are the 24/7 Security team of Jan Withaar and Pieter Korkie.

While the Imbuko {type}DEV powered by Giant combination, of Joubert and Koen, are likely to be the most influential of the back-up teams. CP van Wyk and Alan Gordan will have a roll to play for Insect Science; as will the Pyga Euro Steel support teams of Ruan van der Westhuizen and Wian van den Bergh, plus Pressmore Msundi and Michael Foster. Young Herman Fouche meanwhile will be gaining experience alongside the under 23 Swiss racer Maxime L’Homme for Insect Science/Davos Klosters Scott.

Further down the field former Exxaro Jersey winners Lorenzo Leroux and Luyanda Thobigunya, of Fairtree Cannondale, will be taking another shot at the elite category race looking to improve on the 12th place they achieved in 2021. To do so they will need to beat the Gear Change team of Matthew Leppan and Kai von During, as well as the ASAP-World (Joshua Louw and Gavin Cannone), Acepak Automation (Matthew Grobler and Christoff van Heerden) and Mohein (Heinie Beukes and Zandre Gerber) squads. The final team in the Men’s line up is made up by the old hands of South African marathon and stage racing, Nico Bell and Gawie Combrinck. Though technically retired as professional riders, the Bell’s Cycling pairing will still be tough to beat for all but the very best teams in the race.

To watch the action unfold, from 4 to 6 November 2022, follow @wines_2_whales on Instagram and @w2wmtb on Twitter. Daily reports from the trails, as well as photos and videos from the race can be found by liking the Wines2Whales Facebook page and subscribing to the Epic Series YouTube channel. For more information visit


Men’s Line-Up for the 2022 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Event:

1. Pyga Euro Steel: Philip Buys (RSA) & Gert Heyns (RSA)

2. Toyota Specialized: Matt Beers (RSA) & Tristan Nortje (RSA)

3. Imbuko {Type} Dev: Wessel Botha (RSA) & Pieter du Toit (RSA)

4. Insect Science: Arno du Toit (RSA) & Keagan Bontekoning (RSA)

5. Imbuko {Type} Dev powered by Giant: Marco Joubert (RSA) & Rudi Koen (RSA)

6. Team Honeycomp Procycling: Konny Looser (SUI) & Marc Pritzen (RSA)

7. Valley Electrical Titan Racing: HB Kruger (RSA) & Matthew Keyser (RSA)

8. Cycle2Ride: Jaco Venter (RSA) & Jan Montshioa (RSA)

9. Insect Science 2: CP van Wyk (RSA) & Alan Gordan (RSA)

10. 24/7 Security: Jan Withaar (RSA) & Pieter Korkie (RSA)

11. Fairtree Cannondale: Lorenzo Leroux (RSA) & Luyanda Thobigunya (RSA)

12. Gear Change: Matthew Leppan (RSA) & Kai von During (RSA)

13. Pyga Euro Steel 3: Pressmore Msundi (ZIM) & Michael Foster (RSA)

14. 1RACE/Caleo: William Mokgopo (RSA) & Xavier Papo (NAM)

15. Acepak Automation: Matthew Grobler (RSA) & Christoff van Heerden (RSA)

16. ASAP-World: Joshua Louw (RSA) & Gavin Cannone (RSA)

17. Bells Cycling: Nico Bell (RSA) & Gawie Combrink (RSA)

18. Mohein: Heinie Beukes (RSA) & Zandre Gerber (RSA)

19. Pyga Euro Steel 2: Ruan van der Westhuizen (RSA) & Wian van den Bergh (RSA)

20. Insect science/Davos Klosters Scott: Herman Fouche (RSA) & Maxime L’Homme (SUI)