The sun came out and provided an opportunity to catch a great cycling tan on Stage 1 of the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage event; on Monday, 23 October. After rain and overcast conditions, the heat and sunshine were welcomed by the riders taking part in the social mid-week race. The most relaxed of the trio of events, the Pinotage boasts eBike racing categories and an eBike tour alongside the usual mountain bike age categories.
Such was the speed at which Joris Ryf and Benno Willeit completed the course, one should probably describe them as beyond the sharp end. There was racing behind the Specialized Factory Racing team, but with the stage winners stopping the clock in 1 hour, 51 minutes and 38 seconds they had no meaningful competition. They averaged over 29 kilometres per hour and won the 55 kilometre stage by 10 minutes and 37 seconds.
For the majority of the field the pleasure was in taking their time to complete the course. Many stopped for photo opportunities atop climbs; to take in the spectacular views across Lourensford, Vergelegen, Somerset West and across the basin to False Bay beyond. More spent time at the water points, faffing and feeding. Consuming as many or perhaps more calories than they had burnt on the bike.
“It’s hard to describe, because they’re literally that good,” Doug Bird, of Wild Air Sport, grinned when asked about the singletracks. “I’m riding my first stage race on an eBike and I’m ruined. Today was probably the happiest I’ve ever been at the top of a climb. Coming down the Uitkyk Trails, they’re so well built you just lower your centre of gravity and let the brakes go. It’s magic from start to finish on an eBike! I feel like it’s unfair.”
“The trails are so sick!” Mariske Strauss whooped. The former FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay champion is riding an eBike with Max Sullivan during the Pinotage, as she continues her return to racing following an illness enforced layoff. “Following those guys, [Sullivan and Jason Boulle], is so much fun. I didn’t follow Max [Sullivan] into a bush, when he crashed, at least though. But Jason [Boulle] did!”
Aside from the new Uitkyk Trails, built by Erica and Spook Groenewald’s son Timmy, the course also took in old favourites. The route wound around the valley above Lourensford’s Blue Gum Dam and linked the Trout Trail, Blue Gum, Old Graveyard and the Toyota Cruise section Magic Forest. These singletracks were dusty at times as the twisted and turned through the plantations.
In the final 8 kilometres a final downhill run along Ride for a Child provided a swooping run from the contour roads to the valley far below. All the trails ensured dusty grins and set the teams up for a thrilling play day in Elgin, on Tuesday.
Tag(s): FNB Wines2Whales