The 6th edition of the Wines2Whales mountain bike stage race took place in the beautiful surroundings of the Overberg region in the Western Cape.
This popular event has grown immensely and currently has three versions on offer known as the Adventure, the Trail and the Race. The first to set off are the Adventure riders and once they have completed their 3 day journey, they are followed by the Trail participants. The Race entrants are the last to cover the exact same 212km long route which includes a total elevation gain of 4,124m.
Lately professional road cyclist Anriette Schoeman has been swapping her skinny tires for fat ones at a few events, and she invited me to team up with her for the Wines2Whales Race. In the past we’ve been teammates on the National Road Cycling team, but this would be our first outing as partners in the dirt.
The event started at Lourensford Winery in Somerset West and finished at the whale watching town of Hermanus, hence the name Wines to Whales. Along the way we stopped over for two nights at the Oak Valley sports ground just outside of Grabouw.
Every mountain bike stage event has its own unique charm and attraction. While traversing the Overberg region there were a couple of things that stood out for me. As mountain bikers we simply love single track and not only was there an abundance of it, it was also laid out in a very picturesque setting. We also negotiated plenty of wooden bridges, hiked up the Gantouw Pass and played in what seemed like a trail park constructed of apple carts and scaffolding. All of this gave the event its own character and allure.
Portable ablutions and tented accommodation can be challenging at the best of times, but I found camping in one place to be a lot more comfortable compared to daily trekking to a new camp site. It saves participants a lot of energy not having to pack, load and unpack bags and race organisers can spend all their energy, time and budget on one race village instead of spreading it over a few locations. The W2W crew did just that and made our stay at Oak Valley very pleasant indeed.
Not only has Wines2Whales grown in numbers, but the depth of the field has also increased dramatically. The 6th edition had the most competitive ladies field taking part in the event’s history which surely bodes well for ladies mountain biking.
After 3 days of hard racing Anriette and I were both very pleased with the outcome of our race. We worked well together as a team and rode consistently throughout the event to place 3rd overall in the ladies category. The pairing of Robyn de Groot and Catherine Williamson took the overall victory with Jennie Stenerhag and Candice Neethling finishing in 2nd place.
Wines2Whales is a challenging event but gives as much as it takes. It’s definitely worth adding to one’s bucket list of races.
Final Overall Results:
1st Robyn de Groot & Catherine Williamson
2nd` Jennie Stenerhag & Candice Neethling
3rd Anriette Schoeman & Yolandi du Toit
4th Carla Van Huyssteen & Ashleigh Moffat
5th Michelle Lombardi & Hanlie Booyens