What Top Contenders Have To Say Ahead Of FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Race 2022

by | Nov 2, 2022 | Bike, Events & Racing, Racing News

One of South Africa’s most competitive 3 day stage races, the FNB Wines2Whales, is attracting a strong field of marathon racers, teaming up in search of the win!

Comments From Pro Riders On The 2022 Fnb Wines2Whales Race
The backdrop of enormous Western Cape mountains gives scale to the terrain that the FNB Wines2Whales covers in its 3 day journey. (c) Sam Clark / W2W

Closing off a big season of racing, and opening the 2023 season for some riders, is the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz! The Chardonnay took place last weekend where Kim Le Court and Vera Looser rose to the top of the ladies field but this weekend the men will have the stage to perform.

Day 1 is a 72km haul from Lourensford Wine Estate to Oak Valley in Elgin with 1500m of climbing. Day 2 is “Play Day” on the Oak Valley and Paul Culver trails, 68km and 1250m climbing. On the final day they blast to Curro school in Hermanus over 65km with 100m of elevation gained. All of this is over a variety of singletrack, farm roads and an assortment of technical terrain. Find out more about their route here and get the low down from South Africa’s best below!

Gert Heynes – PYGA Eurosteel – Defending Champ

WA: Gert, you and Phil are the defending champions of the FNB Wines2Whales. What would you say that you did right last year to come away with the win and how are you going to ensure that you repeat that in 2022?
Gert: Last year went well for us, the lead up to the event was a bit different with the Cape Epic being later in the year so everyone was pretty much in the same form. This year is a bit different but I had a good few weeks of preparation and Philip has had an incredible year. I’m confident that we stand a good chance of defending the title.

WA: Stage 1 has a unique challenge in the form of the Gantouw Pass portage. Are there any specific tactics that are employed here by racing teams to push for a break or ensure minimal damage is done?
Gert: The portage section is definitely a crucial part of day 1 and should be a place where gaps can open. If we can get a gap there we will definitely go for it but it’s also important to not burn up the legs completely with lots of pedalling left to do on the following days.

Comments From Pro Riders On The 2022 Fnb Wines2Whales Race
The sweet taste of victory, enjoyed by Gert and Phil at the 2021 FNB Wines2Whales. (c) Nick Muzik / W2W

Phil Buys – PYGA Eurosteel – Defending Champ

WA: Phil, you haven’t had the smoothest of build ups to this year’s race with a bif of sickness (Covid if I recall correctly). How has this hindered your preparation and are you feeling back to full strength for the race this weekend?
Phil: After XCO World Champs my plan was always to take two weeks off, but unfortunately when I started training again after the short break I was knocked down with swine flu for another two weeks, so a whole 4 weeks off the bike. I wasn’t too phased about taking the time off, but was not ideal for my W2W prep. I had two good interval sessions last week where the numbers were good, the question is just if I will be able to sustain it throughout a 3hr race day. But I’m still excited for the bit of unknown and look forward to the race.

WA: Out of the 3 race days at W2W, is there a particular day where big moves are expected from those looking for the win?
Phil: I think stage 1 will be the most crucial. There are a few key opportunities where things can break up on the first stage and if you can get a gap on this stage, the pressure is off for the rest of the race, then it’s just about defending. If you are on the flip side of the coin, then you are in for a tough time to make up any lost time on the last two fast stages. The portage on stage 1 also throws a nice spanner in the works. I think everyone is in the dark with how their legs will respond to the portage and the part after it. Makes for an exciting stage I think!

Matt Beers – Toyota Specialized – 2nd 2021

WA: Wines2Whales is arriving at the end of a long season for you, Matt. Yourself and Tristan undoubtedly have the ability to win this year’s race but what have you done to manage fatigue and motivation to keep up the form towards the tail end of 2022?
Matt: Yeah it’s been a long season for sure. I’ve done a lot of travelling this year which has been amazing. But it does take its toll and messes up your rhythm of training a lot more than I thought, so I’ve had to learn and adapt to that change. Tristan and I are both going well and are super motivated to race W2W. It’s always nice to end the season on a high note. It just makes the off season Beer taste that much better if you end with a big win, so we will strive for that.

WA: What do you enjoy most about the Wines2Whales route and terrain in terms of racing?
Matt: The race has a great history behind it. It’s been the last race of the year for most of us for many years, the vibe is always good being the last big race of the year. The course is also unique with the portage section and it is always flat out racing for the 3 Days. I’m looking forward to seeing what new little features have been added along the route.

Comments From Pro Riders On The 2022 Fnb Wines2Whales Race

Tristan Nortje – Toyota Specialized – 3rd 2021 (Imbuko Giant)

WA: Tristan, we hope you still remember how to ride a mountain bike after all the time you’ve spent on the gravel bike recently, and taking wins while you’re at it! Have you learned anything from your recent gravel riding experiences that you’re going to bring into W2W?Tristan: Haha yes the gravel riding has been good! And getting some good miles in on it, it’s so good to do training on the gravel. I would say not really for W2W as it is two completely different styles of riding/racing. Gravel is also full gas but you have to manage the effort more than a day at W2W. The days at W2W are all in from the start. So just who survives the longest will win! Haha.

WA: What is your and Matt’s greatest strength as a team when it comes to racing Wines2Whales?
Tristan: I would say just racing together is good because both have the same mindset about a race and how to race. We just both want to go as fast as possible and win whenever we race so I think that mindset just “clicks”. We work well together and help each where one is stronger than the other on sections on route.

Tristan Nortje Racing Gravel At The Prince George 100 Miler
Tristan has been turning up the heat on the gravel scene, even in the rain at Prince George 100 Miler where he took the wine. (c) Ray Cox

Wessel Botha – Imbuko {type}DEV equipped by Giant – 2nd 2021 (typeDEV NanoTime)

WA: Wessel, we’re sure that you’re going to want to step up from the 3rd podium spot yourself and Marco earned in 2021 to a top 2 or even a win. How has the preparation been for yourself and Pieter going into the 2022 Wines2Whales?
Wessel: Last year’s 2nd place definitely left me hungry and wanting to repeat the success that I’ve had in previous years. My preparation has been really good. We haven’t had any racing after Cape Pioneer but we have been putting in the work and I’m confident that we will be fighting it out for a good result.

WA: What excites you about partnering up with Pieter for a change?
Wessel: I’ve always wanted to race with Pieter so I’m happy to finally get the chance. We are good mates and we’ll definitely have some fun out there while racing flat out!

Pieter Du Toit – Imbuko {type}DEV equipped by Giant

WA: Pieter, you are certainly one of the powerhouses on the South African riding scene at the moment. What aspect of racing at Wines2Whales would you say suits you best?
Pieter: Ja, this was a good year for me so far. Must say, I am really keen for this W2W! And riding with Wessel for the first time is going to be lekker. He has some great results with W2W and it is great having a partner with such experience.

WA: Indeed you’ve traded in Marco for Wessel this weekend, Wessel having achieved a 2nd place at last year’s W2W alongside Matt Beers. Where do you think your competitive edge lies as a team?
Pieter: I have done some training with Wessel this week and really enjoyed it so hopefully I will be on par. But the strengths and weaknesses, Wessel is definitely the stronger climber so I will just hold on there. But on the gradual climbs and flatter long sections I will do my part. So ja, let’s see if we can take a win!

Arno du Toit – Insect Science Mountain Biking – 4th 2021

WA: Arno, yourself and Keagan were 1 place off the podium in 2021 at Wines2Whales. What might you say is a unique demand that this race places on riders?
Arno: Wines2Whales will for sure be a challenging feat racing against the best riders in the country on a very diverse route. Looking after our equipment and ourselves will be a key aspect. The days are short-ish, but managing your effort over the 3 days will still be important. The route at the Wines2Whales fits into our strengths, with both of us enjoying Cross-Country racing. The fast, punchy and technical terrain will be a great fit, however the Gantow portage on day 1 is always a curveball for most top teams.
In general though, speeds are high so balancing staying near the front to avoid the yoyo effect with hiding from the wind is always very important and tricky. However, we like to not overthink it and just race our bikes!

WA: Has your approach to this year’s race differed at all from 2021 and if so how?
Arno: Last year mentally, we were a bit fried as W2W does come a bit late in the season for us. This year I took a bit of time off already, so I am a lot fresher and the motivation is high. I’m sure the form will be good and I’m ready and excited to dig deep!

Comments From Pro Riders On The 2022 Fnb Wines2Whales Race
Keagan and Arno are a thoroughly seasoned team. They race well together and are always present at the front of the pack turning the screws.

 Keagan Bontekoning – Insect Science Mountain Biking – 4th 2021

WA: What do you look forward to the most about the FNB Wines2Whales race and lining up with Arno again?
Keagan: I’m excited to line up at the 2022 Wines2Whales alongside Arno who has a lot of experience at this race especially now that it starts with the original route of a tough climb, followed by the portage which has proven to be a deciding factor in the overall in previous years.

Getting off and sprinting next to your bike on burning legs always throws a spanner in the works, as you know we are mostly better at cycling than running. I’m very excited with the addition of some awesome new trails and the hot paced racing with everyone eager to end off the year on a high!

WA: Are you coming into W2W looking to close off the 2022 season or build into the 2023 season?
Keagan: I’m looking forward to ending the year on a high with Wines2whales being my last big goal of the year. I plan on doing some other events following the finish in Hermanus but getting across the line will be the last big goal for me. I’ll then take some time off and look towards building towards Epic next year!

Marco Joubert – Imbuko {type}DEV equipped by Giant – 3rd 2021

WA: When we last spoke, Marco, it sounded like you had taken a bit of downtime after a big year of racing. How have you managed your form at the end of the season to be strong for W2W? Are you going to do a longer off-season post-W2W or is this the start of your build into 2023?
Marco: We’re going to swap up the teams a bit for this year’s Wines2Whales. Wessel and Pieter will ride together and they will be the A team and then myself and Rudi Koen will be there in support. I’ve been off the bike a bit and busy with base training for next year so I’m not 100% race fit, haha, but I am still fit enough to possibly have a good event. I don’t really know what to expect at the race but both of our teams will definitely be going for the podium, with Wessel and Pieter focused on going for the win.

WA: Are you looking forward to racing with Rudi again?
Marco: I’m super stoked to be racing with Rudi again! The last time we raced together was at PE2Plett in 2020, a breakout event for him. He’s had some bad luck this year, breaking his ankle in the beginning of the year which set him back quite a bit and he missed out on a lot of racing. Now he’s building strength for 2023. He’ll be on top form for Wines2Whales and I’ll be on not-so-top form, haha. He’ll be looking after me strength wise and I’ll be showing him the ropes with race tactics. We’re a good combination and we’re looking forward to Wines2Whales. It is such a cool event and we’re keen to shred some trails!

Comments From Pro Riders On The 2022 Fnb Wines2Whales Race
Marco Joubert has had a cracker 2022 season alongside Pieter du Toit and in his own right. Watch out 2023..

Well there you have it ladies and gents! The top dogs have put it out there now all that is left to do is sit back and watch the battle unfold! Check in on @wildairbike for daily updates and give the event a follow on @wines_2_whales