Excitement builds as an elite field of mountain bikers (local and from abroad) prepare to take on the 9th annual FNB Wines2Whales (W2W) Mountain Bike (MTB) Race that will start at Lourensford Wine Estate (Somerset West) on Friday, 03 November 2017.
Top teams to look for will include: Swiss contenders Christoph Sauser with Konny Looser (Investec-Songo), Gawie Combrinck with Nico Bell (NAD Pro MTB), Matthys Beukes with Philip Buys (PYGA Euro Steel 1), Waylon Woolcock with HB Kruger (Team BCX), Alan Hatherly with Matthew Beers (Team Spur/RED-E), Phillimon Sebona with Julien Jessop (PYGA Euro Steel 2), Robyn de Groot with Sabine Spitz of Germany (Team Ascendis Health), Ariane Lüthi and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (Team Spur), Vera Adrian with Candice Lill (Dormakaba) and Cherise Willeit with Vicky van der Merwe (Team Squirt) to mention just a few.
Team Investec-Songo: It’s been three years since Christoph Sauser and Konny Looser claimed gold at the FNB W2W MTB Race (2014). Undoubtedly both riders will be hoping for a repeat performance in 2017.
“The characteristic route, racing action, vibe and of course raising funds for songo.info are what attract me to W2W,” says Sauser. “I enjoy all three stages because they are very different from each other. That’s why I love the entire route package. Konny and I make a well balanced team and we both like to win.”
According to Looser, W2W is his favorite SA event. “It has a nice format and super nice routes. I enjoy the second stage. It’s fast and features a lot of single track. Our team strategy will be less thinking and more dirt. I’d really like to win my third W2W Race. ”
Team NAD Pro MTB: “W2W is a great race with awesome trails,” says Combrinck. “I enjoy the third stage the most. I’ve always had a good race on the last day. Our goal is to win.”
Nico Bell echoes his team mates sentiments, “I enjoy Stage Three the most. We’re going to the sea. Our team strategy will be to hang tight, wait for opportunities and then go flat out.”
Team PYGA Euro Steel 1: “W2W is a nice event to end the season off with,” says Beukes. “The trails are good and the vibe is chilled. I must admit, the good prize purse is also a draw card.”
“My favorite trails are featured during Stage Two,” says Buys. “Our team strength is our technical abilities and mental strength. We’ll ride offensively, while keeping it smooth and fast. We’d love to end off the season with a final victory.”
Team BCX: “I enjoy the awesome trails and great event hospitality,” says Woolcock. “Stage Two is my favorite stage because it has the most single track. Our team strength will be consistency, while keeping it positive will be our strategy.”
“I enjoy Stage One the most,” says Kruger. “This stage is unpredictable and the portage gives it a very different dynamic. I am looking forward to mingling with mates after a tough day in the saddle. Our goal is to finish on the top step of the podium after three days of racing.”
Team Spur/RED-E: “I’ve heard that W2W has incredible single track and awesome racing,” says Hatherly. “I had serious FOMO last year following the race on Twitter. Looking at the route profiles, I think that Stage One would probably be the most fun. Our goal is to be on the overall GC podium.”
“W2W was the first big stage race that I did when I first started mountain biking,” says Beers. “Stage Two is awesome. It’s really technical and fast. It should suit us nicely. There’s going to be quite a few strong teams this year. I suspect our toughest competition will come from Team PYGA Euro Steel 1 and Team Investec-Songo.”
Team PYGA Euro Steel 2: “Jullien and I would like to finish in the top field,” says Sebona. “Most of the top names will be on the start line. Our strategy will be to work together. Racing won’t be easy, but we are looking forward to it.”
Team Ascendis Health: “Sabine and I make a great team,” says de Groot. “We race well together. As professional athletes we will obviously focus on stage wins, with the overall victory a major objective. I am really looking forward to sharing this awesome race with Sabine who will be racing it for the first time.”
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about W2W,” says Spitz. “I’ve been told that there is a lot of cool single track and that the routes are really scenic. I’ve also heard about suspension bridges. I’m looking forward to being showered with champagne and swimming with the whales.”
Team Spur: According to Lüthi, W2W is one of SA’s greatest stage races. “The route and the organisation of the event are absolutely top class. Of course the Spur burger that’s waiting for us at the end of each stage is a huge drawcard. Stage Two is a lot of fun. The hills and overall stage are just short enough to keep the suffer level at bay so that one can truly enjoy all the fantastic single tracks which Oak Valley is known for.”
“Stage One is my favorite stage because it starts with a climb,” says Moolman Pasio. “Climbing is definitely my biggest strength on the mountain bike. It also helps if I can get a head start into the single track. Being a roadie I’m not particularly fast in the single track. This will be the first time that I race in the Elite Women’s Category at W2W. I’m looking forward to the challenge and know that I will be in good hands with Ariane as my partner and Team Spur as my support crew.”
Team Dormakaba: “It’s the wine and great time had with friends that attract me to W2W,” says Adrian. “All three stages are equally great. You get to enjoy the trails without traffic and indulge in yummy Food Lovers Market treats at the water points. Our goal will be to have the best last race together no matter the outcome.”
Team Squirt: Cherise Willeit has completed four W2W’s events. “The scenery is definitely a big highlight,” says Willeit. “I love the atmosphere of W2W and how it brings all types of cyclists together. It’s an event where you get to mingle with everyone. The food has always been absolutely superb. Vicky and I will ride to have fun and make memories. My advice to MTB newcomers is to take it easy. It’s important to pace correctly and to leave something in the tank for the last stage.”