This past weekend I took part in the Contego Wines2Whales three day MTB race with Daniel Dobinson from iRide Africa. Both of us come from a XCO background so we were excited to see how we would we shape up in a longer multiday event.
Our buildup was good with our only pre-race hiccup being me not feeling well for the 2 days before the race. Day 1 was hard, period. Starting in B Batch was not ideal, we caught the back of A Batch going up the first climb of Helderberg “Neck”, with the first single track being completely blocked. Some unique lines down the single track got us through most times but both Dan and I took a spill while trying to get past A batch riders.
I was not feeling great on day 1 but luckily Dan was a machine, he set the pace for the entire 70km with me hanging on for dear life. Things became interesting coming down the amazing trails of Hans-se-Kop when my front brakes suddenly stop working. My front brake pads fell out! Seriously. This meant I had to negotiate the last 20km using just my back brakes, which is completely possible but your speed into corners is really slow (or too fast and you are forced to adopt the MX cornering style, sometimes successfully). To rub salt into my wounds, just 2 km later my leg cramps kicked in. The compulsory portage up and over Sir Lowry’s pass was not lekker, we took it slow and limped home to Grabouw in a surprising 13th place overall, 5th subvets. That afternoon I spent the best R175 of my life and got a life changing massage.
Day 2 was amazing. Starting in A batch was a treat and we rode with the front 10 teams for the first 10km. A definite highlight was following ex u23 World Champ, Manual Fumic down some Oak Valley trails. He has some mad skills. Things split up through the first couple single tracks and we soon found ourselves alone with another team going through WP1. We rode together through Paul Cluver all the way to the top of Lebanon forest where we managed to get into the single track first. We pinned our ears back and did not see them again, and we managed to catch and pass another team by the bottom. During the last 10km we were caught by the Daiken Gu Elite team which culminated in a sprint finish for 10th place which we lost. We ended day 2 11th overall and 3rd subvets.
Day 3 was cancelled due to heavy rain and cold weather. There were some mixed feelings about the decision but in the end I feel it was the correct choice. It was simply too wet and cold for 1000 riders to ride 83km through lots of singletrack.
Thanks to the organisers, what a treat and I look forward to being back next year.
Full results can be found here.
Below are the official press releases, enjoy!
Dominic Calitz and Matthys Beukes charged to victory in Grabouw on Friday, 11 November 2011, completing Stage One of the much anticipated Contego Wines2Whales MTB Race powered by Maserati in an impressive time of 03hours17minutes26seconds.
According to Calitz his game plan on the day was just to keep up with Matthys. “We took the lead 1km after the start. From there it only grew to one minute, but we worked really hard to keep the gab. The portage section over Gantouw Pass was insanely tough. We’ll definitely feel the pressure tomorrow, but we’ll do our best to maintain our lead. I’d just like to thank the organisers for the excellent track that we got to experience today,” says Calitz. Team Blend Elite’s Christiaan Kriek and David Morison came in 2nd, while Team Contego Giant’s Adriaan Louw and Louis-Bresler Knipe finished 3rd.
Defending Mixed Team Champions, Yolandè de Villiers and Johan Labuschange proved to be fighting fit on the day, taking gold in a time of 03hours50minutes36seconds. For De Villiers winning stage one was a bonus. “I really didn’t expect to win today. Candice Neethling is young enough to be my daughter and I thought that youth would have the upper-hand. Although the route was tough, with the portage section feeling longer than ever, it was brilliant, featuring a bit of everything including the most amazing single track. We’re looking forward to stage two”, says De Villiers. Team BMC Mr Price Bizhub’s Candice Neethling and James Reid came in 2nd, while Team Unleashed’s Hilana Marais and Mark Moir finished 3rd.
Catherine Williamson and Ischen Stopforth’s finishing time of 03hours52minutes39seconds secured them a 1st place position in the women’s team category. According to Williamson stage one was really good, but hard. “The race featured a tough start with a long climb followed by some very technical single track. I’ve only been mountain biking for a year now and although I enjoy the technical single track, I still have a lot to learn. All in all we had a fantastic day. The route is just amazing and beautiful. Our plan for stage two is to ride as hard as possible and hopefully we’ll be able to maintain our leave”, says Williamson. Team Contego Girls’ Ariane Kleinhans and Mariske Strauss came in 2nd, while Team Develop’s Caitlin De Wet and Yolandi Du Toit finished 3rd.
Matthys Beukes and Dominic Calitz were two riders on a mission in Grabouw on Saturday, 12 November 2011 when they took on the second stage of the Contego Wines2Whales MTB Race powered by Maserati. Making the 65km stage look like a breeze, Beukes and Calitz rode to victory in a time of 02hours42minutes06seconds.
According to Beukes, stage two of the Wines2Whales was by far one of the best mountain bike stages that he has ever taken part in. “The route was just unbelievable. Today was proper mountain biking, I wish all mountain bike routes could be like this. Our goal for today was to increase our gap, while using as little energy as possible. We didn’t expect such tough competition from Manuel Filip Fumic and David Leiman, they gave us a good go. I enjoyed every moment of today’s stage, it was good fun. Our strategy for stage three is to play it safe”, says Beukes. Manuel Filip Fumic and David Leiman of Team Happy Days came in 2nd, while Adriaan Louw and Louis-Bresler Knipe of Team Contego Giant finished 3rd.
Team Contego Girl’s Ariane Kleinhans and Mariske Strauss where the ladies team to beat on the day. They completed the stage in a time of 03hours11minutes26seconds. According to Kleinhans, they had a good day out on the route. “I am very proud of Mariske, she showed what she can do today. We had a lot of fun. Tomorrow we’re going to go out and race”, says Kleinhans. Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson of Team Bizhub came in 2nd, while Caitlin De Wet and Yolandi Du Toit of Team Develop finished 3rd.
Candice Neethling and James Reid of Team BMC MrPrice Bizhub claimed their first stage win, crossing the finish line in a deserving time of 03hours01minutes59seconds. According to Neethling, stage two was beautiful. “I really enjoyed today’s single track. I tried to go as hard as possible and need to thank James for pushing me. The Wines2Whales Race is really well organised and it is clear that a lot of work went into the routes. It’s definitely an event that everyone can enjoy. There isn’t a huge gap between us and the lead team going into stage three. Our goal for tomorrow will be to hang in there and see what we can do”, says Neethling. Yolande De Villiers and Johan Labuschagne of Team Cycle Lab KTM came in 2nd, while Hanlie Booyens and Russel De Jager of Team Robert Daniel Mixed finished 3rd.
Wines2Whales Commissaires, Arno Neethling and Richard Durrant opted to cancel the third and final stage of the Contego Wines2Whales MTB Race due to dangerous conditions created by wet and windy weather experienced in the early hours of Sunday morning (13 November 2011).
According to Neethling rider safety will always be the main concern. “The heavy rain experienced in the area would have compromised medical crew response en route. Rider safety on route itself could also not be guaranteed. We tried to change the course as much as possible to ensure rider safety, however cancelling stage three still remained the best decision on the day. We realise that it’s a mountain bike race, but it’s also not an extreme challenge and our main concern remains to get our riders home safely. The decision was taken in consultation with the route directors, disaster management, and the medical and rescue teams appointed for the event”, says Neethling. Neethling and Durrant were appointed as Commissaires by Cycling SA’s mountain biking division.
After two days of racing, covering a combined distance of 135km (70km on Stage One and 65km on Stage Two), Dominic Calitz and Matthys Beukes of Team MTBDestination.com secured the title of 2011 Contego Wines2Whales Champions in the men’s team category. According to Calitz winning the race is a wonderful feeling. “Of course stage three being cancelled is a bit of a letdown, as winning this stage would have been the cherry on the cake for me. All in all I am very happy with our achievement and we had an awesome race. Although our partnership was a last minute decision, it was great riding with Matthys. He’s really strong, I found myself having to hold on. The Wines2Whales is definitely one of the best stage races in South Africa, it is true mountain biking. We look forward to returning next year”, says Calitz. Team MTBDestination.com completed the two stages in a combined time of 05hours59minutes32seconds. Team Blend Elite’s Christiaan Kriek and David Morison placed 2nd, while Team Contego Giant’s Louis-Bresler Knipe and Adriaan Louw secured an overall 3rd place position.
Ischen Stopforth and Catherine Williamson of Team Bizhub rode off with the title of 2011 Contego Wines2Whales MTB Champions in the women’s team category after completing the two stages in a combined time of 07hours07minutes50seconds. According to Stopforth the Wines2Whales Route was fantastic. “I really enjoyed racing with Catherine again. Stage Two was great with the Contego Girls giving us a go. We’re really happy to take the win especially with it being my last race of the year. We look forward to coming back in 2012”, says Stopforth. Team Contego Girls’ Ariane Kleinhans and Mariske Strauss placed 2nd, while Team Fair Cape Ladies’ Desiree Loubser and Marleen Lourens secured an overall 3rd place position.
Yolande De Villiers and Johan Labuschagne of Team Cycle Lab KTM managed to successfully defend their Mixed Team title at the 2011 Contego Wines2Whales MTB Race after completing the two stages in a combined time of 06hous55minutes29seconds. “It’s sad about stage three having to be cancelled, but I am sure that all the riders realise that it was the right decision”, says De Villiers. “The 2011 Wines2Whales route was awesome. The single track is by far the best in South Africa. It was fantastic to win. We’re looking forward to returning next year”. Candice Neethling and James Reid of Team BMC MrPrice Bizhub placed 2nd, while Hanlie Booyens and Russel De Jager of Team Robert Daniel Mixed secured an overall 3rd place position.