The FNB Wines2Whales Switchback is no simple route reverse. It is a dramatic reimagining of the trails which usually take riders from the winelands to the whales each year. The 2020 FNB Wines2Whales will switchback; leading riders from the whales, in Hermanus, to the wines of Lourensford Wine Estate, over three spectacular three-day stage races.
Chardonnay: 30 October 1 November | Pinotage: 2 – 4 November | Shiraz: 6 – 8 November
“Our route team, under the guidance of Johan Kriegler, has been refining the FNB Wines2Whales route since 2010,” Race Director, Hendrico Burger said. “In the last decade, countless singletracks have been built in mountain biking hotspots, like the Hemel en Aarde Valley and Elgin, but also in less well-ridden areas like Gaf se Bos and the Helderberg basin. The team has added new trails annually but to fully make use of some of the most exciting trails we had to re-look at the route.”
“That’s where the concept of the Switchback was born” Burger elaborated. “Not only is it an interesting twist on the well-established FNB Wines2Whales race format, but it also gives us a chance to utilise trails which the traditional direction simply cannot. Going forward, the Switchback will run in alternate years with the historic FNB W2W route, starting in 2020; 2021 then sees a return to the traditional Lourensford, Oak Valley, Onrus course” he explained.
Stage 1, of the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback, will start in Hermanus. From there the route will snake up Rotary Drive, spreading the start batches for the Hemel en Aarde singletracks. Climbing through the wine region famous for its Pinot Noir, the race then diverts out of the valley onto the Karwyderskraal road before slipping into the Gaf se Bos singletracks. With the first half of the day’s climbing conquered, the Switchback will twist and turn through Wildekrans, along all-new trails. Then it is onwards and upwards; ascending Kat Pas, after passing through Botrivier, to Houw Hoek. Avoiding the brutal Houw Hoek switchbacks, riders cross under the N2 and enjoy the thrills of Lebanon’s trails. After dipping under the highway again it is homeward bound via Paul Cluver and a final fun section of Oak Valley singletrack.
With Oak Valley hosting the race village, the usual FNB Wines2Whales luxuries will be on hand with the now familiar race village lay-out. Frequent FNB W2W riders might be unfamiliar with the route to Oak Valley, but they will feel right at home once they arrive. Staples like the FNB Rider Lounge and the CBC Chill Zone will remain, as will the Spur Steak Ranches burger station and the Squirt Kränzle bike wash.
Stage 2 will remain the famous ‘Play Day’. In the spirit of switching it up, there will be investing in trail building specifically for the 2020 edition and the route will feature old favourites in new orders, interspersed with brand-new trails. Riders will be able to explore Paul Cluver and Oak Valley like never before, while also experiencing more of the Lebanon Trails and a reimagined Peri Playpark.
The final stage will take riders from Oak Valley to Lourensford Wine Estate. This ensures a glamourous finale to a truly special edition of the race. Starting with a new, and as yet, top-secret route out of Oak Valley towards the Eikenhof Dam; there the revamped A to Z trails await. Then, for the first time in the race’s history, riders will descend, rather than ascend, the Gantouw Pass. It will remain a compulsory portage however, but carrying bikes down a mountain is undoubtedly easier than up it.
At the foot of the Gantouw Pass, the trails of Knorhoek and Wedderville will lead riders across the Helderberg Basin onto the extensive Vergelegen farm. From Vergelegen it is fun and games on a combination of virgin trails and new approaches to existing singletracks on Lourensford Wine Estate.
In summary, the Switchback will feature three stages that hover around the 70 kilometre mark. The route team has worked hard to ensure that Serious GEES wins the day, and with the new route starting and finishing at sea level, riders can expect similar amounts of climbing to the traditional FNB W2W route. The new direction makes the opening stage arguably more challenging, while Stage 2 will remain similarly difficult to the 2019 edition, and the final stage could well prove easier without the trials of the Art House climb.
“The FNB Wines2Whales is steeped in history and changing up a route that has become a firm favourite amongst mountain bikers is never a decision that is made without research and consideration. With the support of the race founders, Johan Kriegler and Hendrico Burger, as well as our various partners, we are extremely excited to offer riders this new route and experience, backed up with the same trusted organisational excellence and world class rider experience. We know that the fresh, unique route is sure to carve its way into South African, and international, mountain bikers’ hearts and yearly calendars” said Michael Flinn, Managing Director of the FNB Wines2Whales.
Karen Clements, Event Director for the FNB Wines2Whales shared the sentiment and added, “The FNB Wines2Whales has always been a race that places rider satisfaction at the forefront of every decision made, be it a sponsor partnership, the gear included in the race pack, and of course route changes. The 2020 FNB Wines2Whales Switchback is sure to showcase even more of the spectacular riding that the Overberg has to offer, but in a format many riders have not experienced prior as they make their way from Hermanus, to Oak Valley, and finally to Lourensford.”