His and Hers
Sean and Joanne Badenhorst are a married couple with full-time work and family commitments. Having ridden bicycles for over 30 years, they’ve got loads of experience and are now tackling some mid-life bicycle riding challenges together. Their most recent challenge was the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz, a three-day mountain bike stage race in the Western Cape of South Africa.
It wasn’t their first stage race as teammates, but it was Joanne’s first Wines2Whales. Sean has done three previously. Here’s how their race went…
We did it! Well there was never any doubt that Sean would manage, but as we tackled this together and he helped me every pedal stroke of the way, damn right WE did it.
We really were very lucky with the weather. With only a bit of wind on Saturday and some light drizzle early on Sunday, the cool conditions made for three great days on the bike.
A brief summary of each day:
Stage 1 – Lourensford to Oak Valley: I called this the Rocky Stage. According to my Garmin Fenix 5s, we rode 63.26km, with 1406m elevation (Strava corrected that to 1689m). The stage took us 5hrs15min. The first section of climbing that I feared so much, actually wasn’t that terrible. It was gradual and uncomplicated. The portage section gets really tough near the top, and it is so easy to lose your footing and slip, which I did a few times. Just before the portage and once over the top of the Gantouw Pass, the trail is quite jagged and rocky, but there is a ton of cool flowing singletrack too.
Stage 2 – Out and back from Oak Valley: I called this the Switchback Stage, which was 65.03km with 1275m of elevation. Where we got to start the day definitely impacted on the flow of the ride. We got caught behind a few less skilled riders, and so didn’t get to enjoy the early sections of singletrack to the max. None-the-less, there was plenty of singletrack fun to be had, with quite a lot of both up and down switchbacks. Riders had a tough decision on this day, take an official short cut and get back to watch the Rugby World Cup Final, or complete the full route, and risk missing a bit of the rugby.
Obviously, we did the full route. We had a bit of wind to deal with later in the stage, and it felt like a bit of a slog, especially as I had a little pain in my knee, a blister on the palm of my hand and a strained right Achilles tendon. We finished the stage in 5hrs08min and caught the second half of the rugby. The atmosphere at the race village was just too special.
Stage 3 – Oak Valley to Onrus (just outside Hermanus): The Sandy Stage. Not only did we ride across the pallets at the beach, but we encountered some mildly sandy trails, with one or two thick sand pits along the way. At 69.21km with 967m of elevation in 4hrs35min, it was not a bad day, considering I almost didn’t start. The Achilles strain was so painful. I even contemplated pulling out at the first water point. The pain was rather intense, but it got to a point and didn’t get worse. Sean kept saying, “we haven’t come this far, to only come this far”. I had so many people supporting me; friends, family and colleagues. I HAD to finish. I wanted to finish, for all these people, but also for myself, for Sean and for my late mum, who I know would have been my biggest supporter.
And we finished. We did it. The welcome sight of the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales finish line left me feeling very proud of myself. And I hope I made all the people supporting me proud.
The 2019 FNB Wines2Whales was an incredible event to be part of. I didn’t come last, I was not broken at the end, and it left me wanting more. More impeccable race village vibe, more rider hospitality, more rider camaraderie and more natural and flowing trails. The event ran smoothly for us from start to finish, what more could we have asked for?
Having ridden many stage races in South Africa over the years, I’ve grown to love the sub-culture at the events. A hard morning of riding followed by an afternoon of relaxation and socialising only to be repeated the next day – in beautiful parts of the country. I wanted my wife, Joanne, to experience this with me and so we have done a few stage races together.
Back in May we set the 2019 Wines2Whales as our goal. We’d tackle it as Team TREAD. We always like to have a couple of goal events to aim for each year to keep us focussed on training for the ‘next thing’. Having done three previously, I knew it would be a challenge for Joanne. There’s a high percentage of climbing for the distance, which means it’s generally steeper than most stage races – especially those we’d done before. We also live in Joburg, where there’s not much in the way of steep, long climbs to train on. She’s neither a keen nor a natural climber.
But while Joanne wasn’t 100% confident she’d finish Wines2Whales, I was. She put in a good three months of solid training, which was disrupted a bit, by the passing of her Mum and some injuries, giving her doubts. But ultimately, she didn’t have anything to fear because she aced the race.
Well, when I say aced it, she finished in a reasonable time without any drama. Unfortunately, I have a cyclist build and was unable to carry my bike and hers up the Gantouw Pass compulsory portage on Stage 1.
The rocky, uneven climb was rather wet and she slipped backwards a few times, which led to a strain of her right Achilles, which was to be a real challenge for her on Stages 2 and 3. On both days there were times that I noticed she was crying from the pain. She also considered pulling out at the first water point on Stage 3. But I encouraged her to continue and told her to appreciate the stunning scenery to distract her. She’s a softie and a toughie and that’s what I love about her…
The event itself was up a notch in terms of organisation (I last did it in 2017). Everything was really impressive. It’s now part of the Epic Series of events and is organised by the same passionate, experienced people that organise the Absa Cape Epic. The FNB Wines2Whales has always been one of my favourite stage races. But after the 2019 edition, which I loved every moment of (except the Stage 1 portage, which is part of the challenge), I have to move it to the top and call it my favourite stage race. Wait, I completed it with my amazing wife, so it’s OUR favourite stage race…
Note: I have been documenting our 2019 FNB Wines2Whales experience with a series of posts on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, so for more detail and a visual feast of the beauty of this race, find Sean Badenhorst on Facebook and sean_badenhorst on Instagram.
For a record of our weekly daily in the build-up to the 2019 FNB Wines2Whale, click on the links below:
5 weeks to go: NOW THATS A BETTER TRAINING WEEK!
4 weeks to go: TEAMWORK FOUNDATION IN PLACE
3 weeks to go: THE VALUE OF SOLID PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL PREPARATION
2 weeks 2 go: OH OH! A MIDLIFE HEALTH CHALLENGE WEEK
1 week to go: WELCOME CHANGE OF SCENERY AS RACE WEEK LOOMS!
Race week: OUR FATE IS NOW IN THE HANDS OF THE WEATHER