Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz saw the second sprint finish in as many days on Saturday, 28 October. There was again drama though, on the Oak Valley finish line, as Marco Joubert went down and ceded time to Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen. The Cannondale Factory Racing pair had controlled the pace throughout the stage but were unable to distance Imbuko Giant. Behind them PYGA Euro Steel stepped up on to the podium for the day, but were unable to overturn their deficit to Elysator.ch who remain third overall.
After the rain, which fell on Oak Valley and Paul Cluver Wine Estates during the preceding, Chardonnay and Pinotage events, the decision was made to shorten Stage 2. Race Directo,r Hendrico Burger, removed some of the muddiest and most rain-affected trails from the 68 kilometre course, leaving the route 55 kilometres in length. This decision was widely appreciated by the riders.
“I actually enjoyed today more than I have in previous years,” Gert Heyns, of Valley Electrical Titan Racing, praised. “They took out the damaged singletracks, leaving in the ones which drain better. Those are grippy and fun in the slightly wet conditions.”
PYGA Euro Steel were the early aggressors, as they had the most to gain after slipping off the pace in the closing stages of the previous day. “Phil [Buys] made it really tough early on,” Arno du Toit, of Insect Science, noted. “This type of terrain really suits him and he had us on the back foot. We got distanced, fought our way back and then I crashed.”
The Insect Science team were not the only outfit to struggle under the pressure of Philip Buys and Alex Miller. Elysator.ch’s Konny Looser and Felix Stehli also dropped from the lead group, leaving PYGA Euro Steel, Imbuko Giant A and Cannondale Factory Racing to contest the stage victory. “Initially I felt good, but in the last 40 minutes I started to suffer a bit too and we had to knock the pace off slightly,” Buys allowed.
This meant that the men in yellow were out front alone with their primary rivals from Stage 1. “We put in a few digs but we just couldn’t shake Marco [Joubert] and Wessel [Botha],” Hatherly stated. “We would have liked to create a gap, but we were also confident if it came down to a sprint.”
Coming into the final bend the Cannondale Factory Racing team held prime positions and opened out their sprints perfectly, powering across the line to take stage honours. Behind them Joubert lost control and briefly hit the deck. The Imbuko Giant rider was fortunately entirely unscathed and crossed the line 12 seconds after the stage winners, after having picked himself up.
“Two stages and two victories are a great return for us,” Hatherly added. “Though anything can happen on Stage 3, especially with the portage down Gantouw Pass. You never know how your legs are going to react after running down there.”
That run down the compulsory portage also had the Fairtree DP World Cannondale team slightly concerned. The Exxaro and Amateur Jersey leaders were thus eager to extend their general classification advantages ahead of the final stage.
In the Exxaro Jersey competition, for riders from historically disadvantaged communities, they added 4 minutes to their buffer over Obvious Khorombi and Masixole Zondani who leapfrogged up the standings into second. The Exxaro/Tamela 1 combination will start the last day 13 minutes and 48 seconds down. In the battle for the white Amateur jerseys, Kusaselihle Ngidi and Damon Terblanche ceded 1 minute to their Fairtree DP World Cannondale 2 stablemates, but bested the Mullets – Stuart Marais and Oliver Munnik – by 43 seconds to extend their overall advantage to 6 minutes and 45 seconds.
Sunday’s Stage 3 takes the teams back to Lourensford for the Grand Finale of the 2023 FNB Wines2Whales. The day begins in Oak Valley before snaking above the Eikenhof Dam and into the famous A to Z trails. Like the Jakkals singletrack of Stage 2, A to Z runs best in damp conditions when the sandy soils are bound together by moisture.
At the highest point of the trails the route drops from the Elgin plateau into the Helderberg Basin along the Gantouw Pass portage. After passing through Idiom Wine Estate, a fast run through Vergelegen’s Game Reserve takes the teams into Lourensford where a final climb awaits, before the Canal Trail runs all the way home to a hero’s welcome on the finish line.
To share in the excitement of Stage 3 follow the 2023 FNB Wines2Whales at @wines_2_whaleson Instagram or like the Wines2Whales Facebook page. Regular updates will be posted on the Instagram and Facebook stories. Fans can also catch the daily highlights on the Epic SeriesYouTube channel and read all about how the racing unfolded on www.epic-series.com/wines2whales.
FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Leading Results
Elite Men | Stage 2 Results:
- Cannondale Factory Racing: Simon Andreassen & Alan Hatherley (1:59:48)
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (2:00:00 | +12)
- PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Alex Miller (2:01:32 | +44)
- Insect Science: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (2:02:17 | +2:29)
- Elysator.ch: Konny Looser & Felix Stehli (2:02:19 | +2:31)
Elite Men’s General Classification after Stage 2:
- Cannondale Factory Racing: Simon Andreassen & Alan Hatherley (4:07:10)
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (4:07:22 | +12)
- Elysator.ch: Konny Looser & Felix Stehli (4:11:16 | +4:05)
- PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Alex Miller (4:12:20 | +5:09)
- Insect Science: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (4:14:01 | +6:51)
Exxaro Jesey | General Classification after Stage 2
- Fairtree DP World Cannondale 1: Kusaselihle Ngidi and Damon Terblanche (4:43:28)
- Exxaro/Tamela 1: Obvious Khorombi & Masixole Zondani (4:57:16 | +13:48)
- Exxaro Academy 3: Siyabonga Ntsele & Gilbert Mathaba (5:01:51 | +18:23)
Source: FNB Wines2Whales