Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay saw the general classification leaders of the Elite Women, Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath, outsprint Robyn de Groot and Amy McDougall; on Saturday, 26 October. Racing a circular loop of the famed Elgin trails from Oak Valley, the Faces team secured their second stage victory, and in so doing, extended their overall lead by a further 2.2 seconds.
Leading riders during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel
After the relentless rain, which fell throughout the opening stage of the race, the roads and trails were exceptionally muddy, even though the sun was shining. Riders crossed the finish line caked in mud. “You can see from my face how muddy it was out there. I’m covered from head to toe” Lill laughed.
“If anything, the sun coming out made it more slippery. The singletracks were tacky, but not in a fun way” Lill explained. “Because we had a minute and a half lead, we could afford to be conservative today. It would have been so easy to make a mistake and crash in the slippery conditions. We could only relax once we crossed the finish line today. It was quite stressful.”
The ladies under starting orders during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage 2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Nick Muzik
The presence of the dormakaba and Fairtree-Rotwild teams alongside them, for much of the stage, ensured a tense day. “I couldn’t quite stay with the group on the climbs” Jennie Stenerhag, who finished third alongside Nadine Rieder, confided. “But on every descent, we would catch back up again. By the third time it happened, I was quite relaxed. On the Lebanon singletracks, we caught the Faces and dormakaba teams again, after having been distanced on the climb to the trails. It was great fun riding that section again in an FNB Wines2Whales. Unfortunately just before the last waterpoint, at the Hickory Shack, a piece of wire got tangled in my cassette. It took quite a while to get it out and I knew then that we would not be able to catch the other two teams” the Fairtree-Rotwild rider clarified.
Stenerhag’s misfortune left dormakaba and Faces to sprint it out for stage honours. “I was stuck in a gear because my derailleur had stopped working with all the mud” Morath revealed. “Candice let me lead into the last singletrack and created a bit of space for me to get a head-start for the sprint.”
Amy Beth McDougall and Robyn de Groot from team Dormakaba during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Xavier Briel“
I was on the limit for most of the day” McDougall said, providing the dormakaba perspective of how the race unfolded. “I didn’t have anything extra for an attack or to really contest the sprint.” “We are 1 minute and 34 seconds behind” McDougall’s partner De Groot pointed out. “If we are to make that up, we will have to make our move early tomorrow.”
Team Kross Spur’s Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard also experienced challenges today, but theirs weren’t limited to the mud. Lüthi found herself running for the final kilometres of the race, with her bike at hand, after her rear derailleur snapped off.
The fact that more rain is predicted to fall on Sunday will ensure an exciting finale to the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay. The 69-kilometre-long route from Oak Valley to Onrus provides opportunities aplenty for aggressive racing. With the record-setting R100 000 prize on the line, Lill and Morath will have another day of high stress as De Groot and McDougall do everything in their power to usurp the current leaders.
Riders during the 2019 FNB Wine2Whales Chardonnay 3 day mountain bike event stage 2 from Oak Valley to Oak Valley. Image by Nick Muzik