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30 OCT - 8 NOV 2020

The 2019 Route

191km & 4 800m

Stage 1: 61km & 1 900m

Lourensford Wine Estate to Oak Valley Wine Estate

The elegant Lourensford Wine Estate marks the start of your three-day journey to Onrus. The climbing starts almost immediately with a long and fairly steep gravel drag taking you up to Lourensford Nek. From the summit, on a clear day, you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of Stellenbosch and Cape Town. A long and steep downhill follows, so please take heed – it’s very fast with tight, blind corners and water drainage humps. While you’re still on the Lourensford estate you’ll get to experience two new trails – Old Pine and JK’s Contour – and veterans of the W2W might notice that some trails from earlier years have been reintroduced, including Schoeman’s, Witboom and Canarie. Water Point 1 arrives before the notoriously steep Vergelegen climb - it’s the toughest climb in the race but it’s not very long and the reward is a relatively easy passage to Water Point 2 at Idiom Vineyards, which doubles as a superb spectator point. The iconic challenge of the day comes in the form of the historic Gantouw Pass – an old ox wagon trail and compulsory portage section where you can still see the grooves worn in the rocks by the Voortrekkers’ wagon wheels. The reward on the other side is some of the best singletrack in the country – the fabled A2Z network of Grabouw, where you’ll whizz down the A2N trails in the run into the Grabouw Country Club and the day’s Land Rover Experience. Willie's Trail provides the first of Route and Vehicle partner’s Land Rover’s designated singletracks for the race and it is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating sections of the route. The last 10km to the finish in Oak Valley offers a mix of singletracks and open vineyard roads, but blaze a new trail to the race village through Glen Elgin farm. If you listen closely before you get to Oak Valley you’ll hear the race commentators welcoming riders home for a well-earned meal and recovery drink (or two).

Stage Icons: Lourensford and Vergelegen climbs, portage over Gantouw Pass, A2N singletracks and Waterfall trail. 

Land Rover Experience: Willie’s Trail provides the first of the events’ designated Land Rover Experience trails. Located in the run in to the Grabouw Country Club and the final water point of the day it provides riders with the chance to test their skills and fitness, assured of the opportunity to refresh themselves right after they complete the segment. The trail head is within easy walking distance from the spectator point at the Country Club so expect fans to line sections of the tight and twisting singletrack. If the weather heats up the some sandy corners could provide an extra challenge, but if FNB W2W experiences a damp year it is sure to run fast throughout the three events. 
Strava: FNB W2W | Willie’s Trail
 
Hendrico’s Stage Advice: Don’t get sucked in by the hype, nerves and emotions at the start – cycle at your own pace and find a rhythm, there’s still 60km to go. Stay calm and modulate your brakes on the downhills: they’re fast and somewhat technical at speed.

Terrain: Good quality gravel roads, dual tracks and singletracks. Gantouw Pass is the only portage section in the race – it’s steep, rocky and exposed to the elements.

Stage 2: 63km & 1 500m

Oak Valley Wine Estate to Oak Valley Wine Estate

Dubbed ‘Play Day’, Stage 2 is one of the FNB Wines2Whales’s many draw cards, with sublime singletrack, manicured berms and mind-blowing descents. For 2019 the route reshuffle means that riders remain in Oak Valley for the first 15 kilometres, climbing initially and then descending Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge, Sounds of Silence, Indensity and Cow’s Trail. Then it’s uphill again towards Witklippies One and Two before dropping towards the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre at the 35 kilometre mark. With tanks topped up by Woolworths’ water point spread riders then take on FNB W2W’s famous snake singletracks. Cobra, Mamba and Boomslang lead into the day’s Land Rover Experience: Pofadder. Having been rebuilt following the February 2019 fire Pofadder is now faster and more flowing but still a challenge for those who ride singletracks at full speed. From Pofadder the route hugs the mountains before passing under the N2 and climbing on new singletracks towards the Lebanon trails. The lower two Lebanon singletracks lead the field back under the highway to the stage’s final water point at the Hickory Shack, after 52 exhilarating kilometres of mountain biking. The Thandi Switchbacks are the final sting in the tail before the thrilling, purpose-built KROMCO-PERI Play Park. From there it’s a 10km dash to the finish through farm roads and “The long way home” singletrack.

Stage Icons: Singletracks and Paul Cluver Amphitheatre. Mind-blowing trails of Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge, Sounds of Silence, Witklippies 1 & 2, Cobra, Mamba, Boomslang, Pofadder, Lebanon and of course the KROMCO-PERI Play Park.

Land Rover Experience: Having been rebuilt for the 2019 events there can be no argument that Pofadder is a fitting choice for the day’s Land Rover Experience. At 420 metres long it is by no means the lengthiest singletrack of the stage but it is sure to be the most memorable. It starts as a path cut into the steep mountainside before crossing a gorge on a bridge built partially from wine barrels. The nervous among the FNB W2W field need not be concerned as the bridge is covered by a wire mesh, ensuring excellent grip regardless of the weather conditions.
Strava: Pofadder ST

Hendrico’s Stage Advice: Ride as many singletracks as you can in preparation. Singletrack requires more concentration and work than open roads so work on your skills!

Terrain: Good quality gravel roads. Manicured berms, purpose-built singletrack. Nothing overly technical.

Stage 3: 67km & 1 400m

Oak Valley Wine Estate to Onrus

The third and final day of the FNB Wines2Whales is a challenging affair – especially with nearly 130 kilometres of riding and 3 000 metres of climbing in the legs. Do not be fooled by the route profile and make sure not to get sucked into racing dynamics early on – most of the climbing comes in the last 30 kilometres, so save something for the end. The trickiest section of this stage is the Kat Pas descent just after the Houw Hoek trails. Caution is advised as this is a particularly fast downhill with a rocky, loose and sometimes quite rutted surface. Water Point 1 is located at the Botrivier School where you’ll experience a truly memorable moment as local schoolchildren and their families line up in support. The next 20 kilometre section, which takes in a large portion of the Wildekrans trails before rising to Water Point 2  is arguably the most important portion of Stage 3. It is essential that you pace yourself correctly as a nasty series of ups and downs await – the breathtaking Gaf-se-Bos and Hemel en Aarde trails. Here you’ll confront as many climbs as you will descents before ducking under the road and following a downhill towards the Atlantic Ocean. On the Onrus beach spectacular views await, before a final little kick up onto the tar road allows for an easy roll across the finish line. 

Stage Icons: Jakkals River Trail, Kat Pas descent after Houw Hoek, Botrivier town (look out for the crèches), the Hemel en Aarde trails and the bridge across the Onrus beach.

Land Rover Experience: The Gorge will be more than familiar to any FNB W2W old hand. The trail hugs the cliff face while below, to the left the Onrus River bubbles downstream towards the sea. Featuring an intimidating initial drop, on a bridge, it gradually opens and becomes increasingly easy to ride at pace. It is definitely less technical than it looks, so do not be unnecessarily intimidated, trust your skills and your bike will do the rest. 
Strava: The Gorge

Hendrico’s Stage Advice: Ride within your limits down the Kat Pas and remember 80% of the climbing is after the 40km mark. Save some energy to enjoy the run in to Onrus across the beautiful beach. 

Terrain: Rocky climbs and descents. Sand and manicured trails upon entering Hemel en Aarde.

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