If I had to pick just one race to do for the year it would be the FNB Wines2Whales! That is what I call fun mountainbiking, it is a very well organized race with amazing routes!! You sometimes forget that you are actually racing cause it is so much fun to ride the trails! This is a must do for all mountainbikers! It was my 4th time at the W2W and even though the trails are great they keep improving year on year, a huge thank you goes to the organization and the trails builders for the incredible work that goes in to this race!
It was a tight, tough and exciting race for us this weekend since we had stiff competition from Ariane and Candice it was proper racing from start to finish. I think both Robyn and I really wanted to win this one after our Pioneer which did not go so well, we also wanted it extra much since our sponsor, the CEO of Ascendis Health was there also racing the W2W and it would be great to give him a win to say thank you for this year.
Day 1 Lourensford wine estate in Somerset West to Oak Valley in Grabouw, 74km and 1600 meters of climbing.
I was a little unsure of my form since Pioneer and was happy to get a good start up the 4 km climb at the start of the race, we left Ariane and Candice behind as we started the climb. We pushed hard and even though my legs were hurting and it was though I had a different feeling compared to Pioneer, so all was good. We wanted to make the gap as big as possible since we knew the other girls were good on the downhills and singletracks still to come. I started to feel a bit tired just before the second water point but it got better on the portage section and we just had so much fun racing down the A to Z trail in Grabouw which I had trained on the previous weekend and energy came back. We never saw the other girls and managed to get a 3,5 minute lead, even though that is not much in MTB it was good to have that in the bag for the coming 2 days.
Day 2 Oak Valley to Oak Valley, 66 km 1200 meters of climbing – Play day!!
This day was all about single tracks, so much fun! But also very hard since there were just nowhere to rest and recover, I hardly had time to drink! For the first time since Robyn and I started racing together today was the day we were out of sync, luckily we are such good friends and team mates on and off the bike so we chatted about it all and could fix it for the next day. We figured that our strengths are very different and since we are both very competitive but also good team mates we ended up waiting for each other and holding each other up instead of riding to our strengths to save time and energy. This is one thing that makes team racing special, you learn about each other every day! The race was a tight battle with Ariane and Candice, they had the upper hand and we caught them and lost them and caught back again and so on, eventually we ended up riding 20 seconds behind them for a long way and it was frustrating not being able to catch up. Poor Robyn could have caught them but had to wait for me... We finished 36 seconds behind and our lead was down to 2 minutes 51 seconds for the last day.
Day 3 Oak Valley to Onrus, 74km 1100 meters of climbing.
Our strategy for the day was clear and we knew exactly how we should ride to be better than yesterday as a team and it worked exactly as planned! We would not leave Ariane and Candice out of sight and I would ride ahead on the sections I am stronger and Robyn would do the same on the sections where she is stronger, since we knew we would catch each other when the terrain changed, while saying this we were no more than 100 meters apart at any time. The only missap was early on when Robyn fell without me knowing it, and I only saw how bad it was after we finished, she is a hardcore chick my team mate!! We were together with Ariane and Candice until 51km, now and then they got a gap of a few seconds but we always had them in sight. We kept calm since we knew that as long as we could see them we were safe, BUT we also wanted to win the final stage! There was a good passage in the stage when it was only us 4 girls riding together, no interference from men which was great. Ariane was pulling and Robyn was on her wheel, Candice was dropping a bit and I was behind her, we sat like that and I waited for a moment when I saw Candice dropping a bit extra and passed her and joined Robyn, we then passed Ariane and we quickly got a good gap. On the next gravel road we saw how they came closer in a bunch of men so we did not give it our all but they still did not catch us before the next single track and even though we could see them on switch backs it was difficult for them to pass riders in between us and them. We pushed hard towards the end and managed to win the stage by just over a minute and the overall title was in our bag! We were super happy and proud to have pulled it off in front of our management team and the main sponsor. Karsten (the CEO of Ascendis Health) finished the W2W just in time for the prize giving and he was incredibly proud and happy to be there and see us at the top step of the podium, it gives extra satisfaction to the win when you see how much it means to someone else! It was awesome to have everyone there to give back to the sponsors on sight!
It could have been a very good ending to the year of racing but I still have another race to do next weekend at Meerendal…
Yeay we did it!
Before start day 3....
...just over 3 hours later :-)
Some more pictures from the great photographers at the W2W: