Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales is known as Play Day. There was no fun and games to be had for the riders who tried to hold Matt Beers’ wheel however, as he and Wessel Botha blitzed the trails of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver. The NAD Pro MTB pair claimed their second stage victory to extend their general classification lead on Saturday 2 November, while their exploits were copied by the BMT Fairtree and Fairtree teams in the Exxaro Jersey race and Mixed category.
In the Elite Men’s category, Beers went on the charge from the first climb of the day. Ascending out of Oak Valley, the NAD Pro MTB rider split the field with a stinging acceleration. Only his partner, Wessel Botha, along with his fellow Stage 1 protagonists, DSV Pro Cycling and PYGA Euro Steel could follow the early move.
“The plan was to make it tough from the off” Beers explained. “I tried to set a high tempo on the first climb and only Matthys Beukes, Philip Buys, Arno du Toit and Gert Heyns could follow Wessel and myself. I saw HB Kruger and Frans Claes trying to close the gap to us after the climb, so I drove on again. The more riders there are in the front group, the harder it makes it to navigate the singletracks safely. Because of that, I really didn’t want them to catch us.”
“We saw yesterday that we could put Matt and Wessel under pressure a bit in the singletracks” Du Toit revealed. “But we hardly got a chance to lead into any trails today, Matt controlled the race too well.” With nearly 80 percent of the Play Day route being made up of singletrack, the battle for the first 40 kilometres was to lead the group into each trail.
Beers and Botha were virtually ever-present at the front of the trio. With Beers setting a consistently ferocious pace. “I think Matt is probably the best mountain biker in the country right now” his NAD Pro MTB teammate Botha praised. “It’s an honour to race alongside him.”
After softening up their rivals for the first 47 kilometres, the NAD Pro MTB team launched the stage winning move. On the climb towards the Hickory Shack waterpoint, Beers and Botha increased the tempo. Beukes was the first to drop off, forcing Buys to slow down to help his PYGA Euro Steel partner through the final 17 kilometres of the stage. Then DSV Pro Cycling started to falter, initially holding NAD Pro MTB in sight until the Thandi Switchbacks; 10 kilometres from the finish, the elastic snapped.
Beers and Botha rode home as comfortable stage winners, putting 1 minute and 32.2 seconds into Du Toit and Heyns. Beukes and Buys crossed the finish line third, 3 minutes and 56.7 seconds after the stage winners. The result sees NAD Pro MTB extend their general classification lead to 1 minute and 33 seconds.
Behind the podium finishers, Kruger and Claes bounced back from their puncture on Stage 1, to finish fourth on Stage 2. The Devonbosch Stellenbosch pair’s result leapfrogged them into fifth on the general classification. While the young Jaguar Power Products team, of Keagan Bontekoning and Jean-Pierre Lloyd, maintained their fourth place on the overall standings.
In the Exxaro Jersey competition, Luyanda Thobigunya and Lorenzo le Roux extended their category lead by winning the stage ahead of Lucky Mlangeni and Anrique Davids of Exxaro/PWC1. The BMT Fairtree team recovered from Le Roux crashing into a tree, to put another 4 minutes and 24 seconds into the Exxaro/PwC1 team. Exxaro/RMB1’s Thabiso Rengane and Khutso Tlou were third on the stage. That result moved them into third on the Exxaro Special Jersey overall standings, behind Exxaro/PwC1 and BMT Fairtree.
The Mixed category stage honours went to the category leaders; Jennie Stenerhag and Craig Gerber. The Fairtree team extended their general classification advantage to 2 minutes and 1 second over Giordana’s Marco Schaer and Yvonne Waltert. PITSTOP SPORT 2’s Conway Brett Oliver and Catherine Williamson are third in the competition, 7 minutes and 3 seconds behind Stenerhag and Gerber.
On Sunday, 3 November, FNB Wines2Whales departs Oak Valley for Onrus. Racing to the whales on the Atlantic Coast, the teams will have a challenging 69 kilometres to complete their Shiraz event adventure. Despite their advantage, Beers and Botha are weary of the potential for disaster, having seen what happened to the Faces team of Candice Lill and Adelheid Morath in the Chardonnay race.
“It’s not over until we reach Onrus” Botha stated. “Tomorrow will be a tough day and I’m sure the other teams will take the fight to us. But after the final stage having to be rerouted to finish at Oak Valley last year, I’m looking forward to finishing at the sea. It’s going to be an exciting last day of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz.”
Results: FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz
Elite Men Stage 2:
- NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (02:27:59.3)
- DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (02:29:31.5 | +1:32.2)
- PYGA EuroSteel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (02:31:56.0 | +03:56.7)
- Devonbosch Stellenbosch: Frans Claes & HB Kruger (02:33:38.2 | +05:38.9)
- SPOT Africa DEVMCO Umhlanga Arch: Timothy Hammond & Julian Jessop (02:37:43.2 | +09:43.9)
Exxaro Jersey Stage 2:
- BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (02:46:35.6)
- Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (02:51:00.5 | +04:24.9)
- Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (02:57:05.4 | +10:29.8)
Mixed Category Stage 2:
- Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (03:01:52.0)
- Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (03:02:54.6 | +01:02.6)
- PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (03:03:44.3 | +01:52.3)
Elite Men’s General Classification after Stage 2:
- NAD Pro MTB: Matthew Beers & Wessel Botha (05:08:47)
- DSV Pro Cycling: Arno du Toit & Gert Heyns (05:10:20 | +01:33)
- PYGA EuroSteel: Matthys Beukes & Philip Buys (05:12:44 | +03:57)
- Jaguar Power Products: Keagan Bontekoning & Jean-Pierre Lloyd (05:23:27 | +14:40)
- Devonbosch Stellenbosch: Frans Claes & HB Kruger (05:23:58 | +15:11)
Exxaro Jersey General Classification after Stage 2:
- BMT Fairtree: Luyanda Thobigunya & Lorenzo le Roux (05:48:08)
- Exxaro / PwC1: Lucky Mlangeni & Anrique Davids (05:55:37 | +08:28)
- Exxaro / RMB1: Thabiso Rengane & Khutso Tlou (06:05:54 | +17:45)
Mixed Category General Classification after Stage 2:
- Fairtree: Jennie Stenerhag & Craig Gerber (06:15:50)
- Giordana: Marco Schaer & Yvonne Waltert (06:17:51 | +02:01)
- PITSTOP SPORT 2: Conway Brett Oliver & Catherine Williamson (06:22:54 | +07:03)
For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz race please visit www.castletocastle.wpengine.com.