The Journey From Wines 2 Whales: And 10 reasons why you have to make it! #W2W2018

The FNB W2W has become part of the Grandstand Management stable that organizes the Cape Epic and has undergone some changes. The three races have been renamed after wines in the area. The first race (26 – 28 October 2018) is the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay, the second (29 – 31 October 2018) the FNB Wines2Whales Pinotage, while the third race (2 – 4 November 2018) the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz.

The Wines2Whales MTB runs over three days. It starts at Lourensford wine estate in Somerset West, and travels through Sir Lowry’s Pass, Elgin, Houw Hoek, Bot River, the Hemel & Aarde valley, finishing in Hermanus, from which you can see the whales.

Photo Credit: Nick Muzik

The end of the three events that make up one of the most popular stage races in South Africa has been moved to the Marine Hotel in Hermanus in 2018, where the whales that were part of the inspiration for the event will welcome them after their three days of endeavor. The hotel is regarded as the best place to spot whales in a town that has become synonymous with these magnificent mammals. It will complete a poignant and perfect circle for a race that has grown and evolved over the past 10 years, joining the journey from the Winelands of the Western Cape to the magnificence of the whales of Hermanus. And boy did we see whales, but more about that later.

The rebranding of the three events within the FNB Wines2Whales stable was predicted to have the greatest impact on the elite women’s race. In 2018 the elite women competed in the Chardonnay event, which took place from the 26th to the 28th of October, without any elite men or competitive Mixed category athletes on the start line. This means they had the sole attention of the media and race entirely without interference. This is a great step for female racing at a major stage race. The women had open trails and were able to compete solely within their category and it was incredible to see how close the women’s racing really is. With mere seconds separating the top teams on some stages, it seems that more races will need to follow and encourage this wonderful focus on the elite women’s race. The chardonnay event embraces all female riders and you truly feel like the organizers have created a safe and enjoyable event for the ladies to just soak it all up.

Photo Credit: Greg Beadle

DirtyheartMTB were lucky enough to ride the Chardonnay event. Friday was the first stage of the three-day W2W events, and it took about 600 mountain bikers from Lourensford Wine Estate to Oak Valley on Day 1. Followed by a “Play Day” on Day 2, the theme of the stage being single track and despite the 66km distance, there was very little free miles or open roads to contend with. Lastly a more “downhill” route takes riders down towards the cape coastline and to the whale capital of Hermanus to end off a wonderful three days of riding.

I love this event. I really enjoy everything about it. Being a “Joburger” we don’t get to ride such trails and see such things often within the big smoke, so it is a treat to ride these races and experience the beautiful country we live in from two wheels. I could tell you about the riding, the hills, the downhills, the sand, the rocks, the A-frames and the heat, but instead I have put together a list of my top 10 reasons (there are plenty more) why I love this race so much.

10 reasons you should make the journey

The route is king!

As the race director finishes off every speech with this sentiment, you don’t realise the truth to it until you have ridden the Wines 2 Whales. Not only do you ride such amazing trails which have been hand cut and divinely thought out, but you know that not a single road, a single trail nor a single section of the entire route was just slapped together to form a day’s riding. You don’t feel like they are linking trails haphazardly or that they have just cut a trail to get you from point A to point B. The route builders and route team have done an incredible job to show off the region's finest trails and get you to enjoy every second, even when climbing. There are far too many highlights to mention all by name but let’s give brief highlights from each day .

Photo Credit: Nick Muzik

Day 1.

The route thrills you right from the gun. A long steady climb spits you onto the shoulder within Lourensford and from here, you cannot begin to describe the views of False Bay. Single-track sections carry you to the infamous Gantouw Pass which is a historical landmark and although tough for a mountain biker to portage up a mountain side with their bike (we don’t walk… or do we?) it is incredible to see the wagon wheel tracks cut into the rock as you climb up the unridable pass and think about the arduous journey these people made just to get to the other side… the A - Z trails of Grabouw will thrill and spill you as you make your way to the race village. It is an epic tough day of riding.

Photo Credit: Nick Muzik

Day 2

Play day. Lots of play. But don’t let that fool you. No free miles. It’s either up or down on single-track paradise. We believe day 2 includes some of the best trails and single-track South Africa has to offer. It’s not the run of the mill everyday stuff. Again, these are trails built by the best trail masters and you won’t know what flow is until you ride them. We are even so cocky as to say that while climbing up a switchback single track you even manage to find some flow… that’s how well these trails are built. Included on this day is the PERI-KROMCO Playpark. A fun feature on the Kromco fruit farm which lets riders weave amongst the cooling rooms and amongst the fruit crates which have been set up to create a sort of formula one track for the riders. Now how can you not call this play day!

Photo Credit: Nick Muzik


The route provides another fantastic day as the terrain changes from fruit and vineyards to more coastal and sandy trails as we make our way to the sea. We traverse the Houwhoek singles and pass the famous Houwhoek Inn, which is the oldest hotel in South Africa, and even the gravel Katpas provides some thrills as it flies down towards Wildekrans. The route enters the Hemel and Arde valley and makes use of some of the fast and flowing single tracks from the MTB Park here. The day ends with a final climb up to the waterworks in Hermanus which provides a beautiful view of the ocean and then you drop down into town and finish your three days on the lawns of the Marine Hotel which is situated right on the ocean front.

The organization is steller

This year’s Wines 2 whales had some dramatic events occur over the three races. The first race had unbelievably hot temperatures around 35 degrees on all three days and the organizers chose to start everyday an hour earlier to accommodate the heat and ensure everyone managed to ride in the cooler parts of the day. The second event had radical weather with the same heat experienced on Day 1. On the evening of Day 1 a huge storm with gale force winds caused damage at the race village. Along with a fire nearby, the organizers came together and decided to evacuate the entire village to the nearby school in order to stay safe and also delay the following day’s start to 11am to allow everyone to get back on their feet, so to speak. They managed to arrange for over 600 riders and their luggage to be transported and for breakfast to be served at various places and riders transported back to the race village in time to start their second day, all of that done at 10:30pm!

It has to be said that the race organizers and all the people working behind the scenes are truly working their butts off to make sure you, as a rider, are well taken care of and that your race experience is of the highest quality. You know that you are in good hands and that they are truly looking out for each and every rider. The third event, the Shiraz also had its fair share of drama. With protests in the town of Hermanus, the race could not end there on the final day and again the organizers rallied to change their race finish to Oak Valley and ensure all riders had the same finish experience despite the logistics change. It takes a strong team to pull off such drastic changes to a race schedule and we salute the team.

Photo Credit: Greg Beadle

You become a part of history whether you like it or not

The race has such history woven into its fibre. From the Gantouw Pass portage, to the historical Houwhoek Inn and the pieces of single-track which all have their own unique stories. As you ride along the trail and listen to the Piet-My-Vrou calling in the distance. Or as you pull your bike over the large rocks with wagon wheel tracks from the 1800’s carved deeply into them, you cannot help but think about the heritage and history of the region and of the land you are traversing. It’s a special moment every rider will experience at some point, perhaps many along the way.

Photo Credit: Dwayne Senior

There is wine

The route passes through some incredible wine estates and private farms in the region. Some of the unique farms and areas through which the cyclists travel on the route include Lourensford, the Houwhoek Inn, Lebanon, Paul Cluver Estate, Oak Valley, Wildekrans, and ending at the Marine Hotel. As you head to registration in the beautiful Lourensford estate and enter the tasting room, the wine makes its presence known. And trust us there is no shortage of spectacular wines on offer. The race village also features a wine pop up store and it is common place to see groups enjoying a good bottle of Shiraz during dinner.

Photo Credit: Greg Beadle

There are whales

Wedged between the mountain and the sea, the quaint hamlet of Hermanus has been rated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as one of the twelve best whale watching locations in the world, and it is often regarded as the heart of the whale route.

This story-book fishing village along the southern coast is, arguably, one of the Western Cape’s most breathtaking destinations and is complemented by a range of fine restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and more. It’s no wonder that pods of whales pack their sunscreen and beach towels, bound for the sheltered bays and coves of Walker Bay.

“While sunbathing at a local beach, I can sometimes spot up to five or six whales, just behind the last set of waves,” says a Hermanus Tourism representative. As Mzansi’s capital of whale spotting, Hermanus offers residents and visitors alike a number of vantage points to spot these deep sea divers. Whether you’re sunbathing along the beach, perched atop the 12-km cliff with its panoramic view or simply waking to an unobscured view of the ocean, chances are high of spotting a giant tail or a breaching whale.

With that said, it is truly a heart-warming moment to finish this race and simply look to your left and spot one or two whales frolicking off shore. What a privilege and great reward after three days of cycling.

Photo Credit: Nick Muzik