A puncture, just 10 kilometres from the finish line in Onrus, turned the 2019 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race on its head; on Sunday, 27 October.
Seizing the opportunity provided by the overnight leaders’ misfortune, the dormakaba team, of Robyn de Groot and Amy McDougall, raced to stage and overall victory. Adelheid, who suffered the rear wheel puncture, and Candice Lill, finished 2 minutes and 37.8 seconds down on the stage to slip to second overall. Team dormakaba had put the pressure on all stage, and forced Faces into an error. De Groot and McDougall accelerated from the Elite Women’s group on the Houw Hoek switchbacks. They established an advantage of 15 seconds, which they held through Water Point 1 in Botrivier; but in the Wildekrans singletracks, after 30 kilometres of racing, Lill and Morath caught them. For the next 30 kilometres the two teams went head-to-head through the trails, jockeying for any advantage. Towards the end of the stage’s Land Rover Experience Section, the technical descent through The Gorge, Morath punctured. “Adelheid had a puncture in the last singletrack before Water Point 3” Lill explained. “Then we somehow managed to go past the tech-zone without communicating that she had a puncture. So, we had to fix it ourselves. But we didn’t do the greatest job, so she had to ride with a flat to the finish line. It’s unfortunate, but that’s racing. Hats off to Team dormakaba for a great race” she philosophically concluded. “It’s never nice to win because of someone else’s misfortune” a gracious De Groot began. “But it happens and we had to take the opportunity when it arose. We saw Adelheid stopping and then we knew we had to go flat out for the line.” “It was pretty much a 10-kilometre sprint” McDougall added. “I was counting down every metre.”
The dormakaba women sprinted over the line, unsure of how far behind the Faces team of Lill and Morath were. As the clocked ticked closer to the 1 minute and 34 seconds which separated dormakaba and Faces overnight, Paul Valstar, the finish line announcer, provided a count-down while De Groot and McDougall nervously watched the final corner for a glimpse of their rivals. When they were confirmed the victors, De Groot and McDougall’s first actions were to commiserate with Lill and Morath. The final margin of victory was 1 minutes and 3.5 seconds, meaning that Morath’s puncture had produced a 2 minute and 37.8 second swing in just 10 kilometres. Behind the stage winners, Fairtee-Rotwild and Kross Spur sprinted for third as Ariane Lüthi and Samara Sheppard raced to make up places on the general classification. The Swiss/New Zealand combination had lost nearly an hour after Lüthi destroyed her rear derailleur by tangling it in a piece of trail-side wire. They had been holding third position for much of the stage, but Jennie Stenerhag and Nadine Rieder caught them on the Onrus beach. Racing across the Peri bridges on the beach and up onto the beach-front road into the finish line, the Kross Spur and Fairtree-Rotwild teams jostled for position. Lüthi lead the quartet across the line while Sheppard split Rieder and Stenerhag to secure the final podium position on the stage. Rieder and Stenerhag’s fourth on the day secured third on the final general classification standings.
The SA Trippers team of Katie Lennard and Laura Stark were fifth on the stage and fourth overall. Their consistency over the course of the three days was enough to hold off Lüthi and Sheppard by 3 minutes and 19.1 seconds. With the women’s Chardonnay race now completed, the attention now turns to the Pinotage event - the most relaxed of FNB Wines2Whales’ three races. The media attention during the event shifts to focus on the Varsity MTB race where a men’s and a women’s team from six of South Africa’s top universities will contest the title over thee days, from Monday 28 to Wednesday 30 October. To find out more please visit www.wines2whales.com Results: FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay Stage 3: 1. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (02:51:43.1) 2. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (02:54:20.9 | +2:37.8) 3. Kross Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (02:56:13.3 | +4:30.2) 4. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (02:56:14.0 | +4:30.9) 5. SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (03:02:02.9 | +10:19.8) General Classification after Stage 3: 1. dormakaba: Robyn de Groot & Amy McDougall (09:00:18.1) 2. Faces: Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath (09:01:21.6 | +01:03.5) 3. Fairtree-Rotwild: Jennie Stenerhag & Nadine Rieder (09:15:16.4 | +14:58.3) 4. SA Roadtrippers: Katie Lennard & Laura Stark (09:42:25.0 | +42:06.9) 5. Kross Spur: Ariane Lüthi & Samara Sheppard (09:45:44.1 | +45:26.0) For the full results from the FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race please visit www.wines2whales.com
Images by Xavier Briel