Stage 2 of the 2023 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race, on 21 October, saw a steady overnight drizzle persist into Saturday’s racing. This turned the already water damaged roads and trails into a sodden mud-fest. It did not prevent Candice Lill and Tyler Jacobs racing to a second stage victory however. The Computer Mania Seattle Coffee Co. team put a further 2 minutes and 6 seconds into their new nearest rivals, Tiffany Keep and Danielle Strydom; while the Safari Essence Imbuko pairing enjoyed a good day themselves, leapfrogging into second.
The overnight rain enforced more route changes, with the course being shortened by 10 kilometres on Stage 2. This was because emergency services vehicles would not have been able to access the Tierkop trails. With Tierkop and a few potentially dangerous singletracks removed the revised Stage 2 was 58 kilometres long, with 1 200 meters of climbing.
“It was pretty sketchy in the opening kilometres, when we were all in a big group,” Samantha Sanders reflected. “Luckily Tiffany [Keep] and Danielle [Strydom] were keen to push the pace, which split the field.” The Safari Essence Imbuko team’s aggression saw them set a tempo only Sanders, her teammate Cherise Willeit and the women in the orange CIOVITA jerseys could follow.
“I was struggling a bit when Tiffany [Keep] and Danielle [Strydom] were pushing the pace,” Jacobs confessed. “But once we got into the singletracks I could settle into a rhythm. I followed Candice [Lill’s] wheel and we focused on riding the trails smoothly.”
This tactic paid off for the overnight leaders as they built on a 1 minute lead at water point two, growing it to over 2 minutes by the final water point. Their advantage was aided by drama behind. “I crashed off a bridge, but fortunately didn’t hurt myself,” Strydom explained. Sanders too was experiencing issues and had to ease off for safety’s sake. “I had the wrong tyres on my bike today,” the Sandton City Efficient Infiniti rider pointed out. “I was slipping all over the show and had to tell Cherise [Willeit] that we had to slow down or I was going to crash.”
Crossing the finish line Lill and Jacobs had added 2 minutes and 6 seconds to their overnight lead. By finishing second Keep and Strydom leapfrogged Willeit and Sanders, who finished third, into second place overall. Computer Mania Seattle Coffee Co now lead Safari Essence Imbuko by 7 minutes and 15 seconds. Sandton City Efficient Infiniti are third, at 10 minutes and 13 seconds back. Vera Looser and Mariske Strauss moved up a place, from fifth on the general classification standings, by finishing fourth on the day. Hayley Preen and Frances Janse van Rensburg also moved up, but having finished behind Sarah Hill and Claudia Krenn, on the day, could find themselves in a fierce tussle for fifth spot overall on Stage 3.
Sunday’s final stage could be an interesting affair, though it is unlikely any of the racing women will be struggling with hangovers after the Springboks semi-final against England in the Rugby World Cup. The game will be screened in the FNB Rider Lounge and Savanna Chill Zone. For those who do get carried away on the Savanna Dry, Devil’s Peak Beers or Oak Valley wines the 64 kilometre final stage could prove testing. Especially as it includes the famous Gantouw Pass portage, which requires riders to run down the old wagon trail from the Elgin plateau into the Helderberg Basin. Lourensford Wines awaits, for champagne celebrations and finish line selfies.
To watch the final day of women’s racing, at the 2023 FNB Wines2Whales, follow @wines_2_whales on Instagram or like the Wines2Whales Facebook page. Regular updates will be posted on the Instagram and Facebook stories. Fans can also catch the daily highlights on the Epic Series YouTube channel and read all about how the racing unfolded on www.epic-series.com/wines2whales.
Results: FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay
Stage 2 Results:
- Computer Mania Seattle Coffee Co: Candice Lill & Tyler Jacobs (2:53:33)
- Safari Essence Imbuko: Tiffany Keep & Danielle Strydom (2:55:39 | +2:06)
- Sandton City Efficient Infiniti: Cherise Willeit & Samantha Sanders (2:58:56 | +5:23)
- Elysator-Rola: Vera Looser & Mariske Strauss (3:05:00 | +11:27)
- Hilly & Edgy: Sarah Hill & Claudia Krenn (3:05:41 | +12:08)
General Classification Results after Stage 2:
- Computer Mania Seattle Coffee Co: Candice Lill & Tyler Jacobs (5:39:49)
- Safari Essence Imbuko: Tiffany Keep & Danielle Strydom (5:47:04 | +7:15)
- Sandton City Efficient Infiniti: Cherise Willeit & Samantha Sanders (5:50:02 | +10:13)
- Elysator-Rola: Vera Looser & Mariske Strauss (6:03:24 | +23:35)
- Freewheel Cycology: Hayley Preen & Frances Janse van Rensburg (6:09:10 | +29:22)