E-Bike racing is a relatively new phenomenon. The inaugural E-MTB World Championships were held during the 2019 Mountain Biking World Championships, in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada. In 2021 FNB Wines2Whales included an E-Bike category for the first time, then in 2022 the Pinotage event hosted an E-Bike race too. In 2023 the reigning E-Bike World Champion Joris Ryf lined up in Lourensford to start the FNB W2W Pinotage. Taking part alongside Benno Willeit, Ryf dominated the competition winning the title by 32 minutes and 4 seconds; as the race finished in Lourensford Wine Estate on Wednesday, 25 October.
Ryf rode with Specialized Factory Racing team manager Willeit, who is himself no slouch on the bike, were unbelievably fast throughout the three days. The lead motorbike riders as well as the race videographers and photographers were under relentless pressure to stay ahead of the Specialized Factory Racing team. There was as little respite for their rivals too.
Wayne van der Walt is no stranger to stage racing and is a highly accomplished ultra-endurance rider. He was however caught completely unawares by the speed at which E-Bike battle in the Pinotage played out. “I thought we’d probably ease into it a bit,” he laughed. “But we started Stage 1 at the same intensity as the UCI men’s group goes off the line in the Cape Epic! It was crazy.”
“We rode really good together,” Ryf smiled, reflecting on the race alongside Willeit. “We made a good team and had a lot of fun on the bike too. Today, was probably the best riding. We saw some animals in the game reserves and saw some proteas too. It was a beautiful stage, especially as the sun came out again!”
“I’d definitely be telling my fellow E-Cross-Country racers about FNB Wines2Whales,” he added. “It provides three days of really nice racing and great trails. They should come to South Africa to end their seasons here next year.”
“Every single stage… the riding is just incredible,” Willeit, who lives in Somerset West, praised. “South Africa really has some of the world’s best trails. I’d like to thank the trail builders who have worked so hard to make this year’s race possible. Even during the event they were working into the night to fix the trails to allow us to rider more of the originally planned parts of Stage 2.”
“Every day we had mint trails to race on. So, the trail builders and everyone who makes the race possible deserves a big cheers!” Willeit concluded. “FNB W2W has been a blast. It’s been so much fun.”
Behind the runaway leaders, the Toyota Specialized and FuelX teams were locked in a fierce tussle. Van der Walt and Jovan Jacobs had finished second on Stage 1, but ceded their silver medal spot to Giniel de Villiers and Bobby Behan on Stage 2. On the final stage the quartet sprinted for line honours, with the FuelX team emerging victorious. The single second in it did however not change the general classification standings, De Villiers and Behand thus stood on the seconds step of the podium for the champagne celebrations. Van der Walt and Jacobs had to be content with third.
In the mixed category E-Bike race Mariske Strauss endured a major mechanical on the final stage, which cost her and Max Sullivan nearly an hour to repair. The Giant & Liv RSA pairing had been breathing down the necks of Franz Kunz and Katrin Tschopp heading into the final stage, but their misfortune ensured that the mountainbike-southafrica.com team won comfortably. Ilana Cronje and Carolyn Rochat were even more comfortable winners in the women’s E-Bike race. The Roll Refine Studio were the only all-women’s team aboard E-Bikes. Their victory was by no means hollow however, as they got to celebrate with Lourensford Method Cap Classique atop the podium and take-home prizes from the sponsors too.
With the E-Bike racing wrapped up the attention now shifts to the weekend’s Shiraz event at FNB Wines2Whales. The final race in the series will feature the elite men’s field, significant prize money and the final opportunity to claim bragging rights for the 2023 season. Stay tuned to the @wines_2_whales on Instagram or like the Wines2Whales Facebook page to stay updated on the racing action. 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 Pinotage
General Classification after Stage 3 E-Bike Men’s Results:
- Specialized Factory Racing: Joris Ryf & Benno Willeit (6:19:41)
- Toyota Specialized: Giniel de Villiers & Bobby Behan (6:51:45 | +32:04)
- FuelX: Wayne van der Walt & Jovan Jacobs (6:56:11 | +36:30)
- GreatSoft Cloud: Robert Briggs & Colin Morgan (7:14:12 | +54:30)
- RBC Suspension: Robbie Powell & Dylan Chillcott (7:23:12 | +1:03:31)
General Classification after Stage 3 E-Bike Mixed Team Results:
- mountainbike-southafrica.com: Franz Kunz & Katrin Tschopp (7:58:51)
- Jannemeister2.0: Edo & Janneke Bräsecke (8:31:06 | +32:14)
- 4Heaven – Fairhaven Claude & Heike Girardin (8:42:36 | +43:44)
- Giant & LIV RSA: Max Sullivan & Mariske Strauss (8:54:53 | +56:02)
- Dissa-Stars: Erwin & Liezl Sterne (9:19:01 | +1:20:09)
General Classification after Stage 3 E-Bike Women’s Results:
- Roll Refine Studio: Ilana Cronje & Carolyn Rochat (12:13:04)