The final stage of the 2023 FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz saw Cannondale Factory Racing sail to victory; on Sunday, 29 October. Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen completed a clean sweep of stage victories en route to the title, yet the win was not secure until after the Gantouw Pass portage on Stage 3. Imbuko Giant A had pushed them close for two days and were only distanced within the final 30 kilometres of the 185 kilometres of racing.
On Stage 1, Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha had fought to remain in contact with the pre-race favourites. Botha suffered a puncture before regaining contact and forcing Hatherly and Andreassen into a sprint finish. Cannondale Factory Racing edged them out, and would do so again on Stage 2. This time Joubert had struggled with his front brakes for the latter part of the stage. Coming into the finishing chicane he was off the back of the group and in an attempt to make up ground Jobert overcooked the final corner. The Imbuko Giant A man’s crash allowed Hatherly and Andreassen to take a 12 second lead into the last stage.
This left the race delicately poised going into the 64 kilometre trek from Oak Valley to Lourensford. To add another element to the stress of the race being on a knife edge near gale force winds were howling from the south east. These were largely blowing from behind the riders, as they travelled west; but as the route twisted and turned, while the wind gusted and swirled, they were buffeted by cross and head-winds too.
“These were probably the windiest conditions I’ve ever raced in,” noted Hatherly. “I actually had to get off and walk a few times,” Konrad Siebrits, who finished a very credible 56th on the overall standings, confessed. “After the Gantouw Pass portage, it was so windy on some of those contour road corners that I was forced to a standstill. Maybe I’m too tall and light, because Dean [Hopf] didn’t struggle as much.”
“Our plan for today had been to get Simon [Andreassen] into the portage first,” Hatherly explained. “We’d thought he might be the slower of the two of us. But actually, he was faster than me down there!”
The Cannondale Factory Racing team had pushed the pace on the approach to the climb. This splintered the already reduced group to each team chasing separately. “Simon [Andreassen] got away from the group in A to Z and then I saw the opportunity to kick across to him,” Hatherly elaborated. “PYGA Euro Steel were a way behind us when we started the portage but they ran down there unbelievably quickly and essentially closed the gap.”
Meanwhile Joubert and Felix Stehli were both feeling the effects of the crashes they had endured earlier sin the week. The Imbuko Giant team lost nearly 2 minutes to Cannondale Factory Racing by Water Point 2, near the half-way point of the stage. Elysator.ch’s travails were worse, Stehli and Konny Looser were not only at risk of losing their general classification podium place but also of dropping out of the top five overall by the time they reached Idiom Wine Estate.
“The portage is always a concern, because you don’t know how your legs are going to react to that run,” Hatherly allowed. “But we both felt good afterwards and could push into the headwind sections. I think the wind made it a very honest race, every team had to push the best pace they could and it allowed the strongest combinations to capitalise.”
Sailing downwind and battling into it, whenever necessary Cannondale Factory Racing stormed to their third stage win of the Shiraz event. Behind them Philip Buys and Alex Miller rode home to finish second on the day. The PYGA Euro Steel pair were eager to gain every possible second in what they thought was going to be a tight battle for third overall. Little did they know of Stehli’s difficulties further down the trails.
Joubert and Botha cross the final finish line third, ceding 3 minutes and 47 seconds to the race winners. This took Cannondale Factory Racing’s final margin of victory to 3 minute and 59 seconds. “It was a good three days of close racing,” Botha smiled. “It’s great to test ourselves against world-class riders like Alan [Hatherly] and Simon [Andreassen]. 2023 has been a good year for the team and we can take a lot of confidence from this performance into the off season and into next year.”
Buys and Miller completed the general classification podium places. Each stage of the race got progressively better for the PYGA Euro Steel team and their third position overall was both hard fought and earned. They were followed by Insect Science’ Keagan Bontekoning and Arno du Toit, who themselves improved through the three days. Elysator.ch slipped from third to fifth on the last day. Looser had to nurse Stehli through the closing kilometres. The pair finished 11th on the last stage, but had done enough on the preceding two days to hold off Imbuko Giant B’s Pieter du Toit and Franko van Zyl by just 21 seconds.
In the Exxaro Jersey races Kusaselihle Ngidi and Damon Terblanche were dominant throughout the three days. Their biggest challenge came in the battle for the Amateur Jerseys, which the also won. The Fairtree DP World Cannondale now get the choice of a bursary for an online tertiary education course, from STADIO, or a grade 0 to 12 scholarship to a Curro school.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Terblanche smiled. “But that’s why I came to race FNB Wines2Whales. I’m here to change my life. And I’m so happy to take the Exxaro and Amateur Jerseys back to Knysna.” Terblanche and Ngidi will now turn their attention to the Exxaro competition at the Cape Epic in March. They will certainly face tougher competition in March from the likes of EXXARO/TAMELA 1’s Obvious Khorombi and Masixole Zondani, as well as Siyabonga Ntsele and Gilbert Mathaba, of EXXARO ACADEMY 3.
To recap on all the action from the 2023 FNB Wines2Whales follow @wines_2_whales on Instagram or like the Wines2Whales Facebook page. Extended highlights can be viewed on the Epic Series YouTube channel and more information can be found at www.epic-series.com/wines2whales.
FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz Results
Elite Men | Stage 3 Results:
- Cannondale Factory Racing: Simon Andreassen & Alan Hatherley (2:26:48)
- PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Alex Miller (2:30:18 | +3:30)
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (2:30:35 | +3:47)
- Insect Science: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (2:34:09 | +7:21)
- Imbuko Giant B: Pieter du Toit & Franko van Zyl (2:35:54 | +9:05)
Elite Men’s General Classification after Stage 3:
- Cannondale Factory Racing: Simon Andreassen & Alan Hatherley (6:33:59)
- Imbuko Giant A: Marco Joubert & Wessel Botha (6:37:58 | +3:59)
- PYGA Euro Steel: Philip Buys & Alex Miller (6:42:38 | +8:39)
- Insect Science: Arno du Toit & Keagan Bontekoning (6:48:11 | +14:12)
- Elysator.ch: Konny Looser & Felix Stehli (6:53:07 | 19:08)
Exxaro Jersey | General Classification after Stage 3:
- FAIRTREE DP WORLD CANNONDALE 1: Kusaselihle Ngidi & Damon Terblanche (7:39:59)
- EXXARO/TAMELA 1: Obvious Khorombi & Masixole Zondani (8:06:24 | +26:25)
- EXXARO ACADEMY 3: Siyabonga Ntsele & Gilbert Mathaba (8:13:39 | +33:40)
Exxaro Jersey | General Classification after Stage 3:
- EXXARO ACADEMY LADIES 1: Refilwe Mogorosi & Omphile Motaung (10:49:23)
- FAIRTREE DP WORLD CANNONDALE: Yomelela Mfazwe & Ongezo Mini (12:52:35 | +2:03:12)
- Exxaro Ladies 2: Nomthandazo Nkosi & Ntokozo Mokoena (14:37:06 | +3:47:43)
To view the full results from the 2023 FNB Wine2Whales click here.