For the past 11 years cyclists have been used to the Wines2Whales event taking them from the winelands to the whales in Hermanus. Next year, however, is the introduction of the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback: cyclists will instead go from Hermanus to the Lourensford Wine Estate. Falke is a sponsor of the event.

But why the change? “Our route team, under the guidance of Johan Kriegler, has been refining the FNB Wines2Whales route since 2010,” says Race Director, Hendrico Burger. “In the last decade, countless singletracks have been built in mountain biking hotspots, like the Hemel en Aarde Valley and Elgin, but also in less ridden areas like Gaf se Bos and the Helderberg basin. The team has added new trails annually but to fully make use of some of the most exciting trails we had to re-look at the route.

“That’s where the concept of the Switchback was born. Not only is it an interesting twist on the well-established Wines2Whales race format, but it also gives us a chance to utilise trails which the traditional direction simply cannot.”

“The FNB Wines2Whales is steeped in history and changing up a route that has become a firm favourite amongst mountain bikers is never a decision that is made without research and consideration,” says Michael Flinn, Managing Director of the FNB Wines2Whales. “With the support of the Race Founders, Johan Kriegler and Hendrico Burger, as well as our various partners, we are extremely excited to offer riders this new route and experience, backed up with the same trusted organisational excellence and world class rider experience. We know that the fresh, unique route is sure to carve its way into South African, and international, mountain bikers’ hearts and yearly calendars.”

Starting in 2020, the Switchback and historic routes will alternate each year.

Next year’s three-day stage races are Chardonnay (30 October to 1 November), Pinotage (2-4 November) and Shiraz (6-8 November) – each around 70km long. “The route team has worked hard to ensure that serious GEES wins the day, and with the new route starting and finishing at sea level, riders can expect similar amounts of climbing to the traditional W2W route,” explains the press release. “The new direction makes the opening stage arguably more challenging, while stage 2 will remain similarly difficult to the 2019 edition, and the final stage could well prove easier without the trials of the Art House climb.”