We were able to pull Adriaan Louw, Team Contego team manager and professional rider, from his bike to comment on this weekend’s Wines2Whales race.
Wines2Whales takes riders from Lourensford Wines Estate in Somerset West to Onrus just outside Hermanus, the FNB Wines2Whales is a mountain bike journey that tests, tantalises and rewards participants with its attention to detail, remarkable trails and sublime course design. – Stillwatersports
Who is your teammate for this year?
Vinzent Dorn, the German MTB Champ. W2W is a very fast paced race that requires an XC style depth. Vinzent is a very fast XC racer and visiting South Africa for training during their winter. To me he was the perfect fit as the distances is suitable to a younger rider and someone that is confident to race against other Europeans. You often find that someone that does a race for the first time comes in with a bit more motivation and an eagerness to throw down some speed. It is a long shot to the podium with such a strong field but we have no reason to believe that it is out of reach.
Are you aiming for a podium position over this weekend?
I’ve done the W2W since inception and it is a race that I look forward to each year. Their support of pro riders through bigger prize purses have attracted a bigger and bigger field each year which adds a lot of depth and intensity to the race with this year being no exception. I would like to stay within the top 3 this year and I hope that the mix of youthful depth and experience with the race will help us in our quest.
What can we expect from you and Vinzent riding as a team?
As professional athletes there is a certain level of professionalism and skill that you can expect from your partner and even as a new partnership we don’t have any difficulty understanding what needs to be done en route and how to read a race.
Team Contego Mountain bike team chasing the dream, #bearhunting in the mountains and leaving a better sport behind.
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Andrew Hill and Adriaan Louw were able to play it safe on the final day en route to securing the overall title at the PwC Great Zuurberg Trek mountain bike race at Addo, near Port Elizabeth, on Sunday.
Even though they yielded the final stage to Kargo Pro’s Marco Joubert and Jurgens Uys, the Contego-TIB Insurance outfit ran out comfortable winners after completing the three tough stages in a combined time of 8:39:02.
Joubert and Uys, who hail from PE and Somerset West respectively, were runners-up in 8:56:56. Cycle Lab’s Andrew Mclean and former Springbok rugby player Joel Stransky filled the third place on the podium in 9:24:57.
Africa Silks-Valencia’s Anriette Schoeman and former national cross country champion Samantha Sanders swept to a comfortable victory in the women’s category after winning all three stages for a total time of 10:50:04.
In the mixed section, the Head Over Hills pairing of Neill Ungerer and Yolande de Villiers were equally unchallenged as they rode to the title in 9:41:55.
Reflecting on his second victory in three years, Hill said they were highly satisfied with their performance after achieving their goal of top place on the podium.
“We enjoyed the whole racing experience very much,” said the 34-year-old Durbanite, who won at his first attempt in 2014 alongside Paarl team-mate Louw.
“We worked hard to get the lead on Saturday and we could feel that today, but the objective was to aim for the overall win.
“The first day was unfortunate but that set our minds right and we put our heads together and said we have to go out there and do what we are paid to do.”
Disaster struck when the duo went off course on the opening day while leading and lost all of their advantage, but a determined effort on the second stage saw them create a lead that almost made the overall win a formality.
“Yesterday did take quite a bit out of our legs, but today we were very relaxed and chilled.
“After a hard day’s work that’s what you want out of mountain biking – to remember why you are on the bike and why you actually race.”
Even though they have their disagreements, Hill said their partnership worked extremely well.
“We do have a little fight at times, but get on very well and it’s great to ride with a mate. He is a good friend; we’re almost like brothers.”
Despite a string of cycling triumphs in her illustrious career, the 38-year-old Schoeman, from Port Elizabeth, said she and Sanders, who lives in Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga, were thrilled with their overall victory.
“Winning is always a big motivator for me,” said the multiple national road champion.
“I’m a really competitive person and set high standards for myself. This is a really special race.”
Mountain bike pros Andrew Hill and Adriaan Louw will be out to re-assert their authority on the three-day PwC Great Zuurberg Trek when it takes place just outside Port Elizabeth from June 3 to 5.
The TIB Insurance-Contego team made light work of the inaugural event two years ago, claiming a hat-trick of stage wins en route to the overall title.
Photographer: Ewald Sadie
Last year Hill, who races out of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, joined forces with Cape Town’s Chris Wolhuter, but had to settle for the runners-up spot.
This time Wolhuter will team up with new partner Craig Boyes and the Imbuko-Freewheel Cycology outfit should be strong contenders after dominating the Liberty Winelands MTB Encounter in mid-April.
“Coming back to Zuurberg is always a treat for me,” said the 34-year-old Hill, who placed fifth overall in last month’s nine-day Old Mutual joBerg2c.
“I really think the event has something special, even to the seasoned mountain biker.
“The trails, views and the Eastern Cape hospitality are up there among the best in the country and I love heading back to take part.”
Hill said he was looking forward to partnering with the 25-year-old Louw, who hails from Paarl in the Western Cape, for another shot at the title.
“Adriaan and I get on well off the bike, but, more importantly, we gel on the bike, really working together when it is called for.
“He is going well at the moment and it will be a great advantage to be able to tap into his experience and strengths in our bid to regain the title.”
While their focus will be on racing, Hill said they were looking forward to the overall experience of competing at Zuurberg after a busy start to the season.
“The three days are certainly going to be something special for us. I’m looking forward to the fun aspect of the trails and the relaxed atmosphere at the hotel after each day’s riding.”
Hill said the terrain set the race apart from other events with the daily finish at the top of Zuurberg Pass.
“It is a tester for the racing guys and provides a great sense of achievement for the rest of the field.
“I also enjoy the views on the queen stage (day two) where you can see the Karoo on the one side and the coast on the other.”
The Port Elizabeth-based Merrell team of SanMari Woithe and Andrea Shirley will target a hat-trick of victories in the women’s category.
“I’m looking forward to teaming up with SanMari, with whom I’ve raced a lot,” said Shirley
“We love racing in our ‘back yard’ and our objective is to win while having as much fun as possible.”
She said they knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which helped in a stage race with such varied course conditions.