Mountain bikers have been eagerly waiting to see the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback route since the concept was announced in late October last year. Online forums have been filled with baseless speculation and educated guesses. At last the time for guessing is over.
Here it is… plotted, planned and most importantly pre-ridden by Johan ‘JK’ Kriegler and Hendrico Burger.
Start: Curro Hermanus
Finish: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin
Elevation Gain: 1500m
Water Points: 17km (Karwyderskraal), 37km (Wildekrans Wines) & 54km (Lebanon Village)
The FNB W2W Switchback starts at a new venue, the Curro School in Hermanus. Located on the outskirts of Hermanus, riders will be pleased to note that the start at Curro Hermanus incorporates a few flat kilometres before the climbing begins on Rotary View Drive; which offers spectacular views over Hermanus, to ease the burden.
An exhilarating descent into the Hemel en Aarde Valley follows before a climb out of the far side of the valley via The Gorge and its freshly built bridge. The 2019 Stage 3 Land Rover Experience section requires a kick of power to conquer the ramp up onto the catwalk which marks the end of the segment, but nothing passionate mountain bikers can’t handle. Karwyderskraal gravel road then provides free-flowing riding before the climb into Gaf-se-Bos and a brand-new singletrack section.
Built especially for the Switchback, Karwyders Contour is the first tailor-made answer to the question of how to take riders from whales to wines. It is a trail of nearly 4 kilometres that promises Serious GEES in every metre thanks to its two bridges that span the length of two rather large cliffs. The route to Water Point 2, at Wildekrans Wines, then takes in trails never before ridden during the previous 11 editions of the FNB W2W.
Riders are encouraged to fuel up at the second water point because there is no way to sugar coat the fact that you’ll be climbing Kat Pass, from Botrivier to Houw Hoek. A contour path singletrack then links the Houw Hoek Inn to the Pines and Berms singletracks, past Water Point 3 and on to the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre. From there it is largely downhill to the finish line, at Oak Valley, via the flowing Oak Valley Red Route through the cattle grazing pastures before kicking up your feet with a cold CBC beer and a Spur burger.
Stage Icons: Rotary View Drive, Onrus Gorge, Karwyders Contour, Wildekrans, Pines and Berms, Oak Valley Trails.
Hendrico’s Stage Advice: The FNB W2W Switchback is all about a new take on a familiar concept. Riders should keep their eyes peeled for views that may have never been noticed before, when riding in the opposite direction, like the Karwyders Contour trails and its incredible bridges. Riding wise, do not underestimate Kat Pas; it can be a tricky climb so fuel up well at Wildekrans and keep the Serious GEES levels high.
Start: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin
Finish: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin
Elevation Gain: 1 500m
Water Points: 17km (Oak Valley), 30km (Paul Cluver Amphitheatre) & 52km (Hickory Shack)
Play day reimagined, Stage 2 of the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback combines old favourites in new ways with the spice of virgin trails.
The stage starts with a new loop to the southern reaches of Oak Valley. Using vineyard roads to spread the field for the singletracks to come; the early morning segment is designed to be scenic and to offer those who want to test their legs the chance to get ahead of their batch. A 13km loop on Oak Valley takes riders to where the fun starts and Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge, Indensity and Sounds of Silence roll into one before Water Point 1 at 17km and then there’s even more trail time on Cow’s Trail and Rietvlei Roller.
The climb to Witklippies then challenges the lungs before the rewards of the all-new Rietvlei Magic singletrack descent can be enjoyed. Rietvlei Magic is another of the purpose-built FNB W2W Switchback trails; it is a long and gradual downhill on Paul Cluver with berms, switchbacks (obviously), and a long bridge over the Rietvlei Dam! Snake Trails follow, with a sneaky short-cut between Mamba and Boomslang. Then the route traverses towards the south east and slips under the N2 to explore Lebanon, before returning to the 2020 incarnation of the Peri-Kromco Play Park via the Thandi Switchbacks.
A familiar downhill run to Oak Valley follows the crate and pallet creation. Looping around the race village, riders will get a quick blast of finish line gees drifting through the oak trees, to spur them on for the final singletrack kilometre before returning to the race village for a delicious lunch spread from our friends at Woolworths.
Stage Icons: Vissie’s Magic, JK’s Edge, Indensity, Sounds of Silence, Cow’s Trail, Rietvlei Roller, Witklippies, Rietvlei Magic, Lebanon and all the Snake Trails.
Hendrico’s Stage Advice: As in previous years, you’ll do well not to underestimate play day. The trails are great fun but riders will need to be fit to make the most of them. If you are not that confident riding up and downhill switchbacks, book a skills lesson or two before the 2020 FNB W2W Switchback. Don’t lose concentration on the newly built Rietvlei Magic, or a swim may be the result.
Start: Oak Valley Estate, Elgin
Finish: Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West
Elevation Gain: 1 350m
Water Points: 15km (Country Club), 30km (Idiom Wines) & 46km (Lourensford)
Stage 3 provides a spectacular finale to the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback, with the Gantouw Pass descent boasting breath-taking views worth the efforts to get there.
The adventure starts with a climb up past the Oak Valley greenhouses and across the foothills of the mountains towards the Eikenhof Dam. The route then loops around the back of the dam, exploring 4km of thrilling trails.
The Grabouw Country Club still features, as a water point, as do Willie’s Trail and singletracks G to A; of the A to Z trails. Walking down the Gantouw pass is certainly easier than going up it, and the views across the Helderberg Basin are incredible. Just remember to watch your step, as staring at the view rather than the rocky descent is a sure-fire way to twist an ankle. After the pass, the oasis of Idiom Wines is reached via yet another new section of trail. Idiom Single begins before Water Point 2 and ensures that riders reach the water point full of gees and, once fuelled up, get straight back into the action before the route traverses Vergelegen toward.
A final climb in Lourensford Wine Estate, after Water Point 3, takes riders to the trailhead of a brand new singletrack that is in the process of being built; from here, breathtaking views of False Bay are on offer before entering the trail. Cut into the pine plantations especially for the Switchback, the Lourensford Ultimate will provide the final excitement that ensures riders finish the race on a whooping high. Once safely across the line at Lourensford Wine Estate, all riders will be able to enjoy a glass of their award winning wines in celebration of being among the first to have completed the FNB Wines2Whales Switchback.
Stage Icons: Willie’s Trail, Gantouw Pass, Idiom Single, Peri Bridge to Vergelegen and the Lourensford Ultimate.
Hendrico’s Stage Advice: We had fun designing this new route and we know riders will enjoy it too, so save some energy for the final stage. It’s not every day that riders get to ride in Lourensford Wine Estate and with the brand new trails in there, you won’t soon forget it, so enjoy every moment. Plus, with the race now finishing closer to Cape Town why not get your family to meet you in Lourensford Wine Estate? They can cheer you across the line sharing in your #SeriousGees.
A final word from JK: “That my friends is the Switchback Story. Cape Trails are already half way with Rietvlei Magic and plan to finish it by end of February. The remaining construction trail sequence will be Karwyders Contour, Lourensford Ultimate and Idiom Single, just in time for the Switchback kick off by end of October. Get your names written into the FNB W2W history books as the first people to have ridden the FNB W2W Switchback.”
For more information visit https://wines2whales.com/event/route/2020-switchback-route/