Day two of the 2017 Gravel & Grape Extreme lived up to its reputation as a tough but rewarding stage of mountain bike racing with most riders finishing exhausted but elated. Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E) claimed the stage win, while the stage itself claimed riders Jurgens Uys and Nicols Carstens early on.
Setting out from the race village of ATKV Goudini Spa, riders made their way towards Du Toitskloof Cellar and then on to uniWines Vineyards (Daschbosch), before heading back to the finish via Du Toitskloof once more. The Gravel & Grape Extreme (and the two-day Adventure) is a race, but it’s also a scenic tour of the best wineries in the Breedekloof Wine Valley.
With a 20 second gap over overall leaders Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers, and heading into some sweeping single track early on in the second stage, Carstens had his race ended by a piece of wire that destroyed his spokes and derailleur. Just seven kilometres in to the racing, Carstens was out and teammate Uys decided to limp home with him. “It’s no fun to race by yourself when your partner is out,” said Uys. “You get out of the zone quickly, so it’s better to just call it a day and come back tomorrow.”
Kleinhans and Beers, though, were unable to capitalise on their rivals’ misfortune, with Beers crashing around 10km into the stage and breaking his saddle. The on-site repairs cost the pair around five minutes, allowing Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse and Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) to race past and build a sizeable three-minute gap.
With a skew saddle and time to make up, Kleinhans and Beers chased hard, passing the second-placed team on the big climb of the day, before reaching Esterhuyse and Hobson with 15km to go. “We worked hard on that climb to catch the guys,” said Kleinhans, “then once we caught them we rode together for a bit, but I think they blew quite badly because they just disappeared.”
In the end, Kleinhans and Beers were able to race home – into a stiff headwind – and claim the stage win on a route that offered rocky terrain, testing single track and short punchy climbs throughout. Riders described it as a cross-country stage, with challenges lying around every corner.
“We were slightly slower today, but that was mostly down to the crash,” said Kleinhans. “The route was quite technical, but lots of fun. The single track was excellent again, with the course playing like a long cross-country route; lots of short, punchy climbs. It was another lekker day.”
Riders at the 2017 Gravel & Grape Extreme and Adventure are discovering a hidden gem of mountain biking, and enjoying the local wines at the same time. “It’s going well this year,” said race organiser Pieter Carstens. “The feedback has been very positive and people are enjoying themselves. This is not an easy route, but I think the riders are appreciating the beauty of the region and the amazing trails that are trail builders have built. We would love to see more people coming to ride in the valley; it’s raw and challenging, but unique and rewarding.”
In the Extreme’s ladies race, it was stage 1 winners Nicky Giliomee and Catherine Williamson (Junto Ladies) victorious again with another strong ride. Giliomee came into the race with a broken foot, while Williamson recently completed the Old Mutual joBerg2c, so the pair’s performance is quite special. They both say that the route of the Gravel & Grape makes it worthwhile, though.
“It’s tough out there,” said Williamson, “but because the days are short you can really enjoy it. The trails have been excellent so far; really good mountain bike riding. I have never ridden out here before, and I have to say that it’s incredibly beautiful here. I love doing new rides, and this has been a pleasure so far.”
In the Gravel & Grape Adventure, a two-day shorter version of the Extreme, the first team was the junior pair of Heine Kriegler Beukes and De Wet Steyn (Mohein).
“The route was quite rocky, with lots of loose sand,” said Steyn, “But it was a very nice race. I definitely underestimated it, although once we got into it, there was lots of nice technical single track. You can tell that a lot of effort has been put into the course. Our only issue today was that Heine and I crashed into each other at the start!”
The final stage of the Gravel & Grape Extreme features more of the same for the riders, with a special treat coming in the shape of a purpose-built cross-country course in the early part of the stage. The route will also take riders into the magnificent Slanghoek Valley before returning to Goudini Spa.
Gravel & Grape Extreme
Stage 2 results
Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E) 03:00:04
Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse and Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) 03:02:03
Martin Freyer and Alexander Rohrer (Alex & Martin) 03:04:38
Erik Kleinhans and Matt Beers (Topeak Ergon/RED-E) 05:55:33
Charl-Pierre Esterhuyse and Robert Hobson (BREEDENET) 06:04:45
Martin Freyer and Alexander Rohrer (Alex & Martin) 06:14:22
Gravel & Grape Adventure
Heine Kriegler Beukes and De Wet Steyn (Mohein) 01:39:41
Pieter Zirki du Toit and Daniel van Tonder (Rough and Ready) 01:40:52
Francois de Wet and Andre Venter (Team Kallahariferarrie) 01:49:28