Candice Lill might be a self-proclaimed red-wine lover but that has never stopped her from enjoying a good glass of Chardonnay. In fact, her perceptions could very well change as the 2018 FNB Wines2Whales Chardonnay race rolls out a dedicated women-only start batch for the first time in the event’s history.
Lill, who finished second in last year’s Wines2Whales with dormakaba teammate Vera Adrian, praised the organisers for taking progressive and positive steps for women’s cycling.
The three Wines2Whales races have been renamed after wines produced in the area. The first race will be the Wines2Whales Chardonnay on October 26-28, and this will be followed by the midweek event from October 29-31 which will be the Wines2Whales Pinotage, while the final event on November 2-4 will be the Wines2Whales Shiraz.
The Chardonnay race will have the highest prize purse for women per stage in the world. The news that the women will be the first batch to start each morning is a milestone in itself – and one that could very well see a women’s team cross the finish line before any other category for the first time. The Chardonnay race is also the only one of the three Wines2Whales events that has a dedicated prize purse for the women.
“It is very exciting!” said Lill. “A higher prize purse always makes the racing that much more intense, and also draws a bigger field to the start line. These are two factors that have been lacking in women’s racing in previous years, but I believe that we, the racers and the event organisers, have made significant steps in the right direction.”
“Gone are the days when the winners of the women’s race finished an hour before the second team. We want our women’s race to be exciting for people to watch. We want to have a good battle out there. This encourages increased media coverage and makes the racing as fair as possible.”
“With steps like this, women’s racing will go from strength to strength, and grow even more in years to come. This will make it viable for more female professional cyclists to make a career and a living from racing, which means more women on the start line, and more exciting racing which transforms into an exponential growth for the sport.”
Does Candice like Chardonnay? Well, she doesn’t deny it. “Let’s just say that I am a fussy Chardonnay drinker. I do prefer my red wine, but I have tasted and enjoyed some outstanding Chardonnays.”
Race founder, Johan Kriegler, said that while they had always enjoyed a significant percentage of female participation in the Wines2Whales, they wanted to mark the 10th birthday of the event in a special way. Kriegler believes putting the emphasis on women in the first of the three events will significantly grow the sport.
“The women’s elite race will take place during the first weekend of the Wines2Whales week, during the Chardonnay event. Having a separate start will ensure a fair competition between women in all categories – even those not competing for prize money. This will allow us to have more media focus on women and to celebrate their accomplishments during prize giving. The total prize money for woman will again be the same as for men.”
This is not to say other categories cannot enter the Chardonnay race. Men’s, women’s and mixed teams will be allowed to enter any of the races, but the prize money on the Chardonnay race will specifically be given to the top three women’s category teams.
The other two races have been renamed to