Sarah Hill and Theresa Ralph have paired up for their first Wines2Whales together and hope their combined strengths will yield a top result when the three-day Chardonnay event starts in Somerset West early tomorrow.
“Due to it being the first time we’re doing this together we didn’t want to put too many expectations on ourselves. We’ve had a massive year but also want to finish as strongly as possible,” said Hill, who won the Trans Baviaans and placed second in the 3 Towers alongside Ralph this year.
Hill added that Ralph was the diesel engine of their Galileo Risk team. Her strength lay on the flat roads and then pacing them up the long climbs.
“I’m still new to racing and get quite excited, so having that young explosiveness makes me go really hard, really early. She holds me back and makes sure we do a pace so we can finish strongly every day.”
Hill felt her strength lay in her technical handling skills, so on the descents Ralph would let her lead and set the pace.
“Together we really push each other to the best of our abilities to be the fastest we can together. I feel we’re such a good match for this event, and also every other event.
“Theresa looks after me so well and as I get stronger I give back to her, whether it’s sitting on the front and allowing her to rest and recover or me possibly setting the pace on the climb and ensuring we get to the top within our limits and capabilities.”
Hill said they were building up for the Cape Epic next year, so every stage race counted.
Last year Hill competed alongside Hayley Smith, who came into the race ill. They completed the first day together but then Hill rode the rest solo.
“I have zero results, whereas Theresa has done plenty of Wines2Whales, from just simply participating to also racing it. The result I will receive this weekend will be my best.
“I look forward to holding that standard for years to come as our team is just growing and we’re going to get better and better.”
Recently the organisers announced the rebranding of the three events, which also include Pinotage and Shiraz races. The Chardonnay event concludes in Hermanus after 207km and is solely for the elite women.
“I absolutely love the idea of this concept as it’s such a massive push for women’s cycling and empowerment. It also gives us longer exposure and a chance to shine,” said Hill.
The stellar field will include the likes of defending champion Jennie Stenerhag who has joined forces with Mariske Strauss, Candice Lill and Stenerhag’s partner from last year Adelheid Morath, Ariane Luthi and Barbara Benko, as well as Samantha Sanders and Amy Beth McDougall.
“We want the field to be extremely competitive,” said Hill. “We’re all on this level of racing, which is of elite standard. Theresa and I never race to beat somebody, we race to be the fastest we can and hope that the outcome is first place.”
With temperatures expected to soar into the upper thirties, organisers have decided to kick off the Chardonnay an hour earlier tomorrow, which means the elite ladies will now start at 6am.
“That will play quite a factor and adds into our strategy as well as how much effort we put out and how much water we’re drinking,” said Hill.
“We’re really going to focus on staying hydrated, talking to each other and making sure we arrive at the finish as fast as possible so we can put our legs up, enjoy the scenery and hospitality while we recover from the heat. I hope there’s a literal chill zone.”