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The FNB Wines2Whales mountain-bike stage race has brought a generous helping of gees (rhymes with “fierce”) to South Africa’s Western Cape province since 2009.

That’s a South African word referring to the incredible spirit and thrilling vibe of the race. It’s summed up in the hashtag #SeriousGees, which the race organizers say captures the excitement of the starting line, the riding experience, the smiles, the thumbs-up and the memories made.

FNB Wines2Whales is part of the Epic Series of races and comprises three events named after wines produced in the area: Chardonnay (with a focus on women riders), Pinotage (perfect for first-timers) and Shiraz (men’s teams, mixed teams and more). Each event ran over three days in October this year, and about 500 local and international teams had registered for the race in which I participated. (I’m not sure all 500 teams finished after the Rugby World Cup final on the Saturday night, but more about that later!)

Dimension Data is the Official Technology Partner of the race, providing secure, reliable connectivity as we also do at other events, including the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, Botswana’s Route 73 mountain-bike challenge and the Absa Cape Epic.

Tough riding made easy

This year, I attended FNB Wines2Whales both in my official Dimension Data capacity and as a rider in the Shiraz event.

The picturesque route takes in roads and world-class trails in wine-growing regions and beautiful coastal towns like Hermanus, where the whales mentioned in the event title can often be seen. However, heavy rains and flooding along the planned route forced some last-minute changes this year. The weekend’s racing started at Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West and some routes were shortened to avoid damaged sections of trail.

Fortunately, the weather had cleared up by the time our race started. It remained overcast and cool for the first two days of the event – so conditions were great for riding. But, by day three, the sun came out and so did the wind. The combination of extremely high winds and the after-effects of celebrating the Boks’ victory in the Rugby World Cup made the ride from Oak Valley to Lourensford a lot tougher than it should have been for many riders.

While the riding was tough, with a few falls along the way, the amazing scenery kept us going. So did the well-stocked water stations strategically placed along the route, where friendly volunteers handed out drinks and snacks, while the hype music and MC and announcer helped the riders maintain proper gees.

At the race village, a huge dining hall served three meals a day and, after dinner every night, there was a ceremony to hand out the winners’ jerseys for the day, announce the route for the next day and share videos and pictures.

Wi-Fi you can rely on

When a Wi-Fi network works exactly as it should, users almost stop noticing it’s there – it’s a seamless user experience. That’s the importance of maintaining reliable connectivity, no matter how many users have joined and what they’re uploading or downloading.

Our secure, high-quality Wi-Fi network covered the FNB Wines2Whales race village end to end, offering high-speed access for everyone – from the event staff and riders to the many volunteers and service providers. We also provided internet connectivity for registration and at the starting and finish lines at Lourensford. 

We had a support team on the ground for all three events. They deployed the technology ahead of time and monitored the network during each event to make sure there was enough bandwidth available and to keep all the hardware operational.

Keeping in touch – or saving lives

The network had sufficient bandwidth for watching and uploading YouTube videos and social media posts, or for video-chatting with your family and friends back home – overall, we handled more than 500GB of traffic, 2.6 million network requests and 242 applications with ease.

We also segmented the network to ensure a certain level of service for specific categories of the nearly 900 users – the riders, members of the media, the medics and the event operations staff.

In the event of a serious injury or illness, the medics in the MediClinic facility needed access to a secure and reliable network to connect to hospitals and emergency services. After a small crash on day one, I visited them for a check-up – knowing that they had fast digital access to riders’ medical information and were linked to major hospitals so they could cope with any emergency. Fortunately, my injuries weren't serious and I could keep riding.

Perhaps most importantly for the South Africans, our network also facilitated the seamless streaming of content, so we saw South Africa’s Proteas beat Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup and the Springboks take home the Rugby World Cup trophy for a record fourth time!

WHAT TO DO NEXT

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