The Freedom Challenge

The Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa is an "unsupported" non-stage mountain bike race of approximately 2,300 km across South Africa. While recent winners have won in around 11 days, the race cut-off is 26 days. The race starts in Pietermaritzburg in early-to-mid-June, and ends in Paarl near Cape Town. Temperatures are known to drop as low as minus-10 deg. Celsius. While there are periodic "support stations" which will feed and accommodate riders should they require, the race is unsupported in the sense that riders must carry their own clothing and equipment, are responsible for their own maintenance and navigation (without the aid of GPS), and there are no marshalls or safety officials on the course (Race monitoring is done by satellite tracking). Estimates of cumulative ascent are around 37,000 metres, and the highest point on the route is approximately 2,700 metres above sea level. See the following link for an introductory slideshow by Mike Roy -

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Daily wrap - 30th June

With Martin, the winner and Alex, runner up already in at Diemersfontein, the excitement of the chase up front has subsided. This doesn't mean that the show is over - there are still 26 riders out on the trail and each day they get a little bit closer to the finish. Here's how they went today:
  • Stephen Kellerman took on the Aasvoelberg today, leaving from Romansfontein this morning. The mountain flexed its muscle and bucked him off a few times but he tucked and rolled his way down and continued on to Hofmeyr. Arriving mid afternoon, he opted to stay, rather than risk getting caught out on the feared Elandsberg portage at night. He now has a bit of work to do to catch up after three consecutive half-day riding stages. Hopefully he'll skip the next chapter of his book in the morning and get going early so he can claw back some time by getting to Stuttgart tomorrow night.
  • Roman and Katarina were on a roll today, leaving Stuttgart this morning, passing by Grootdam and getting all the way to VandeVenterskraal. This is their first double up, so they will sleep well tonight.
  • Dino left Grootdam this morning and soldiered on over the Struishoek portage. He checked in at VandeVenterskraal at 17h00 which was a long day. At least tonight he has some company for a change, with the arrival of Roman and Katarina.
  • Up ahead are Travis and Burton. They left the new Toekomst lodge this morning and arrived at Bucklands at 17h00. Plain sailing for today it seems.
  • Also at Bucklands are the members of the Bus - Gawie, Sean, Casper and Charl. They made good time getting to Kleinpoort today but Gawie seems to have a technical issue involving a broken rear skewer. Farmer Hannes has been banging away in his workshop to try and sort it out - hopefully he'll be rolling again tomorrow. That's two ailing bikes on the bus now, Casper's cracked frame is there too - what are these party animals doing out there?
  • After arriving at Bucklands late last night, the Double-Up Duo of Andre and Jody seem to have overslept and left a bit late this morning. Their target was Dam se Drif, (in keeping with their recent antics) but thet were a bit late to the start of the Osseberg jeep track. When they eventually crawled into Cambria and 19h00 and contacted us, they spoke of having survived the 'Vietnam section' and having run out of food and water and even drinking from a stream - too much action for one afternoon, so they opted to stay at Kudu Kaya and continue their assault in the pre-dawn hours. (Hestelle from Dam se Drif has been notified that they won't be there for supper, rather for breakfast and she has kindly promised to keep their pudding for them.)
  • Tim van Coller and the Ghost riders (Peter, Johann and Hugh) went up the Baviaanskloof today. This merry band seem to have disbanded at Dam se Drif, with Tim and Hugh staying over and Peter and Johann continuing on to Willowmore where they arrived at 20h05.
  • Five riders left Willowmore this morning - Chris, Dawn, Allen, Rich and Rory. Rory lead the into Prince Albert, arriving at 16h30, Rich and Allen at 18h00 and Chris and Dawn at 18h30. Johann Rissik's mobile workshop was busy this evening, taking care of all their bikes and the good news is that Chris no longer has any issues with his freewheel hub. 
  • Another five riders left Prince Albert this morning at about 05h30. Mike, Brian, Trevor, Theo and Tweet (Graham) all passed through Gamkaskloof for lunch and then pushed on. Mike stopped at Rouxpos at 19h40, Brian was about an hour behind him. Trev and Theo enjoyed the waffles and then pushed on. They had some issues at Wagendrif where Theo was bitten by a dog but fortunately he was able to see a doctor at the very next farm, who patched him up and sent him on his way again. During his treatment, Tweet arrived, having also pushed on. The three of them are now on their way to Anysberg, where they'll spend the night. 
  • Also at Anysberg tonight is Gerrit - that is if he can find his way there after getting a bit lost today. But Gerrit is tough and he's not scared of The Dark - he'll be fine.
There's a bit of a gap now until the next finishers arrive in Diemersfontein, who are expected here on Monday. Tweet seems to have 3rd place in the bag but there's a potential battle on the cards for 4th place between Mike, Trevor and a late charging Andre (who has two days in hand from a later start batch). Let's see what happens. 

Conversations with Martin and Alex - dissecting this year's race.

Sitting around the breakfast table at Diemersfontein this morning, Martin and Alex swopped stories from the trail and recounted the epic battle of the last 11 days. Both in good spirits but visibly tired and stiff from their exertions, they were both glad to be off their bikes for a change and were working their way through a few breakfasts each.

These are some of their insights into this year’s race:
1.Tell us about your strategy going into the race:
Alex: The plan was always to try for sub 11 days. My race stops and support boxes were planned and sent with this in mind. We all started fast and it very quickly became a race – from then on there was constant pressure.
Martin: I never really had a fixed plan, just a basic aim of around 13 days and to try and finish on or before my wife’s birthday (29 June). I wanted to ride hard though and test myself to see what I could do. I aimed for the same places as Alex most days but pushed to get there before him to keep the pressure on. What I like about Freedom Challenge is that you can make it as hard as you want to, it’s up to you as a rider to decide.

2.Were you racing for the record or racing each other?
A&M: It went from racing the clock to racing the man. As soon as Martin went ahead, he became the hunted man and the pressure was from behind, trying to stay just ahead of Alex. For Alex it became the a case of “chasing the jack rabbit across the country.” The constant drive though was always the ticking clock – after day 3 they were both on sub 11 day pace, then fell a bit behind due to the mud after Rhodes, then got going again when the roads dried out near Hofmeyr. Martin gained some time from Alex’s mechanical issues with his seatpost but felt he gave most of it back with small navigation errors and extra time wasted in support stations.
This year it literally came down to the wire. If there was one specific point where you could say someone made a break, it would probably be the day after Kranskop – Alex had been slowed by his seatpost issues and Martin pushed on past Hofmeyer to Elandsberg that night as the roads dried out. Factoring in their relative sleeping times, this effectively consolidated the gap of a few hours between them which lasted for the rest of the race.

3.You both ended up riding on very little sleep. Where did the sleepmonsters finally catch up with you?
Alex:  Initially I was getting 3 hours of sleep in a 4 hour stopover. At Chesneywold I got 5hrs and the difference in how I felt the next day was huge, despite the mud slowing actual progress. In the second half of the race, I was sacrificing sleep when pushing bigger days, in an attempt to get back on track for a sub 11 day finish and stay in contact with Martin. From about Prince Albert, I was ‘going for home’ so my sleep was further sacrificed – net effect was falling asleep on my bike coming down Ouberg Pass into Montagu and some stretches which required regular 2 to 5 minute power naps just to keep moving. The worst was in Anysberg Nature Reserve - I was hallucinating and started hearing faint music in my head time seemed to slow down to a crawl. 
Martin: I was also working on about 3 hours of sleep most nights before cutting back even more nearer to the end. For me the stretch up Swartberg Pass in the dark was particulalrly difficult, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, was swerving all over the road and had to nap often. The moonlight made my own shadow visible and I started thinking it was another rider next to or just behind me, like having a riding partner. I also started hearing voices on that stretch. The final push for me started from Montagu and whole day I was thinking about getting into Stettyn’s Kloof and up the valley before dark. You have to know yourself well when trying to push it without sleep. I was coping fine for the first half of the race but towards the end I was getting too little sleep and I think it became counterproductive – everything slowed down and it was a huge effort just to keep moving forward.

4.How a big a factor was the weather?
A&M:  It was warmer overall than last year but also much wetter. The worst part was the mud after Rhodes, particulalrly around Moordenaars Poort – this slowed everyone down. There were also sections where strong headwinds made it really tough – like coming into Willowmore and again near Ashton.

5.Any places where you were concerned about navigation?
Alex: Coming over Black Fountain at night made me nervous and proved to be really slow and tricky in the dark. I was also worried about getting through the Gwaas Valley before dark, it’s a pretty bleak place even in daylight.
Martin: I was a bit concerned about Elandsberg in the dark and got lost there, wasting about 2 hours. Also, going around the Darlington dam just after Toekomst was a tricky section for me.

6.This year’s race has had a large following on the internet and especially Twitter – were you getting any info from friends and followers out on the route?
Alex: I was monitoring Twitter for updates and getting sms’s along the way. The info was useful for pacing and judging the effectiveness of my efforts on the bigger days. I could also see from the check in sheets how far ahead Martin was at each support station and adjust my efforts accordingly.
Martin: I was sms’ing info to my wife Jeannie for her to put on Twitter and she was updating me with any developments, like Alex’s check in times behind me, which influenced my pacing. I also spoke to friends on the phone for info if required. I received a ton of sms’s while riding but did not reply to them out on the trail.

7.The support stations are an important part of this event – do any of them stand out for you?
Alex:  The support stations provide food so the standouts are the ones where the food was memorable – for me the spread of food at Grootdam and the coffee and ice cream at Kasra.
Martin: It’s hard to single out any particular one, you don’t spend much time in them and they all go out of their way to make you feel at home. The most memorable food experience didn’t involve a support station though – I ran out of food on the way to Prince Albert and knocked on the door of a labourer’s cottage somewhere near Rondawel to ask for some bread, they gave me some ‘roosterkoek’ which tasted divine and saved me that day.

8.You both had to eat constantly to keep your energy levels up – did you gain or lose any weight during the event?
Alex:  I lost quite a bit, probably about 5kg by the end. (Could feel it in the last few days.)
Martin: Not sure exactly, probably lost about a kilogram by the end.

9.Highlights of the journey for you?
Alex: I had quite a few encounters with animals along the way this year. Coming through the Baviaanskloof, I came around a corner straight into a herd of buffalo standing on either side of the road. I went straight through and they scattered to either side. Approaching Rondawel, I was riding along when a frisky horse appeared next to me on the road, snorting and putting on a show. He trotted off ahead of me and then returned to inspect me again – made me a bit nervous. Later on before Prince Albert, I noticed some shiny dots up ahead in my lights, as they grew bigger, I realised that they were eyes and approaching fast – at the last minute I realised there were two brown Hyena running towards me in the road! I braked and swerved to the side and they ran off.
Martin: The amazing scenery and night skies, getting a fright when I triggered a leopard tracking camera and the flash suddenly went off next to me, many small things like that. But the best for me was being out on my own and eventually getting to the front of the field and having no tracks to follow for the last few days.

10.Tech info for those that need to know:
Both rode 29er hardtails with tubeless wheelsets. Alex rode 3x10 gearing and Martin 2x10. No major mechanical issues apart from the seatpost for Alex and a Martin splitting his chain and struggling to get the replacement link fitted properly.

11.Classic comments:
Alex remembered pedalling out through Bisley Nature Reserve on day 1 and casually asking Martin what his plans were, his reply: “I’m just going to try and hang on…”
Martin’s comment to Alex about feeling the pressure from him chasing hard: “If you had slowed down, I would have too…”

Rider progress stats as at 29 June - Still 26 riders out on the course

What a race it was to the finish at Diemersfontein yesterday between Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris, with Dreyer setting a new race record of 10 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes, one that will be hard to beat.

On his way to achieving this feat, Martin Dreyer averaged a speed of 8.47km/hour, and that is a continuous measurement from start to finish, including al rests/sleeps (and collisions with trucks) etc.

The 2nd placed Alex Harris also beat his prevous record, coming in 3 minutes less than 11 days, and averaging a speed of 8.24km/hour.

So the memorable excitement created by the 2 race leaders is over, but the rest of the riders still have some way to go before Diemersfontein.

Third-placed Merrell Adventure Racer Graham Bird is averaging 6.6km/hour, and is currently somewhere in Die Hel, 300+ kms from Diemersfontein. Although well-behind the top 2, he could conceivably end the race in 13-14 days, not far outside Harris' last year's record - not to be scoffed at. He looks fairly comfortable in 3rd place, while Trevor Ball and Mike Woolnough  have 2 chasers in the form of Allen Sharp and Richmond McIntyre not far behind so the 4th place could be more hotly contested.

And in the ladies' event, the sole survivor Dawn Bell keeps soldiering on, having reached Willowmore yesterday. She rode the Baviaans from Cambria yesterday, skipping Damsedrif, and is now on 25 day pace, having been behind 26 day schedule earlier in the race due to some mishaps.

20 riders have withdrawn during the race, leaving a potential 28 finishers, of which 2 have finished.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Alex is home

At 05h57 this morning, Alex Harris arrived at Diemersfontein, cutting it fine but just sneaking in under the 11 day mark. His official time of 10days 23hours 57minutes makes it only the second sub-11 day finish in the history of the event. He also managed to shave more than a day and a half off his previous best finishing time.  He's tired and soggy after a long trip up Stettyn's Kloof in the dark but happy to finally be finished and satisfied with his efforts. 

Martin arrives at Diemersfontein

At 22h40 tonight, Martin Dreyer arrived at Diemersfontein Wine Estate, first across the line and the end of his journey in the 2012 Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa. His time for this year is an incredible 10days 16hours 40min - a new record for the event and the first ever sub 11 day finish for the event. His reward, the customary Basotho blanket, the same prize for all finishers of this iconic event.

Daily wrap - 29th June.

  • Stephen Kellerman is sleeping Romansfontein tonight - He struck out early from Brosterlea and spent most of the day portaging over mountains in the Stormberg area. He went to ground  at Romansfontein after finding cell phone signal again and getting sidetracked by business - again... 
  • Roman and Katarina left Hofmeyr this morning and went past Elandsberg to Stuttgart. They still have some front shock issues but no shock pump within a 300km radius of them - maybe one of the farmers can help them out - but they are still one the move.
  • Dino left from Elandsberg early this morning, got to Stuttgart at 10h56 and pressed on to Grootdam. He was making good time and looked on track to complete the first 'double' of his race.
  • The Bus - Gawie, Casper, Charl, Shaun had a relatively straightforward day today, going from Grootdam, through Van deVenterskraal and all the way to Toekomst - there they booked into the 'New Toekomst Lodge' and were relaxing in 5-star comfort well before sunset. Tomorrow Bucklands  will be in their sights.
  • Travis and Burton also booked in at Toekomst, slightly ahead of the rowdy latecomers but there's no doubt a lively party going on there at the moment. 
  • The new Minibus - Andre and Jody, were up to their tricks again today. After a massive 230km push yesterday, they arrived at Van deVenterskraal after midnight and were on the road again by 6am. They got through the game capture fence at Koedeoskop without a hitch and arrived at Toekomst in good time but then wasted a bit of time locating the new lodge. They rolled out again at 12h00 and got around the Darlington Dam without a hitch but then slowed down going through the Gwaas Valley - no doubt yesterday's efforts were catching up with them. They had a surprise visit from friends at the Kleinpoort Padstal and eventually arrived at Bucklands at 21h00. More big moves tomorrow?
  • Tim van Coller and the Ghost Riders (Hugh, Peter and Johann) went into the Baviaanskloof black hole today where there's no signal for trackers or cell phones - When they were last tracking, they seemed to be making good time, so most likely, they are all sleeping at Kudu Kaya tonight. We'll know for sure in the morning. 
  • Chris and Dawn, Allen and Rich all left Cambria this morning and all successfully doubled to Willowmore after stopping for lunch at Dam se Drif.
  • Rory dragged himself away from Hestelle's 'Death by Chocolate' at Dam se Drif this morning and jumped across to Willowmore today. He even arrived early enough to pop into town and buy a new cell phone. Tomorrow he'll go across the Moordenaars Karoo to Prince Albert. 
  • Mike and Graham also left Dam se Drif this morning (although they went while Rory was still sleeping)  and made it to Willowmore for breakfast just before 9am. They carried on but split up shortly afterwards when Graham went ahead, eventually reaching Prince Albert at 20h15. Mike was struggling with his leg again and was taking strain into the strong headwind. By 21h30 he was still an hour away from Prince Albert but making steady progress.
  • Trevor and Theo also pedaled into the stiff headwinds all day with Theo the Steamtrain up front and Trevor hanging on for dear life behind! They got into Prince Albert at 15h45. 
  • Brian also left Willowmore this morning and got to Prince Albert at 18h15.
  • Gerrit started from Prince Albert early this morning and got to Gamkaskloof by 12h00, then pushed on to Rouxpos for the double. He's in for a late night as there are some steep little hills just before Rouxpos but nothing Gerrit can't deal with.
  • Then it's just the two front runners left - Alex came through Montagu at 05h30, slept for an hour and was on his way at 06h50. He made quick time to McGregor and stopped at Kasra for 40 min, leaving again at 13h10. He then slowed on the way through Brandvlei Prison where Steve Thomas and the mobile race office surprised him with a cup of coffee. He went on to Trouthaven and checked in for some sleep at 20h16. His goal now is to get to the finish before 6am on Saturday to get in under the 11 day mark.
  • Martin cruised into Montagu at 21h40 last night, ate and went to bed for 2 hours. He eventually got going again at 01h15 and soon had to take shelter from a storm in Ashton. He also had to sleep for another hour before McGregor and stopped for a quick snack at Kasra. Then he pushed on to Trouthaven, along the way getting knocked over by a delivery van! Fortunately he was able to continue, although he now had an arm injury to contend with. He entered Stettyn's Kloof at 15h30 and we then had comms from him again at 21h00 when he popped out at the Du Toit's Kloof tar road. There is a small crowd of friends and family gathered here at the finish waiting for him to arrive. 

Not even a truck will stop Dreyer now

If the excitement of the chase across the country by the 2 race leaders Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris hasn't been enough, leader Martin Dreyer, who was about 4-4.5 hours ahead of Alex, was knocked by a delivery van on the road to Stettynskloof. Besides the fact that he could have been seriously injured, this could have seen his race end in disaster, should either he or his bike have been badly injured/damaged.

According to Glenn's account, the van seemed to "clip" him as it went past, hurting his arm but leaving him and his bike otherwise intact.

And so, on goes "The Machine" towards the finish, with not even a truck being able to stop him. He is currently in Stettynskloof, out of reach of Tracker. The good time he made today means that most of the portage up the kloof will have been done in daylight. And as long as there are no navigation errors in the kloof, it should be plain sailing down to Diemersfontein for a race victory and a new race record this evening.

Dreyer's lead extends to 4 hours 30 minutes based on rider departure times from Kasra

As at the 2 lead riders' departure from Kasra support station, the lead situation changed noticeably, with 2nd placed Alex Harris taking a longer break than Martin Dreyer. Dreyer left Kasra at about 08h40, after only 15 minutes break. Harris stayed for about 45 minutes, leaving at 13h10.

On departure, Martin's lead was extended to around 4 hours and 30 minutes, from nearer to 4 hours earlier.

Dreyer is currently steaming towards the final support station of Trouthaven before starting the final Stettynskloof portage later this afternoon.

As at the 2 leading riders' arrival times at Kasra support station, Martin Dreyer had a 3 hour and 55 minute lead over Alex Harris

Alex Harris arrived at Kasra support station at about 12h25. This is compared to race leader Martin Dreyer's arrival at the same support station at around 08h30 this morning.

The gap as at Kasra between the 2 riders was thus about  3 hours and 55 minutes. From Kasra, there are about 136.5 kms left to the finish at Diemersfontein

As at McGregor, Alex Harris has narrowed the time gap on Martin Dreyer significantly

Alex Harris has just passed through the main street of the town of McGregor, on his way to Kasra.

Earlier this morning, Martin Dreyer took a bit of a "cat nap" next to the road. This, and extreme  effort by Alex has now closed the gap on Martin significantly. The latest Tracker reading in the main street saw Alex arriving here at 9h53. Martin passed the same point at 06h12.

Martin's lead has thus been cut to 3 hours and 41 minutes as at the McGregor main street.

Is there still a final twist to the tale? Both riders must be pretty tired by now, and Alex probably does not have the luxury of any rest until the finish line if is to win this race.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The chase is on...

Lots of action in the early hours of the morning in Montagu today. Martin arrived late last night, had supper and went to bed. After 2 hours of sleep, he got up, had breakfast and eventually got going again at 1:15am. He was briefly delayed by a rain shower in Ashton and stopped for shelter at a garage. He also had to have a power nap in McGregor because he was getting tired again.

Alex arrived in Montagu at 5:30am after having stopped to sleep for 10min in a shed at Anysberg. On the way down Ouberg Pass, he fell asleep on his bike and ended up on the side of the road in a bush, luckily without any damage sustained. He went straight to bed on arrival in Montagu and slept for an hour. A quick breakfast and he was out the door at 6:50am.

Barring any major issues, both these guys will be at the finish in Diemersfontein within the next 24 hours. Alex seems to be on a mission and is still trying to chase Martin down. He's cut his sleep over the last 2 days. Even though there is a gap of some hours, Martin will be looking over his shoulder and too nervous to sleep again before the finish. They will most likely spend the day power napping along the road on the way to the finish. We might even end up with both of them in Stettynskloof at the same time later today - one entering as the other nears the scramble out the top. After more than 10 days on the road, there are still only a few hours in it!

Dreyer holds a 5.5 hour lead over Harris departing Montagu, staring what looks to be the final day for the race leaders

Good morning to all Freedom Challenge followers. A quick update early on what looks like being the final day of the race for the 2 race leaders, Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris.

The race office was set up at Montagu for the night, and Glenn had the chance to see both the riders on their way through. Martin Dreyer reportedly left at 01h15 this morning after sleeping for 2 hours. Alex Harris, who needs to do something big now, slept for 1 hour at Montagu and left at 06h50. 

Dreyer's lead, as at departure from Montagu, therefore, was about 5 hours and 35 minutes. 

With regard to record pace. In 2011, Harris left Montagu after 11 days, 13 hours and 50 minutes. By comparison, Martin has left after 9 days, 19 hours and 15 minutes. As at departure from Montagu, therefore, he was 1 day, 18 hours and 35 minutes ahead of record pace. Although this has dropped back slightly from yesterday's "lead" he held over the record-breaking pace, a sub-11 day winning time is still very much on the cards.

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Daily wrap up - 28th June

Things seem to have gone quiet today - the trackers have been down for much of the day and many of the riders are passing through areas now where their smartphones become a bit dumb due to lack of signal, so there have been far fewer Tweets from riders (and many more from frustrated supporters).

So this is what we know about the action out there today:

  • Stephen Kellerman (a.k.a Stevie Wonder) has been going along nicely today after having left the portages and mud of the Bontehoek behind him. He passed through Kranskop at 11h45 this morning and was pressing on towards to Brosterlea.
  • Roman and Katarina went from Brosterlea to Hofmeyr today and are booked in at the Karoobos Hotel. They have a collapsing front shock and are making plans to get hold of a shock pump.
  • Dino is safely in at Elandsberg, having arrived at 16h45. His bike is sporting an additional steel pipe as a brace, courtesy of Diederik and his welding machine at Kranskop. And according to Will at Romansfontein, not only does Dino win the competition for heaviest bike, he also has by far the heaviest boots - he should know because he's the one who has been putting all the shoes on the stove-top to dry. Well done Dino!
  • Up the road at Grootdam, we have now the Minibus - Gawie, Casper, Charl and Shaun. 
  • Currently heading over Struishoek on night moves are Andre and Jody, who are finally attempting to jump ahead. Struishoek is a tricky portage at night, it's claimed a few victims in the past who have spent a cold night on the mountain but these two are brave members of the "Container Clan" so won't be too scared of this small portage. If all goes well, they should get to Vandeventerskraal before 23h00 tonight - good luck guys!
  • Travis and Burton had a very late night, coming into Grootdam last night at 22h45. They opted for an easier day today by leaving at 09h00 and stopping at VandeVenterskraal at 18h00.
  • Leaving from Vandeventerskraal this morning, we had Tim, Hugh, Peter and Johan. They were all headed for Bucklands today. So far only Tim hasn't arrived but his tracker shows him less than an hour from home. The other three arrived comfortably at 16h30.
  • Chris, Dawn, Allen and Rich all left from Bucklands this morning and seemed to have a long but uneventful day on the way to Cambria. arriving at 18h00.
  • Cambria was a busy place last night with Brian, Trevor and Theo all staying there. Brian went on to Dam se Drif today where he is staying tonight. Trevor and Theo left earlier and went all the way to Willowmore, arriving at 16h45 - that's good going, Theo the Steamtrain must have been firing today, pulling Trevor in his wake.
  • Cambria had more visitors during the day when Mike and Tweet popped in late morning. They had left from Hadley farm and were headed for Dam se Drif arriving at 18h30. They are currently enjoying Hestelle's Death by Chocolate and plan to leave early at 02h00.
  • Gerrit left from Willowmore this morning and made good time across the Moordenaars Karoo. He slowed slightly after Rondawel, possibly from eating too many of Tannie Elna's vetkoek but did eventually arrive in Prince Albert at 18h00. He's no doubt catching up with the latest happenings of the Dikwiel Kommando from Johann Risssik right now.
  • Up front we still have Alex and Martin closing in on Diemersfontein fast. Alex stopped in at Dennehof in Prince Albert last night for a few hours sleep and left again at 02h00. He made good time, passing through Gamkaskloof at 08h15 without stopping. Up Die Leer and on to Rouxpos where he arrived at about 15h30, stopped for some waffles from Ronel and left again at 16h25 - he's currently making his way to the support station at Anysberg.
  • Martin arrived in Montagu at 20h40. He was tired and had been falling asleep on his bike coming down the the Ouberg pass, not surprising as he had missed out on any decent sleep at the previous two support stations.(He cat-napped on the road into Gamkaskloof, grabbed an hour's sleep in the caravan when he arrived in the kloof itself. He tried to sleep again at Rouxpos but a noisy tractor outside disturbed him so he got up and left.) With a few hours of sleep here, he'll most likely go all the way through to Diemersfontein.

Dreyer goes still further ahead of race record pace today.

I understand that Race leader Martin Dreyer has just arrived in Montagu. With Tracker not working well today, we rely on the bush telegraph. Working on an arrival time of approximately 20h45, Martin has taken 9 days 14 hours and 45 minutes.

By comparison, Alex Harris got to Montagu in 11 days, 11 hours and 45 minutes on his way to setting last year's record. This means that Martin is approximately 1 day and 21 hours ahead of  race record pace as at Montagu. This is a further improvement on his 1day 17hours and 45 minutes ahead of record pace this morning as at departing Rouxpos.

Earlier at Anysberg there were tweets regarding a minor technical issue in the form of chain trouble. That seems to be a thing of the past, as another stage passes.

Dreyer has covered approximately 155km since leaving Rouxpos at 9h15 this morning. He now has 218.5 km left to the finish at Diemenersfontein.

Some time tonight, on the stage between Montagu and Kasra, Martin will pass the 2,000km mark in the race.

At present I don't have news as to Alex Harris. position, but he is expected to take a short sleep at Anysberg support station, 1 station before Montagu.

Into the final Section of the Freedom Trail - the Breede River Section - Anysberg to Diemersfontein

Tracker is erratic today, due to the remoteness of the areas being passed through by race leader Martin Dreyer and 2nd placed Alex Harris. Dreyer is expected at Montagu later today, en route from Anysberg. According to the support station hosts, he reached Anysberg at 14h40, with "chain problems" whatever that may mean. Is there still a final twist in the tale? Harris was lunching at Rouxpos (one support station behind) at 15h10. With Dreyer having left Rouxpos at 09h30, that would imply that he had a lead of about 5 hours 40 minutes over Harris as at Rouxpos.

From Anysberg, Dreyer is into the final section of the Freedom Trail, known as the Breed River section. From Montagu onward, one really rides on a "high". Montagu seems like a city compared to anything else seen on the route, and then as one rides through the winelands you really do get the feeling that the end is just around the corner. So if ever on the race Martin had any problem with his motivation levels (although it doesn't appear so), it definitely won't be here.

The total distance of the Breede River section from Anysberg to Diemersfontein is estimated at 295.5km. There is still quite a bit of climbing. The bulk of it, though, is on the final stage from Trouthaven to Diemersfontein, which includes the notorious Stettynskloof portage. 

Thereafter it will be a very pleasant ride down to du Toitskloof Pass, up to the top of the pass and down the forestry track to the finish at Diemersfontein. At his current race pace, and barring any major technical or physical blowout, Martin could be expected to arrive at Diemersfontein some time tomorrow night, or in the early hours of Saturday morning.

If 2nd placed Alex Harris is to have a say in this race, he'll have to make a big move quickly. I guess one wouldn't expect either rider to be sleeping too much from here onwards. 

Freedom Trail Breede River Section - Anysberg to Diemersfontein:

Total distance: 295.5km
Cumulative ascent: +3,941m
Cumulative Descent: -4,513m

Distances between support stations

Anysberg to Montagu:  77km
Montagu to Kasra: 82km
Kasra to Trouthaven: 72.5km
Traouthaven to Diemersfontein: 64km

Expected Times between support station 

Anysberg to Montagu:  4-5 hours            
Montagu to Kasra: 5-6 hours
Kasra to Trouthaven: 6-7 hours
Traouthaven to Diemersfontein:  8-9 hours

The adventures of Stephen Kellerman

His name tag could well read: "Stephen Kellerman, Risk Analyst, Intrepid Adventurer" - while the racers up front keep going at it hammer and tongs, Steven is having an adventure all of his own at the back of the field. Risk analyst by day, he's becoming quite a proficient mountain biker by night.  He arrived in Rhodes after 8 days, just sneaking in under the 9-day cut-off. He's having the time of his life but his antics often result in late night panic in the race office as everyone wonders where he'll pop up on the radar each evening. He was a very late entry into the race, only entering on the 27th April.

Here's a brief overview of his race thus far with ( together with his daily check in messages):
Day 1 - Byrne Village:
After a work crisis he needed to be re-united with his laptop so his race was put on hold at the first soup stop to make arrangements. This made him the first person ever to sleep in Byrne.
"17h16 - Hi Meryl, at a B&B just past Minerva. Allendale tomorrow, will work on laptop there a bit until crisis is resolved, tomorrow Freedom Challenge for real...."

Day 2 - Allandale:
"13h58 - Hi Meryl, arrived Allandale at 13h00, will work on laptop this afternoon, please thank Ben for getting it to me"

Day 3 - Centocow:
He left Allandale late and got to Centocow in the afternoon - decided to stay because the navigation "looked a bit tricky"

Day 4 - Ntsikeni:
"Hi Meryl, left Centocow at 04h45, headed for Banchory, looks like rain today though, taking it slow. Good news, finished the 50 business calls, need to switch off from work I think!" He phoned in at about 6pm, having crossed over the Ntsikeni reserve fence and gotten lost. David then got him back on track and he arrived at May Lodge at 20h30 - a long day out.

Day 5 - Masakala:
"Morning Meryl, attempting the next leg, leaving at 07h15..." His tracker stopped working before he got out of Ntsikeni reserve and the rest of the day we wondered where he was. Sheila at Glen Edward phoned late afternoon to say no-one had passed by that day for coffee/soup, which was cause for some concern....but at 20h46 that evening he checked in:
"Hi Meryl, safely at Masakala @ 19h15. Found 50 new routes...can't read obviously! The most amazing night sky I've seen in years tonight. Thank you for helping organise such an amazing event! Stephen."

Day 6 - Malekholonyane:
"09h29 - Hi Meryl, leaving Masakala now, thanks" - a very late start because according to Tshepo at the support station, he took some time to read his book that morning!
"14h07 - at Queen's Mercy in heavy rain, slippery when wet...ha ha!"
"18h42 - at Malekholonyane...very very wet. Learnt that hail hurts....nice!"

Day 7 - Vuvu:
"20h33 - Oh my word...what a stressful day but just arrived at Vuvu. A few mistakes had me going round in circles. No electricity last night meant no cell phone or Garmin to use - sorry couldn't text earlier. Just in need of sleep now" From his arrival time, he would have spent a few hours bashing up the Vuvu valley in the dark....

Day 8 - Rhodes:
On tired he legs he took on Lehanas, stopped in at Tenahead at 14h00 and eventually got to Rhodes at 17h00 "Another lonely day in the dust. At least I got to play with snow today - never did before - such fun throwing snowballs at your bike (or sad) ha ha! Bad news, I've lost my tracker, also my Garmin, memory cards and cables but they weren't yours...I'm a hazard."

Day 9 - Slaapkranz:
"Good morning, leaving Rhodes at 06h15 - thanks"
"16h04 - At Kapokkraal house, Slaapkranz before 7pm, sorry haven't had reception since lunch"
"21h20 - Forgot to let you know I arrived just before 8pm. What a lovely route past so many beautiful homesteads today. Still trying to figure out strategy for tomorrow - maybe see how the legs feel in the morning, thanks for everything."

Day 10 - Moordenaarspoort:
"08h30 - Hi Meryl, left just before 8am and on my way. Will decide at 12 how hard I can push and let you know about tonight."
"13h12 - Afternoon Meryl. These portages are killing my cycling legs and I'm pretty exhausted from the past two days. Think I'll only make Moordenaars today - still a while away. Thanks, Stephen."

Day 11 - heading for Brosterlea:
"11h43 - At Moordenaars at 18h30. look forward to chipping away at more of the Challenge. Just going to rest a bit" (Sent from his rest stop at Kranskop this morning.)
"Hi Meryl. Left Moordenaars at 07h15, at Kranskop at 10h45. Going to push to Brosterlea by 18h15."

And so each day continues to unfold - despite the hardships, he keeps trucking on and maintains a positive attitude even though the last itme he saw other riders was at Masakala on day 5.

He's now trying to get to Hofmeyr before the next cut-off after 13 days. Assuming he gets to Brosterlea today and gets an early start tomorrow, he could make it to Hofmeyr tomorrow night and once again sneak in under the cut-off. You can bet he'll be trying hard to do just that so that this great adventure can continue.

Race record looking increasingly likely to fall and fall hard

In 2011, record reaker Alex Harris left Rouxpos support station 10 days 21 hours after starting in Maritzburg.

Martin Dreyer left Rouxpos this morning at 9h15, 9 days, 3 hours and 15 minutes after starting in Maritzburg.

This now puts him 1 day, 17 hours and 45 minutes ahead of record pace, and the margin is increasing at virtually every support station. The record stands at 12 days, 15 hours and 30 minutes.

Sub-11 days now a very distinct possibility if no technical troubles befall Dreyer

Route Profile - Anysberg is next port of call - Diemersfontein is getting close

Martin Dreyer left Rouxpos at 9h30, and embarked on the long gradual ascent into the Anysberg Nature Reserve. This stage to Anysberg support station is pretty much all riding. There has been some dispute over the public right of way on part of the road approaching the nature reserve, but apart from that one wouldn't expect any navigation issues to delay the riders' trip into and through the reserve. The route profile below perhaps makes the ascent look more extreme than it actually is. In actual fact the highest point on the route profile chart is only 999 metres, 490 metres higher than the low point near the start at Rouxpos, so it not by any means an extreme stage. 

Later today, the next stage will be to Montagu.....Diemersfontein is getting close  

Rouxpos to Anysberg support station:
Total Distance - 72.4km
Cumulative ascent: +1,119m
Cumulative descent: -979m
Expected riding time: 4-5 hours

Quick update - Martin Dreyer leaves Rouxpos, while Alex Harris still needs to exit Die Hel

With Tracker signal somewhat erratic, a quick update from Glenn out on the course is that race leader Martin Dreyer left Rouxpos support station at 09h30. Rouxpos is the station on the other side of Die Hel and Die Leer climb out of Die Hel. 2nd-placed Alex Harris is probably heading towards Die Leer at the moment. Alex clocked out of Die Hel support station (the station before Rouxpos) at 08h15. The trip for Alex to Rouxpos station is expected to be about 6-7 hours in total, of which about an hour-and-a-half has already been completed.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Martin and Alex out on the trail.

With the race office set up in Willowmore last night and this morning, we had a first hand look at both Martin and Alex as they came through the support station.

Martin arrived in the early hours of the morning, after a long push from Hadley (200km+). He had just ripped his waterproof pants climbing over the game fence on the approach to Willowmore and was wide eyed and awake. He considered going straight on after some food but after 30min was still undecided. He had a huge supper, while simultaneously trying to plug in chargers, repack his bag, dry wet socks and look at the maps for the next section - basically he was like an excited kid. (possibly even a bit "loskop") He said he was losing time to small navigation errors and knew Alex wouldn't be making the same errors. But most of all he felt "empowered" by the whole adventure and was having lot's of fun.

When Alex arrived mid morning the following day, he had already been on the bike for 6hrs, having left from Dam se Drif. Apart from a raging appetite, he said the legs felt good and he was going well. He also put away a huge breakfast without blinking and calmly went about repacking his bag. Overall he was more organised and took less time to get ready but seemed a bit less excited and more focused on the next stage. He asked about Martin's check out time and sleep hours but also had time to tell us about his episode with the electric fences and bee hives at Cambria.

These are two very different characters who have been racing each other for the last week. The gap is now about 7 hours but in the greater scheme of things, that's not much. A mechanical or even an injury could quickly change this. Both are going hard to the finish and both are on track to improve on last year's record. Even though Martin may currently have the upper hand, after 8 days of racing, there's really not much in it.

The daily wrap up - 27th June.

Another eventful day out on the trail:

  • Steven Kellerman checked in at midday - he left late on tired legs and was taking a bit of strain, so was aiming for Moordenaarspoort for the night.
  • Roman and Katarina left from Kranskop, (together with Dino) and ended up stopping at Brosterlea, with Roman having some complaints of a sore stomach.
  • Dino was aiming for Romansfontein tonight and seemed to be on track to arrive there around sunset.
  • The Mega bus lost one of it's passengers today with the unfortunate departure of Ezanda from the race - she injured her knee 3 days ago and with matters not improving, decided not to continue after arriving in Hofmeyr today.
  • The rest of the bus (Gawie, Andre, Jody,Casper, Charl) all sliced through the headwinds in peleton formation towards Hofmeyr, where they then stopped for pies (naturally!). They dropped one member (Shaun) on the way to Elandsberg and arrived at 16h00. Shaun arrived about 90min later - maybe he got left behind and lost his way on Elandsberg or maybe he just stayed for an extra pie...
  • Travis and Burton left Elandsberg quite early and made good progress to Stuttgart and then enjoyed a leisurely lunch of almost 90min. They continued on over the Schurfteberg portage and then wandered off down the old Coetzerskloof technical route - after a phone call to David to establish which route was correct, they were pointed back to the main road and a long cycle around to Grootdam - they eventually arrived at 22h20.
  • Tim, Peter, Johan and Hugh all left Grootdam this morning. Tim went as far as Vandeventerskraal and stopped there. The other three first stopped in at Pearston post office to organise Johan's spare parts and then pushed on to Toekomst.
  • Allen and Rich left from VandeVenterskraal, pushed through Toekomst and ended up at Bucklands for the night - a good, solid day for them.
  • Mike, Tweet, Chris and Dawn left from Toekomst this morning and rounded the Darlington Dam without a hitch. Then Mike switched back to racing snake mode and left the others in the dust! he bolted off to Bucklands for lunch and carried on Hadley where he seems to have holed up for the night. Tweet followed the same route but at a more leisurely pace and arrived after 21h00. Chris and Dawn stopped at Bucklands, arriving comfortably before dark.
  • Leaving from Bucklands early this morning, we had Rory, Trevor and Theo. We got a call late afternoon call from a slightly concerned Rory somewhere deep in the Grootrivierpoort but he got back on track will sleep in a bed at Kudu Kaya tonight - well done Rory!
  • Trev and Theo were attempting to get to Dam se Drif today but neither of their trackers could confirm this. Having left early from Bucklands, they should have at least made it into Cambria before dark.
  • Brian was also headed for Dam se Drif today but as yet we don't have any confirmation of his arrival. It would have been a fairly straightforward day for him though.
  • Gerrit left from Dam se Drif just before 8am, heading for Willowmore. It's a relatively short stage so he would have had time to put his feet up this afternoon.
  • Alex also left from Dam se Drif and passed through Willowmore this morning, stopping in for breakfast because he was "really hungry". He pushed on to Prince Albert and arrived at 22h30, after a long day in the saddle.
  • Martin slept for just an hour in Willowmore, which wasn't enough as he had to resort to a few pre-dawn power naps on the way to Prince Albert, he eventually arrived at 14h00 and did the same thing, a short sleep, lot's of food, lot's of faffing and then off to Gamkaskloof. he will most likely take a short nap in Gamkaskloof too and continue with the same pattern from here to the finish.

Martin dropping into Die Hel. Does he sleep or does he go?

Tonight is a night of 2 significant climbs for the race leaders, one, the Swartberg Pass, which has already been completed by Martin Dreyer, but which still awaits Alex harris.

The steep and winding Swartberg Pass-en route to Die Hel
At time of writing, we were still waiting for Alex to arrive at Prince Albert. The latest whereabouts of leader Martin is not accurately known. He had reached the top of Swartberg Pass and turned off on the road into Gamkaskloof, or "Die Hel" as it is more commonly called. But until tomorrow when he is out the other side of Die Hel, Tracker signals could erratic at best. 

The route profile into Die Hel was covered in an earlier post. The question that needs to be answered is does Martin have a sleep stop in Die Hel at the support station, or does he move on to Rouxpos, which is 60.2km beyond  that? As at Die Hel support station, which he is expected to reach shortly, at around 22h00-23h00, Martin will have covered a massive 263.5km since leaving Willowmore at 03h10 this morning in a 19 -20 hour push, with only a 1 hour break at Prince Albert. And he only slept about 1.5-2 hours in Willowmore last night.

So the money would probably be on Martin sleeping briefly in Die Hel after such a long session. But then Martin seems to be one of those guys who you shouldn't bet against. 

Whether he sleeps or not in Die Hel, the break should probably not be expected to be too long. Although tired, one would imagine that he must be in a really good frame of mind despite surely being tired. Cape Town is getting very near now, and positive and upbeat attitude can greatly assist one's energy levels. One feels at this stage that Martin needs a serious technical bike problem, or an injury, to stop him from winning the race now. And with a good few hours' lead, he has the liberty of not having to ride recklessly.

Die Leer (The Ladder) portage
The next stage from Die Hel support station involves riding the length of the Gamkaskloof, finding the start of the historic donkey track known as "Die Leer" (which Deneys Reitz's command used to exit Die Hel in Anglo-Boer War days) and then it is bike on the back for a very sharp steep climb of perhaps an hour, back on the bike and over the hill down to Rouxpos. Finding Die Leer in the dark can be a little tricky, but once one has found it things should be okay on the navigation front.

Periodically, the Freedom Challenge has had a problem with riders getting stopped by a farmer whose land Die Leer route crosses, and who claims that it is private land. The race organisers have taken legal advice on the matter, and a public right of way still exists on this historic route. 

Distance from Die Hel support station to Rouxpos: 70km
Cumulative Ascent: +1917m
Cumulative Descent: -1642m
Expected travel time: 6-7 hours

Heading For Die Hel

Add caption

Top of Die Leer - awesome view of Die Hel behind

Rider Progress Charts - GO DAWN!

By all reports it was a beautiful day, and no westerly wind to make the relatively flat Willowmore-Prince Albert stage a nightmare for race leader Martin Dreyer and 2nd placed Alex Harris. 

Dreyer, now on something of a roll at present, was afforded the opportunity to complete the 176.5km stretch in 12 hours and 5 minutes, at an average speed of 14.7km/hour.

This, and some good riding from Cambria up the Baviaanskloof, has seen Dreyer's average speed for the total race (timed continuously since the start in Maritzburg) increase from 7.77km/hour as at Cumbria support station to 8.33km/hour as at Prince Albert this afternoon.

2nd placed Alex Harris' average speed also increased slightly from Cambria to Damsedrif support station, where he slept last night, from 7.57km/hour to 7.68km/hour as at Willowmore support station.

In 3rd place, currently heading for Hadley tonight, just before the drop into the Baviaanskloof tonight, is Graham Bird, who average a speed of 6.14km/hour.

As mentioned earlier, Dreyer took 8 days, 9 hours and 15 minutes to reach Prince Albert at 15h15 this afternoon. This is 1 day, 9 hours and 45 minutes faster than Harris' last year's record ride pace to Prince Albert.

Dreyer recently reached the top of the Swartberg Pass, and is on his way to Die Hel, the key question now being where he will stop to sleep tonight?

Harris currently still has a little way to go to Prince Albert.

...And what remains of the ladies???

In the race, 29 riders remain, while 19 have dropped out. Only one woman remains in the race, after Ezanda Grobler withdrew with an injury, and that is Dawn bell, who soldiers on while her husband Dave withdrew a few days ago with stomach complaints. She's had some delays, earlier in the race, with Dave's bike first breaking and then his ailment setting in, and found herself 2 days behind "par:, i.e. behind the 26 day pace.

However, in recent days she has skipped Stuttgart and van de Venters kraal to make up 2 days and get back on a 26 day finisher schedule. She slept at Toekomst last night and should arrive at Bucklands tonight, the Baviaans now getting nearer.

Dawn is now riding with Chris Morris.....GO DAWN

Martin Dreyer 1 day and 10 hours ahead of 2011 record pace as at his arrival in Prince Albert

The lastest from Tracker is that, as at Alex Harris' most location recent reading at 15h09 on the road from Willowmore to Prince Albert, the gap between him and leader Martin Dreyer remained about 7 hours, with Dreyer having passed the same point at about 08h05 this morning.

In the mean time, Dreyer has reached Prince Albert at around 15h05, and is currently resting. This means he reached the Prince Albert support station at 8 days, 9 hours and 5 minutes. This is now almost 1 day and 10 hours ahead of Alex Harris' 2011 arrival in Prince Albert during his record ride. Harris arrived at Prince Albert in 9 days and 19 hours.

Martin Dreyer nears Prince Albert, and thereafter will face the big climb over Swartberg Pass and into Die Hel

Race leader, Martin Dreyer is reported to be making good time to Prince Albert, and Glenn expects hime to arrive there in the next hour or so.

Glenn indicates that the conditions are superb, and that the much-vaunted westerly wind into the riders' faces has not materialised. 

Martin has opened up an approximate 7 hour lead on Alex Harris, and after a short rest in Prince Albert he is expected to start the climb up the Swartberg Pass and over and down into Die Hel (Gamkaskloof). 

The riders will have to start working harder again, as the cumulative climb is very significant.

To the support station in die Hel:

The expected riding time is 6-7 hours
Cumulative ascent: +2222
Cumulatice descent: -2520
Distance: 87kms

At the current pace, Martin could reach Die Hel perhaps around 22h00 tonight, and it is possible that he will attempt the climb out of Die Hel to Rouxpos before sleeping at Rouxpos support station a few hours on. The main navigation challenge in that case would be finding the bottom of "Die Leer", the old historic donkey track portage up out of Die Hel.

But that's for later. First to Prince Albert, a break, and then the Swartberg pass and into Die Hel for Martin.

The sneaky sneak

Although there is a defined race route which has to be followed, there are a few places where knowing about and using a shorcut or sneak, can save significant time - or not...

Over breakfast in Willowmore, Alex told us about his adventures in the Baviaanskloof yesterday. He tried to use a sneak into Kudu Kaya to save some time but hadn't scouted it before. After wasting a bit of time finding the start of it, he made his way up through the cultivated fields behind Kudu Kaya support station and encountered his first electric fence and got shocked as he climbed over it. Just before he got to the buildings, he encountered a second fence, this one even higher. He climbed up one of the wooden poles and onto the roof of a shed, then started pulling his bike up using a short piece of rope. Whilst doing this the bike went bumping up against the side of the shed which housed a few bee hives.....

The bees didn't take kindly to the disturbance and swarmed out and started attacking Alex. Determined not to drop his bike, he pulled it up, threw it over into a nearby hedge and jumped off the roof, managing to shock himself again as he did so! He bolted for the support station door and got inside to take stock of the damage. The bike was fine, he had about 20 stings on his face and neck and his heart was racing. He then took some extra time resting at the support station before moving on to Dam se Drif.

After all this, the total time saved by using the sneak was only 10 minutes over Martin, who had gone around on the slightly longer road route.

But unbeknownst to Alex. this particular sneak was not allowed a it traversed private land. Martin had asked David about it before getting there and was told not to use it. Alex's route transgression was picked up on the tracker and it was decided that any advantage gained from it would have to be sat out as a time penalty at the next support station (Dam se Drif) - in this case only 10 min.

So after a long and exciting day, when Alex finally arrived at Dam se Drif later that evening, he was greeted with the news that Big Brother had been watching him and he would now have to stay in Dam se Drif for at least 30min - his usual 20min turnaround time plus the extra 10min penalty.
But the issue resolved itself because Alex stopped to sleep and in so doing, spent much more than the required 30min at the support station. 

The final push for Cape Town is on, and Martin Dreyer attempts to tighten the screws

Yesterday, the 2 men fighting each other tooth and nail for top honours, Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris, negotiated the Osseberg and the Grootrivier, and started what could probably be deemed the final push for Cape Town (or more specifically Diemersfontein in Paarl). As at Cambria, the 1st support station in the Baviaanskloof, Martin Dreyer had a lead of near to 4 hours, a lead which had been cut from nearer to 5.5-6 hours just over 24 hours before.

From here on, it is a long hard slog, with few complicated navigation issues seemingly left (though not entirely navigation risk-free), and its down to who's body and bike holds up best, and who can get by best with very little sleep.

Alex Harris took a quick sleep at Damsedrif support station last night, and headed out at around 01h35 this morning for the 90km trek out of the Baviaanskloof (all riding on good dirt road) to Willowmore. This was after arriving at Damsedrif at 21h08 last night, i.e about a 4 hour 30 minute break at the support station.

It appears that Harris has just arrived in Willowmore at around 9h30.

Race Leader Martin Dreyer had a quick sleep at Willowmore, showed a more aggressive approach than Harris, making his intentions clear with an early start at around 03h10 for the long flattish near 180km slog to Prince Albert. Having arrivcd at Willowmore at 00h40 this morning, this represents a significantly shorter stop than Harris to the tune of only 2 and a half hours.

In the process, Dreyer has applied additional pressure on Harris, by extending his lead to 6.5-7 hours as at Willowmore, depending on what time Harris leaves Willowmore shortly.

The westward stretch to Prince Albert can be characterised by strong headwinds during the day. With Johann Rissik suggesting yesterday to Glenn that there may be a lull in the wind overnight, Martin may have cut his sleep shorter than Alex to take advantage of this lull. 

In the process, a new race record is looking more and more likely. Last year, Harris's record breaking ride saw him reach Willowmore in 9 days and 1 hour. This year, Dreyer reaced it in 7 days, 18 hours and 40 minutes, 30 hours and 20 minutes ahead of record pace. And Harris, too, is now about 20.5 hours ahead of his last year's pace.......AMAZING.

The route to Prince Albert is as flat as you can get on this race, with only some bad corrugations on  the road to worry about.

Total distance:
Cumulative ascent: +987m
Cumulative descent: -1,204m
Expected riding time: Can be in the region of 12 hours, wind permitting