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 -

Thursday, 28 June 2012

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.


  1. You Go Stephen, that's the way to do it !!!!!
    You are a real inspiration to us all !!!!!

  2. I just call him Stevie Wonder...

  3. Just so it's clear. Stevie might be a Risk Analyst, but he has no ideas of the dangers involved in NOT getting to Prince Albert ;) Go for it mate, Dikwiel Kommando membership could be yours.