Today the race entered the fabled Baviaanskloof Reserve - this marks the start of the final chapter of this year's race as the 2 top contenders both made the turn westwards and dropped down the Osseberg jeep track.
It will be a psychological shift for them as they start to plan their run in to the finish, a bit like hitting the the home straight, even though the finish is still more than 700km away. From here the daily distances will increase as the road surfaces improve and navigation becomes relatively straightforward. Although strong winds can slow progress to a crawl, these two will push on regardless.
Both Martin and Alex made it cleanly through the Grootrivierpoort and both went through the technical river crossings just before Cambria in roughly 2 hours. At the start of the day, the gap was roughly 3.5 hours and this seems to have been maintained for most of the day. Martin checked out of the Cambria support station just after 11am, after a 60min stop, headed for Dam se Drif. Alex had a lengthy stop by his standards (70min) which could mean he used it as one of his shower stops before pushing on.
Having ridden the length of the Baviaanskloof in sunny weather, Martin checked in at Dam se Drif at 16H55, took 45min to rest and refuel before pressing on to Willowmore. He arrived at 12h40, had some supper, did a quick repack and then went to bed for a few hours sleep.
Having left Bucklands in the early hours of the morning, Alex had a slightly longer approach before dropping into the kloof - he passed through Cambria during the afternoon and checked in at Dam se Drif at 21h00 for a late supper and to sleep. His plan was to leave again after midnight, meaning he would be aiming to have breakfast in Willowmore before pushing on to Prince Albert.
Johann Rissik notified us today that the wind had been howling in Prince Albert but suggested that there may be a break after midnight – if this is the case, it could present an opportunity to ride through the night towards Prince Albert in calm conditions and get into the shelter of the Swartberg mountains before the wind switches on again during the day. But it all depends on the condition of the riders – they would both be on tired legs, after a long day. Sacrificing sleep at this point may not be the wisest option.
Will the next cold front arrive as predicted and will it have any significant impact on the race? We'll have to wait and see...