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 -

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Battle of Baviaanskloof

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...

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