Leaving Rhodes yesterday, the race office has started the journey towards Diemersfontein. It's not as easy as you may think because it requires visiting support stations along the way and being subjected to the most amazing hospitality - the same kind that that makes racers abandon all thoughts of moving on in favour of a warm fire and mountains of good food. We stopped at Chesneywold and were fed there, then moved on to Slaapkranz for "koffie en beskuit" - popped in to Moordenaarspoort for more of the same and then Kranskop where it was tea and cake. A whole day to cover less than 100km! The evening ended at Romansfontein, where Will and Stef fed us even more food and we caught up with some of the riders staying there (Tim and Tweet)
During the drive we encountered much mud along the roads, all the way to Moordenaarspoort where the rains had been the heaviest. Nearing Kranskop, the roads had started drying out and the going seemed to be getting easier. Apart from some early morning rain around Romansfontein, things seem to be drying out and the stretch into Hofmeyr seems to be getting faster. Riding times in this region seem to be improving already which is good news for those riders still approaching but they are going to have an easier time of it than the guys who have gone before.
At last, the riders seem to be getting a break, something they will welcome because up to now, the weather has been making this year's race harder than ever.
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 - http://mg.co.za/multimedia/2010-02-04-extreme-endurance-the-freedom-challenge