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 -

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The day's route profiles for race leaders - van de Venterskraal beckons for Martin Dreyer (Author: John Loos)

And now for the speculation as to how far race leaders Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris will go. 

The 1st leg of the day's riding, a 67.5km "no-portage" ride from Elandsberg to Stuttgart has just been completed by Martin as he rests at Stuttgart support station for what will no doubt be a very quick stop. One senses that may want to try to drive home his advantage over Alex Harris today with another big effort (assuming yesterday's marathon 24 hour ride didn't sap him too much). Dreyer appears to have a lead of around 6-7 hours over Harris (scroll down for more)

After Stuttgart, its portage time over Skurweberg. The climb is in the region of 700metres to the top of the watershed, whereafter its a general downhill most of the way to Grootdam farm support station. The cumulative ascent is 967m, while the cumulative descent is -1117m. Yes, the current stages through which the 2 riders are going aften have a lot of descent, as they drop from the High Country of the Eastern Cape into the Karoo proper. 5 to 6 hours seems to be a realistic time for the top riders for this stage. That would get Martin to Grootdam just before dark, assuming he leaves Stuttgart at around 11h30.

The accompanying photos were yours truly's trip over Skuweberg in 2011. The Karoo isn't quite flat.

The Stuttgart-Grootdam distance is 63km. This would take Martin's total distance ridden today to 130.5km, and one would think that he will have a quick stop at Grootdam and continue the riding. Alex, by comparison, who started at Romansfontein, would have been going about 269kms by this stage. Could he conceivably push on from here? That would be a huge day (and night) if he does.

The from Grootdam it is on to van de Venterskraal via the Struishoek portage. Should Martin be pushing for van de Venters Kraal, he will be doing this in the dark, in which case there's another mild navigation risk (although the farmer at Struishoek has marked the portage with white stones. 

The Struishoek portage is a very long downhill portage, very rocky and many tree branches in one's way - not treacherous but more of a hassle-factor than anything else.

This is another net descent stage, i.e. more descent than ascent, after initially climbing to the start of the Struishoek portage. Cumulative ascent on the stage is 909m, most of it on the climb to the Struishoek portage, while cumulative descent is  -1294, most of it on the portage. 

The distance from Grootdam to van de Venterskraal is 82.4kms. Riding time for the top riders seems to be about 7-8 hours.

Should Martin attempt this, it would bring the day' total kms to 212.9km, and could take Martin to near midnight or beyond. I would think this is his target. For Alex, he would probably be sleeping one station behind at Grootdam.

So "likely" for Alex would be sleep at Grootdam but a big "stretch" target for him would be van de Venterskraal early tomorrow morning.

For Martin, van de Venterskraal is the likely sleep late tonight, but "Stretch" for Martin would be Toekomst support station, 44.4kms on from van de Venterskraal  and with no navigation issues. 

The Toekomst stage is 3-4 hours, and Martin could conceivably do this before daybreak tomorrow. But would he attempt this after such a big day yesterday???? 

Time for surprises perhaps???....

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