Yesterday, the 2 men fighting each other tooth and nail for top honours, Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris, negotiated the Osseberg and the Grootrivier, and started what could probably be deemed the final push for Cape Town (or more specifically Diemersfontein in Paarl). As at Cambria, the 1st support station in the Baviaanskloof, Martin Dreyer had a lead of near to 4 hours, a lead which had been cut from nearer to 5.5-6 hours just over 24 hours before.
From here on, it is a long hard slog, with few complicated navigation issues seemingly left (though not entirely navigation risk-free), and its down to who's body and bike holds up best, and who can get by best with very little sleep.
Alex Harris took a quick sleep at Damsedrif support station last night, and headed out at around 01h35 this morning for the 90km trek out of the Baviaanskloof (all riding on good dirt road) to Willowmore. This was after arriving at Damsedrif at 21h08 last night, i.e about a 4 hour 30 minute break at the support station.
It appears that Harris has just arrived in Willowmore at around 9h30.
Race Leader Martin Dreyer had a quick sleep at Willowmore, showed a more aggressive approach than Harris, making his intentions clear with an early start at around 03h10 for the long flattish near 180km slog to Prince Albert. Having arrivcd at Willowmore at 00h40 this morning, this represents a significantly shorter stop than Harris to the tune of only 2 and a half hours.
In the process, Dreyer has applied additional pressure on Harris, by extending his lead to 6.5-7 hours as at Willowmore, depending on what time Harris leaves Willowmore shortly.
The westward stretch to Prince Albert can be characterised by strong headwinds during the day. With Johann Rissik suggesting yesterday to Glenn that there may be a lull in the wind overnight, Martin may have cut his sleep shorter than Alex to take advantage of this lull.
In the process, a new race record is looking more and more likely. Last year, Harris's record breaking ride saw him reach Willowmore in 9 days and 1 hour. This year, Dreyer reaced it in 7 days, 18 hours and 40 minutes, 30 hours and 20 minutes ahead of record pace. And Harris, too, is now about 20.5 hours ahead of his last year's pace.......AMAZING.
The route to Prince Albert is as flat as you can get on this race, with only some bad corrugations on the road to worry about.
Cumulative ascent: +987m
Cumulative descent: -1,204m
Expected riding time: Can be in the region of 12 hours, wind permitting
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