It was a good thing that I put the race profile up until Tinana Mission on the web yesterday, because once again Martin and Alex are going like an express train. Alex left Ntsikeni's May Lodge at 3h00 this morning ahead of Martin Dreyer (I wonder if the "sneaking out while the other guy is sleeping has already begun").
It is starting to appear that Martin is the slightly faster rider. He started behind Alex this morning, tweeted that he lost about 45 minutes on night navigation, I assume this morning, and recently led Alex Harris by a slight margin according to Tracker. The two look headed for Tinana Mission for the overnight rest, having passed Malekhalonyane and being around Thaba Chitja, with Tinana being the halfway stop for ordinary riders between Malekhalonyane and Vuvu overnight stations.
But there's more to it than fast riding. The 1st night saw Alex being taking a shorter sleep than Martin. Who of them needs the least sleep and can still get by, the Everest Climber or the Dusi King/Adventure racer? That is an important question.
Tinana Mission tonight will mean Vuvu early tomorrow morning, assuming they sleep at Tinana, the big portage up over the Drakensberg via Lehana's Pass (Bike on back), and down to Rhodes by early afternoon. It would appear most likely that they will go past Rhodes tomorrow, unless weather is very bad, and either aim to rest at Chesneywold or Slaapkrans. This could be new territory for Freedom Challengers, with Rhodes in 3 days being a traditional benchmark for great riding.
Early signs are therefore that a new race record is on, although a lot has to and can happen before then.
Graham Bird, Andre Visser and Garth Flanders are now significantly behind Martin and Alex, currently around Masakala support station according to Tracker.
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