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 -

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Martin dropping into Die Hel. Does he sleep or does he go?

Tonight is a night of 2 significant climbs for the race leaders, one, the Swartberg Pass, which has already been completed by Martin Dreyer, but which still awaits Alex harris.

The steep and winding Swartberg Pass-en route to Die Hel
At time of writing, we were still waiting for Alex to arrive at Prince Albert. The latest whereabouts of leader Martin is not accurately known. He had reached the top of Swartberg Pass and turned off on the road into Gamkaskloof, or "Die Hel" as it is more commonly called. But until tomorrow when he is out the other side of Die Hel, Tracker signals could erratic at best. 

The route profile into Die Hel was covered in an earlier post. The question that needs to be answered is does Martin have a sleep stop in Die Hel at the support station, or does he move on to Rouxpos, which is 60.2km beyond  that? As at Die Hel support station, which he is expected to reach shortly, at around 22h00-23h00, Martin will have covered a massive 263.5km since leaving Willowmore at 03h10 this morning in a 19 -20 hour push, with only a 1 hour break at Prince Albert. And he only slept about 1.5-2 hours in Willowmore last night.

So the money would probably be on Martin sleeping briefly in Die Hel after such a long session. But then Martin seems to be one of those guys who you shouldn't bet against. 

Whether he sleeps or not in Die Hel, the break should probably not be expected to be too long. Although tired, one would imagine that he must be in a really good frame of mind despite surely being tired. Cape Town is getting very near now, and positive and upbeat attitude can greatly assist one's energy levels. One feels at this stage that Martin needs a serious technical bike problem, or an injury, to stop him from winning the race now. And with a good few hours' lead, he has the liberty of not having to ride recklessly.

Die Leer (The Ladder) portage
The next stage from Die Hel support station involves riding the length of the Gamkaskloof, finding the start of the historic donkey track known as "Die Leer" (which Deneys Reitz's command used to exit Die Hel in Anglo-Boer War days) and then it is bike on the back for a very sharp steep climb of perhaps an hour, back on the bike and over the hill down to Rouxpos. Finding Die Leer in the dark can be a little tricky, but once one has found it things should be okay on the navigation front.

Periodically, the Freedom Challenge has had a problem with riders getting stopped by a farmer whose land Die Leer route crosses, and who claims that it is private land. The race organisers have taken legal advice on the matter, and a public right of way still exists on this historic route. 

Distance from Die Hel support station to Rouxpos: 70km
Cumulative Ascent: +1917m
Cumulative Descent: -1642m
Expected travel time: 6-7 hours

Heading For Die Hel

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Top of Die Leer - awesome view of Die Hel behind

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the description of the route. Makes it easier for us to follow.