As the big Tuesday start comes closer, I conducted an interview with Glenn, and will post the question one by one as I’ve typed them up. I will also provide some background comment to the questions/answers as I go along.
Background: The Race Across South Africa can be won or lost not merely on riding ability. It is also about navigational errors or other key decisions which may or may not have been optimal. Last year, Glenn came 2nd, in 13 days, 10 hours and 50 minutes. This was a mere 19 hours and 20 minutes behind winner Alex Harris.
John Loos: “Glenn, tell me…last year you came 2nd, perhaps pleasantly surprising a few of us folk on your single-speed bike. It could perhaps have been even better had you not made a few “calculation errors”. Where did last year’s race perhaps go wrong, if you could call it "going wrong"?”
Glenn: “It went wrong at Elandsberg (a “portage” section over the Elandsberg mountain just after Hofmeyr), which is round about the 1000km mark. It was all on track going into the Elandsberg portage. I was about an hour ahead of my schedule approaching Elandsberg, but the portage…I ended up getting lost on the mountain because the grass was longer than previously, and it didn’t look familiar in the dark. I went into the portage at about 6pm that day, just after dark, and I stumbled around in the dark until about 11pm without finding the track (that I needed to get onto to get over the portage). Normally it should take about 2 hours to get the whole thing done, so it was at about 11 pm that I decided that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and I couldn’t find my way off, so I decided to “sleep out”. It was a miserable night, freezing cold. I probably had about 3 hours of good sleep, shivered for another 4hours before the sun came up. When the sun finally did come up, I found the path within about 5 minutes, and then went down to the house (the Elandsberg support station), had breakfast, had a bit of a break, and started riding further. But that effectively cost me about 6 or 7 hours.”
Author's Comment: Glenn had mentioned previously in a Freedom Challenge presentation that the problem with “sleeping out” with only one’s clothes and an emergency blanket in sub-zero temperatures is that I isn’t only about the time delay caused directly by the “sleep out”. In addition, the hours of shivering and shaking use up valuable energy, leaving the rider exhausted and taking a few days to fully recover. On the RASA, there are thus important choices that one has to make in this regard. Does one go for the “very light” travel option, with only an emergency blanket available for a possible “sleep out”? Or does one carry an extra 1-2 kilograms in the form of a lightweight sleeping bag and bivvy sack/tent? Glenn and Alex Harris, and most of the other top riders seem to take their chances with the lightweight option. Glenn “paid the price last year. Another former winner, Tim James, takes the other option, carrying a bivvy sack and sleeping bag strapped to his bike. He thus makes himself independent of support stations, and can stop pretty much anywhere he likes and have a reasonably warm and good sleep. The trade-off is a heavier weight for Tim to carry, and weight can become extremely important during the extremely long days that these riders are known to do. There’s no right or wrong on this one, and each can have consequences.