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, 17 June 2012

Pre-Race Interview with Glenn - with Background Comment - Question 5

Question 5 of the pre-race interview with Glenn is with regard to his new found race partner:

Background: The Race Across South Africa can be a lonely race, especially for the front runners who have very few if any other riders who can keep up. This requires a certain type of mental strength, and riders have to be able to motivate themselves in sometimes extremely testing conditions.

JL: “Now Glenn, you might have a different environment this year in the sense that you are looking to ride with someone. Tell us about your potential riding partner.

Glenn: “Okay, Andre Visser….he’s a 1st time rider, comes from an Ironman background (Ironman being an ultra triathlon in which racers swim 3.8km, cycle 180km, and run 42 km)…and also an adventure racing background. He approached me about 8 months ago asking for help in preparing for his 1st ride….and I’ve been helping him…basically explaining to him what’s involved, what he’s got to do. He wanted to give it one good go, and go hard from the beginning,….so I’ve helped him get prepared for that, and in the mean time we’ve “kind of” decided to ride together….if it suits us both. It’s not a set arrangement to stick together. We both can ride on our own and will if necessary. I don’t mind him riding with me. We haven’t done a lot of training together, but I think we have a similar sort of fitness level, so we should be able to ride comfortably together. And if it does work out, and we end up riding quite a long way together, it could be beneficial, especially on the longer stretches where you’re trying to fight through some of the (mental) lows, often in the wee hours of the morning, in bad weather, and there’s a little cloud above your head and things aren’t so great….it could be nice having someone with you, especially if that person is positive. They can kind of help you through the bad patches. I’ve already experienced some of that with Mike Woolnough on the tandem a couple of years ago. You know everyone has their ups and downs every day and if your partner is positive when you are not then it pulls you through…. a couple of hours later you’re feeling better and you can help him through at a later stage. So, that dynamic might come into play, and it could make us faster overall, or it could blow up quite spectacularly after a few days if it doesn’t work out…I don’t know, but it is an option this year, and so this is not necessarily a solo ride.

Comment by JL: For many of us (especially the social riders), riding company is very desirable, as we are social beings, and I would say that a suitable riding companion can greatly improve one’s chances of completing the race. But it can also go wrong, as Glenn suggests, if your partner and you are “incompatible” in terms of riding  ability or mental attitude. I guess that, even if one starts with an arrangement to ride with someone, it probably needs to be a loose arrangement, and one should always mentally prepare for the possibility of having to ride alone (possibly because of your partner getting injured and/or pulling out). After all it remains an individual event.

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