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 -

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The (probable) Origin of the Freedom Challenge Mountain Bike Race (Author: John Loos)

There are various versions of how the Freedom Challenge Mountain Bike Race Across South Africa (RASA) started, so please forgive me if my "based on hearsay" version is not quite correct. But all of the versions that I have heard centre around a mad-man, and race founder, who goes by the name of David Waddilove (perhaps better known as David F Waddilove to some participants in the latter stages of the race).

The RASA is an approximately 2,300km "non-stage "unsupported" mountain bike race run right in the middle of winter from Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town.

The concept appears to have had its origins in a pub on a night where probably too much alcohol was involved, an environment normally required for South African men to get their creative juices flowing. It is said that David vowed to some of his equally crazy-sounding siblings that he would to run the 2 Oceans 56km Ultra-Marathon in Cape Town (run over Easter  weekend), whereafter he would run all the way to Pietermaritzburg (1600km+ via the national tar road and far further via the dirt roads) in time to run the 89km Comrades Ultra-Marathon to Durban (run at that stage in mid-June).

Bets were placed (probably a round of beers or so) and true to his word David reportedly pulled off the feat.
Legend then has it that the friends and siblings got quite excited by his exploits, and subsequently the challenge was modified. It included running the Comrades Marathon "Up Run" from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. The next day the participants would climb on mountain bikes and ride a pre-determined off-road route to Cape Town, arriving in time to paddle the 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon.

This laid the foundation for a race that would ultimately become known as the Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon, incorporating the Comrades Marathon, the Freedom Challenge 2300km Mountain Bike Race that was subsequently established, and the Berg River Canoe Marathon. The Comrades Marathon has since shifted its dates, and no longer suits David's race plans. It has therefore been replaced by the Umgeni 85km Trail Run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.

The mountain bike leg of David's initial adventure was completed in 26 days, so it was decided that 26 days would serve as the cut-off for the RASA. Although the Extreme triathlon has subsequently been established, the RASA Mountain Bike leg of it is a stand-alone race, as well as being by far the longest leg, and the bulk of the entrants focus solely on this leg.

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