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

The sneaky sneak

Although there is a defined race route which has to be followed, there are a few places where knowing about and using a shorcut or sneak, can save significant time - or not...

Over breakfast in Willowmore, Alex told us about his adventures in the Baviaanskloof yesterday. He tried to use a sneak into Kudu Kaya to save some time but hadn't scouted it before. After wasting a bit of time finding the start of it, he made his way up through the cultivated fields behind Kudu Kaya support station and encountered his first electric fence and got shocked as he climbed over it. Just before he got to the buildings, he encountered a second fence, this one even higher. He climbed up one of the wooden poles and onto the roof of a shed, then started pulling his bike up using a short piece of rope. Whilst doing this the bike went bumping up against the side of the shed which housed a few bee hives.....

The bees didn't take kindly to the disturbance and swarmed out and started attacking Alex. Determined not to drop his bike, he pulled it up, threw it over into a nearby hedge and jumped off the roof, managing to shock himself again as he did so! He bolted for the support station door and got inside to take stock of the damage. The bike was fine, he had about 20 stings on his face and neck and his heart was racing. He then took some extra time resting at the support station before moving on to Dam se Drif.

After all this, the total time saved by using the sneak was only 10 minutes over Martin, who had gone around on the slightly longer road route.

But unbeknownst to Alex. this particular sneak was not allowed a it traversed private land. Martin had asked David about it before getting there and was told not to use it. Alex's route transgression was picked up on the tracker and it was decided that any advantage gained from it would have to be sat out as a time penalty at the next support station (Dam se Drif) - in this case only 10 min.

So after a long and exciting day, when Alex finally arrived at Dam se Drif later that evening, he was greeted with the news that Big Brother had been watching him and he would now have to stay in Dam se Drif for at least 30min - his usual 20min turnaround time plus the extra 10min penalty.
But the issue resolved itself because Alex stopped to sleep and in so doing, spent much more than the required 30min at the support station. 

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