Today was straightforward riding for race leader Martin Dreyer in the sense that it was mostly on roads with no big portages. Martin left van de Venterskraal this morning at around 6h00, has passed Toekomst and Bucklands support stations, and is believed to be headed for a sleep at Hadley station. His expected arrival time at Hadley, after leaving Bucklands at around 19h15, is between 22h00 and 23h00 tonight.
2nd placed Alex Harris has been making some ground today. This morning at van de Venterskraal he was about 5 hours and 45 minutes behind Dreyer. By Kleinpoort, a small rail siding on the way to Bucklands, this afternoon he had narrowed the gap to 4 hours and 20 minutes, due in part to a longer stop by Dreyer at Toekomst support station, along with a minor navigation error by Dreyer just before Kleinpoort.
So what happens next? Harris has been riding from Grootdam since 04h30, so he has had the longer and slightly tougher day of the 2 riders I guess. Does he stop at Bucklands support station, where he should arrive soon, for a sleep? Or does he push to Hadley and catch up with Dreyer, whom he parted overnight company with at Kranzkop?
It all get interesting due to the difficulty in going through the Groot River Valley down into the Baviaanskloof a few hours after Hadley. If Harris is to sacrifice sleep and go to Hadley, will he put the pressure on Dreyer to perhaps make a move down the Osseberg jeep track (a jeep track in very poor condition) and into the Grootricier still in the dark? If Martin makes the move and gets it right he could be tough to stop thereafter. But if he gets Grootrivier wrong it can cost him dearly. Harris himself battled through the Grootrivier at night last year, and by his own reports it wasn't pretty. It had flooded then, and debris blocking the road at regular intervals made it tough going at night. Nobody seems to know what condition the valley is in this year.
And of course, how tired are the riders? Maybe a good sleep for Dreyer at Hadley will serve him well later even if Harris does close the gap.
So, this is a crunch time, and important decisions have to be made which may or may not change the shape of the race. So when we wake up in the morning???.....get to the tracker on your PC
Whatever the case, tomorrow is likely to be a long day, with Dreyer at least expected to push to Willowmore, and possibly Harris too.
And from here onward, sleep is expected to become scarce as the big push to Diemersfontein begins.
The 1st stage of the likely trip tomorrow is from Hadley to Cambria.
Total kms: 57.9km
Total ascent: +1580m
Total descent: -1979m
Expected daytime ride/portage time: 5-6 hours
From Cumbria support station, it should be pretty much riding up and out of the Baviaanskloof all the way to Willowmore. However, just after Cambria there is some big climbing to be done in the Bergplaatz Wilderness Area.
The 1st of 2 sections is Cambria to Damsedrif support station:
Total kms: 80km
Total ascent: +2363m
Total descent: -1997m
Expected time taken: 6-7 hours
The 2nd of 2 sections is Damsedrif to Willowmore support station:
Total kms: 90km
Total ascent: +1521m
Total descent: -1217m
Expected time taken: 7-8 hours