While in this race one must always caution against drawing conclusions too soon, and Diemersfontein remains a long way off, yesterday may have been one of those defining ones in the Race Across South Africa.
Unfortunately, part of it is due to Alex Harris' saddle problems from early this morning, which hampered his own progress. But one must also acknowledge the efforts of race leader Martin Dreyer. This was his longest push yet. It started at around 01h40 yesterday morning. It lasted around 24 hours, until he arrived at Elandsberg support station about 275 kms later at around 02h00 this morning. Included in the ride were 2 significant portages over Aasvoelberg and Elandsberg. And although not the longest portage of the race, Elandsberg portage by night has claimed the odd big scalp, as riders lose their way, but not this time.
How tired Martin will be after this big push will not immediately be known to us Twitterati, as Martin, the seasoned racer that he is, is not about to give anything away via the social media. But his nearest rivals must surely now be feeling huge pressure.
Alex Harris 2011 record breaking race included getting to Elandsberg in 5 days and 8 hours. Martin has just got to the same support station in 4 days, 20 hours, remaining on record-breaking pace.
But just before Dreyer arrived at Elandsberg at around 2h00, Harris signalled that it is far from over, tweeting his departure from Romansfontein for Hofmeyr. At time of posting (9h22), Harris has already left Hofmeyr, while Dreyer had left Elandsberg earlier this morning at 6h39 according to Tracker and was steaming towards Stuttgart support station. I guess we should be open to a good few more twists in the tale? But yesterday was amazing riding by Dreyer..
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 - http://mg.co.za/multimedia/2010-02-04-extreme-endurance-the-freedom-challenge