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

Weather permitting - Race record set to fall - Pre-Race Across South Africa Interview with Glenn - Question 6

Question 6 of the pre-race interview with Glenn is with regard to his race predictions. Record looks set to fall (weather permitting):

Background: In previous years, the RASA favorites have often started off on different days, meaning that they are often not racing “head to head” with each other. Depending on timing, some may have the good fortune of better weather than others, while the ones chasing from behind may have the advantage of knowing what the other ones have done in advance. This year, it looks set to be different.

JL: “It seems like this year is slightly different, in the sense that in the past the race favorites seem to have been starting on different days. This year David Waddilove seems to have them all in the same batch (starting on Tuesday 19 June), barring a “dark horse” emerging from one of the forward batches. How does that change the dynamic? Does it create more pressure? ….seeing the guys every day….racing “head to head”,  same conditions….how does this change the whole dynamic of the race?

Glenn: “It’s hard to say beforehand, but it could make things easier where if on the day you see that you are riding comfortably with all the other guys and keeping up in terms of pacing and all of that…then all you have to do is match what they are doing and you’re not constantly chasing and wondering how far ahead they are. So if on the day you see that you are riding fine and you’re stronger than the other guys then it could be a bit of a (confidence) boost, because you actually just need to stick with them up until a point and then put the hammer down and hopefully move away from them. But the converse is also true, where if you see that they’re all stronger than you… then mentally that’s going to be quite tough… trying to figure out how to still try and beat them, outfox them or outlast them while being physically not as strong as them. So it’s really hard to say beforehand. But the only thing you can take from this beforehand is that everyone is going to have the same weather, it’ll be immediately  apparent what everyone is trying to do, you’ll be able to see straight away who is racing hard from the gun, so everyone’s intentions will be quite clear I think from early on. So it (starting in the same batch) does level it a bit. There’s no advantage from someone being a couple of days ahead and missing bad weather, or them getting bad weather that you don’t get. So it levels it out for sure, and I think it’ll make it quite exciting racing.

JL: So do you think it makes it more competitive?

Glenn: Ja, I think it does. You know, we can race each other, and just go for a win, but all the time the clock’s ticking. And you can’t slack off if everyone else is slacking off because ultimately you want to break the record…so everyone is driven by the same record time to break…and thereafter it’s a case of who is stronger than the rest of those going for the record…and who has the best race and get’s through with no issues and all of that…so it’ll be very competitive, more competitive than last year and the years before. For me its quite different because I’ve always had to chase…and it’s often an advantage chasing because you know what the other guy has done, and you’re just going to have to match that or better that…..whereas now you’re kind of making it up as you go along. So it’s a lot more dynamic when you’re racing like this because you’ve got to decide on the spot.. are we going or are we staying? You know, if someone else pushes on past a support station where you were planning to stop….do you then change your mind and go with him so that you don’t get left behind…or do you stick to your plan, rest up and then go again the next day? So it’s going to make it a lot more dynamic I think for everyone basically. I think everyone will have a plan, but those plans will be subject to change because we’re all going to be racing with each other.”

JL: “I guess at the last few support stations you may be too scared to sleep if the other guys are there in case they sneak off?”

Glenn:  “Ja, I think so if it comes down to that….You know, I’ve seen in the past that if guys have ridden together for a long time they generally finish together…..and they’ve almost agreed at some point that “we will finish together”…because they’ve been through the same thing and the same hard times together. But because it’s so competitive this year that may not be the case….everyone’s obviously racing for a record and a win, so it would be very interesting at the end. (In such a scenario) there might even be a sprint up Stettynskloof to try and get there first. However, I think that by that stage…by the last 3rd of the race…it’ll be quite hard to make up positions, because they’re either on form and they’re going well or they have had major issues which put them out of the race…or cause them to stop by day 2. So I actually think by half way we’ll have a god idea of positions and who is doing what …and then those positions should hold for the rest of the race barring a catastrophe or something. So it’s going to be hard racing up until half way I think, to try and jockey for those positions, and we’ll see from there.”

JL: And you’re prediction? Is the record going to fall?

Glenn: “I think that the weather is going to be the silent contender this year. It has already been worse than last year and if conditions are wet it’s going to make it harder. If we were guaranteed of expecting similar conditions to previous years I would say that the record may come down by about 2 days. In tough conditions, especially through the Central Cape Section it may be really hard to get it down by 2 days. But that’s what’s going to motivate everyone, especially in the 2nd half of the race, is to keep chasing for that record time…so I think it will probably come down by a day or 2.

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