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, 1 July 2012

Rider Progress Update - For most of the riders, although there's much work to be done, mentally the race is almost a "done deal"

Rider progress tables as at evening of 30th June.

20 riders have withdrawn from the race, the 2 leaders have finished, and 26 are thus still out on the course. For most of the riders left, however, finishing the race is near to a "done deal". This perhaps sounds a bit premature, and yes there is still a lot of effort to be put in.

But the point is that the mentally toughest parts of the race are now largely over. Most of them are through the freezing cold Eastern Cape High country section, but most importantly, Cape Town is getting nearer with every passing day. And every time the  "kms to go" drops, the riders' spirits should improve, and the light at the end of the long tunnel appears brighter.

For the social rider, I believe that emerging from the Baviaanskloof and heading for Prince Albert is a big mental barrier overcome. You're then heading into the Western Cape, and Cape Town really starts to feel close. The support stations are closer together, so stages become easier, and there are a lot of opportunities to  skip support stations if one is behind schedule.

So typically the drop out rate of riders dwindles sharply to virtually nothing, and only a big injury would likely cause a rider to quit now. Even a technical problem could more easily be sorted out with "drive-in" support and time penalty if need be, the nearer one gets to Cape Town.

Some of the back markers are behind 26 day race schedule still. But as mentioned, many of the  shorter stages in the Western Cape offer ample opportunity to make up time.  

In 3rd place, Graham Bird looks very safe, but 4th place looks set to be contested by up to 5 riders. Trevor Ball and Mike Woolnough reached Rouxpos last night, but are being chased by Allen Sharp and Richmond McIntyre, who started in the same batch on 17th June, but are a little behind having reached Prince Albert last night. But the man who could still sneak through and grab 4th place is Andre Visser. He was only at Cambria (early in the Baviaanskloof) last night. But he started on the 19th June, to days behind the abovementioned 4 riders, so although he is only 8th on the rider average speed chart, he is still very much in contention for 4th spot.

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