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 -

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Sensible Five

Yesterday saw the arrival of five riders who ended up riding together as a group during the latter part of the race and became known as the ‘Sensible Five.’ They always left early in the mornings, rode consistently throughout the day and usually always arrived at support stations before dark. They made use of all the lunch stops along the way, ate well, slept well and generally rode the trail in fine style – showing everyone that the Freedom Challenge can in fact be done comfortably and need not be an exercise in sleep deprivation, starvation and suffering!

Allen Sharp finished in 17d 9h 10min. He started fast (the Mike Woolnough effect?), making it to Centacow on his first night. He joined by Richmond later that night and the two of them rode the rest of the way together. No doubt his previous RASA experience (2008 & 2010) made a difference, as he had no major navigation mishaps, no rough nights out and basically a clean run the whole way. He also had company the whole way which made for a memorable ride.

Richmond Macintyre finished in 17d 9h 10min. He had to navigate his way in the dark to Centacow on day one and arrived late. From then on he teamed up with Allen and they made steady progress. A brief hiccup at Moordenaarspoort with ‘the shoe incident’ may have slowed him a bit and given him the title of “shoe thief” but apart from providing much entertainment on Twitter, it didn’t slow him down much! Everyone in the group was impressed with how he scampered up the portages, his previous mountaineering and trekking experience coming to the fore. A solid ride and a great finishing time for a RASA rookie, well done Richmond.

Chris Morris finished in 20d 9h 35min. This was his second RASA and he was well prepared going in. He said he felt a lot stronger on the bike and rode more consistently. Whilst riding with his friends Dave and Dawn Bell, he and Dave worked together on the navigation but when Dave was forced to withdraw, Chris became the chief navigator – a job he ended up really enjoying. Going through all the scratchy bits in daylight is the sensible thing to do and that’s exactly how he did it. A good, clean run with spot on nav – nice going Chris.
Dawn Bell finished in 20d 9h 35min – as the only female finisher this year, she had a great ride. Starting with husband Dave, she continued when he withdrew which couldn’t have been an easy decision. But together with Chris, she kept the pedals turning every day and made good time on all the stages. Although some days were tough,  she was always smiling and really enjoying the good parts – the hospitality, the good food and the route. As part of the sensible five, she became the glue that held them together, her efforts inspiring them to keep going when things did get tough – well done Dawn. 

Rory Field finished in 21d 9h 35min. He had an incredible journey across the country filled with adventure. He was bitten by a pack of dogs just after Rhodes and after some medical attention, a few beers and a steak at Chesneywold, he was off again. He ended up riding on his own for a week and provided much entertainment at the support stations with the stories of his misadventures. He braaied with the farmers at Groenvlei (on the way to Hofmeyr) after an unscheduled stop because of the mud. He had a few tense moments in the fading light in the Grootrivierpoort but made to safely through to Cambria. It was a massive journey for Rory and a great adventure which he finished in style in the company of a great group of riders. Well done Rory on an inspirational ride.

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