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 -

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

2013 Rider Profiles - Guy 'Happy Feet' McKechnie

Guy having some fun at Elandsberg

Guy McKechnie is 31 years old and hails from Muizenberg in Cape Town. He works in event management and his job has taken him all over the globe. He's basically a logistics guy, following the big sporting events around, putting up media centres and temporary grandstands. He did the 2010 World Cup, the Commonwealth Games in New Dehli, the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and most recently the London Olympics. If he wasn't doing the Freedom Challenge right now, he probably be in Brazil at the Confederations Cup - this guy gets around!

He's actually a fashion designer by trade and is pretty handy with a sewing machine, having made himself a few custom bags and gear holders for the race.

He's also a keen adventure racer - which means he can read a map and stay upright for for long stints - he recently did Expedition Africa, a mean, long sufferfest in the high altitude Drakensberg mountains. Unfortunately he picked up a lung infection in the icy conditions but he was back in shape and ready for RASA in the knick of time. He rode gears for that event but decided to go back to basics for Freedom Challenge, choosing his rigid Niner singlespeed for the job.

In the words of his brother-in-law Steve Burnett: "If you've met Guy, you've heard his enthusiasm and only a fraction of his energy will be spent riding his bike! He lives for music and has an encyclopedia brain for lyrics - he will definitely have some soundtracks for the ride."

Guys race expectations before he started: 
"The sheer challenge of the event. The planning and navigation aspects married to the physical and hugely mental challenge of keeping going when you really don’t want to. Doing it on a fully rigid single speed will definitely add to the experience!"

I met up with Guy during my Race to Rhodes - him and Anton Wood had been riding together and were approaching the descent off the mountain to Tinana Mission. They followed me down the tiger line without thinking twice and when we stopped at the mission for a snack break, Guy immediately asked " Dude, can I buy your shoes!?" He'd been riding in open mesh shoes and his frozen feet hadn't thawed out since his first night out wandering around Ntsikeni. Well, the deal was concluded a day later in Rhodes and ever since Guy has had happy feet. In his own words: "Hi Meryl, tell Glenn that I feel like I booked my feet into the Tenahead Lodge! They are having little discos in his shoes every day they are so comfy!"

It hasn't all been plain sailing though - he had some puncture issues going into Grootdam and basically his tyres are wearing out fast so he's been trying to get some spares sent through to Willowmore. He's also had to deal with tummy trouble which meant a short recovery day to Toekomst. But he seems to be over the worst of it and on the go again - heading towards the Baviaanskloof.

No matter what still comes his way, Guy will take it on the chin and finish this thing with a smile.

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