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

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Daily report - 23 June

Another glorious day on Lehana's

It's been an action packed day which started with the race office scribe going for an early morning run in Rhodes - it was freezing cold and numb ears, nose and hands were the result but after a nagging feeling of guilt from too much sitting in front of a warm fire, at least now the training for RASA 2014 has started...

But back to the more important race action: Batch A all had a great day taking on the infamous Osseberg jeep track and the Grootrivier Poort on their way to Cambria. Andy, Peter, Ansa, Sarel, Bruce, Charles, Dave and Pierre were the first lot into the Baviaanskloof this year. They were also joined by Batch B members Dave and Pete, aka the Fat Farmers. The rest of batch B are scattered across the countryside - Avril still going solo and sleeping at Toekomst tonight, Roy recovering in Hofmeyr after crawling off the Aasvoelberg early this morning where he spent the night and the fearless Gavin and Henry, who just yesterday proclaimed that "night navigation is a no no," heading straight into the bowels of the Grootrivier Poort at last light..! That's a scary place at night so beware of the Swampthing, tiptoe quietly past the river trolls and wherever you do choose to lay your heads tonight, sleep with one eye open gentlemen...

Batch C are down to half their original number but that half has been together since the beginning and tonight George, John and Barry are enjoying the great hospitality at Bucklands.

Batch D are also all over the show but still moving along steadily. Eric, Ted and Shaun are taking it easy at Grootdam tonight after a relatively short day today but no harm in saving the legs for a few bigger pushes later. The more ambitious members of the batch Martin, Anton and Guy all left from Grootdam this morning but things started to unravel a bit for Guy when he succumbed to a tummy bug and had to nurse himself along as far as Gegund - he went to ground there determined to recover enough to catch up again tomorrow. On a more positive note, he reported that he still has 'happy feet' thanks to his new pair of shoes. Martin and Anton steamed ahead and got through to Toekomst , completing a solid double stage today.

The ever steady Batch E had a spring in their step today, leaving Elandsberg early in the dark and doubling through to Grootdam today, their first big push so far. Dave, Doug, Janine and Philip made steady progress all day, despite some puncture problems and a cut tyre along the way.

Batch F, formerly Jack's Army, are still operating as a tight knit unit - Coen, Andrew and Colin took an easy day today, possibly to regroup for a big push sometime soon? They stopped at Grootdam after a relatively short day from Stuttgart.

The other batch F member is Gaeren - he's currently in the running for the title of  'most miles to Diemersfontein' although his competition for the title, Robbie, has been marking him every step of the way. The duo took a wrong turn on the way to Brosterlea today and ended up doing a grand tour of the Stormberg region, adding an extra 30kms to their day and eventually being rerouted by the race director via Molteno to Romansfontein. Hopefully tomorrow they can stay on track and get cleanly over the Aasvoelberg and Elandsberg portages.

Batch G has some of the racing snakes among their number, notably Marnitz, who is on a mission to catch up to the rest of his batch. He grabbed a late afternoon snack at Grootdam today, before racing off towards the Struishoek portage in fading light - after a late night last night and complaints about being kept awake by snoring from other riders, he may well decide to curl up in his sleeping bag on the mountain tonight.

The guys he is chasing are Charles and Christo, who under the guidance of Scott, made it safely to Toekomst today after a successful triple stage push from Stuttgart.

Race leaders Martin and Jeannie had to fight off all manner of distractions and creature comforts as they tripped their way through the Swaershoek farms and luxury hunting lodges today. Jeannie kept cracking the whip though and they set off around the Darlington dam in fading light, traversed the Gwaas valley under a canopy of brilliant stars and should arrive in Kleinpoort by midnight for a well earned rest.

The other honeymooners, Chris and Julia, said farewell to Richard (who was presented with his well deserved whip last night) and left Rhodes early this morning - soon afterwards, their water bottles were frozen solid and their fingers too - they had decided to leave their warm gloves behind, thinking that they wouldn't need them much after Rhodes. They have since been reunited with their precious gloves and are ready for the next early morning start but tonight they sleep at Slaapkranz.

The last arrivals in Rhodes today were Leon, Andries and George after a relatively straightforward walk up Lehana's. For George its the end of the road and he was all smiles when he got his whip at dinner. For Leon and Andries, the journey continues and if they can reign in their appetites at the Chesneywold lunch stop, they should get to Slaapkranz before dark tomorrow.

Spare a thought for the race office tomorrow, its time to leave Rhodes to make the great trek south - this is a tough job, many courtesy calls at support stations have to be made along the way and its virtually impossible to pass through without the offer of 'koffie, beskuit en ietsie lekker vir die pad...' We'll have to eat our way southwards as we search for elusive internet coverage on the way - tough job but someone's got to do it.


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