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, 27 June 2013

Daily Report - 27 June

Today things changed – a cold front finally arrived and the rain came tumbling down…  There were a few other happenings and a skirmish in Gamkaskloof but that’s the subject of a separate blog post tomorrow. For now, we focus on the riders and their progress along the route.

The first victims of the cold and rain were race leaders Martin and Jeannie Dreyer – after a beautiful evening under the stars going up the Swartberg Pass and a cozy night in Gamkaskloof, they awoke to take on a cold, muddy and wet trail down the kloof, up The Ladder and across to Rouxpos. They were snowed on at the top of a now wet and slippery Ladder and were soaked through and miserable by the time they arrived at Rouxpos. But after a warm shower and a dozen waffles, they were smiling again and slowly got going in the direction of Anysberg.

Martin and Jeannie recharging with waffles at Rouxpos

Not far behind them are the trio of Scott, Charles and Christo. They left Prince Albert early and got through The Ladder without any trouble, before pushing on to Rouxpos for the night. It was a cold, wet ride up the Swartberg Pass and a cold, cloudy day for the rest but the sun did peak out in the late afternoon, so they will be looking forward to riding in warmer, drier conditions tomorrow.

The rest of the Prince Albert crew also left before first light and despite some of them intending to push through to Rouxpos, they all ended up staying at Gamkaskloof. The effect of the rain was immediate, as no-one was keen to carry on slogging through the mud. So it’s full house there tonight with Andy, Peter, Ansa, Sarel, Pete, Dave, Pierre, Dave, Bruce, Charles, Gavin, Henry, Barry, John and George all opting to rest and rather take on The Ladder in the morning.

On his way to Gamkaskloof tonight is Lone Ranger Marnitz – he had a long sleep at Dennehof after a long night ride through from Willowmore. He’s been doing most of his riding in the dark and pushing constantly since Rhodes. But tonight he rides again and this may signal the start of a long push to the finish.

Also in Prince Albert tonight are Anton and Martin, who arrived there from Willowmore just before nightfall.

The Willows Historical BnB in Willowmore is once again busy tonight – Dave, Doug, Janine, Philip, Coen, Andrew and Colin have all checked in and they are no doubt listening to tales of bravery from Avril, who completed the massive double from Cambria in the rain with them today – less than 24 hours after spending the night down in the Grootrivier Poort taming the Swampthing.

The Golden Crust at Dam se Drif is a bit more peaceful tonight after all the traffic of the last few days. Guy, Ted and Shaun are all snoring away happily after stuffing their faces with Hestelle’s chocolate pudding. Will they take a short day to Willowmore tomorrow or try to go beyond? The weather will probably decide that for them…

Eric is alone in Cambria tonight at the Kudu Kaya support station. His tummy bug seems to be a thing of the past though, so if he’s up to it, a big double to Willowmore tomorrow could put him back together with his group – but is it really worth sacrificing the chocolate pudding at Dam se Drif just to ride with your friends? Decisions, decisions.

At Bucklands tonight we have RobRoy 2.0 – the new version with Robbie the engine and Roy the wily navigator. I’m pretty sure Rob will stick to Roy like velcro tomorrow through the Grootrivier Poort to Cambria but after that who knows, when they hit the open roads, Robbie may shift into the big blade and start charging towards the finish.

Then there’s Gaeren, who was still on his way to Toekomst tonight after a cold, wet day coming over the Struishoek. His knee was acting up today which didn’t help but he soldiered on nonetheless.

The Fishers, Chris and Julia have been going along nicely – they left Elandsberg this morning for brunch at Stuttgart, then went over a wet and muddy Schurfteberg on their way to Grootdam. That’s the first double for them – possibly a sign of things to come?

Our sweepers, Leon and Andries had a little navigational wobble on their way to the Elandsberg today – It cost them an hour of wasted daylight but they regrouped quickly and made it off this tricky portage at last light. Tomorrow could see a double from them to Grootdam – weather dependant.

The race office had an eventful day too, it started in Prince Albert and ended at Diemersfontein, with a detour to Laingsburg to collect a fugitive race director – but more about that tomorrow.

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