Much excitement here at Diemersfontein today - just before midday we welcomed Martin and Jeannie home after 12days 5hours and 55min on the trail - a new record in the women's category. They were relieved to get off their bikes after the long, intense journey and were looking forward to catching up with family and friends - well done guys.
For the rest of the riders, it was another day at the office and there was work to be done:
Nearly 1000km back from today's finishers are Leon and Andries - they completed another double today and went from Grootdam, through Gegund to Toekomst, arriving comfortably by late afternoon.
Ahead of them we have Chris and Julia, who caught up to Gaeren yesterday - the three of them left Toekomst early and all got through to Bucklands before dark, another good effort.
There was a bit of action in the Grootrivier Poort today - Robbie survived the night having slept out at the first river crossing and managed to get through to Kudu Kaya for lunch. Having missed out on breakfast, he decided to stay over to catch up and then stuck around for supper. At least tonight he will sleep in a warm bed. He should get some company later tonight when Roy arrives - he emerged from his 'hidey hole' at the top of the Osseberg jeep track this morning to take on the multiple river crossings on the way to Cambria.
At the other end of the Baviaanskloof in Willowmore, Eric will have the whole place to himself tonight. He had a fairly easy day and arrived early. After all the good food stops he's passed through recently, he should be back to full strength and ready to pedal across the flats to Prince Albert in the morning.
Guy and the Adams Family made that crossing today and got to Prince Albert in the afternoon. There they found Philip - probably in a dressing gown with cotton wool buds between his toes after his massage and rest day at Dennehof! Well, there won't be any time for lounging around tomorrow, they all have to pedal up the Swartberg Pass and get into Gamkaskloof and there are some pretty big mountains to conquer along the way.
Last night's Prince Albert crew all left early and made the big double through to Rouxpos. The group now waffling at Rouxpos includes Dave, Doug, Janine, Coen, Colin, Andrew and the intrepid Avril. They will most likely have Montagu in their sights tomorrow but they'll first have to get through the sandpits of Anysberg.
Recovering from those sandpits tonight are Andy and Peter, who chose the rustic isolation of Anysberg over the Saturday night bustle of Montagu. Their's was a relatively short day, so tomorrow they may try for a bigger push. By all accounts, Martin is with them, as he hasn't popped up in Montagu yet - maybe the sandpits got the better of him...
Ansa, Sarel, Pierre, Dave, Pete, Dave, Charles and Bruce are all in Montagu tonight. They've been riding together for a while now and will probably continue on to the finish together - tomorrow they'll aim for lunch at Kasra and then push on to Trouthaven. Also in attendance is Anton, so if he joins the group tomorrow, there'll be a race on for beds at Trouthaven - overindulge at Kasra and you might end up sleeping on the floor...
Not far up the road in McGregor are Gavin and Henry - they made use of this interim stop to avoid stumbling around in the dark on the Kasra portage - a wise move. Tomorrow should see them getting to Trouthaven early and grabbing the best beds in the house.
At Kasra tonight are Charles, John, George and Barry. Charles had another tough day out, battling knee and neck pains, so his plans tomorrow will be based on how he feels when he wakes up. The other three are planning an early start, with the hope of getting through Stettynskloof before dark and finishing tomorrow night at Diemersfontein.
Our Lone Ranger Marnitz is still on the move tonight, he's been on a long push from Anysberg since early this morning and after grabbing supper on the run at Kasra, was making his way to Trouthaven. Its his last chance to use his sleeping bag and it wouldn't be surprising if he marches straight up Stettynskloof in the dark and curls up to sleep in the fynbos when he runs out of steam. Whichever way, he is determined to sleep with a Blanket tomorrow night.
The last bit of late night action has just played out at Diemersfontein - a very tired Scott James and Christo van den Heever have finished their epic journey. Scott finished a fine ride in third position with a time of 13days 15hours 20min and Christo was right behind in fourth, with a time of 14days 15hours 20min, a great first effort. They were greeted by an enthusiastic group of family and friends - the pizza is nearly ready and then they'll probably want to sleep - well done guys.
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