Another pearler of a day out on the trail today and the march towards the finish continues.
The sweepers, Leon and Andries are enjoying the hospitality at Bucklands tonight - tomorrow they should get to Cambria and then start the journey up the Baviaanskloof.
In Cambria tonight are the Fishers, Chris and Julia, as well as Gaeren, who rode with them for company today. They got in well before dark, so there will be no camping out in the kloof tonight.
Today saw the unfortunate withdrawal of Roy - he had been nursing a damaged ankle and then picked up a tummy bug which had made the going particularly tough the last few days. It was with great disappointment that the race office accepted his withdrawal - he had been soldiering on through thick and thin, always with a positive attitude and a smile on his face. The 70-year old had also become a firm favourite at the support stations, earning the respect of the hosts wherever he went. Well done Roy on an inspiring ride and a truly remarkable achievement to have gotten that far.
And then there's Robbie - today he finally got to shift into the big blade and crank up the watts, cruising from Cambria to Dam se Drif in a swift 6 hours. Hestelle was impressed enough to give him seconds of chocolate pudding and he then powered on to Willowmore - he went so fast in fact that he missed the last turn off to Willowmore - but a quick phone call got him back on track and he got to the Willows guesthouse before dark after a great day's riding. Let's see how he goes across the 'vlaktes' to Prince Albert tomorrow.
Solo Eric has been steadily riding himself back to good health - leaving Willowmore this morning, he stopped off at Rondawel for some vetkoek. He continued from there to Prince Albert and was ambushed by none other than Voorryer Johann Rissik, lurking in the bushes after a triumphant return from the Battle of Ketoorskop. Poor Eric was forced to have coffee and rusks before being allowed to continue. He will be heading for Gamkaskloof tomorrow.
Guy and the Adams Family continued on their merry way today, with Philip in tow. According to Guy, "the old guys were pretty slow up The Ladder" but they all made it through to Rouxpos and tomorrow they will be heading off to Montagu.
The Montagu Country Hotel is a busy place tonight - the guests include Dave, Doug, Janine, Coen Colin, Andrew and Avril who seemed to have formed a nice group. Lunch at Kasra for them tomorrow, yum yum, and then on to Trouthaven. Also in Montagu and probably at the bar tonight, are Andy and Peter. They arrived from Anysberg just in time for the Sunday lunch buffet and are cruising from here to the finish - goal for tomorrow is lunch... and then supper in Kasra.
Polish Martin is just up the road in McGregor tonight. He had a rough day coming into Anysberg yesterday but recovered a bit today. Tomorrow he'll pass through Kasra for a second breakfast, before pushing on to Trouthaven. - Nearly there Martin
Trouthaven is packed to the rafters tonight - a group of eleven riders will be trying to get a good night's sleep before the massive haul up Stettynskloof in the morning. Ansa, Sarel, Pierre, Dave, Bruce, Charles, Pete and Dave all arrived together. They were beaten to it by Anton, Gavin and Henry though, so guess who got the best beds.
At Diemersfontein today we welcomed Marnitz home and then just before dark, the Hout Bay Boys rolled in, Barry, John and George.
And that leaves only Charles - he's on his way to Diemersfontein, expected to arrive just after midnight. He's now down to walking pace, with his neck and knees caving in but that's not going to stop him - so the pizza is ready and the race office waits...
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