|Sunrise over Lehana's Pass|
It's been a while coming but the race office is finally able to start doing the daily wrap up of action for this year's Freedom Challenge. There are many characters taking part in this year's adventure and already many stories of near misses and bold moves are emerging - we'll catch up on some of those over the next few days. One thing that has been evident so far is that the weather has been exceptional this year - in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the race, David has turned off his weather machine and allowed the field to proceed under clear and sunny skies so far...
Batch A still have their noses out in front, not having been hauled in by the racing snakes yet.
Amongst them are Ansa & Sarel, Dave & Pierre and Bruce & Charles and Andy & Peter. They have all arrived safely at Toekomst. Joining them are some of the members of Batch B namely Dave & Pete. They're going well and running slightly ahead of schedule at this stage, having already put in a few sneaky double stages earlier.
The rest of Batch B are strung out not far behind them - Avril got to Stuttgart quite early but opted not to take on the Skurfteberg portage until tomorrow, a wise move since she has a few long, hard days behind her and some rest would be good. Gavin & Henry are making their way to the new support station at Gegund - they had a very late night last night after getting lost on the Skurfteberg portage and eventually sleeping out near the Buffelshoek farmstead. They made a good recovery today but will be glad to get into bed tonight and catch up on some sleep. The other members of Batch B, Rob & Roy, have been struggling a bit, with a few navigational mishaps and other setbacks. Yesterday they stopped at Kranskop because Roy had a tummy bug. He recovered but when they wanted to proceed today, Rob wasn't feeling up to it and decided to stay - and so the partnership split, with Roy going on past Brosterlea as far as the Weltevrede Farm at the foot of the Stormberg.
Batch C has had a number of withdrawals since they left Aintree last Tuesday. First it was Paul Erasmus who got sick and then his riding mate, John Loos. They took rest days to recover but eventually called it quits and headed home - it's a pity because at that stage they were going along nicely a few days ahead of schedule. The next casualties of the batch were Erika & Coen, also riding together, also going along nicely. Erika picked up a problem, resulting in a very swollen leg and on the advice of a doctor, decided not to continue. So that leaves only George, John and Barry from that batch - they had a good day, riding from Elandsberg, through Stuttgart to Grootdam today.
Batch D also had a withdrawal today, with Pawel being forced to pull out due to knee problems. That leaves his riding partner Martin to continue with the other members of the batch - Ted, Shaun, Guy, Anton and Eric. They all went from Romansfontein to Elandsberg today.
Batch E: Dave, Doug, Janine & Philip had another steady day and got to Romansfontein without incident, well before dark. Having a few trail vets in the group is clearly the way to go.
Batch F has had a rip roaring time of it up to now - under the guidance of Jack Black, "Jack's Army" has been marching steadily along without a hitch - but Coen, Andrew and Colin will have to find a new sergeant once Jack's jouney comes to an end in Hofmeyr. They've had the company of Christo from Batch G for a bit, maybe he'll step up to command the troops? Late arrivals at Romansfontein today were Charles and Scott. Charles nursing some ITB issues and Scott putting in some really big pushes. It's a full house at Romansfontein tonight and the late night hospitality may make it hard to get going in the morning but this large group will most likely splinter up during the course of tomorrow's ride.
There is another member of Batch F - Gaeren, who fell back due to a knee problem. He's since made steady progress and today he rode out with Robbie from Chesneywold - but they came unstuck on the Slaapkranz portage and when the light began to run out, the stashed their bikes on the mountain and beat a hasty retreat back down to Slaapkranz for a second night.
Marnitz has had a great day today, leaving from Slaapkranz, clearing the Bontehoek portage cleanly, snacking at Moordenaar's Poort and Kranskop before continuing on to Brosterlea. He's making a bit of a charge in an attempt to make up for lost time after the demise of the tandem - go Marnitz!
In contrast, today was a slow day for Andrew King - he's been on the gas since the start, so its not surprising really. But Andrew is having issues with sore, swollen wrists and a tummy bug. He kept soldiering on though and got to Brosterlea - he will join forces with Marnitz here, so tomorrow could be interesting...
The Honeymooning Dreyers have had an incredible ride so far - thanks to the good weather, they've been pushing hard and as a result have been slightly ahead of record pace. They eased off a bit today when they got to Romansfontein but only to snack and chat before heading off to Hofmeyr. With Jeannie nursing a knee strain and the pressure from behind easing off for the moment due to Andrew slowing down, they may well elect to take a few easier days from here on.
At the back of the field we still have two groups of riders, some of whom are taking part in the Extreme Triathlon. Chris & Julia, together with Richard, rode the brilliant Black Fountain section today and are now in Vuvu. Just behind them at Malekholonyane are Leon, Andries and George. Both groups should pass through Rhodes without too much trouble in the next two days.