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
Saturday, 22 June 2013
The Daily Report - 22 June
Sitting here in balmy Rhodes, its hard to believe just how good the weather has been. When Batch I riders Chris, Julia and Richard came over Lehana's Pass today, they were in shorts and T-shirts and stopped to make tea and take in the views, cooled by a gentle breeze coming up from the valley - a far cry from the gale force winds and white-out blizzards of previous years. As we sit here debating it, local farmer Ray Sephton confirms that these are exceptional conditions that they haven't seen in the area for many years, certainly not during any previous Freedom Challenges.
And yet less than 100km away, reports were coming through today of strong headwinds making the going really tough? Maybe the riders have been a bit spoilt this year, so that the merest puff of wind is called a 'headwind.'
However, despite a few 'puffs' of wind out there today, many riders have been making steady progress across the country. Looking at Batch A, they had a solid day and arrived at Bucklands this afternoon where Hannes and Riennie are taking good care of them. Andy (who had a few problems with loose spokes which were sorted out in Kleinpoort) Peter, Ansa, Sarel, Pierre, Dave, Bruce and Charles seem to spread themselves out during the day and then regroup at night to share the same support station, so it's a bit of a bun fight for beds... Batch B riders Pete and Dave are marking Batch A closely, so they joined in the bun fight when they got there.
The remnants of Batch B are spread out across various support stations - Avril has stoically been forging a path on her own, with a few wise decisions helping to keep her on the right track - she was racing to beat the sunset off the Struishoek portage today with the intention of staying at the new Gegund support station tonight but phoned in late this evening from Pearston where she stopped for the night. Gavin and Henry are still recovering after being chased around by the trolls on the Skurfteberg a few nights ago and have decided not to attempt any more night time navigation for a while. They also decided to avoid the bun fight at Bucklands and are staying over in Kleinpoort tonight. Roy has been riding solo (since his mate Rob had to withdraw at Kranskop) and making steady progress. He had an early lunch at Romansfontein today, before boldly heading off to tackle the Aasvoelberg portage, aiming to get off the mountain before dark and continue on to a warm bed in Hofmeyr.
Batch C has been whittled down to only three riders after all the withdrawals yesterday - Barry, George and John are settled in at the lodge at Toekomst swopping war stories with some hunters after a good day's riding.
Batch D: Ted, Shaun and Eric had a relatively easy day today which ended at Stuttgart before lunch.
Guy, Anton and Martin have been together for the last few days and after having brunch at Stuttgart this morning, carried on over the the Schurfteberg to get to Grootdam.
Batch E: Dave, Doug, Janine and Philip indulged in some of the famous Hofmeyr pies this morning before moving on to Elandsberg where they arrived comfortably by mid afternoon. This represents a new milestone for Dave, as he has moved past the point where he had to withdraw with illness last year - well done Dave!
Batch F: Jack's Army (Jacques, Colin, Coen and Andrew) enjoyed their last few km's under the command of the inimitable Jacques - he lead his troops as far as Elandsberg today where his sortie ended and he retired to enjoy a holiday with his family. He must have given them a rousing pep-talk because they refilled their ration packs and carried on marching towards Stuttgart - where they were due to arrive later tonight. The other member of Batch F is Gaeren, who together with Robbie, got over the Slaapkranz portage on their second attempt today, picking up their bikes along the way. They scuttled over the Bontehoek portage without too much drama and battled a headwind to Moordenaar's Poort but still had enough riding in them to get to Kranskop by early evening.
Batch G+H: The trio of Scott, Charles and Christo had a big day today which started at 3am from Romansfontein and ended at Stuttgart by late afternoon. What plans will unfold tomorrow for these three Musketeers? Marnitz was charging today - he started out at Brosterlea, cleared the Stormberg, stopped in at Romansfontein for lunch, Hofmeyr for a late afternoon pie and then boldly headed off to take on the Elandsberg portage in The Dark... Will he get to use his sleeping bag tonight?
The sad news of the day was the withdrawal of Andrew King with severely swollen wrists and hand problems. He started out with Marnitz from Brosterlea but after a moment of introspection on the Stormberg, decided that risking permanent injury was not worth it. He detoured into Molteno to make arrangements for a lift home.
The Dreyers seem to finally be enjoying their honeymoon. Martin and Jeannie left Hofmeyr early this morning, had breakfast at Elandsberg, lunch at Stuttgart, (where Martin almost got a bit distracted by a big screen TV and the rugby) before finally getting to Grootdam and settling in for the night.
The backmarkers of the bunch are Batch I - the triathletes Leon and Andries, together with George, who is going as far as Rhodes. They got to Vuvu this evening and will be heading up Lehana's tomorrow on their way to Rhodes.