With nearly half the field home already, the question is "Who is still out there?" Well the other half of the field still have some work to do before the pizza and blankets, so let's break it down:
Leon and Andries went through the Grootrivier Poort today without incident and are sleeping at Cambria tonight. They're getting stronger as they go, a good sign for the big stages still coming up.
The Fabulous Fishers, Chris and Julia, are having so much fun that they decided not to drop the hammer up the Baviaanskloof today, rather opting to stop at Golden Crust to sample the chocolate pudding. They must have liked it because they decided to stay for the night. Gaeren, on the other hand, used the chocolate pudding to power himself on to Willowmore, completing a big 170km double in the process. He faces the long haul across to Prince Albert tomorrow with rumours of a coffee ambush somewhere along the way...
Today Robbie faced that same stretch and went ripping across the rugged landscape in his big blade. There must be something wrong with his brakes because he overshot a critical turn by about 10km before he was able to reign in his steed and turn around. Back on track, he got to Rondawel in time for fresh vetkoek before charging off again. He was tracked by Voorryer Rissik doing 45km/h after the roadside coffee stop and just managed to throw out his drag chute in time to stop himself at Dennehof. His big blade may get a rest tomorrow as he makes his way up the Swartberg Pass to Gamkaskloof.
Solo Eric went up the pass today and and will spend the night in Gamkaskloof. He seems to be enjoying himself again, stopping to take pictures and smell the flowers. He might go as far as Anysberg tomorrow but it takes a strong will to bypass the waffles at Rouxpos.
Back in civilisation in downtown Montagu, four riders are recovering after a long ride from Rouxpos today - Guy, Ted, Shaun and Philip. They survived the sandpits of Anysberg and arrived just before dark. They can look forward to a scrumptious lunch at Kasra tomorrow on the way to Trouthaven.
Having supper at Kasra tonight though are Andy and Peter. Lunch was great so they decided to stay. Tomorrow's a relatively easy day for them to Trouthaven, with only the sneaky little Trappieskraal portage to worry about but they'll have more than enough time to scuttle across in the morning and then rest up for Stettynskloof.
Already settled in at Trouthaven is another large group of riders - Dave, Doug Janine, Coen, Colin, Andrew, Avril and Polish Martin will take on Stettynskloof in the morning, aiming for a mid afternoon finish. There should be a bit of a path forming by now and there were reports of some cairns marking the way, so all that's left to do is hoist up their bikes and put one foot in front of the other, then freewheel down the hill to collect their blankets - easy as that! (Good luck guys & gals, it's one helluva hike.)
The pizza oven at Seasons Restaurant here in Diemersfontein has been working overtime today, eleven hungry finishers are hard to satisfy and Chef Andy has been cooking up a storm - hang in there Andy, the hungry hordes are dwindling and the race office don't eat much, pretty soon things will be back to normal.
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