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 -

Monday, 15 July 2013

The 2013 Race Dinner

Look how far we've come in 10 years! From a 3-legged, 3-man race across the country, to a clan of nearly 150 blanket wearers with a boat-load of adventures between them and countless stories to share. The place to share those stories is the 'Race Dinner,' which also serves  as the traditional wrap-up for the event.

About 50 clan members and their families, spouses and friends gathered at Diemersfontein in Wellington over the weekend to share some fine food and wine. Dressed in their bright red race tops, the riders were there to feed their still hungry race appetites and to relive the adventures with those who understood what they'd been through. The wine flowed freely and war stories were swopped until the early morning hours.

Looking back over 10 years

During a brief talk, race director, David Waddilove, highlighted some of the developments and personalities that have grown out of the Freedom Challenge over the last ten years. He also looked into his crystal ball, suggesting that the way to possibly grow in future would be to expand the online following of the event, rather than the actual number of riders taking part - a wise option for an event that relies on the hospitality and goodwill of others.

All riders who have have completed the Freedom Challenge get the same thing - a finishing time, a pizza and a blanket. A more recent tradition has been the introduction of the 'Stone Saddle' award. This floating trophy is awarded to the finisher who best embodies the spirit of the event each year and is decided on by a vote from fellow riders. This year it was awarded to Avril Metelerkamp - a truly deserving winner. (More about her ride here)

Avril and the Stone Saddle

A new award for this year was the 'Vasbyt' award - with a trophy supplied by sculptor Eric Tollner, one of this year's riders. The winner this year was Roy Mottram, who despite not finishing, showed incredible tenacity out on the trail. (More about his ride here)

And so, after welcoming some new members to their ranks, the clan of Blanket Wearers has dispersed once again - back to normal lives with fond memories of an amazing journey completed and truly enriched by the their experiences. Who knows what the next 10 years will hold for the Freedom Challenge... the race format may change, the route itself may evolve and the coverage of it could surely expand. No doubt, the Clan will continue to grow, both in number and in spirit and the future of this remarkable event looks as bright as the sunny winter skies under which they rode in 2013.

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