"The last of the riders doing race to Cradock have rolled over the finish outside the Oude Pastorie Guest House in Cradock. As with all finishers, smiles and war stories abound.
The final analysis it that the event went well. There were only 3 riders out of a field of 59 who pulled up short aided by fairly good weather.
That is not to say the weather was perfect. A few heavy downpours in the early part of the route added some excitement. Philip Kleijnhans and Trevor Elliot of Batch 5 were the first riders to show race intent which came up short when they lost their footing while trying to cross a rampaging river and ended up taking refuge at a farmhouse. Batch 6 rode out of Rhodes in the rain and Peter Hilder soon discovered how slippery the roads were a few kilometres out of town. Fortunately he avoided serious injury and only had a blackened eye to show for his fall.
The event was made up of riders with mixed ambitions as well as mixed experience.
There were a number who experienced the Freedom Trail for the first time and for the most part came along with someone with previous experience. That meant there were no major hiccups on the navigation which meant the lost souls phone was silent for the duration of the race.
A couple of old hands, and one trail rookie, came along to brush up on their navigation skills ahead of the Race Across South Africa that takes place in a few months.
Other old hands packed their start batches with friends and they rolled from one support station to the next each day and revelled in the joint experience.
A small percentage of entrants came to race hard and two riders, Bruce Hughes and Jacques Tattersall finished well within the previous race record with Bruce stopping the clock at 42 hours 52 minutes bettering the previous record by 4 hours 17 minutes.
The race experience of the hardened racers differed substantially from the daily support station hoppers. When asked if it was fun the racers all admitted that it wasn’t fun. They did comment that the riders they caught up with seemed cheerful. That’s not to say the racer experience wasn’t satisfying.
That’s the beauty of this event. In many ways it’s as hard as you want it to be. If you want to take 5 or 6 days to wend your way to Cradock and drink deeply of the hospitality of the hosts you will arrive in Cradock enriched by the experience. If you hanker after pushing your mental and physical limits you can power through the route with nothing more than one or two power naps.
There is no razzmatazz, no podium presentations and no money for winning the race. As the race blurb says, “The rewards for completing the Freedom Challenge are entirely personal.” I believe everyone found the race rewarding in their own way as it met and often exceeded rider expectations." - Mike Woolnough