More rain in Rhodes yesterday meant that the already damp roads have become saturated and all the remaining batches will now have to contend with muddy conditions in their first few days. It wouldn't be the Freedom Challenge without some adversity though and so far the batches already out on the trail have coped quite well, with only a slight slow down in their overall pace. When the sun does come out, the surrounding countryside is lush and green with streams of run-off water glistening all around. So despite less than ideal conditions, the riders are still able to enjoy these moments and appreciate their surroundings.
The warmth and hospitality of the support stations are an integral part of the Freedom Challenge experience - some even say these are the highlight. The priveledge of staying over in someone's home in a remote area of the country is not to be taken lightly, as in many areas there are few if any alternatives for food and accommodation. Riders are reminded of this at their race briefing and most understand the required etiquette and appreciate the value of the support stations, so behave accordingly. But unfortunately not always and after a complaint from a host yesterday at the state that their facilities were left in, a batch of riders were given a time penalty. This meant that they could only start riding at 8am today.
With 4 batches out on the trail and 3 more still to get underway, this year's Race to Cradock is in full swing and the attention starts to turn to those starting in the last batch, who will be aiming to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. Although currently the conditions may not favour fast riding times, a few days of sunshine to dry things out could easily change that - let's wait and see.
The first two batches of this year's Race to Cradock had been enjoying the warm and dry conditions out on the trail so far. But yesterday that changed with the arrival of some heavy rain in Rhodes. The rumbling started late in the morning as the clouds gathered and the wind picked up. By late afternoon, a storm broke and the heavy downpours turned the dry roads into rushing torrents. With reports of hail and rain reaching as far down the trail as Romansfontein support station, the riding conditions will now be very different for the batches still to depart Rhodes. Although Batch 3 left Rhodes under clear skies this morning, the ground was very wet and muddy and the going may not be as easy for them today. The early portages at Kappokkraal, Slaapkranz and Bontehoek are well known for their sticky, black mud when wet, so the remaining batches are going to be working a bit harder to get through these sections. The second half of the route is thankfully a bit drier, so hopefully the riders can look forward to an easier finish as they get nearer to Cradock.
This year's FC events kicked off today as the first batch of RTC2018 riders got underway from Rhodes. The weather was kind, the pace was mellow and they had all arrived comfortably at Slaapkranz by mid afternoon.
With more batches departing over the next 7 days, the trail will soon be host to both regulars and newbies, all out to enjoy the remote countryside, the farm hospitality and the adventure that awaits them on the Freedom Trail.