After yesterday’s relentless wind, today dawned crisp and clear on the trail, with hardly a breath of wind. For many riders, the tough conditions over the last few days have taken their toll, so instead of trying to capitalise, they opted for shorter, rest days today.
Now bringing up the rear of the field, we have Ingrid and Charl (Batch 7), who left Vuvu early this morning and arrived in Rhodes for a late lunch, before pushing on to Chesneywold.
Leaving Rhodes just before them was Gary (Batch 7), who had arrived in Rhodes yesterday and was planning to stay there for the day to rest. He changed his mind though and decided to roll slowly down the trail to Chesneywold for the night. The other riders opting to do the same were Tim and Didi (Batch 5), who left Rhodes after a good lie-in this morning and will also sleep at Chesneywold tonight.
Just up the road on the other side of a few mountains, lies Slaapkranz, where tonight we have Carl, Russell and Paul (Batch 5), who all rode through from Rhodes today. Another steady day out there for them today. Duplicating those efforts today were the three Namibians, Kobus and Leonard (Batch 6). After yesterday’s long day from Tinana, today was more a case of ‘slow and steady’ but they kept ticking over today and arrived soon after dark.
Passing through Slaapkranz earlier this afternoon was Tim James (Batch 7) - he had an uncharacteristically long sleep in Rhodes last night and will use that energy to ride deep into the night. He was starting up the Bontehoek portage just after sunset.
Heading to Moordenaarspoort tonight is Mark (Batch 5) - he stopped short at Chesneywold yesterday and was only planning a short day to Slaapkranz today but felt good when he arrived there and decided to push on. He may still be able to catch up to his riding mates Nigel and Sean (Batch 5) who will sleep a few hours down the road at Kranskop tonight. They rode through from Slaapkranz today and came a bit unstuck with a few navigation errors on both the portages, so it was a long day out for them, only arriving well after dark.
Scott (Batch 7) has been steadily chipping away each day and today continued with that theme. After leaving from Chesneywold, he joined Mark for the portages on the way to Moordenaarspoort and may still opt to go all the way to Kranskop tonight.
Leaving Slaapkranz this morning was a large group of riders - there was little consensus on the navigation as they found a few variations of the route over the first portage.. The group included Estelle, Graham and Matt (Batch 4) with Wikus (Batch 3). Wikus made quick work of the portages and lead the charge to Kranskop, arriving before dark. The other three were slightly more sedate and were also hampered by a mechanical when Matt’s freewheel hub started giving trouble. They got it sorted enough to keep moving and will attempt a more permanent repair at Kranskop tonight.
The trio of Bruce, Lance and Grant (Batch 4) left Moordenaarspoort this morning and had a more leisurely ride through to Brosterlea today. Conditions were near perfect, with hardly any wind and they spent the day cruising and taking photos along the way. During the day they had a few meet-ups with Mike, first at Kranskop for a second breakfast and then later again at Brosterlea. Mike said goodbye there and pushed on to Romansfontein, where he should arrive later tonight.
Romansfontein hosts quite a few riders tonight, all of them having ridden through from Kranskop: For Andrew and Rowan (Batch 6) it was somewhat of a shorter recovery day after the last few days of pushing hard. For Chris, Mark, Mandy and Sarah, it was another solid effort with spot on navigation and a comfortable arrival before sunset.
Also visiting Romansfontein today was Jacques (Batch 7) - he stopped over there for an early lunch after leaving Brosterlea early this morning. He arrived in Hofmeyr in time for supper and will probably head off to Elandsberg after that.
Enjoying the hospitality at Elandsberg tonight is Andrew W (Batch 2) - another solo day out on the trail for him and he also ticked off the tricky Elandsberg portage without any trouble.
Still out front on the trail tonight are Graham and Sarah (Batch 1) who rode through from Hofmeyr today. The last few days have been tough for Sarah but she seems to be bouncing back and today they both enjoyed the good conditions and amazing scenery out on the trail today.
And so the slow and steady march towards Wellington continues - the riders have settled in for the long haul and now it will be determination and consistency that sees them through.
Somebody switched the wind back on.. after the brief pause yesterday, it blew again with intent today and was felt by all the riders, from the Stormberg all the way back to Lehana’s.
For Ingrid and Charl (Batch 7) the wind was less of an irritation as they rode from Malekgolonyane to Vuvu, where the high Maluti mountains above them provided some shelter. They will have their sights set on Rhodes tomorrow and if they get away early enough, may even go all the way to Chesneywold.
Lehana’s saw plenty of action today with Scott (Batch 7) leading the way over the mountain in the blustery conditions. He had a quick pitstop in Rhodes before pushing on to Chesneywold and should arrive there later tonight. He’s ticked off some long days and is maintaining an impressive pace so far, which keeps him in the mix among the racers. The next to arrive were Carl, Russell and Paul (Batch 5), looking a bit weather beaten but still arriving with daylight to spare - they can look forward to a good night’s rest before heading out again tomorrow. Following them were the father and son duo of Pierre and Leonard (Batch 6) who arrived in time for supper. Their riding companion from Tinana this morning was Kobus (Batch 6), who took a bit more strain on the portage and slowed down on the final bit into Rhodes, arriving a little later. A steady stream of riders followed, with Tim and Didi (Batch 5), Simon (Batch 5 RTR) and Gary (Batch 7) all making their way to the Rubicon in Rhodes. For 70 year old Simon, the end of an impressive Ride to Rhodes, while Tim, Didi and Gary will saddle up again tomorrow to continue with their RASA. The last arrival in Rhodes was Tim James, who had ridden through from Tinana after spending a few hours sleeping out on Black Fountain. He’s had a long, hard day, so will mostly likely rest up before pushing on.
Chesneywold hosted many riders during the day but only Mark (Batch 5) opted for a stopover there to sleep. He should be joined by Scott later tonight.
At Slaapkranz tonight we have Estelle, Matt and Graham (Batch 4), together with Nigel, Sean (Batch 5) and Wickus (Batch 3) - all having ridden through from Rhodes today. The wind around Barkly East today was gusty and strong, which made going over the Kappokraal portage challenging but they all timed it well enough to arrive before dark.
Next stop down the trail is Moordenaarspoort, where tonight we have Bruce, Grant and Lance (Batch 4), who rode through from Chesneywold today. Also there are Cassandra and Phillip (Batch 2). Unfortunately it will be their last night on the trail, as Cassandra has been ill and after a visit to the doctor in Dordrecht today, has been advised not to continue riding. They will make their way back home tomorrow.
A late arrival at Moordenaarspoort will be Mike (Batch 7), who is on a long solo push from Rhodes, where he left at 1am this morning - he’s had a bit of a rough day, with extreme cold out of Rhodes and blustery wind to contend with during most of the daylight hours - but he’s determined to sleep in a warm bed and continue the charge tomorrow.
Kranskop support station has suddenly gotten busy, with Chris, Mark, Mandy and Sarah (Batch 3) staying over tonight after riding through from Slaapkranz today. Joining them for supper before pushing on was Jacques (Batch 7), whose day started at Chesneywold and will likely end at Brosterlea later tonight - the relentless riding continues. And then we have Andrew B and Rowan (Batch 6), who are expected there later tonight after a long day which started at Chesneywold early this morning.
Andrew W (Batch 2) has been riding solo since yesterday. He left Kranskop this morning and got to Romansfontein just before dark, after an uneventful trip over the Stormberg today. Not great to be riding solo in the wind but by tomorrow he should start to see some of the racers coming through and may tag along for some company.
Out front are still Graham and Sarah (Batch 1) who opted for a slightly shorter day from Romansfontein today, which ended in Hofmeyr. Sarah has been feeling a bit ill, so a recovery day was needed - a wise decision as there is still a long way to go.
By tomorrow all the riders will have reached Rhodes and will be moving through the Stromberg section of the trail - this high altitude region is known for icy cold weather and persistent headwinds, so it can be a tough section to get through. By now though, most of the riders have settled into a routine and know what has to be done to tick off each day’s riding stage.
With more of the RASA riders now edging along the trail past Rhodes, let’s catch up with the happenings of today:
Graham and Sarah (Batch 1) crested the Stormberg portage near Molteno late this afternoon before making their way to Romansfontein support station, a long 130km stage for them today. They are a full stage ahead of Andrew Walker (Batch 2) who today rode solo from Slaapkranz to Kranskop, foregoing the company of his erstwhile riding companions Cassandra and Phillip (Batch 2). They opted to take it a bit easier today by aiming for Moordenaarspoort instead but the duo had a bit of trouble getting over Slaapkranz portage when they drifted south of the intended route - they eventually found their way back and over the Bontehoek without any further incident and arrived at Moordenaarspoort just after dark.
Slaapkranz support station hosts Chris, Mark, Mandy and Sarah tonight (all Batch 3). They had a good day today riding through from Rhodes, with a quick lunch stop at Chesneywold along the way. So far they have put hardly a foot wrong and always managed to get in before dark - no doubt the experience of Chris (3 blankets) has something to do with that but the others are no slouches and have clearly done the training and pre-race prep to achieve this.
Another busy day in Rhodes today with many RASA riders passing through and some of the remaining Race to Rhodes riders finishing off. Finishing RTR were Phillip and Nick, who both added another Whip to their personal collections. Arriving with them were an assortment of RASA riders: Wikus (Batch 3), Estelle, Graham and Matt, Lance Bruce and Grant (Batch 4). For Lance and Grant it was only a quick lunch stop before pressing on to Chesneywold, Grant nursing an injured ankle after taking a tumble on Lehana’s. Bruce had to wait out a 3 hour time penalty for a spare rear wheel that was delivered in Rhodes but he used the time to rest and fuel up before also heading off to Chesneywold to catch up with his mates again. He was accompanied by Jacques (Batch 7), who had ridden through from Tinana. Jacques is making really good time considering he started in PMB less then 3 days ago and he should continue riding deep into the night to stay within reach of the current record pace.
Also arriving in Rhodes this evening is Mike (Batch 7), who started his day from Malekgolonyane in the wee hours. Although he’s pushed hard, he’s at least been rewarded by near perfect weather out on the trail today - some early mist but then clear, calm conditions and more importantly, no wind. He’s in good spirits and really enjoying his adventure.
Not far behind Mike are the RASA trio of Nigel, Sean and Mark (Batch 5). They’ve managed to capitalise on yesterday’s good ride to Tinana and are now arriving in Rhodes at the end of their 5th day on the trail, a great effort by them.
Vuvu plays host to Carl, Russell and Sean (Batch 5) after they rode through from Malekgolonyane today. A steady day for them with solid navigation and a relatively comfortable arrival by mid afternoon. Lehana now awaits but that’s tomorrow’s problem.
Also joining them at Vuvu tonight are Tim, Didi (Batch 5 RASA) and Simon (Batch 5 RTR) - they’ve had a slow day today with a few frustrating detours due to tricky navigation in parts. This put them at the start of the Vuvu valley as the sun was setting - not something for the faint of heart. But Tim is an experienced adventure racer and is used to reading maps by headlamp, so the likelihood of them sleeping in a warm bed in Vuvu tonight is very high.
A few hours behind them is Scott (Batch 7) and he’s also had a long day - it started from Masakala at 2am. He’s put in a huge effort to get this far today and is on track to reach Vuvu later this tonight. Also leaving with Scott from Masakala this morning was Gary (Batch 7) but he opted to stay over at Tinana when he arrived there just before dark. He will be joined there later by Kobus, Pierre and Leonard, who are also planning to sleep there tonight.
At Malekgolonyane are Ingrid, Charl and Tim (Batch 7), who have all ridden through from Glen Edward today. After the long last few days, the fatigue is real, so Ingrid and Charl have opted to catch up on some much needed sleep. Tim has been improving steadily today, after his initial issues with nausea and vomiting. Now eating again and slowly gaining strength, he is likely to continue into the night after a shorter stop at Malekgolonyane.
By tomorrow this time, the Race to Rhodes will be wrapped up and the RASA riders will all be well on their way to Wellington. There’s still a lot a trail to cover but by now the riders have settled into a daily rhythm and are focussed on the task at hand.
With all the riders now strung out across the trail, the field is spread between support station 8 at Kranskop and support station 2 at Ntsikeni. Out front are still the Batch 1 riders Graham and Sarah, they are now entering the Stormberg region of the trail and staying at Kranskop tonight.
Behind them are the small group from Batch 2, Phillip, Cassandra and Andrew, all sleeping at Slaapkranz tonight after the long ride through from Rhodes. This mountainous stretch of mostly district road riding climbs many mountains but the deep valleys in-between at least offered some welcomed shelter from the relentless wind that blew today.
The group that felt the full force of those winds was the one going over Lehana’s Pass today - made up of RTR riders Trevor, David, Rob, Arno and Eddie together with RASA riders Chris, Mark, Sarah and Mandy, they had to fight for every inch of height gained on the already tough portage as the wind swirled around the high peaks and buffeted them from all directions. For Arno and Eddie, the ordeal began last night when they left from Vuvu but they were forced to hunker down near the top and wait for daylight to find the way over the top of the pass - a cold and sobering experience for the racers aiming for a sub 72 hour finish. Their impressive riding since the start still gave them a sub 80 hour finish despite the bad luck with the weather this time. The rest of the riders took all stopped in at Tenahead Lodge for a hot cup of coffee and a brief escape form the trying conditions before continuing on to the finish in Rhodes.
Waiting at Vuvu tonight and no doubt keeping a beady eye on the weather forecast are Batch 4 riders Bruce, Grant, Lance, Graham, Matt, Estelle, Nick and Phillip. Also there is Batch 3 rider Wickus and joining them later tonight will be the two Batch 6 riders Andrew and Rowan. Although the wind blew for them too, they were traversing lower altitudes so it was less severe and at times during the day they even had tailwinds. They made good time and reached Vuvu by mid afternoon. Andrew and Rowan started from Masakala today, so they had used up all their daylight by the time they reached Tinana, but they were confident to continue on into the Vuvu valley in the dark..
Tinana Mission is hosting its first riders tonight - Nigel, Sean and Mark from Batch 5 are staying there after riding through from Masakala today - this sets them up nicely for a possible jump through to Rhodes tomorrow to get a day ahead of the intended schedule.
Tinana will also see Batch 7 racer Jacques tonight - this is the end of his second day on the trail and despite encountering gusty winds near Queen’s Mercy and on Mpharane Ridge he is determined to keep the momentum going, so will likely continue to Vuvu after a brief stop in Tinana.
Not too far behind and still chasing hard is fellow Batch 7 racer Mike - his day started at Glen Edward and he will likely opt to sleep for a bit at Malekgolonyane before heading out to Tinana in the early morning hours with a goal of reaching Rhodes sometime tomorrow night.
Also at Malekgolonyane tonight but having taken the full four days to get there, are the riders of Batch 5: Tim, Didi, Simon, Carl, Russell and Paul. For them today was more of a rest day and they were glad to take shelter from the wind in the afternoon. Tomorrow should bring flamer weather, so they can look forward to a spectacular day in the mountains as they make their way to Vuvu.
At Masakala tonight are Kobus, Pierre and Leonard, the Namibian riders who started in Batch 6. They have done well so far with steady navigation and solid riding every day tomorrow’s shorter day could serve as a sweet little reward or the opportunity to possibly start pushing a bit and aiming for Tinana. The weather will probably play the biggest part in the eventual decision though. Also at Masakala tonight are Batch 7 racers Scott and Gary, who have ridden through from Centocow today and are making swift progress down the trail so far. They will most likely be aiming for at least Tinana tomorrow but good weather might prompt them to go even further.
Succumbing to Charles and Sheila’s renowned hospitality tonight are Charl and Ingrid from Batch 7, who also rode through from Centocow today. They arrived there fairly early but decided not to move on and rather to rest up and leave early, so tomorrow will be another big day out on the trail for them.
Bringing up the rear tonight is Batch 7 racer Tim, who is still struggling with nausea and battling to keep any food down - although he arrived at Ntsikeni by late morning, he could not carry on and has been resting there today in the hopes of recovering. Hopefully the good food and warm company of Mr Ngcobo will cheer him up and give him the strength to continue again tomorrow.
Another day of clear skies and warm sunshine out on the trail. With most of Batch 1 finishing yesterday, it was only Graham and Sarah who had to get back on their bikes and hit the trail from Rhodes this morning. A fairly straightforward day awaited them to Slaapkranz, as the district roads started to open up, allowing average speeds to increase slightly. After the customary lazy lunch stop at Chesneywold, the arrived at Slaapkranz comfortably before dark.
Batch 2 had to work a bit harder to get over Lehana’s Pass as the wind had picked up by mid morning and became strong and gusty, forcing the riders to hold onto their bikes or have them blown away. The large group of Mark, Tony, Andrew, Greg, Marius and Johann, together with their RASA companions - Phillip, Cassandra and Andrew W. were also joined by Leon Kruger as they made they their way carefully over the mountains. They made good time despite the conditions and stopped in at Tenahead for shelter and coffee, then pressed on to the finish, all arriving in Rhodes by mid afternoon.
The next riders expected in Rhodes should be Arno and Eddie, the determined RTR racers of Batch 5. They managed to keep the momentum going today, taking only short stops at Masakala, Malekgolonyane and Vuvu and now they are heading up Lehana’s in the dark, hoping that the wind would have died down. They are still on course for a sub 70 hour finish in Rhodes.
Batch 3 consisting of Chris, Mark, Sarah, Mandy, David and Robert left Malekgolonyane before dawn heading to Vuvu. The group stuck together despite a few navigation errors before sunrise but found their groove later and enjoyed a really beautiful day along the ridges of Black Fountain. The early departure paid dividends as they arrived in Vuvu with plenty of daylight to spare. They were joined soon after by Trevor, who had started in Batch 4 but jumped ahead a day. Tomorrow they will all be heading over Lehana’s, let’s hope the wind is kinder to them.
Malekgolonyane is once again busy tonight - from Batch 3 there is Wikus and from Batch 4 we have Estelle, Nick, Phillip, Matt, Graham, Grant, Bruce and Lance. Having enjoyed their first slightly shorter day on the trail and had some time to rest and recover in the afternoon, they should be ready for the longer day again to Vuvu.
At Masakala tonight, the kitchen is busy churning out hearty food for all the hungry riders. From Batch 5 we have Tim, Didi, Simon, Nigel, Sean, Mark, Carl, Russell and Paul who rode through from Ntsikeni today. Most arrived well before sunset after another good day out on the trail. They are also joined tonight by Andrew and Rowan from Batch 6, who had another solid day out, riding all the way from Centocow.
After a busy night last night, Mr. Ngobo at Ntsikeni has a slightly easier task tonight - he hosts only three riders - Kobus, Pierre and Leonard of Batch 6. They don’t quite have the place to themselves though, as the racers of Batch 7 on the move..
Batch 7 left Pietermaritzburg at speed this morning: Jacques, Mike, Tim, Scott, Gary, Charl and Ingrid were all through the Umko valley before 1 o’ clock. Next, they ticked off Allendale, with only Tim opting to stay and rest. He was feeling ill and vomiting, so had a swim and then went to sleep with plans to leave later in the night. The rest pressed on, with Jacques and Mike reaching Centocow by late afternoon. A quick pitstop and they each continued to Ntsikeni, with about an hour gap between them by that stage. Gary and Scott had a relatively smooth ride to Centocow but Charl and Ingrid took a few wrong turns and lost some time navigating the tricky forest section in the dark. The four of them all sleep at Centocow tonight. Mike, Jacques and Tim continue to ride into the night, aiming to get as many trail miles behind them in the first 24 hours of their ride - how far they get will be the topic of discussion for dot watchers over their morning cup of coffee.
Batches starting from Tuesday 12 June 2018 until Monday 18 June 2018.
Batching based on full field