Welcome to the Freedom Challenge news feed for 2018. Join us as we follow this year's intrepid adventurers from Pietermaritzburg to Rhodes and then the 35 crazies carrying on to Wellington. RASA riders have a maximum of 8 days to get to Rhodes or 26 days to get to Wellington.
The batches generally start with the racing snakes at the back of the field while those wishing to take in the sights, head off in the first few batches. The early batches often include quite a few novices and it is not uncommen for some of these rookies to come a bit unstuck early on as they get to grips with the navigation and challenging terrain but today was pretty smooth sailing for all 9 starters.
There were a few nervous faces at the race briefing dinner and lots of butterflies at the Pietermaritzburg City hall for the 6am start but the weather gods delivered some slightly warmer weather after a couple cold weeks leading up to this year's start.
Batch 1 consisted of two RASA riders, Graham Bird and partner, Sarah Hearn. This is Sarah's first time on the trail but she is an accomplished adventure athlete and with Tweet and his 3 blankets to guide her through, she should be just fine. The "LoveBirds" started off slow and steady, surely still feeling the, recently completed, 550km adventure race in their legs. They made no errors and spent most of the day together riding at their own pace, arriving at Allendale just before sunset.
The remaining 7 riders in batch one are all heading to Rhodes. Kevin Egberink and Nigel Basel, laid down the first tyre tracks all the way, reaching The Oaks for a 10h30 soup stop and Allendale comfortably by 15h50. This is Nigel's second RTR so he obviously knew about the cold coke and yummy saamies waiting for him at Allendale.
The remaining 5 rode much of the first day together, with some slow going through a somewhat overgrown Umko Valley section. Roger Nicholson has a RTR whip to his name but the other four; Andrea Jeurissen, Dominic Giampaolo, Justin Dowdle and Keith Sutcliffe are all busy finding out what a day on the Freedom Trail entails. All riders opted to ride round and over the bridge as the Umko water level is currently quite high. The massive Hella Hella climb out of the Umko split the field a bit but everyone made it home, some after dark though. Tonight they'll will be enjoying some well deserved rest after a tough first day on the bike.
Batch 2 riders have all arrived in Maritzburg and so the process continues. Join us tomorrow for another daily wrap where we cover the thrills, spills and all those taking the 'unconventional' route.
Batches starting from Tuesday 12 June 2018 until Monday 18 June 2018.
Batching based on full field