It was only a few days ago that they left Rhodes and now they’re in Cradock. The first arrivals today were Trevor and Jacques, who came in just after 3pm, having started the day at Newlands Trevor started in batch 1, Jacques in batch 2, so he managed to jump a day ahead. The next to arrive were the KZN boys, Chris, John and Russell, together with the Western Cape farmers Jac and Adohan - a steady ride by them to finish on their fifth day. The next arrival was Fiona, also on her fifth day - she had some hard days out there but pushed through nonetheless. Aileen is nearly there too, just the last section down Swaershoek Pass between her and the finish
Batch 5, the first of the racing batches, let Rhodes in crisp conditions this morning but the skies were clear. Charles, Philip, Mike, Chris and Gavin are all aiming to go beyond Slaapkranz today and their early pace suggests they’re all on track.
Batch 4 had to contend with heavy rain at Slaapkranz yesterday and delayed their start slightly this morning - seems no one was too keen to take on the sticky black mud on the first portage in the dark and going later allows a bit of time to dry out. Theo, Grant, Ann, Lee and Bryn are all heading for Kranskop today.
Batch 3 left Kranskop early at 4:45am - they have a long 130km day ahead to Romansfontein. After dealing with thunderstorms yesterday afternoon and a power cut at the support station in the evening, they’ll be hoping for a more straightforward day today. Leon, Dave, Andrew, Gary, Alex, Ed and Brad are making good time and heading for brunch at Brosterlea.
Batch 2 also had a long day yesterday but all made it to Romansfontein before dark. Departing at 5:30am this morning, they are currently making their way to the Aasvoelberg portage and then it’s on to Hofmeyr for a pie-stop with the Elandsberg portage for dessert this afternoon. Chris, Lindsay, Rory, Colin, Sergio, Fabio and Shaun are moving well together as a group and can look forward to another spectacular day on the trail.
Batch 1 also got going early, with Fiona and Aileen leaving Elandsberg before 5am. The others, Russell, Chris, John, Jac and Adohan left a bit later but they are all well on their way to Newlands for a second breakfast - then it will be onwards to the finish in Cradock. Trevor and Jacques are still languishing at Newlands this morning, they rode through yesterday afternoon and enjoyed the fantastic hospitality at the new support station. They haven’t left yet, so the breakfast must be just as good as the lamb chops they had for supper. Once they get going, they’ll have the finish in Cradock firmly in their sights.
After 4 long days, most riders will now be in a rhythm and many of them may well decide to combine days 5 and 6 into a single push of 131km to the finish in Cradock. The day has another signature portage over Schurfteberg and a sting in the tail before reaching Cradock, the climb up the back of Swaershoek Pass.
Day 5 is a short 51km from Elandsberg to the new support station at Newlands, pretty much a flat ride all the way and early starters may even get a second breakfast opportunity. Along the way they will cross the Fish River and most unexpectedly, a road sign that says “Cradock 20km”, this tar road temptation will put a smile on their faces as they know they are nearing the end of their adventure but they won’t be tempted much. The crossing of the Spekboomberg with its warning signs for Rhino and Buffalo will have riders tippy-toeing through with their senses on alert in case a special sighting may occur. If they listen carefully, they may also hear the roar of lion as they exit this section. Newlands is a beautiful setting and a herd of playful karoo lamb may well line their approach.
With the end in sight, few are likely to stop here and they will push on to the, also new, Rockdale interim stop 28km further on at the start of the Garslandkloof, a third opportunity for a late breakfast. Once one enters this kloof, that traverses the Mountain Zebra National Park, the temptation to push on to the finish will be nagging. With plenty of daylight left, they may well continue with the final 52km to Cradock. From Rockdale they will reach the ever-friendly farm of Oom Gawie where the dogs will naturally push them around the house and into the switch backs that make up the Schurfteberg portage, it’s a beautiful kloof that leaves one feeling refreshed. A fresh pair of legs will find the portage a nice challenge to ride to the top but on tired legs, most will push all the way to the top where a spectacular view and another white-knuckle descent awaits down to farm Schurfteberg.
A few rolling hills will bring the riders to the sting in the tail up Swaershoek Pass (270m ascent over 4km) but with their minds filled with nostalgia as they ride up the pass, reflecting on the adventures of the preceding days and they will be at the top before they know it. From the summit they will have a 21km downhill all the way to the finish in Cradock. They leave the gravel road for a 2.3km tar road sprint into Cradock and will time trial this section like the champions they are. Turning the final corner they will look up and see Glenn and Meryl waiting for them in the street, the finish as low key as the start, but with their hearts and minds so much the richer.
Race to Cradock is a proper test of endurance but it gives back in special memories so much more than it asks. What a special privilege!
By Carl Scholtz
With four batches now out on the trail, all the support stations are now open and taking care of the riders. They might be in need of a bit of extra TLC, as today there were scattered storms along parts of the route, which left the riders wet and cold. Nothing that a tasty cup of soup in a warm, cosy support station couldn’t remedy though.
Batch 1 arrived safely at Elandsberg this afternoon, the tricky portage posing no problems for them in the daylight - so tonight Russell, Chris, John, Jac, Adohan, Aileen and Fiona have set themselves up nicely for an afternoon finish in Cradock tomorrow. Trevor and Jacques (from batch 2) arrived earlier than the rest and they elected to grab a quick snack and push on to Newlands, a few hours down the road, where they arrived comfortably before dark - this means a possible midday finish for them tomorrow.
Batch 2 are all in at Romansfontein tonight after ticking off the long 130km day from Kranskop. A brief stop at Brosterlea for lunch and smooth sailing over the Stormberg portage meant they made it through the final tricky pivot section with daylight to spare - that’s another good day for Chris, Lindsay, Rory, Colin, Sergio, Fabio and Shaun. The question now remains - can they make it to Hofmeyr before 13h00 tomorrow when the pie shop closes?
Batch 3 arrived at Kranskop after completing the difficult day from Slaapkranz - they left well before sunrise and got over the two portages cleanly before stopping off at Moordenaarspoort for lunch. Leon, Dave, Gary, Andrew, Alex, Ed and Brad will have another big day tomorrow but they are riding well as a group, so shouldn’t have too much trouble.
Batch 4 rode strongly to Slaapkranz today, all arriving before 15h00. The morning stop at Chesneywold was a brief affair and the Kappokkraal portage was navigated cleanly but by the time they dropped into the Slaapkranz valley, they were caught by a storm and arrived drenched. Theo, Ann and Grant are using this ride to scout for their return in June for RASA. Lee is showing his mate Bryn around, as it’s his first time on the trail.
Back in Rhodes, the rain returned this afternoon, which caused a few worried looks on the faces of the riders in Batch 5 who are all assembled here. Hope they packed their raincoats...
Looking down the trail at lunch time on day 4 and we see the following:
Out front and racing towards the Elandsberg portage are Trevor (from batch 1) and Jacques (from batch 2). They didn’t hang around for too long in Hofmeyr and might still be thinking of going on to Newlands today. Chris, Russell, John, Jac and Adohan have just left Hofmeyr after their pies and the ladies Fiona and Aileen have just arrived. Aileen is battling with an injured hamstring but pressing on nonetheless. They are all on track to get to Elandsberg before dark tonight.
The ever consistent batch 2 - Chris, Lindsay, Rory, Colin, Sergio, Fabio and Shaun are all heading up the Stormberg portage. There’s still some work left to do before they can begin to relax but their steady pace, they should get to Romansfontein comfortably before any threat of darkness emerges.
Batch 3 are all enjoying lunch at Moordenaarspoort after an early start from Slaapkranz this morning. Leon, Dave, Andrew, Gary, Alex, Ed and Brad have made good time and provided they don’t eat too much for lunch, they’ll have a relatively easy cruise to Kranskop this afternoon.
Batch 4 have all passed through Chesneywold and are well on their way to Slaapkranz - currently approaching or already attempting the Kappokkraal portage are Ann, Theo, Grant, Joyce, Dave, Ben, Lee and Bryn. From there it’s a straightforward ride down to Slaapkranz, so they’ll have time to relax in the sun when they get there later this afternoon.
As the rider make the most of the good weather out on the trail, Race Office awaits the arrival of batch 5 in Rhodes.