You know it’s time for Race to Cradock when you start seeing signs of Cosmos flowers next to the roads and your cycling group rides have crept out to 6h15. Of course there’s also the scramble for 2 litre race boxes, the search for the missing compass and the lighting up of the dormant Freedom Challenge whatsapp and social media groups.
Race to Cradock is a 575km non-stop self-navigated race from Rhodes to Cradock that involves significant cycling but also numerous challenging portages with “volksname” like Kappokkraal, Loutebron, Bontehoek, Aasvoelberg and many others. In 2015 the inaugural race was won by Alex Harris in a few minutes under 48 hours, his only stop at Brosterlea for 3 hours after being caught by a storm.
In 2016 the race will be run from 9-14 March with 6 daily batches leaving Rhodes at 5h00. The racing snakes go on Monday 14 March and some fireworks are expected which will undoubtedly keep the armchair fans glued to their screens. It has been raining in Rhodes in recent days with more rain forecast for Wednesday and Thursday. The roads leading up to the end of Loutebron Farm are infamous in wet weather and may test riders’ resolve. Marnitz Nienaber, a RASA stalwart with a beautiful way with words, described the conditions in a previous year as follows:
"Slaapkrans portage is 'n bliksem, dit begin gelydelik en bliksem dan reguit teen die berg op, reguit sê ek jou, niks se gezig zag nie, pyl reguit en om dit nog moeiliker te maak is dit met polisiehond modder besaai. Jy weet mos wanneer 'n polisie hond byt los hy nie, hy wurg die laaste bietjie energie uit jou uit en dit smaak my ek sleep 'n paar van die honde die berg uit....."
Riders will experience many challenges over the following days that will vary from physical exhaustion, mental resolve when the going gets tough, unpredictable weather conditions, tricky navigation and new moon conditions for those riding into the night. Whether a rookie or a racing snake, everyone will be on their own personal mission, experience their own personal highs and lows, challenge their own limits and in the end achieve their own personal victories. In the process they will cross breath-taking landscapes, encounter 5-star support station hospitality and experience the silent remoteness of the Karoo. Personally, I remember the food fondly :-) ... pure meat pies at Hofmeyr, proper boerewors and pap at Elandsberg and the venison and cucumber sarmies at Stuttgart. All in all it is an experience like no other.
It is an incredible privilege to be a part of this special event and it will be an experience that few will ever forget. Enjoy the special moments, honour the race and its traditions and have a blast.
It’s time for Race to Cradock!
By Carl Scholtz
Hard to believe that nearly a year has passed since the inaugural Freedom Challenge Race to Cradock took place - well its almost that time again and this year's event promises to be bigger and better.
The start list has 46 riders going off in 6 batches.The first event was an 'invitation only' affair but this year it was opened up to anyone, so among the familiar faces are some totally new names eager to test out the Freedom Trail for the first time.
The event is also scheduled a week earlier than last year, in an attempt to spare the riders from the heavy rains which fell last year and are common in late March in the area. However, the prevailing drought and dry conditions currently being experienced could mean that the heat might be more of a factor this year.
As the riders complete their final race prep, pack their support station containers and make last minute tweaks to their bikes and equipment, we look forward to the start on 9 March and to another year of adventures on the Freedom Trail.