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RTR / RASA 2016 NEWS FEED

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RTR | RASA 2016 Newsfeed

A Final Word

The 2016 Freedom Challenge has come and gone. For riders in the Race to Rhodes and Race Across South Africa, some of the signs of their efforts are still fresh in mind, the vivid memories of places seen and people encountered along the way, the still familiar aches and pains for those that finished not too long ago. But as time slowly takes the edge off the hardships they experienced and bodies slowly heal and come back stronger, something more permanent comes to the fore. 

After the blur of the finish and the sometimes rude awakening of getting back to normal life, the realisation of what they have been through slowly dawns on them and the overwhelming sense of achievement brings with it a new sense of pride. For some there will be unbridled excitement and wanting to share their stories with friends and family, for others it will be more of a sense of knowing, an inner smile that they carry forward with them. Either way, few are left unaffected by overcoming a great challenge and so to with the Freedom Challenge. 

We would like to thank all the riders who set off along the trail this year, each facing their own particular challenge and overcoming it in their own special way. The Freedom Challenge leaves room for a person to test their own limits and to overcome many obstacles along the way - and long may it remain so. For all those new Whip Bearers and Blanket Wearers, welcome to the clan and well done for taking up the challenge and succeeding. 

From the Race Office. 

 

 

And in the end there were three - the trio of Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe, who after a night out in Stettynskloof managed to regroup and get it done, crossing the finish line at 5pm this afternoon to a warm welcome from friends and family. For Gerald, the final cutoff had been beaten and he received his Blanket after finishing in 25d 11h. For Clint and Neville who started a day later, their finishing time was 24d 11h. The three of them have stuck together through thick and thin and will surely have many shared memories and stories to tell - for now though, all that matters is that they have finished and can wear their Blankets with pride.

 

 

As the sun sets on yet another day on the trail, the Race Office waits for the last three riders to arrive. The trio of Clint le Roux, Neville Higgs and Gerald vd Merwe left Trouthaven this morning to take on Stettynskloof, the final stage in their journey to Diemersfontien.

As first timers to Stettynskloof, they would only have known what to expect by the reputation of the place and the stories of those who have gone before. Any Blanket Wearer will confirm that it is a place not to be underestimated. Judging by the time they got going this morning, they may have underestimated it..

Having made fairly slow progress through the kloof all day, they found themselves about halfway with the light beginning to fade. It seems they have taken the decision to camp out for the night and are in for a cold and uncomfortable night in the kloof, waiting for daylight before they proceed further. If they get going at first light, they should get to the finish at Diemersfontein by late morning - where the Race Office will be waiting to welcome them home.

 

 

 

Brad vd Westhuizen set off from Trouthaven before sunrise this morning - a man on a mission. Having rested there yesterday, his first task was to locate his bike and then finish off what he had started by getting through Stettynskloof. His progress was hampered by swollen rivers after all the rain and the ubiquitous thick bush in his path but he steadily made his way up the valley, making it out just after dark. From there it was a slow ride through to the finish at Diemersfontein and he arrived at 22h30 to be greeted by the biggest crowd so far - all the riders and supporters at the FC Finisher’s Dinner. A fitting welcome from the many fellow Blanket Wearers and congratulations all around - well done Brad.

That leaves only the trio still out on the trail - Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe are spending the night at Trouthaven, having arrived by lunch time from McGregor today. There will be a nervous anticipation in the air, the task is almost complete but the final obstacle still has to be conquered tomorrow. They should be well rested and up to the challenge - not much will stop them now.

 

 

In the early hours of this morning, Caren Henschel and Tony Wright crossed the finish line at Diemersfontein - after a very long day out for them which ended in the pouring rain - but nothing could dampen their spirits by then, they had persevered and finally earned their Blankets. Having ridden together from the start, they finished in 19d19h20min, a very good effort by both of them.

Catching up with the rest of the field today was a bit like watching a game of chess - one rider maintained his position while the others made a strategic move before their final assault.

Brad vd Westhuizen spent the day at Trouthaven, resting up and giving his injured back a chance to recover before his second attempt on Stettynskloof in the morning. He has used the time well, staying positive and is confident about his chances tomorrow.

The trio of Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe completed the short hop to McGregor today, despite the wet weather. They arrived in time for lunch which meant they had the whole afternoon to rest and recover. Tomorrow they will move forward to Trouthaven and with the weather set to clear over the weekend, they look to have timed it well for a possible trip up Stettynskloof on Sunday.

For these four riders the end may be near but a finish is still not guaranteed - they still need to focus on the task at hand and continue in the same determined manner that has gotten them to this point - their Blankets await them.

 

 

The onslaught on Stettynskloof got underway early this morning as nine riders entered the valley at dawn. They worked their way steadily up towards the steep exit slope, beyond which lay a short ride to a warm Blanket. For the group of Hughes Clauser, Greg Perrett, Richard Cole and Gary Scoular, it was business as usual as they forged their way up the kloof and emerged by mid afternoon, then continued to the finish at Diemersfontein, arriving before dark. Apart from Gary, the other three have ridden together since before Rhodes, now their adventure has finally come to an end. For Frenchman Hughes, there will no doubt be many stories to tell back home. Well done to all of them for getting to the finish.

The next rider to emerge from the kloof was Fanus Vorster, who then continued to cross the finish line and receive his well deserved Blanket. His ride has been full of ups and downs and he went from the brink of withdrawing to completing a determined, mostly solo effort - well done for seeing it through.

Pierre Oosthuizen is another rider who had a tough ride - that was last year, when he got as far as Cambria. This time around, he was more determined than ever to get the Blanket and went out everyday, focussed and resolute, steadily making his way down the trail on his single speed. A few late night arrivals and early morning starts couldn’t break his rhythm and today the hard work paid off when he finally arrived at Diemersfontein and wrapped himself in his Blanket - well done Pierre.

Among the nine riders leaving Trouthaven this morning were Brad vd Westhuizen and Caren Henschel together with Tony Wright. Brad made it halfway up the kloof and then his tracker showed him making a u-turn and heading back. It turns out, he took a fall on the way up and hurt his back, badly enough to make it very painful to carry his bike - so he went back down, leaving his bike near the dam and seeking assistance from the manager there, who helped him back to Trouthaven. He’s not done yet as he will rest up tomorrow and try again. Tony and Caren have had a very long day in Stettynskloof but have made it out and are on their way to Diemersfontein, where the are expected later tonight.

The sweeps, Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe, are in Montagu tonight, after a double stage from Rouxpos today. Neville had to take a detour to the local clinic to have his hand stitched up after he cut it coming out of Anysberg but he is on the mend and will continue with the others tomorrow. They are still hoping to finish over the weekend.

 

 

 

The onslaught on Stettynskloof got underway early this morning as nine riders entered the valley at dawn. They worked their way steadily up towards the steep exit slope, beyond which lay a short ride to a warm Blanket. For the group of Hughes Clauser, Greg Perrett, Richard Cole and Gary Scoular, it was business as usual as they forged their way up the kloof and emerged by mid afternoon, then continued to the finish at Diemersfontein, arriving before dark. Apart from Gary, the other three have ridden together since before Rhodes, now their adventure has finally come to an end. For Frenchman Hughes, there will no doubt be many stories to tell back home. Well done to all of them for getting to the finish.

The next rider to emerge from the kloof was Fanus Vorster, who then continued to cross the finish line and receive his well deserved Blanket. His ride has been full of ups and downs and he went from the brink of withdrawing to completing a determined, mostly solo effort - well done for seeing it through.

Pierre Oosthuizen is another rider who had a tough ride - that was last year, when he got as far as Cambria. This time around, he was more determined than ever to get the Blanket and went out everyday, focussed and resolute, steadily making his way down the trail on his single speed. A few late night arrivals and early morning starts couldn’t break his rhythm and today the hard work paid off when he finally arrived at Diemersfontein and wrapped himself in his Blanket - well done Pierre.

Among the nine riders leaving Trouthaven this morning were Brad vd Westhuizen and Caren Henschel together with Tony Wright. Brad made it halfway up the kloof and then his tracker showed him making a u-turn and heading back. It turns out, he took a fall on the way up and hurt his back, badly enough to make it very painful to carry his bike - so he went back down, leaving his bike near the dam and seeking assistance from the manager there, who helped him back to Trouthaven. He’s not done yet as he will rest up tomorrow and try again. Tony and Caren have had a very long day in Stettynskloof but have made it out and are on their way to Diemersfontein, where the are expected later tonight.

The sweeps, Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe, are in Montagu tonight, after a double stage from Rouxpos today. Neville had to take a detour to the local clinic to have his hand stitched up after he cut it coming out of Anysberg but he is on the mend and will continue with the others tomorrow. They are still hoping to finish over the weekend.

 

 

 

After a busy night at Pony Cottage in McGregor, where extra mattresses had to be brought in to cater for all the riders present there, the hosts can breathe a sigh of relief and take tonight off because the party has moved to Trouthaven - it has also grown by three, so the late comers could be back on mattresses again tonight. Brad vd Westhuizen and Fanus Vorster were the first arrivals, followed a bit later by Hughes Clauser, Greg Perrett, Richard Cole and Gary Scoular. Later in the afternoon, Caren Henschel and Tony Wright arrived, having ridden all the way from Montagu. The last to arrive was Pierre Oosthuizen, who took his time and got there well after dark. Tomorrow the nine riders will take on Stettynskloof together, the final stage of their journey.

Leaving Gamkaskloof this morning were Gerald vd Merwe, Neville Higgs and Clint le Roux. They had a long day, arriving at Anysberg by late afternoon. Any thoughts of pushing on to Anysberg were banished at the first sniff of Ronel’s fresh waffles, so tonight they will sleep there. That means a few big days ahead to get to Trouthaven on Friday night for Gerald to go up Stettynskloof on Saturday - let’s hope there are no waffles in Anysberg tomorrow..

 

 

We are down to twelve remaining riders out on the trail and all of them moved a bit closer to the finish today. Still spread out over different support stations, they are all by now in the Western Cape, so the end is not far off.

A large group sleeps at Pony Cottage in McGregor tonight, where a few riders concertina’d together and tomorrow will jump to Trouthaven together - more importantly, this means they will have strength in numbers as they take on Stettynskloof together the following day. Brad vd Westhuizen and fauns Vorster were the first arrivals and spent most of the afternoon relaxing and resting their legs. Next were the foursome of Greg Perrett, Richard Cole, Hughes Clauser and Gary Scoular, the first three coming from Anysberg and Gary coming all the way from Rouxpos today. they have a relatively easy day ahead of them tomorrow and good weather to look forward to.

Not far behind at Montagu tonight are another three riders, Caren Henschel, Tony Wright and Pierre Oosthuizen, who rode through from Rouxpos today. From there it is possible for them to reach Trouthaven tomorrow night, although it is a long push - they could still opt for a short ‘rest’ day by going only as far as McGregor. If they push on, then they will join the other at Trouthaven and have company going up Stettynskloof on Thursday.

All the way back at Gamkaskloof is where we find our sweepers tonight, Gerald vd Merwe, Neville Higgs and Clint le Roux. They rode through from Rondawel today and will most likely aim for Anysberg tomorrow although Montagu is not out of reach if they can get going early.. They will also be keeping an eye on the weather, as there is more rain predicted towards the end of the week, something which could make for harder going in the final few days.

As things slowly start to wind down, we watch and wait for the remaining riders, ready to welcome them home at Diemersfontein, ready to give them their well deserved Blankets. 

 

 

What happened to Gerrit?

After sleeping out in Stettynskloof on Saturday night, Gerrit continued on Sunday morning but again ran into difficulty with the thick bush and steep terrain in the kloof - he then pressed the SOS button on his tracking device, in the hopes that someone would come to his assistance (the riders were briefed about the use of the tracker SOS function and when to use it). He continued to move though, choosing a really steep route up the south western side in an attempt to get out of the kloof before dark. He ran into trouble when he could no longer carry his bike and hold onto the steep terrain at the same time, so he decided to leave his bike and get himself out instead. Managing to find a way out eventually, he walked to the Fisantekraal farm buildings where he arranged with the farm workers for a lift to Wellington. In the meantime, a search party had been dispatched to Stettynskloof to look for him at his last recorded position. Not finding anything, they returned after dark, to the news that Gerrit was already back at Diemersfontein. 

Ordinarily, his race would have been over as soon as he pushed the SOS button but his bike was still in Stettynskloof and he was still in a capable physical condition, so he was given the option of going back to fetch it and a chance at completing the race. After being dropped off near the top of the kloof, he attempted to retrace his steps and find his bike. Heavy overnight rains had swollen the rivers and made the terrain harder to negotiate, low cloud and mist meant visibility was also limited. After a few more hours of searching, he was unable to locate the bike and was now frozen and tired, so abandoned the attempt, again pushing his SOS button but continuing to move, making his way back to the shelter of the mountain hut (where he had been dropped off earlier that morning). He was collected from the trail and has abandoned the race. His bike will be collected when the weather clears and returned to him. Hopefully he will return at some point in future and try again.

We wish him well and hope to see him back on the trail at some point in the future.

 

 

 

A large welcoming party was at Diemerfontein tonight to welcome in a total of seven riders for the day. The first four arrived as a group - Jacques Tattersall, Scott Rutherfoord, Werner Nienaber and Leon Erasmus all started in different batches but over the course of the event, merged into the group of four, enjoying each other's banter and company enough to continue that way until the end. Although they rolled across the line together, they end up with different finishing times due to the fact that they started on different days: Jacques - 14d12h38min / Leon - 15d12h38min / Werner - 16d12h38min / Scott - 17d12h38min. For Jacques it is Blanket number two but for the others, this is the first Finisher’s Blanket. Tired from a long, wet and cold day out in Stettynskloof, the smiles on their faces returned as soon as they stood wrapped in their warm Blankets.

The next riders to arrive were Ann Harrison, Grant Cowen and Hayden Green, who rolled across the finish line at 20h30 this evening. For Hayden its been a long solo ride since Cambria, after tyre problems there forced him to stop for a day and he lost touch with his fellow batch members. He regrouped and pressed on, playing it safe and enjoying some good weather along the way. He finished in 21d14h30min and earned his first Blanket. Ann and Grant have ridden together since the start and there was never any question about them finishing together either. Both earned their first Finisher’s Blanket in a time of 18d14h30min. 

Trouthaven takes a breather tonight and tomorrow Stettynskloof will be eerily quiet once again as riders are only expected to pass through to Diemersfontein again on Wednesday.

Brad vd Westhuizen and Fanus Vorster sleep at De Bos in Montagu tonight, having ridden through from Rouxpos today. From there they will be aiming for Trouthaven tomorrow and with the weather clearing again, they can look forward to a pleasant ride through the winelands in the morning.

Hughes Clauser, Greg Perrett and Richard Cole are still all together and tonight they stay at Anysberg, having ridden through from Gamkaskloof. Hughes , the Frenchman, has been enjoying his backroads tour of South Africa in the company of his capable guides and now that they are nearing the wine making region of the Cape, maybe the roles will switch. They will be aiming for Montagu or McGregor tomorrow, with a possible Thursday finish in mind.

Pierre Oosthuizen left Prince Albert at midnight and set off for Gamkaskloof, riding the Swartberg Pass in the dark. He may have missed out on the the scenery but his early start ensured that he had enough time to keep going all the way to Rouxpos. Joining him there is Gary Scoular, who also came from Prince Albert, riding on his own for most of today. The late arrivals there tonight were Tony Wright and Caren Henschel, also coming from Prince Albert and also completing the double through Gamkaskloof. Tomorrow they can all look forward to flatter terrain and the long downhill stretch to Montagu via the Ouberg Pass.

Looking further down the trail, we need to go all the way back to Rondawel to find the intrepid sweeps Gerald vd Merwe, Neville Higgs and Clint le Roux. They were reunited there after Gerald had to scamper through the night to Willowmore in order to beat the 18-day cutoff, which he did with six hours to spare. Tomorrow its back to business as the trio reset their sights on the finish line at Diemersfontein and figure out a plan for Gerald to get there on Saturday. 

 

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