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 day at Diemersfontein started earlier than usual with the arrival at 03h55 of Tim Deane - his finishing time of 12d21h55min is remarkable for a trail rookie, a clear indication of his pedigree and adventure racing experience being put to good use. He was proud to receive his first Blanket and is already murmuring about the next one..
The wait for the next finisher proved to be longer than expected - after sleeping to in Stettynskloof last night, Gerrit vd Merwe got going again early this morning, intent on reaching Diemersfontein. But things don’t always go according to plan and he battled to find his way out of the valley, ending up on the steep south-western side. Nursing a leg injury and struggling to hold onto both his bike and the steep terrain at the same time, he decided to to leave his bike hooked to a tree and focus on getting himself to safety. Eventually finding his way out, he walked all the way to the Fisantekraal farmstead and got a lift in to Wellington, arriving at Diemersfontein via the front gate. He will now return to the valley tomorrow to find and fetch his bike and ride back to cross the finish line to earn his Blanket - at least tonight he will sleep in a warm bed.
Nestled at Trouthaven tonight is a large group of riders waiting to take on Stettynskloof in the morning. Hayden Green has been there since mid afternoon, having ridden through from McGregor. Ann Harrison and Grant Cowen are also there, having ridden through from Montagu. Joining them will be Jacques Tattersall, Leon Erasmus, Scott Rutherfoord and Werner Nienaber (Werner slightly delayed by more mechanicals). After a day of strong winds, the predictions are for overnight and morning rain, so they will have to knuckle down to get through the kloof tomorrow - not an easy day for them but their last day nonetheless.
Brad vd Westhuizen rode from Gamkaskloof to Rouxpos today, where he was joined later by Fanus Vorster, started in Prince Albert. The pair of them will most likely aim for Montagu or McGregor tomorrow but the weather may have the final say in their plans.
Hughes Clauser, Greg Perrett and Richard Cole rode from Prince Albert to Gamkaskloof today, a relatively easy day for them. No heroics and steady riding have seen them make good progress along the trail, giving them every chance of collecting those Blankets before the end of the week.
The ever determined Pierre Oosthuizen had a slightly shorter day today, going from Rondawel to Prince Albert - tomorrow him and his single speed will take on the mighty Swartberg Pass on the way to Gamkaskloof. He is joined tonight by Caren Henschel, Tony Wright and Gary Scoular - they rode through from WIllowmore today.
Our sweepers Gerald vd Merwe, Clint le Roux and Neville Higgs split up today after riding through the Baviaanskloof together from Cambria - Gerald was forced to push on to Wollowmore to make the cutoff there by 6am tomorrow morning, which he is comfortably on track to do. He may take a long sleep there and wait for his riding buddies to come through from Dam se Drif in the morning, then join up again and head for Rondawel, or beyond. They can’t relax too much though because now they have to reset his sights on the finish line at Diemersfontein and make sure they get there in time for the Finisher’s Dinner on Saturday - keep pedalling boys.
With seven riders coming through Stettynskloof tomorrow and one more going back to fetch his bike, it promises to be another busy day at Diemersfontein. Hopefully the predicted rain won’t spoil the party too much and the other riders can keep moving steadily forward.
Another day of Blankets at Diemersfontein today - the first arrival was in the early hours of the morning, when Tim James arrived at 01h44. A long hard slog up Stettynskloof for him, which included a bit of walkabout in the dark at the top of the kloof but he was still in good spirits at the finish and rightly so - his finishing time of 12d19h44min was his fastest to date. Following his usual plan of long riding days and short, often trailside sleeps, Tim kept pace with the frontrunners and ensured some tight racing up to the end - ensuring plenty of entertainment for the dot watching followers at home.
The next Blanket went to Liehann Loots, who came across the line at 15h45 in glorious sunshine. He put in a really solid performance, a well calculated and executed race plan which required consistent riding and allowed for good sleep and recovery - the result was Blanket number three for him and his quickest finishing time to date: 13d9h45min.
The next to arrive were Willie Esterhuizen, Chris Morris and Mike Woolnough, rolling across the finish line at 19h32. For Willie his first blanket after a tough ride which started with his mates Gerrit and Fanus (Fanus dropped off early at Rhodes / Gerrit fell behind in Stettynskloof) but he ended up finishing with Mike and Chris instead. For a first timer, he rode well and made good decisions, never really getting into any serious trouble with the navigation and picking up a few doubles later in the ride. He will be pleased with his finishing time of: 19d13h32min
For Chris, this is Blanket number three and his ride is an example of how consistent effort and good trail knowledge can combine to ensure success - with a finishing time of 19d13h32min, this is also his quickest finishing time to date. He enjoyed the hospitality along the trail immensely and took his time towards the end, making sure not to miss out on any of the good food and company along the way.
Mike Woolnough is a seasoned veteran of the Freedom Challenge and arriving at Diemersfontein tonight earned him his fourth Finisher’s Blanket. His finishing time was 13d13h32min, also his quickest time. As a racer, he was relentless, getting off to a quick start and going hard from the start. He was in the mix with the frontrunners until the last third of the race, where a chest infection forced him to slow a bit. He soldiered on though and bounced back towards the end, putting in some long efforts on the run into Stettynskloof. He also had the pleasure of doing the final stage up Stettynskloof today with his good friend Chris, a fitting way to conclude a fine effort by them both.
Looking down the rest of the trail, there are still two riders making their way to Diemersfontein tonight - Gerrit vd Merwe and Tim Deane - they are expected to arrive much later tonight.
In McGregor tonight is Hayden Green and he has Pony Cottage all to himself. He has been steadily making his way to the finish, one stage at a time - for him the only thing that will matter is finishing and getting his Blanket and he’s well on track to do that.
Staying in Montagu tonight are Grant Cowen and Ann Harrison, who rode through from Rouxpos today. They will head to Trouthaven tomorrow and to the finish the next day - hopefully just in time to beat the next cold front.
The now tight group of Jacques Tattersall, Leon Erasmus, Werner Nienaber and Scott Rutherfoord arrived in Anysberg tonight after completing the long triple stage from Prince Albert today - a good effort from them. This sets them up for another long push to Trouthaven tomorrow and a possible Monday finish for them.
Brad vd Westhuizen continued his solo ways today, riding as far as Gamkaskloof today, where he has the place to himself. Tomorrow he will take on the Ladder and head for Rouxpos and possibly beyond - the finish line is calling.
Sleeping in Prince Albert tonight are Hughes Clauser, Greg Perrett, Richard Cole and Fanus Vorster. They rode through from Willowmore today, leaving really early and arriving by early afternoon after a comfortable day’s riding. Tomorrow they head up the Swartberg Pass into Gamkaskloof and will have Rouxpos in their sights after that - the finish line is creeping closer for them too.
The stoic Pierre Oosthuizen continues making steady progress down the trail - riding solo for most of it, he's slowly but surely getting closer to realising his dream of wrapping himself in the coveted Finisher’s Blanket. Tonight he sleeps at Rondawel, so he can look forward to a second breakfast at Dennehof tomorrow morning.
Willowmore hosts Caren Henschel, Tony Wright and Gary Scoular tonight - they’ve had a big day, completing the double from Cambria today. With decent weather still expected for tomorrow, they can hopefully get across to Prince Albert before the wind switches on again.
Our sweepers Gerald vd Merwe, Clint le Roux and Neville Higgs all sleep at Kudu Kaya in Cambria tonight, having survived the long, difficult stage through the Osseberg today. Still flirting with the Willowmore cutoff, Gerald will be aiming for Willowmore tomorrow, so there’s still work to be done before they can ease off.
As the field moves steadily towards the finish line, there’s still plenty of riding to be done. With some bad weather looming, it won’t be plain sailing all the way but slow and steady progress it what’s needed now.
After nearly two weeks of chasing each other across the country, Theo van Dyk and Bruce Hughes met at Trouthaven last night and called a truce - deciding that they would hike up Stettynskloof together on the final stage to Diemersfontein - it seemed like it would end in a draw but just before the end, Bruce pulled up and let Theo take line honours, an acknowledgement of the times when Theo had shown the way in the dark near Tinana and today up Stettynskloof - a gentlemen’s agreement between two gentlemen racers. The race has been intriguing to follow, with twists and turns in the plot, time penalties, missed gates and a smattering of bad weather to spice things up. In the end they are both very deserving recipients of their Blankets and have upheld the spirit of the event throughout the contest. They have also posted very quick finishing times: Theo at 11d8h53min and Bruce 1 minute later.
Tim James is still making his way to Diemersfontein tonight, aiming for a sub 13 day finish, which would be his fastest finish to date. He’s been riding virtually non stop for the last few days so he’s on tired legs but his determination should see him through.
Stettynskloof saw its first two passages for this year and tomorrow the next group will be gearing up to head through. At Trouthaven tonight are Wille Esterhuizen and Liehann Loots, with Mike Woolnough and Gerrit vd Merwe. For trails veterans Liehann and Mike, tomorrow holds no surprises but for rookies Willie and Gerrit the intimidating reputation of Stettynskloof might keep them awake tonight - but all of them will try to leave early and get to the start of the kloof at first light.
Chris Morris spends the night at Pony Cottage in McGregor tonight. Continuing his leisurely cruise in to the finish, he rode through from Rouxpos today and arrived with light to spare. He stopped for food and a short sleep and then headed off into the night, next stop Trouthaven - a nice surprise for his mate Mike - they can head up Stettynskloof together in the morning.
Tim Deane is still on the go tonight, riding from Gamkaskloof this morning and headed for Montagu, he may opt to sleep a few hours and leave in the wee hours, giving him a chance of still getting through Stettynskloof tomorrow night but whether he will want to take on the kloof in the dark on his first attempt remains to be seen.
Hayden Green has the whole of Anysberg to himself tonight - he’s ticking over nicely, also taking his time to get to the finish and enjoying every moment. He rode through from Gamkaskloof today.
Ann Harrison and Grant Cowen left Price Albert early this morning and rode the double to Rouxpos today. A scenic ride up the Swartberg Pass, followed by Gamkaskloof and the Ladder, still a hard day out and a good effort from them. They will aim for Montagu or McGregor tomorrow, which would set them up for a Monday finish at Diemersfontein.
Resting in luxury at Dennehof tonight are Jacques Tattersall, Leon Erasmus, Werner Nienaber and Scott Rutherfoord - the group rode through from Willowmore today and although there was talk of going on to Gamkaskloof, the warmth and hospitality at Dennehof proved too enticing. Tomorrow they can try again, there’s plenty of trail left to ride.
Brad vd Westhuizen has been on a solo quest since yesterday evening - his dislike of district roads had him riding shorter bits to break them up, with shorter sleeps in between. An unfortunate wrong turn today had him heading for Makouvlei and some extra dirt road miles..
The rest of Brad’s mates are at Willowmore tonight - Greg Perrett, Richard Cole, Fanus Vorster and Hughes Clauser rode through from Dam se Drif today, a relatively easy ride for them, so they will be well rested for the long haul to Prince Albert tomorrow.
Pierre Oosthuizen had a big day today - he started at Cambria soon after the 6am gate and got through to Dam se Drif before dark, a long, hard ride on his single speed. He wasn’t finished though and promptly set off for Willowmore - he’s still on his way there but will complete this, one of the longer double ups on the trail.
At Cambria tonight are Caren Henschel, Tony Wright and Gary Scoular - they survived their passage through the Grootrivierpoort today and arrived in time for dinner - tomorrow they will head up the Baviaanskloof and possibly even all the way to Willowmore.
The last three riders on the trail are Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe - they have set themselves up at Hadley tonight for an early start for the Osseberg and Grootrivierpoort, heading for Cambria. They need to get through before dark and get a good night’s sleep because the next day they are thinking of doubling up to Willowmore..
So the race for first is over, the first Blankets have been awarded and the first pizzas have been served. Although the hype of the racing will start to taper off, there are still many riders out on the trail, all with the same goal in mind - the finish line at Diemersfontein.
To finish an event like RASA, the simple formula to follow is ride, eat, sleep, repeat. It might sound a bit mundane but it is effective, as proven by many Blanket Wearers in the past. To race an event like RASA, the proportions of each component differ somewhat from those of someone just trying to finish - a typical 24h day can consist of up to 20h riding, with eating and sleeping making up the balance. As the race nears its end, the cumulative fatigue of the last 10 days of ride, eat, sleep, repeat start to add up and the overall pace typically slows down but if the body has adapted well enough, then even just a small amount of sleep can be good for another few hours of riding - this is the area where power naps become the norm and the challenge becomes fighting off the dreaded ‘sleepmonsters’ that lurk in the shadows.
For Theo van Dyk, Bruce Hughes and Tim James, this will be familiar territory by now. All three are pushing for a finish sometime early tomorrow, - they have been pushing hard for the last few days, on very little sleep and the choice is now whether to keep pushing through the last night or stop and bank some sleep for the difficult Stettynkloof portage that awaits. With Theo at Trouthaven and Bruce and Tim on their way, the night is still young..
Spread out across the trail behind them are the various remaining groupings of riders, some are together by choice, others merely by circumstance.
The first guests at De Bos in Montagu tonight are Willie Esterhuizen and Gerrit van der Merwe - they continued their ‘doubling’ habit today after starting from Rouxpos and riding through Anysberg - the long downhill descent of Ouberg Pass coming into Montagu would have brought a smile to their faces this afternoon.
Heading to Anysberg tonight are Liehann Loots and Mike Woolnough - for Liehann it’s a break from tradition because he’s usually wrapped up in bed soon after supper, now he’s pushing into the night to get to Anysberg, which will give him a chance of reading Trouthaven tomorrow night, for a possible finish on Sunday. Chasing him is Mike Woolnough, who has struggled a bit lately with ill health and bike issues - but nothing seems to be able to stop his steady march to Diemersfontein and despite the hardships, Mike will still find time to smile and smell the flowers along the way.
Chris Morris sleeps at Rouxpos tonight, he has the place to himself and more importantly, no competition for Ronel’s famous waffles. He doubled up from Prince Albert today and will be heading for Montagu tomorrow - content to ease back towards the end and enjoy his last few days on the trail.
Hayden Green is staying in Gamkaskloof tonight, he enjoyed a fairly easy ride through from Prince Albert today, taking in the spectacular scenery of the Swartberg Pass. He’s also taking his time in getting to the finish, savouring the remaining stages that lie ahead.
Tim Deane has had a long day today, leaving Willowmore just after 2am, passing first Rondawel, then Prince Albert and now at Gamkaskloof. He will most likely take a short break and if he can keep the sleepmonsters at bay, press on into the night.
Luxuriating at Dennehof in Prince Albert tonight are Ann Harrison and Grant Cowen, who rode through from Willowmore in near perfect conditions today. They are going well and will be aiming for the double to Rouxpos tomorrow - the waffles are calling.
Willowmore plays host to the group of Jacques Tattersall, Scott Rutherfoord, Werner Nienaber and Leon Erasmus. They had a relatively easy ride through from Dam se Drif today, arriving just after lunch and opting to go for lunch at a local restaurant. With a slight headwind predicted for the ride to Prince Albert tomorrow, they will be glad to be in a group so they can work together a bit.
The riders lining up for 'Death by Chocolate’ tonight at Dam se Drif are Hughes Clauser, Greg Perrett, Richard Cole, Brad vd Westhuizen and Fanus Vorster, who rode through from Cambria today. Except for Brad who is planning to carry on tonight to Willowmore, the rest will leave in the morning after Hestelle has served them a hearty breakfast - no reason to miss that.
The lone rider at Kudu Kaya tonight is Pierre Oosthuizen, still on his single speed and still going strong all on his own. He reached a milestone today by surpassing the point of his exit last year by reaching Cambria - now he turns west to ride the rest of the trail which will be unfamiliar territory for him - the adventure continues.
More riders doing the sensible thing and sleeping at Hadley tonight to get an early start on the Osseberg tomorrow - Gary Scoular, Tony Wright and Caren Henschel rode through from Toekomst today and made good time, arriving just before dark. A good night’s rest will be invaluable, as the stage that awaits tomorrow is one of the more difficult on the trail.
The trio of Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe are staying at Kleinpoort tonight and will also aim for Hadley tomorrow to get a jumpstart on the Osseberg. They are making steady progress after spending some time on bike maintenance yesterday, so hopefully they can keep it ticking over nicely and get though the Baviaanskloof over the weekend. Its not all slog and suffering though as they are still finding time to take photos and brew the odd roadside coffee.
With most of the field bedded down for the night, the tracker addicts can now turn their attention to the racers up front to see how the final stage of this year’s race plays out - stay tuned to see who will emerge from Stettynskloof first - the race is far from over.
The race is on.
There is a sense of urgency now among the leaders of the race. Diemersfontein is within reach and they will have to dig deep to hold off sleep deprivation and fast closing competitors.
Up front, Theo van Dyk holds a slender lead over Bruce Hughes and a day over Tim James. Van Dyk and James have ridden together from as far back as the Stormberg, unwilling or unable to break the elastic between them. However the fast closing Hughes forced a change and van Dyk left Rouxpos a short while ahead of Bruce’s arrival. Tim and Bruce opted to sleep at Rouxpos but Theo is still on the move, headed for Anysberg. Tomorrow the chase will be back on as they head for Trouthaven - at this stage things are lining up for a night time assault on Stettynskloof. That's an enormous push but none of the three can afford to ease off on the pedal strokes. Of all them, Hughes is probably the fresher with his enforced rest at Kudu Khaya and his extra hours of sleep each night - dot watchers, don't leave your screens for the next forty eight hours.
Bad luck hit Mike Woolnough with a malfunctioning derailleur just past Rondavel. He'd already spent some time recuperating from a cough and lung irritation at Willowmore and this puts his 4th place at peril. Behind him is a fast closing Liehann Loots who has ridden steadily and barely put a foot wrong. He arrived in Prince Albert for a late supper and to sleep. Will they ride out together in the morning? For the moment, it appears that these will be the top five finishers. Tim Deane is the next closest but is over 150km adrift at this stage after losing his tracker in the Groot Rivier and missing the "gate" into the Baviaanskloof.
Meanwhile, the batch A leaders, Willie Esterhuizen and Gerrit van der Merwe, who had forged ahead of the field until being caught at Prince Albert, are doggedly following the race leaders and are in Rouxpos tonight, having successfully doubled up through Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) through to the next support station. Chris Morris elected to stay behind in PA to wait for Woolnough and help him with his bike mechanicals. The two of them are expected to give chase late. Hayden Green is also enjoying the hospitality at Dennehof , having sorted out his tyre issues - he’s back on track and riding has caught up with his riding mate Chris again.
The Baviaanskloof continues to test riders' mettle. Tim Deane arrived in Willowmore after a long double from Cambria and not far behind were Ann Harrison and Grant Cowen. The latter two lost some time leaving Bucklands yesterday and entered into the Osseberg rather late. They managed to work their way out despite the dark but another rider, Fanus Vorster was not so lucky.
His circles in the thorn bush ended up with him sleeping out with a broken derailleur not helping his cause. This morning, farm workers found him disorientated and suffering from hypothermia and brought him to Kudu Khaya. The Race Director, Johann Rissik once again entered into discussions with the farmer after seeing to Fanus's recovery. It was agreed that Fanus could retrace his steps in order to re-enter the race. This he did later in the afternoon. He will probably ride with Hughues Clauser, Brad van der Westhuizen, Greg Perrett and Richard Cole. He's had quite a few adventures which nearly ended his race so he'll be hoping for a problem free ride to the end. Apparently, the valley is extremely overgrown, accounts say it's the worst it's ever been, with riders taking on average six hours to traverse the Groot Rivier and its multiple crossings.
The nature of the "gate" and the special permission given by Sanparks has meant an vehicle escort is now mandatory for the riders for the first 45km section. The second escort for the day accompanied Jacques Tattersall, Scott Rutherfoord, Leon Erasmus and Werner Nienaber (with his bushfix bike) as they made their way to Damsedrif, where they are sleeping tonight.
Pierre Oosthuizen has been riding solidly on his single speed and is ensconced at Hadley ready for an early start to the Osseberg - he’s hoping to surpass the point of his exit from the race last year, just before Cambria and starting from Hadley should give him every chance to do so.
And then it's a very long way back to the last of the riders on the trail. At Toekomst are Caren Henschel, Gary Scoular and Tony Wright. They seem to have got some momentum going but are a long way from the finish. They will need to keep an eye on the days passing, especially as the weather could be set to take a turn. Flirting even closer with the Willowmore cut-off is Gerald van der Merwe (Batch D). He is accompanied by Clint le Roux and Neville Higgs who have a bit more time in hand. These three are going to have to commit to some long days to build a bit of a buffer.
For, as we all know, when the weather turns, hours and days can be lost.
By Fiona Coward