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And that's a wrap for 2015

Nearly a month after the first riders left Pietermaritzburg for Rhodes and Wellington, the 2015 Freedom Challenge finally draws to a close. In an event with a drop out rate as high as 30-40%, this was a really good year, with that rate falling closer to 20%. In the end 59 riders completed the RTR and 33 completed RASA. Factors contributing to this success were better levels of preparedness of the riders before they started - many riders had attended rider briefings and quite a few had scouted and pre-ridden sections of the trail beforehand. With so much information available online nowadays, riders were also kitted out with lighter equipment (average backpack weight was 7-8kg). Add to that the good conditions, although there was snow and strong wind in the early stages, most riders enjoyed stable, dry weather for a large part of their journey and this undoubtedly made the going easier. But let’s not take anything away from their efforts as this year’s crop of ‘newbies’ were a determined bunch and they proved that the pull of the finisher’s blanket is as strong as ever.

Up front we had a close race between Tim James and Andrew Barnes and it was interesting to watch their respective strategies play out: Tim rode long hours on little sleep while Andrew’s slightly faster speed was offset by his longer sleeping times. With only hours separating them as they went into Stettynskloof, the race came down to the wire, at one point on the approach into Diemersfontein, a navigational error by Tim allowed Andrew to close the gap to within 5min before he too made a similar error. The eventual winning margin of 30min is perhaps the closest yet and is a testament to the competitive nature of them both.

At the back of the field there were a few riders who ended up behind schedule due to mechanical or navigational issues. This immediately put them on the back foot and the pressure was upon them to make the various interim cut offs along the route. They put in a brave effort but it proved a bridge too far and it was unfortunate that riders like Pierre Oosthuizen, John Bowen and Mike Roy all ended up withdrawing after having come so far. But they don’t go away empty handed as their experiences this year will be invaluable if they decide to return in future years.

This year could be fondly referred to as the 'Year of the Squiggles’ - with the rider tracking working well, it was possible to follow them on their respective journeys and see where they went wrong. As a navigation race where GPS is not allowed, the number of navigational errors was proof that navigation is the great leveller and is not to be underestimated. Being a strong rider is no guarantee of success since it doesn’t help to be riding fast in the wrong direction. Even the more experienced campaigners with good route knowledge still found the navigation challenging, especially at night, as was the case with Tim in the Vuvu valley or both Tim and Andrew going through Stettynskloof in the dark and taking longer than the first timers did in daylight.

Most riders got to grips with it as the race progressed though and it also became apparent that they were realising and correcting their errors sooner and moving more efficiently in the latter stages. Finding the route is one of the defining elements of the Freedom Challenge and riders taking responsibility for themselves in doing so is the very essence of the challenge. Herein lies the attraction of the event for many - an uncertain outcome and the promise of adventure. 

There were a few standout performances this year which bear special mention: 

Ingrid Avidon’s solo ride from Pietermaritzburg to Ntsikeni in one push places her among only a handful or riders to have done so in this event - the fact that she is the only women so far to have done this on her own is a remarkable achievement. 

Andrew Blackburn's long walk from Tinana to Rhodes after his freewheel hub packed up is also worth a mention. While his riding companions went ahead, he endured many hours of solo walking up the hills and freewheeling down in his determined quest to keep moving forward to Rhodes where he could get spares. His efforts caused him severe shin splints which later nearly derailed his ride but he overcome those too and proved that the body will follow where the mind goes first.

Johann Rissik was well known to many of this year’s riders as the Prince Albert local who has always been a huge supporter of the event. This year he got his chance to ride it and did so in exemplary style. Riding with the three ‘Wallys’ (Ian Paul and Alan) he took on the role of guardian and patiently helped Alan through many tough sections of the route.

In similar fashion, Stu Brew was also no stranger to RASA, having completed it before. He rode with various groups throughout this year as he moved through the field but he ended up with a very determined Gary Preston in Stettynskloof and together they slogged through the infamous kloof for over 16 hours on the final stage. Stu was blown away by Gary’s tenacity but Gary had great respect and gratitude for Stu’s patience.

The Stone Saddle Award went to two riders this year - Alan Haupt and Gary Preston. They both came into RASA knowing that it would be even tougher for them due to their own physical challenges but this did not deter them. Although they had the support of other riders around them, they still had to go out every day and face the demands of the day and this they did without complaint. The other riders were often inspired by the determination and tenacity of these two, the way they got up after countless falls and just quietly got back to the job at hand. Their efforts are a true reflection of courage and self confidence and we can all learn something from them.

As the tyre tracks along the trail slowly start to fade and life slowly returns to normal for the riders, the stories from this year’s event will live on - in the hearts and minds of all who took part and in all those who followed their progress every day. The memories that make the Freedom Challenge such a rich and diverse experience are also part of the reason we keep coming back for more - the seeds of adventure lie in curiosity and out on the trail those seeds always find fertile ground.   

The last two riders arrive at Diemersfontein

Nic van Zyl and Mike Devereux crossed the finish line at Diemersfontein tonight, after a long, hard day in Stettynskloof. Having started in some of the later batches, they were always likely to miss the finisher’s dinner but were well within their allowable 26 day cut off. Mike Devereux finished in 23d 16h and Nic van Zyl finished in 22d 16h Having ridden together for many days during the event, splitting up for a while and eventually meeting up again at Trouthaven to take on Stettynskloof together, their 2015 RASA has had no shortage of adventure. The two riders were elated after finishing and were proud to receive their coveted finsher's blankets.

5 July - the evening wrap up

The two remaining riders in RASA2015 are both staying at Trouthaven tonight. Reunited after a few days apart on the trail, Mike Devereux and Nic van Zyl will take on Stetynskloof together in the morning. Mike rode through from Good Hope today while Nic came all the way from Montagu. Due to their late start dates, they are in no danger of missing any cut offs but they still have to complete the last stage to earn their blankets.

The weather still looks good for tomorrow and they should enjoy a bright sunny day in the kloof - we look forward to welcoming them across the finish line at Diemersfontein.

4 July - the daily wrap up

With only two riders left on course, today’s report is short and sweet.

Nic van Zyl will spend the night in Montagu, after riding through from Anysberg today. He’s charging phones and trackers, doing laundry and resting up for a big push to Trouthaven tomorrow. After that its just Stettynskloof and a short ride between him and the finish at Diemersfontein.

Mike Devereux will stay at Good Hope tonight, he rode through from Montagu and took a few wrong turns on the way in to GoodHope which meant he then left there a bit late for the remaining portages on the way to Trouthaven - so he opted to return to Good Hope and stay there tonight. Having started in a much later start batch, he is under no pressure to make the cut off, so can afford to cruise into the finish. He will ride through to Trouthaven tomorrow and if Nic manages to come through all the way from Montagu, then they can head up Stettynskloof together on Monday.

Mike Roy spent last night in Stettynskloof and only emerged after midday today. He called in from the bottom of Du Toits Kloof pass announcing his withdrawal. His night out had taken its toll and he was also struggling with bike issues. On top of that he did not have any narratives or maps for the last section into Diemersfontein, so a vehicle was despatched to collect him.

Diemersfontein will play host to the finishers’ dinner tonight, with riders already arriving - time for them to catch up on all the stories from this year’s race and to meet their fellow riders face to face.

3 July - the evening wrap up

Today was another glorious day in the Cape, the sun shone brightly and there was only a gentle breeze - perfect conditions for a hike in the mountains. 

Mike Glover and John Exley made the most of the great weather and hiked up Stettynskloof today to complete their Freedom Challenge journey. Although the last day is tough and uncompromising, they went about things in their steady and persistent way, much like the rest of their ride. Having ridden together from the start, it was fitting for them to cross the line together and they can be proud of their achievement. Their finishing time was 19days 11hours 55min. 

Stettynskloof had another visitor today, Mike Roy - he started out with John and Mike but was soon on his own. Riding unofficially after missing his 26 day cut off, Mike is expected at Diemersfontein later tonight.

Staying in Montagu tonight is Mike Devereux, he rode through from Rouxpos today which was a good double stage for him. Riding solo for the last two days, he seems to have sufficient momentum going now and is accelerating toward the finish. Another double tomorrow would mean a finish on Sunday.

Nic van Zyl made good progress today, riding from Gamkaskloof via Rouxpos to Anysberg - his first double stage. It seems his bike troubles are over for now and he too seems to be going well. He may be able to catch up with Mike Devereux and come up Stettynskloof with him but to do that he will have to keep the pace up tomorrow and get all the way to Trouthaven.


2 July - the evening wrap up

More riders across the finish line today and the rest keep closing in on Diemersfontein.

The first riders out of Stettynskloof today were Marnitz Nienaber and Ivor Jones who arrived just after 2pm this afternoon. They opted to try a different exit out of Stettynskloof, by going out early on the left hand side. This seemed to have saved them from the worst of the bushwhacking and they made good time through the kloof. With 5 blankets to his name, Marnitz has the route saved in his head and Ivor was amazed that they never had to use maps at any stage of the journey. Today Marnitz received blanket number 6 and for Ivor it was his first - their finishing time was 16days 8hours 5min.

The next three riders came over the line together a while later - Andrew Blackburn, Nic Jordan and Mike Potgieter had ridden together since the start and had a good solid ride. Andrew had to put up with a failing freewheel hub, which meant a long walk from Tinana to Rhodes and later on a serious case of shin splints but he showed real determination and pressed on regardless. They all received their coveted blankets to the applause and cheers of their friends and families. Their finishing time was 19days 10hours 45min. 

Of the remaining riders for this year, we have four still in the race and two more who are not. 

John Bowen has been riding with Mike Roy since Tinana and the two have been under pressure to chase cut offs from an early stage - after missing their Willowmore cut off they were allowed to continue to the finish but have not managed to keep up with the required pace. In a last ditch attempt, the pair left Good Hope just after midnight this morning on their way to Trouthaven and then the finish. By mid morning they had not reached Trouthaven and it was becoming clear that there was very little chance of getting through Stettynskloof in the dark and still finishing before 6am tomorrow morning, the 26 day cut off. On realising this, John decided to withdraw at Trouthaven. At peace with his decision, he said he had learnt a lot about himself on this journey and pushed himself further than he thought possible. Mike Roy ended up in a similar situation, realising that the clock was against him. He opted to carry on to Trouthaven and spend the night there - he will go up Stettynskloof tomorrow and finish the route to Diemersfontein.

Also at Trouthaven tonight are Mike Glover and John Exley, they rode through from Montagu today. They have been steady and consistent the whole way and now its just Stettynskloof between them and their blankets.

Jumping back to Rouxpos, where Mike Devereux is expected later tonight, after a big double from Prince Albert. He will be happy to have an easier day tomorrow and is now closing in on the finish.

Sweeping behind tonight is Nic van Zyl, who left Prince Albert after serving his time penalty (for a new bike) and arrived at Gamkaskloof for supper. Tomorrow he takes on the Ladder and then its Rouxpos and beyond, he can surely smell the finish now too.

19 June - on the trail beyond Rhodes

With the last start batches still heading to Rhodes today and tomorrow, we turn our attention to those that are already past Rhodes and making their way across the Stormberg and Karoo sections of the trail:

First up are Theo van Dyk and Fjord Jordaan, who left a very cold Rhodes at 4am this morning with plans for a big day out. They are nearing Chesneywold to refuel before heading on to lunch Slaapkranz. After that, they’ll be chasing last light to get over the Slaapkranz and Bontehoek portages and ride on to Moordenaarspoort, where they are hoping to arrive for supper.

The riders who stayed at Slaapkranz last night got away early enough and will make their way over the Slaapkranz portage before taking on the more difficult Bonthoek portage. Andrew Blackburn, Nic Jordan and Mike Potgieter got away earliest, with Mike and Ingrid Talbot following shortly afterwards. Word from the trail is that there is still sticky, black mud on the trail from the recent snows, so this may slow them somewhat. They may bump into Andrew Hunt somewhere on the way to Rossouw, he came off the wrong side of Bontehoek mountain late yesterday and ended up staying at Naauwpoort farm. His second attempt at Bontehoek this morning seems to have gone well, today he’s making tracks in the right places and once he hits the dirt roads on the other side, he should be on his way.

Jump ahead to Kranskop and we had Liehann, Beat and Pierre Oosthuizen staying over. Pierre was last to arrive and last to leave and he’s still under pressure to get to Hofmeyr before the next interim cut-off of 13 days - today he needs to get to Romansfontein to give himself a chance. Liehann and Beat are under no such pressure thanks to consistent riding up to now. These guys are usually on point with their navigation and maintain a good steady pace regardless of the conditions. They are also getting enough sleep to recover every day, so they may start looking at trying to double up in the near future.

Romansfontein was busy last night with a big group arriving late afternoon: Lee Fuller, Gary Green, Gary Preston, Ant Jankovic-Bessan, Dave Telford and Stu Brew rode through from Kranskop together and continued in the same vein this morning. They are over the Aasvoelberg portage and on their way to the pie shop in Hofmeyr, where they’ll take a break before pushing on to Elandsberg. Arriving much later at Romansfontein (00h30) were Mike Ward, Mike Roy and John Bowen. Thanks to Mike Ward’s patience, the other two were able to latch on and get through the tricky pivot section under the guidance of a more experienced navigator. This morning though, it was back to business and Mike Ward left early to continue his impressive solo ride, while the other two must focus on getting to Hofmeyr today and possibly even to Elandsberg.

Already at Elandsberg is Jacques Tattersall, who slept in Hofmeyr last night. He had a close shave when he got lost on the Aasvoelberg portage in fading light yesterday but was saved when he spotted some other rider’s tracks and decided to follow them down in the darkness - fortunately for him, those tracks were on the right route and he avoided a cold night out on the mountain. He’s going well and has been riding solo since Rhodes but he may be able to hook up with other riders soon if he can double up on some of the shorter stages that lie ahead of him.

Stuttgart support station opened with a bang yesterday when the first group arrived after doubling through from Hofmeyr. Reports coming through from the riders are that they’ve taken it to the next level in hospitality this year, with everyone raving about the food and friendliness. Johann Rissik, Ian Verwayen, Paul Dalton and Alan Haupt are heading to Grootdam today and they will be joined later by Maarten Witters, who had a bit of a lie-in this morning. The early birds Anton Wood and Gert Peens left at 05h30 with plans to double up through Grootdam to Gegun. that’s a big day which includes the tricky Struishoek portage and the possibility of the infamous headwinds around Pearston - fortunately they are strong and going well and the weather looks kind for now. That will make them this year’s trailblazers and it will be interesting to see how long they can keep their noses out front before the racing snakes reel them in.

19 June - morning movements on the way to Rhodes

With some riders going deep into the night, the picture of progress that emerges this morning is as follows:

Ingrid Avidon was on her way to Malekholonyane last night but decided to sleep for the night in a village near Queen’s Mercy. This morning she left early but then took a wrong turn and was heading back towards Masakala. Fortunately she realised, corrected and is now back on track to Mpharane ridge. Once over that, she’ll head to Malekholonyane for brunch and then press on to Tinana.

The guys who left Malekholonyane this morning are riding together as a group: RTR riders Tony Wright, Caren Henschel and Ann Harrison are joined by RASA riders Marnitz Nienaber, Stuart Roos and Ivor Jones and are making good progress this morning, already nearing the Black Fountain ridge. This means they should comfortably get to Vuvu before dark today and avoid some of the frustrations of the riders who got lost there last night.

Leaving from Tinana this morning were Mike Woolnough, Janine Stewart, Gawie du Plessis (RTR) and Andrew Barnes (RASA) - they made swift progress up the Vuvu valley in daylight and were surprised to find Tim there but they all tucked into breakfast nonetheless. Mike, Janine, Gawie and Andrew then left for Rhodes. Andrew may decide to carry on to Chesneywold but the others will end their journey in Rhodes.

Vuvu was the scene of much late night activity: the group of Andy Wonnacott, Alan Rainnie, Mark Smuts and Ian Privett (RTR) together with RASA riders Mike Devereux and Nico van Zyl, arrived at 23h00 after taking on the Vuvu valley in fading light - a risky move which they got wrong, ending up with a huge portage up the northern side of the valley. When they phoned for assistance, they were given the option of linking up with the district road and riding around, a long ride but easy navigation. Although the road is technically out of bounds with a possible time penalty, their mistake cost them more than the required 3h time penalty, so they were not penalised further. Today they left Vuvu fairly late but their goal will be Rhodes by mid afternoon and then some rest. The other RASA riders Mike Glover and John Exley avoided the horror show of a dark Vuvu valley by arriving at sunset. They headed off this morning to take on Lehana but promptly missed the turn off at the start. It didn’t take too long for them to realise before they corrected and got back on track.

The other Vuvu tale is that of Tim James: pushing on from Tinana late yesterday afternoon, he arrived at the start of the Vuvu valley just after dark. Then began a night of wandering around trying to find his way up the valley in the dark. Tim’s determination has to be mentioned - by that stage he was already tired from effectively riding all the way from PMB with only a few hours of sleep, so too take this section in the dark with tired legs and fuzzy brain is a bold move. Unfortunately for Tim, he spent the rest of the night bashing around in the valley and only reached Vuvu at 05h30 this morning. After regrouping in Rhodes, he will be making his way to Rhodes - depending on his arrival time, he too may push on to Chesneywold. 

18 June - the race up front

We now have a four way RASA, and some widely divergent sleep strategies

Another interesting day was had up front in the Race Across South Africa (RASA) today, but still it is extremely tough to see any signs of a potential winner emerging. Last night, race leader Tim James followed an interesting strategy. He arrived at Masakala support station first at 17h25 to retain the Yellow Jersey for the 2nd successive stage. 2nd placed Andrew Barnes arrived there about an hour after him at about 18h30. Barnes decided to take a night’s rest at Masakala, only leaving at around 05h00 this morning. James had a short sleep on arrival at Masakala, woke up for supper, and then took off at 21h30 only to take a sleep in the bush somewhere between Masakala and Malekhalonyane support stations. It is an interesting strategy because, although James carries a lightweight but warm sleeping bag and bivvy sack, sleeping in the bush can’t be nearly as comfortable as at the support stations, and one gets the feeling that Barnes with his longer rests may possibly be better off for it. 

Certainly, on each of the days, we have seen Barnes riding faster, and today was no different. James retained the Yellow Jersey yet again at Malekhalonyane by reaching this support station at 9h10 this morning. Barnes arrived a little later at about 10h55. The gap as at Malekhalonyane arrival between James and Barnes was therefore about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Barnes left Tinana at 11h30 to give chase, and by the time he had arrived at Tinana Mission, a “halfway support station”, the gap between him and James was a mere 16 minutes. They would have seen each other up on the top of the mountain and on the  approach down to Tinana.

But once again the Twitter spectators would have to be patient and wait for a change of leader, with Barnes continuing with his strategy of stopping early in the evening for a good night’s rest. He pulled into the Tinana halfway support station for the evening, while James pushed on to the Vuvu Valley and towards the Vuvu support station on the other side.

In the mean time, two other riders have been making a race of it, namely Theo van Dyk and Fjord Jordaan. They started  a day earlier, and arrived at Malekhalonyane support station after 2 days and 5 hours, working as a team which may have been beneficial in yesterday’s strong headwinds. With James arriving at Malekhalonyane in 2 days 3 hours and 30 minutes, and Barnes in 2 days 4 hours and 55 minutes approximately, it meant that these 2 were getting closer all the time to the leading pair, now having reduced the lead of James and Barnes to insignificant levels.

We now have a four way race, and Jordaan and van Dyk’s team work could be especially beneficial on the district roads of the Eastern Cape past Rhodes should westerly headwinds once again be the order of the next few days.

The Jordaan and van Dyk pairing, however, slept over last night at Tinana Mission, and only arrived at Vuvu this morning at 10h10, i.e. in 3 days 4 hours and 10 minutes. With James on his way to Vuvu this evening, therefore, it appears unlikely at time of writing that the Yellow Jersey would change hands just yet. It appears that James will hold the Yellow Jersey for the 4th consecutive stage as at Vuvu, with Barnes having initially held it on Day 1  at Alendale.

So that’s where we are at present. Four riders are very much in the mix at the moment, and two different strategies appear to be followed. Jordaan, van Dyk and Barnes seem to be in favour of longer sleep and faster riding over less hours, while James goes for the less sleep option, but seems to be the slower rider over what is a longer day for him.

In previous years many of us have debated which sleep/ride strategy is best. Maybe this year we are about to find out.

At the other end of the RASA, Pierre Oosthuizen retained his stranglehold on the Lantern Rouge, having taken 5 days 12 hours 20 minutes to get to Malekhalonyane support station.

By John Loos (Blanket/Whip)

18 June - Race to Rhodes update

Woolnough and Stewart look set to win Race 2 Rhodes tomorrow, perhaps a bit slower than planned

Our guess is that Mike Woolnough and Janine Stewart had planned to complete the Race 2 Rhodes a little quicker than how things are turning out. But that probably won’t matter too much to them, as the victory is looking increasingly likely now as the hours go by. And yesterday’s weather conditions didn’t make record breaking speeds realistic.

The two kept their joint stranglehold on the race today, arriving at Tinana Mission halfway support station for a well-earned sleep, and were still there at time of writing. Earlier, they had left Masakala support station at 04h11 wearing the Yellow Jersey jointly, as they have all race, and arrived at Malekhalonyane at around 10h30 to once again retain the Yellow Jersey.

They departed at around 11h10, headed for Tinana for a presumable final sleep before heading through the Vuvu Valley tomorrow, and then later over the iconic Lehana’s Pass portage, a 3 hour odd portage up over the Drakensberg before a final descent down to Rhodes and the finish line.

Their nearest competition, Mark Jason, arrived at Malekhalonyane in 2 days 10 hours and 15 minutes, 5 hours and 45 minutes behind Woolnough and Stewart.

And then of course there is Ingrid Avidon. She started with Woolnough and Stewart on Tuesday morning, and is perhaps the first female rider to ever make it to Ntsikeni within 24 hours from the start unaccompanied by another rider. Indeed, she is one of the few female riders to ride the race unaccompanied, which implies self-navigation. The subject of leading women riding accompanied by men, often male riders experienced in the route and route navigation, taking the navigation out of the race for them, has often been a topic of debate in recent years. This is different to most of the leading men who normally race it alone.

Ingrid may not be winning, but she is doing it for herself, which is somewhat unique. At the time of writing, she had not reached Malekhalonyane yet, reportedly having taken a rest in a home of one of the locals in the area of Queens Mercy. Her's is an incredibly brave effort so far.

By John Loos (Blanket/Whip)


17 June - the evening wrap up

Today the Freedom Challenge lived up to it’s reputation as one of the tougher events out there when the weather arrived. Overnight snow in the Rhodes area left a frosty white carpet on the high mountains. The wind blew incessantly throughout the day, a fierce headwind that blunted the efforts of all the riders, the racers included. The last few years have seen relatively mild weather but this year is proving to be different.

 The racers who left Ntsikeni early this morning, did so in a snow storm, which then gave way to the blasting headwind that lasted most of the day. 

Here’s how the field lies spread after a challenging day out on the trail:

At Glen Edward we have Ingrid Avidon, Marnitz, Stuart and Ivor. Ingrid rode well yesterday, eventually reaching Ntsikeni and although she arrived at Glen Edward today with enough time to push on, decided to stay. Joined by the other three later, they could end up riding together tomorrow.

Up ahead at Masakala are RTR riders Tony, Caren and Ann, who arrived late doing some tricky night navigation, which is always slow - they are making steady progress though, so no cause for concern. Also there is Gawie, who arrived in daylight.

Also at Masakala are Mike and Janine, current leaders in the RTR. Although they had hoped to push on tonight, the day had taken it’s toll, so they elected to sleep and go early tomorrow. Also there is Andre Barnes (RASA) who rode through from Centocow - he’s looking strong and riding well, one to watch.

Tim James (RASA) was also at Masakala this evening, where he had a short sleep before pushing on into the night - Tim is used to night riding so will probably go to Malekholonyane for breakfast before pushing on tomorrow.

At Malekholonyane tonight are Mike Glover, John Exley, Mike Devereux and Nico van Zyl (RASA) who all made it with time to spare on the relatively short day. Next stop Vuvu for these guys. Andy, Alan, Mark and Ian (RTR) also arrived, although quite a bit later - this seems to be the pattern with this group.

Just a few hours up the road at Tinana are Theo and Fjord (RASA), who seem to have formed a strong pairing - they spoke of strong wind and snowfall going over Mpharane ridge, which ultimately held them back from getting all the way to Vuvu but these two are well positioned and definitely in the mix.

Tonight saw the later than planned arrival in Vuvu of John, Steve, Richard and Sean. They went into the Vuvu valley in fading light, a brave move and emerged somewhat bewildered a few dark hours later - but they did it, which is no mean feat.

Rhodes was once again busy this evening - the RTR riders Pierre, Joyce, Brad, Nicky, Nick, Gaeren, Paul and Mark Jason all reaching the end of their journey. They had overcome strong, icy winds on the detour around Lehana and ridden in falling snow at the top of Naudes Nek - a real adventure and a fitting way to close out their ride. With them today were RASA riders Nic Jordan, Mike Poygieter and Andrew Blackburn - Andrew had a particularly long and hard day after walking and pushing most of the way due to his busted free hub. He has fortunately picked up a wheel left by Dave Gace, who withdrew yesterday, so tomorrow will be riding out of Rhodes.

Andrew Hunt sleeps at Chesneywold tonight. Up ahead are Beat and Liehann, who went through to Slaapkranz despite the ‘death mud’ they encountered over Kappokraal and on the way in to Slaapkranz. This seems to have fought Pierre Oosthuizen out too and slowed his progress over the Slaapkranz portage, forcing him to sleep on a farm on the other side.

Jump ahead to Moordenaarspoort and we find Mike Ward, a late arrival but thoroughly enjoying himself in the snow out there today.

Not far away at Kranskop are Gary Green, Gary Preston, Lee, Dave, Stu Brew and Ant. They left Slaapkranz this morning and had a great day, despite the trying conditions - strength in numbers.

There’s something of a reunion in Hofmeyr tonight, with Johann Rissik catching up to Ian, Alan and Paul. The rest of the group, consists of Maarten, Anton and Gert. Good riding from these guys today and they are the first riders to drop out of the high mountains and into the karoo. The landscape changes dramatically and hopefully the weather too.

The worst of the weather seems to have past and the forecasts for the next week hold the promise of clear skies and light winds, something all of these riders will be looking forward to.

Page 7 of 13

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