The next Freedom Challenge event RTC (Race to Rhodes) starts on March 15, 2017.
Watch this space for updates and news on this event.
New Record: 10 Days 6 Hours and 40 minutes
What a ride! The accolades and congratulations have been pouring in. The day belongs to Martin Dreyer.
After an incredible ride from Maritzburg to Cambria, a sub 10-day finish seemed possible, almost inevitable. Then Martin rode headlong into ferocious winds that wore him down. However, he never relented or held back his efforts. At 6pm yesterday evening, he arrived at Trouthaven, and with 12 hours on hand to traverse Stettyns, it still seemed that a sub 10-hour time was possible. But it ain’t over until the irascible mistress, Stettyns, says it’s over.
Even Martin’s subject to and affected by the caprices of the Freedom trail, and that’s what makes the Freedom Challenge unique – it’s no pushover. It constantly reminds even the best of contenders that no one conquers the Freedom Challenge. Martin knows this better than anyone. He’s had to test her every mood and whim to complete the race in 10 days, now twice. His finishing effort and time this year is the real deal.
Martin dealt with Stettyns demons, endured a tough night in the rough, came through and improved on his own record time set in 2012 by 10 hours. To achieve this, he averaged 19 hours a day in the saddle. He now joins Tim James as the only 3-time winners of RASA. His finish time of 10d6h40m is a phenomenal endurance endeavour, a world class performance. Will his record stand for a long time? In my opinion, yes. Anyone with aspirations of bettering Martin’s performance will need to be incredibly talented, extremely well prepared, have extensive course knowledge and be prepared to endure and push his physical limits and personal endurance boundaries to the brink of exhaustion. There can’t be many candidates with the attributes that fit the bill and who are prepared to go as deep into the hurt locker as Martin is prepared to go.
While the Freedom Challenge community was holding its breath, watching and absorbing Martin’s superman efforts, the rest of the field have been engaged in their own personal battles and difficulties.
Chief statistician, Carl Scholtz, reports that there were 48 starters this year and there have been 9 withdrawals thus far. All riders have now entered the Baviaanskloof or forged beyond. Most of those who get this far on the trail, persevere to the finish at Diemersfontein.
The Leon Erasmus and Jacques Tattersall partnership was reunited after a brief enforced split in Mordor due to a mechanical. Although their race has been somewhat overshadowed by Martin’s solo efforts at the front, they’ve kept their heads down and are putting in a sterling performance. They are closing in on Diemersfontein, are in joint second place and are set for an impressive finishing time. They’ve passed through Anysberg and might not rest until they get to Trouthaven late tonight to get ready for the big push to the finish tomorrow.
The other long term relationship between Fjord Jordaan and Mike Potgieter also came to an end in the Baviaans with Fjord surging on ahead. Fjord is staying over at Anysberg and might try for Trouthaven tomorrow. Mike is also riding impressively and they might well overnight together, or he might stop short at Rouxpos.
Tim James and Marnitz Nienaber have been putting in the hard yards for a few days now and are another pair chasing hard for top 5 positions. They’ve gone through Prince Albert, and Marnitz has hunkered down in Gamkaskloof for the night with an upset stomach. But that won’t stop him from soldiering on tomorrow. Will Tim stay over or take on The Ladder in the dark and overnight at Rouxpos? Waffles have a siren call.
Batch 4 breakaways, Andrew Ryan, Bugs du Toit and Gavin Robinson have been on the charge and by mid-afternoon found themselves with Batch 2 frontrunner Gerhard Dreyer at Prince Albert. All four of them have foregone the trappings of Dennehof and are headed into the mysterious valley of Gamkaskloof for the night.
Kevin Meier and Derrick Bingham have bedded down in Dennehof this evening. Joining them are the irrepressible and tenacious Estelle Labuschagne with Johnny Anderton in tow. Sole Batch 1 survivor, Shane Little has grimly had his head down on the tough flat, sandy section and will also be in Prince Albert tonight.
Alex March, Gary Preston, Andy Wonnacott, Sean Preston, Dirk Botha and Francois du Toit are all on the long haul between Willowmore and Prince Albert. It’s anybody’s guess where they’ll rest up tonight but they might elect to stop at Rondawel. As an overnight stop, Rondawel has never been as busy as it has been this year.
The Batch 3 train of Greg Simmons, Trevor Elliot, Ray Sephton, Shaun Tischendorf, Jan van der Putte and Brad van der Westhuizen have all made Willowmore and will enjoy the evening at The Willow. A few beers will be drunk in the quirky bar, no doubt. Also headed for The Willows tonight, but won’t make it for evening sundowners, are George Oertel, the brother’s Payne, Mike Nixon, Leon Kruger and Ingrid Avidon.
Bringing up the rear, enjoying themselves thoroughly and just starting their Baviaans journey are Bruce McQueen, Anton and Adam Wood as well as Michael and Ingrid Talbot. BAA and Minky are at Cambria tonight and will ride the Kloof tomorrow.
Martin has deservedly been crowned king, but there’s still a lot of racing and adventure left in this year’s RASA. Each and every blanket must be earned, and that’s the way it should be.
Peter Stephens (Blanket Wearer)
The Final Push
The weather ups the ante
Hectic wind and rain played havoc with rider ambitions today. Up front, lone ranger, Martin Dreyer, has battled the elements which seem intent on spoiling his attempt to lower the record from 10 days 16 hours. However, as he takes on the notorious Stettyns Kloof tonight, he will be conscious of the finish line and nothing is going to stop him, not wind, rain, protea bushes or darkness.
Stettyns Kloof falls under Cape Nature and they have raised issues with riders camping out and hiking different routes in attempts to find easier/better lines. They have re-opened a firebreak (with the help of Theo van Dyk - Blanket Wearer) which will help with some of the bundu bashing. It doesn't make the kloof easier, especially when you're the first to traverse it in this year's race.
Behind Martin by some way but still on target for a magnificent result are Jacques Tattersall and Leon Erasmus. Leon missed the Baviaanskloof virtual gate but with the enforced rest, charged through to catch up with his riding partner. They have cleared Die Leer, and are on their way to Rouxpos despite rain and dark.
A few riders holed up today and have started late, hoping that the wind will die off. Another duo has split up with Fjord Jordaan holding steady and riding through Prince Albert and onto the Swartberg Pass. Mike Potgieter took some strain today with uncharacteristic navigational errors and a long haul to Rondavel. He spent the afternoon there, hoping the wind will die down this evening. He left for Prince Albert and if he is recovered enough, perhaps even on to Gamkaskloof (Die Hel).
Arriving at Rondavel this evening are Bugs du Toit, Gavin Robinson, Gerhard Dreyer and the unlucky Andrew Ryan. Andrew's rear thru' axle broke so they are hoping to make a bush fix until they can get to Prince Albert for a spare and a time penalty. They'll be hoping for better weather conditions tomorrow too.
Further back in Willowmore, similar strategies have evolved. Tim James left Damsedrif at about 11pm but also took strain getting to the small Karoo town. Marnitz Nienaber left at 3am, picking up Tim on the way and getting in around midday. They opted to take the time to sleep and left late afternoon to make use of less wind and a long final push to the finish.
Still ensconced in Willowmore are Shane Little, Kevin Meier and Derrick Bingham. They will be joined later tonight by Estelle Labuschagne and Johnny Anderton. These two may have made the right move, moving through the night while conditions are calmer.
Damsedrif is packed out tonight. The big group of Ray Sephton, Jan van der Putte, Greg Simmons, Andy Wonnacott, Sean Privett, Gary Preston, Alex March, Shaun Tischendorf and Trevor Elliot left Kudu Kaya at 5.30am but once again, weather curtailed any ambitions of reaching Willowmore in one go.
About to join them are Dirk Botha, Brad van der Westhuizen and Francois du Toit. Brad will be chuffed to reunite with his original group. They left Hadley at 3.30am and slipped through the Baviaanskloof gate after a quick turnaround at Kudu Kaya. A sterling effort.
Waiting their turn to tackle the Baviaanskloof are Mike Nixon, Leon Kruger, George Oertel, Nigel and Adrian Payne and the effervescent Ingrid Avidon. They'll be hoping for better weather as well in order to make the double up to Willowmore. However, the Death by Chocolate at Damsedrif might have another say in the matter.
Closing the support stations are the final group on the trail of Mike and Ingrid Talbot, Adam and Anton Wood and Bruce McQueen. Citing the cold wind as the reason for staying over at Bucklands, they'll have a big push to get through the Osseberg tomorrow. That is, if the hosts at Hadley, don't entice them to stay.
From the Baviaanskloof, it's possible to do double-up days all the way to Trouthaven...that is, if the weather is kind. Let's hope it is.
Fiona Coward (Blanket Wearer)
The Trail can be Cruel
It’s been a day of drama out on the trail. The jovial snippets and interesting pictures surfacing on social media masked the cold and windy conditions but the headline today was dominated by the unfortunate and untimely mechanical of second-placed Leon Erasmus that resulted in him missing the 13h00 entry cut-off into the Baviaanskloof.
At the sharp end of the field, it’s been a testing 24 hours for Martin Dreyer. He arrived at Willowmore shortly before 3h00 this morning and left a few hours later after a shower and a brief rest, a ride he described as his toughest day ever on a bicycle. He arrived in Prince Albert (152km) around 18h00 this evening, still 22 hours ahead of record pace and left after supper for his final push to Diemersfontein.
Second-placed Leon Erasmus and Jacques Tattersall left Hadley at 5h15 this morning after a good rest, leaving a tight but doable schedule into Kudu Kaya to make the 13h00 Baviaans gate cut-off. They made quick work of the renowned Osseberg and Grootrivierpoort portage before disaster struck for Leon. He had suffered a side wall cut through Koedoeskop Reserve yesterday which came unstuck at the final river crossing out of the portage today. The two riding buddies were forced to split up as Leon pushed his bike for 2.5 hours over the last 9km into Kudu Kaya while Jacques rode on the make the cut-off.
Leon is joined at Kudu Kaya tonight by Shane Little, Fjord Jordaan, Mike Potgieter, Kevin Meier, Derrick Bingham, Gerhard Dreyer, Gavin Robinson, Bugs du Toit and Andrew Ryan. There will no doubt we some war stories to share between the ten of them but they would want to optimise their rest and line up at the Baviaans gate at 6h00 for their day up the beautiful Baviaanskloof.
Johnny Anderton and Estelle Labuschange pulled up the handbrake at Hadley this afternoon where they will enjoy the renowned hospitality of host Bennie who may well be the King of Kuier along the trail. They will be joined by Tim James and Marnitz Nienaber who continued their charge through the field today and were approaching Hadley early evening. Tim and Marnitz have spent many hours together on the trail and will likely enjoy a bit of a rest before they head off to cross the Osseberg in the dark. Their general disregard for sleep-related activity combined with their combined 12 blankets and night riding experience will probably get them to Cambria by early morning.
Batch 3’s ride as a unit came to an end yesterday as Brad van der Westhuizen remained at Gegun last night while the rest rode on to either Koedoeskop or Toekomst. Ray Sephton, Jan van der Putte, Shaun Tischendorf, Greg Simmonds, Trevor Elliot, Alex March, Gary Preston regrouped at Bucklands tonight from where they will head for Cambria tomorrow.
Brad reached Kleinpoort early evening to join Sean Privett and Andy Wonnacot in time to enjoy the spoils of Kleinpoort Padstal. Dirk Botha and Francois du Toit are a few kilometres out and will probably also stay at Kleinpoort tonight. All five these riders left from Gegun this morning but rode different schedules and they may well decide to team up tomorrow for some trail company.
Adrian and Nigel Payne and George Oertel are strong and very experienced mountain bikers who have chosen to journey their way along the trail this year well within their abilities as opposed to racing it. They have enjoyed the support station hospitality, have ridden in daylight and have taken many pictures. Nigel’s positive and appreciating social media comments will no doubt inspire many arm chair supporters to start pencilling in a trip down the trail on their bucket list. They stopped at Toekomst tonight and will probably head for Bucklands tomorrow.
Leon and David Kruger, Ingrid Avidon and Mike Nixon seem to have completed their group bonding process and have been sharing space for a few days now. They left Newlands this morning, conquered the Schurfteberg and were on track to arrive at Gegun early evening. Leon at age 63 is the oldest rider in the race this year and has come very well prepared both physically and with regard to navigation. Strong as an ox, he’ll be the one keeping the group together and showing them the way.
Brothers Anton and Adam Wood and Bruce McQueen left from Elandsberg this morning and rode through to the new support station at Jakkalsfontein. They are joined there tonight by Michael and Ingrid Talbot who left from Hofmeyr in the early hours this morning and have caught up with the Mpumalanga farmers who started a day ahead of them. Their departure tomorrow will close this new support station which by all accounts has been a very popular addition to the Freedom Challenge family.
In the ladies’ race, three ladies remain. Ingrid Talbot has covered half a day more than Ingrid Avidon to date and is the virtual leader whilst Estelle Labuschagne (60) has covered the most distance ahead of the rest and occupies the final podium position. These positions may well have more significance to spectators and dot watchers than the ladies themselves who have ridden brave and strong races so far and will be taking their rides one day at a time focussed on a finish.
Carl Scholtz (Whip, Windmill and Gate Owner)