The Podium is Complete - maybe..
The podium club are in, all with spectacular times. However, the race is far from over. The remaining 36 riders, whether 1 checkpoint or 10 away, are by no means guaranteed their blankets and pizzas. Martin Dreyer has already shown us that, notwithstanding the rough tracks cut into Stettyns, she remains as deadly as ever, waiting in the background to trip up the tired adventurers mere kilometres from the line.
Today Fjord Jordaan disappeared into her bosom alone, having parted from his riding partner Mike Potgieter some days ago. Perhaps learning from Martin’s ordeal, Fjord opted to stay over the night in Trouthaven and enter the ‘heart of darkness’ with at least a little daylight to guide him. It was nevertheless a long day in the Kloof for Fjord who made it into Diemersfontein with a total time of 13 Days 11hrs and 17 min. A fantastic time and for a worthy blanket wearer.
In stark contrast to Fjord’s solo expedition, tomorrow Stettyn’s is going to be swarming with brave combatants raring to get home. At the time of writing, Gavin Robinson, Bugs Du Toit, Gerard Dreyer, Tim James, Mike Potgieter and Andrew Ryan are all on the final approaches between Brandvlei Dam and Trouthaven. Not far behind and chasing Tim as he has been for much of the last 1000km is Marnitz Nienaber.
Tim is in tie 4th with Fjord having started a day later than him. It is anyone’s guess as to whether Tim will push through Stettyns tonight as he has before, or rest up a bit before tackling it in the wee hours of tomorrow. If he wants to stick his neck out in front of Fjord he will have to finish before 5.17pm tomorrow.
In 6th and 7th are Marnitz and Mike Potgieter. Mike left from Montagu this morning, having opted to take the conservative approach rather than risk Stettyns in the dark by pushing through to McGregor last night. It is more than likely then that he will wait until daybreak to tackle the Kloof. Marnitz on the other hand, has tested his metal against Stettyns 6 times and given his penchant for night time activities, he may move to get a headstart by entering the Stettyns earlier than Mike.
Gerhard of batch 2, and Bugs, Gavin, and Andrew of batch 4 had a long day yesterday, opting to push on into the night to reach Montague. They were woken by the sound of Tim passing and joined him in leaving for Trouthaven. Provided there are no dramatics tomorrow (never a guarantee), Gerhard will finish in 20 days, and Andrew, Gavin, and Bugs will cross the line in 18 days.
Good luck to all our brave warriors. Tomorrow you face down the final hurdle. May the path be wide, the Proteas few, and the sun bright!
The next group on the trail are batch 2’s Kevin Meier and Derrick Bingham. They have ridden doubles for the last couple days and it seems likely they will sleep at Montagu and continue the trend of doubles tomorrow. Also joining them there tonight are Francois du Toit and Dirk Botha.
The frigid Anysberg will be called home to a family of 7 tonight; Shane Little, the last survivor of batch 1, Estelle Labuschagne and Johnny Anderton of batch 2, Alex March and Gary Preston of batch 3, and Sean Privett, Andy Wonnacott and of batch 5. This is truly a mixed batch of riders with many stories between them. Shane, Alex, Gary, Sean and Andy doubled up from Gamkaskloof, stopping only briefly to enjoy the delights of the Rouxpos waffles. Meanwhile, up the trail in front of them, midnight antics abounded. Francois, Dirk and Estelle made the surprising and brave decision to leave Gamkaskloof and tackle Die Leer in the fading light yesterday. For Francois ad Dirk, this meant an early Rouxpos waffle breakfast at 1am. Estelle ran out of steam along the way and took refuge at Besemfontein farm, a short distance before Rouxpos.
The large party that enjoyed the famed hospitality at Prince Albert last night, split up during the course of today. Trevor Elliot, Shaun Tischendorf, Brad van der Westhuizen, Greg Simmons, Ray Sephton and Jan van der Putte of batch 3, who have ridden much of the race together, made the group decision not to double up and will be delighting in the old world accommodation provided in the delightfully named ‘Die Hel’. Nearing the inviting lights of Rouxpos are Mike Nixon of batch 5, the Payne (Nigel & Adrian) brothers and George Oertel of batch 4, and Leon Kruger and Ingrid Avidon of batch 6. Ingrid continues to share the ladies lead with the other Ingrid (Talbot) who started a day later. Whilst the win is unlikely to be at the front of their minds, it is a thought worth thinking about over the next couple days.
The motley crew of trail sweepers consisting of the Wood brothers (Adam and Anton), the Talbots, and Bruce McQueen are all safely in at Dennehof tonight, having safely traversed the barren and windswept lands leading from Willowmore. More than likely they will make for Rouxpos tomorrow but only time will tell.
As daylight evaporates and the night closes in, another day of delights on the trail comes to a close. Of course, out there, the clock never stops ticking and avid friends and family will be keeping one eye on the dots tonight to see if any movements are made. The call of home will be ringing strong now and the urge to double or even triple up will pull at every single rider. However, with Stettyns looming large and in charge in the minds of all of the remaining competitors, strategy becomes ever more important. One false step and your race can still end, so close to home.
Bruce Hughes (Blanket Wearer)