12 June - the evening wrap

As the race settles into the routine of eat, sleep and ride, alliances  are forged and the comfort of having others to navigate with overcomes any need for speed. Today saw more forward progress, less walkabouts and more riders than ever on the trail.

It also saw some new and interesting routes being pioneered much to the dismay and amusement of the tracker watchers. Dismay because we've all been there and we desperately want to urge the rides back on track and amusement in the shared knowledge that no one on the trail escapes route meanderings.

By now, the race office phones should be ringing less as lost riders seek to verify where they are and more and more bike tracks head in the same confirming direction. But be wary, oh riders...check twice, navigate once.

Before we head into the day's wrap, there are the issues of penalties given out by the race office. Riders are notorious for not reading race rules and in an event like this, the rules are very different and often challenging when tired, hungry and cold. The common penalty is time and riders are required to serve out a time penalty at the next support station they get to - the length of penalty is dependent on the transgression.

Two penalties were issued today and it is worth clarifying. Three riders skipped the Vuvu valley section, mechanicals being a major reason for their decision. The road to Vuvu is out of bounds. The race office contacted the riders and informed them of the penalty which was to sit out at Vuvu until 10:am the next day. These riders did not make the village and instead were forced to sleep at a police station which nullified any advantage they may have gained but were still required to serve out the time.

The second penalty refers to Golden Rule #6 and is regarded in an extremely serious light. Abuse of support station staff, official and other riders is not be tolerated no matter the circumstances. The race depends on the commitment and generosity of these stations and their hosts who go out of their way to assist riders at all hours of the day and night. This rider behaved extremely badly and the while the support station did not report him, other riders were so discomfited by his behaviour, they contacted the race office. The rider has apologised and sat out a penalty at the next support station. 

So now onto the news of the day.

Team GALA (Gary, Andrew, Leon & Alex) arrived at Rhodes having cruised comfortably through the route under the experienced leadership of Leon. They left Vuvu early and were in Rhodes just after lunch. 
Behind them are Shaun T and the duo of Sergio, Fabio who were plagued by bike mechanicals and Vuvu road penalty. With the odds stacked against them, they set off for Lehana’s at 10am from Vuvu. By that time, most riders are half way up Lehana’s already. However, they soldiered on and eventually arrived in Rhodes at 20h40 to receive their well earned whips.

The Vuvu valley at the best of times is a scary prospect but with strength in numbers, the first of the RASA riders worked their way through tonight aiming for the red light on top of the cell phone mast which spells rest - except tonight the red light wasn’t burning tonight which made it really tricky. A few phone calls to the NightNavOffice kept them pointed in the right direction and Paul, Ian, Allen, Tessa, Johann, Merak and Rob eventually arrived at Vuvu at 20h50.  Mike Roy ended up riding with John Bowen when the group split up just after Tinana Mission. Approaching the Vuvu Valley with just after dark, they elected to sleep out in Setabalaba village. Tomorrow they will have daylight to help them up the valley but the longer day could mean a late finish in Rhodes for them.

Neil and Francois left Malekonyane at 10am and planned to get to Tinana Mission at the base of Black Fountain. Leaving the Lodge they took a detour to see the church at Mariazell but we're not sure if this was deliberate. They managed the Black Fountain section admirably but did a Mike Roy too coming off. Luckily their destination was not far. They are ensconced there and will no doubt make an early start for Vuvu then Rhodes.

Back at Malekonyane where the views of the Malutis are incredible, there is a group of RASA riders including the fat bike, Maarten Witters, the only one to complete the loop out of there to gain an advantage in the morning. It's a wise decision because the crossing of the small stream on that section in the early hours is guaranteed to freeze feet and bike parts. Tracey and John had a long day to here but will be pleased to have made it in the daylight. John Loos has tapped off his aspirations to get to Rhodes in record time and is keeping Gert Peens (RASA) company along with Anton Wood (RASA) and Tony Roche. The rest of this start group are scattered over the trail behind them.

The ride from Ntsikeni was less eventful until the wattles after Taylerville where Pierre O had us all watching in horror as he ploughed a new route on the wrong side of the river, the wrong side of the trees and probably the wrong side of the mountain. He masterfully regained the route (not without a little help from the race office) and is now on his way to Masakala along with a big group of riders. Jacques Tatersall, Lee Fuller, Gary Preston, Ant Jankovich, Dave Telford and Neville Higgs (who has had his fair share of forest exploration) got to share a candlelight dinner thanks to load shedding. Arriving later than the main bunch were Stu Brew, Steve Johnston and Dave Gace, so its a full house at Masakala tonight.

Arno Crous and Eddie Stafford who are surely going to be the fastest to Rhodes for now, had a good day today, going from Glen Edward to Malekholonyane. Des and Dane Warden however, may wrest that from them as they have had an excellent run and are at Glen Edward for the night along with Steve Kellerman who holed up for the day hoping to shake off his illness. That puts them only a half day behind and 2.5 supported stations in 36 hours.

A great day was had by overseas visitor Beat Jegerlehner riding with Liehann Loots. Willie Esterhuizen, Gerrit vd Merwe, Fanus Vorster, Gary Green, Kemsley Wood and Andrew Green all stormed their way to Ntsikeni depriving the couch watchers of any drama for the night - as Mr Ngobo from Ntsikeni remarked “my todays group is too early!"

Then the Starting Batch of the day of RASA riders, Andrew Hunt, Mike Ward, Ingrid and Michael Talbot were teamed up with a mix of experienced and  inexperienced riders taking on R2R, Pierre Singery, Brad van der Westhuizen, Paul Dumont, Joyce Benade, Nicky Nairn, Gaeren Wilkinson and Nick Taschner. They had a flawless run to Allendale and only Andrew and Mike persevered on to Centacow, eventually arriving at 20h05.

Tomorrow will bring more stories of the trail as these warriors take on an event that only if you've done it, can you fully understand it.

Thanks to Blanket Wearer/Windmill Keeper, Fiona Coward, for today's report.