16 June - the race for RASA and RTR begins to develop

It took the last start batch to set the race alight with no riders staying on at Allendale and a number of them pushing to Ntisikeni (a 200km first stage for them). Allendale is now the first SS to close down for the year and Ntsikeni will also have an early pack up at the rate this group are flying through.

Currently, Andrew Barnes who flew through to Centacow is having a few hours sleep then will push on to Masakala (SS3). Ahead of him are legend Tim James who is known for his ability to go without sleep and is making short work of the hills after the Centocow mission station. Not far behind is Mike Woolnough (R2R) who calls himself an ordinary cyclist yet is anything but ordinary. He has inspired countless "ordinary riders" by his feats in tackling R2R. A last minute entry to the race, he is hoping to take Janine Stewart (R2R) with him on an adventure of no sleep and hard riding. Mental toughness of note.

Heading for Centacow is another legend of the trail, Marnitz Nienaber who prides himself on bivvying out no matter how cold it is, eschewing the comfort of the support stations. Perhaps this year he'll be a little more sane as he has the company of Ingrid Avignon (R2R) who will decide on sleep or ride when they arrive at Centacow. Also in this group are Stuart Roos and Ivor Jones. 

Further up the route, there was still drama as riders sought to correct mistakes in navigation whilst others forged ahead riding strongly and accurately.

At Nsikeni tonight is the small group of Gawie du Plessis (who is on a single speed and still making excellent time on the route) Anne Harrison, Caren Henschel and Tony Wright. Let's hope they aren't disturbed too much by the late arrivals coming from Pietermaritzburg.

John Exley and Mike Glover once again followed a deviation out of Ntsikeni Reserve before Politique kraal while a new route was pioneered by the constantly wandering Mike Devereaux. In both cases, their wanderings cost them time, the recommended route is still the quickest. It didn't end there for Mike as he led Nic van Zyl, Andy Wonnacott, Alan Rainnie, Mark Smuts and Ian Privett astray after Taylerville. This has been a particulary gnarly bit of navigation for many riders this year. However, they corrected quite easily and were soon back on track, eventually to be caught by a storming Fjord Jordaan and Theo van Dyk who had ridden all the way from Centacow. They reached Masakala just before sunset with the others arriving in the early evening. Andy, Alan, Mark and Ian arrived much later, getting in just before 21h30

Malekolonyane is quiet tonight with only R2R riders John Buchanan, Richard Erasmus, Steve Kitto and Shaun Marsh there after a solid ride from Masakala.

Vuvu is packed with a number of riders catching up to each other. There were some interesting route choices out of the lodge for Mike and Ingrid Talbot but they made up for the lost time and were well in front when they hit the Vuvu valley. Also in the valley were Mike Potgieter, Paul Dumont, Pierre Singery, Joyce Benade, Braad van der Westhuizen, Nic Taschner, Nicky Nairn, Gaeren Wilkinson, Mark Jason and Nick Jordan. Andrew Blackburn arrived later than the rest as a result of having to walk most of the way from Tinana to Vuvu - this due a stripped freehub. He is hoping to be able to sort it out in Rhodes tomorrow. He's done exceptionally well in the valley after dark.

Rhodes - so near, yet so far for Andrew Hunt. The group that left this morning from Vuvu did a perfect ascent of Lehana Pass but unfortunately for Andrew, he turned left at Naudes Nek instead of right, sending him flying down the road to Mount Fletcher. He only realised the mistake by the time he got to the Phillipsrust turn off so it was a huge climb back up to get back on track but he eventually made it into Rhodes - was that a red face?

Tracker watchers were confused by Steve Johnston going the wrong up up the pass from Rhodes side but it transpired he was getting a lift back to where he had "paused" his race for an injury. After recieving treatment from a local physio in Rhodes, he restarted from the same point and rode back into Rhodes, so he's now back on track for RASA. Also still in Rhodes is Neville Higgs who opted to take a rest day there today.

Rhodes is busy again tonight with some R2R finishers and some RASA riders staying whilst others kept moving. Neville Higgs, Liehann Loots, Beat Jegenlehner, Willie Esterhuizen, Gerrit van der Merwe, Fanus Vorster and Dave Gace should be enjoying the hospitality of Rubicon and Meryl around a large fire. Dave Gace will unfortunately be withdrawing tomorrow on the medical advice of a doctor he saw at Tenahead Lodge.

The race has begun to string out after Rhodes with the front runners - the Where's Wally group of Ian Haupt, Ian Verwayen and Paul Dalton - heading towards Romansfontein. A brave effort considering the 50km/h plus gusts of wind that have hammered the riders all day. Johann Rissik opted to do a half day and stayed at Brosterlea. He was joined there by Anton Wood, Gert Peens and Maarten Witters. They will have to consider pushing to Hofmeyer to stack on track.

Laying over at Moordenaarspoort is Jacques Tatersall who had a tough ride from Chesneywold managing to scale all three portages in the daylight. Not so lucky were the duo of Mike Roy and John Bowen who lost an entire day trying to find their way off the Slaapkrantz portage a mere couple of kilometers into the stage. Last word was that they were holed up in a friendly farmhouse but they have effectively lost another day putting them further behind schedule.

Slaapkrantz is full with Gary Green, Lee Fuller, Gary Preston, Dave Telford, Anthony Jankovich-Besan and Stu Brew. Pierre Oosthuizen who flirted with the 8 day Rhodes cut-off has stopped at Chesneywold for the night. Hopefully he'll be able to stay with Mike Ward who is on track to join him tonight - maybe the two of them can team up and get over the three portages tomorrow without incident.

With the weather starting to look iffy, riders need to push on. Snow and rain add hours to the route and make it much harder than it already is. With light snow predicted to fall in the Rhodes area tonight, things could get interesting tomorrow. There's still a chance of strong winds in the morning but after that things should improve - calm claer conditions could be expected, so it's worth putting in the extra effort to make use of good weather windows.

By Fiona Coward (Blanket/Whip/Windmill)