16 June - news from the sharp end

In the early evening on Day 1 for the “Racing Snakes”, Tim James overtakes Andrew Barnes as race strategies start to diverge

In the early evening on the 1st day’s racing for the racing snakes of Batch J, the paths of the 2 early RASA favourites, Tim James and Andrew Barnes began to diverge. Barnes had earlier taken the Yellow Jersey at Allendale, arriving there slightly ahead of James. Both riders headed out within short succession, seemingly headed for the long climb to Ntsikeni overnight support station. But it was not to be. Barnes surprised us with an “early” sleepover stop at Centocow “halfway station”, or at least we assume its a sleepover, as he has remained there since just before 17h00. James appeared to go straight past Centocow at about 17h40, hurtling off up the big climb beyond to Ntsikeni.

With James, too, nothing is that obvious. He traditionally follows a different race strategy to most of the racing snakes, packing sleeping kit on his bike and often sleeping out in the bush in between stations. In last year’s race he took a sleepout on the 1st night, but this was only after Ntsikeni support station. So at the current stage he appears to be the favourite to get to Ntsikeni 1st, and indeed to be the 1stRASA rider to get to Ntsikeni support station within the 1st 24 hours. Should he achieve this, it is looking likely that he will take over the Yellow Jersey from Barnes.

But of course at some point James will need to sleep, and so we wait to see what time Barnes will leave Centocow. He’s shown the ability to more than match James on the bike, so it is quite possible that the lead could once again change hands while James sleeps. That, of course, is the beauty of such a non-stop race. It is often quite difficult to judge exactly who is REALLY in front, because of often vastly differing race plans, which often include sleeping at very different times.

Now what the sleepover does is it also brings the trio of Marnitz Nienaber, Stuart Roos and Ivor Jones back nto the RASA picture. They are “level pegging” with Barnes having reached Centocow for an apparent sleepover too. They have been noticeably slower than Barnes and James all day, but can they get by with less sleep to compensate for this? That question will be answered later in the night or tomorrow morning when we see what time everyone departs.

In the Race 2 Rhodes, Woolnough and Stewart remain firmly in control. Will they do a 36 hour push or more?

Riding together, Mike Woolnough and Janine Stewart appeared reasonably in control of proceedings on Day 1 of the Race 2 Rhodes. They took the Yellow Jersey jointly at Allendale, headed on shortly afterwards, and have since steamed on through Centocow on the road to Ntsikeni. They left Centocow at around 18h43 after a short break. But they are not without any threats, being chased by Ingrid Avidon, who left Centocow at 20h17. Their other nearest rivals, though, Arno Crous and Eddie Stafford only arrived at 21h20 on their 1st evening, and slept over. Whereas their lead over Stafford and Crous was about 1 hour at Allendale, it appears that they plan to increase the lead dramatically overnight. But Avidon’s move past Centocow on the 1st evening keeps it interesting.

Given that the Race 2 Rhodes is a lot shorter than the RASA, it is conceivable that the race plan of Woolnough, Stewart and Avidon could be significantly different to that of James and Barnes. Their target for the 1st sleepover may well be far beyond Ntsikeni, at Malekhalonyane 154km further down the track. Should this be their plan, they could reach Malekhalonyane some time late tomorrowafternoon or early evening. They could then take a short sleep tomorrow night before finishing off the Race 2 Rhodes on the 3rd day, i.e. on Thursday

Time will tell, but the Race 2 Rhodes is made for a very different race strategy to RASA, and it is even conceivable that someone may some day go all the way to Rhodes without sleeping.

Key results to date:

At Allendale Support Station (Support Station 1)

- RASA Yellow Jersey: Andrew Barnes

- Race 2 Rhodes Yellow Jersey: Mike Woolnough/Janine Stewart

- Fastest time for RASA “Stage 1” from Pietermaritzburg to Allendale: Andrew Barnes: 7 hours 15 minutes

- Fastest time for Race 2 Rhodes “Stage 1” from Pietermaritzburg to Allendale: Mike Woolnough/Janine Stewart : 7 hours 50 minutes

- RASA Lantern Rouge: Pierre Oosthuizen

- Race 2 Rhodes Lantern Rouge: Johan Foord, Chris Harburn, Russell Hanger and Jeremy Nel

By John Loos (Blanket/Whip)