This morning signals the closure of support station 8 – Kranskop with all the riders now past this point on the route:
Marnitz and Ivor had a long day yesterday, riding from Chesneywold to Kranskop - there was talk of them going on to Brosterlea but the hospitality at Kranskop derailed those plans. They got going early this morning with another long day on the cards and there could be some fun on the Elandsberg portage tonight…
Mike Glover and John Exley are going along steadily, they got to Kranskop comfortably yesterday and left early again today, heading for Romansfontein.
Nico van Zyl and Mike Devereux are riding together and going well. Also at Kranskop last night, they left a bit later and will also be aiming for Romansfontein today.
At Romansfontein last night we had first Andrew Barnes and later Tim James arriving. Andrew stopped to get another good sleep in, while Tim had supper, a short sleep and left just after midnight. Andrew got going again after breakfast this morning – this means that Tim now has his nose in front again. Both of them are likely to be aiming to get to Stuttgart or beyond today.
Theo van Dyk and Fjord Jordaan stayed over in Hofmeyr last night. They arrived in daylight but decided not to tempt fate by heading out to the Elandsberg portage in the dark, rather opting to tick it off this morning. Currently on their way to Stuttgart, they are aiming for Grootdam tonight.
After a minor hiccup on the Elandsberg portage yesterday afternoon, the group of Andrew Blackburn, Nic Jordan, Mike Potgieter and hanger on Andrew Hunt got in before dark and spent the night there. Today they are heading for Grootdam to hopefully tick off their first double. They are going well, already through Stuttgart by mid morning.
Also at Elandsberg last night were Mike and Inky Talbot. After struggling for the last few days with no front brake, Mike was finally able to get hold of a spare from race office and is now no longer riding in fear of every downhill on the route. Just as well, today they’ll be going over the Schurfteburg and he’ll be able to finally enjoy the long, steep descent afterwards. Grootdam for them tonight if all goes well.
Pierre Oosthuizen left Stuttgart rather late this morning, not surprising since they look after the riders so well there but he needs to get moving again if he hopes to get to Willowmore before the next cut off. He’s behind schedule and needs to catch up some of the days he lost earlier – now is the time to do that. Grootdam will be his first goal but he really needs to try and get beyond that today.
Beat and Liehann have just emerged from the dark zone around Grootdam and are running like clockwork once again today. They’ll be aiming for Gegun and possibly pushing on to Toekomst later this afternoon.
Still to emerge are Mike Roy and John Bowen – they slept at Grootdam and will be aiming for Gegun. They also need to pay attention to the next cut off at Willowmore and ideally should also be pushing on to Toekomst today – time will tell.
Toekomst Lodge was full last night – Gary Green, Lee Fuller, Gary Preston and Dave Telford were first to arrive, with Ant Jankovic-Bessan, Stu Brew and Mike Ward pulling in shortly afterwards. They enjoyed a few beers as they watched the sun setting. Having scouted this section of the trail before, they are in familiar terrain and moving confidently and quickly along the trail for now. Today the whole group heads to Bucklands and possibly even on to Hadley.
Johann Rissik, Ian Verwayen, Alan Haupt and Paul Dalton all stayed at the Kleinpoort emergency stop last night. Today they are heading to Hadley, another emergency stop but that will set them up nicely for the tough Osseberg section tomorrow which comes shortly after Hadley. This group is having fun and are all still in good spirits despite the hard days of riding they have behind them.
Heading towards the Osseberg today are Maarten Witters and Jacques Tattersall, having left from Bucklands this morning. They are making good time and should get through to Kudu Kaya/Cambria by early evening.
Currently out front, blazing a trail and raiding boxes as they go are Anton Wood and Gert Peens. They bashed through the Osseberg yesterday and stayed at Kudu Kaya. Aiming for Willowmore tonight, that will be a big double and put them even further out front. They need to be aware of the Diemersfontein gate though, they were batched according to their intended pace but have gone off the front and are starting to stretch the field out. The gate this year only opens on 26 June – it is calculated from the last start batch (racers) by allowing them the current record time to get to the finish and is intended to help manage the field – specifically to stop riders who have stated that they are not racing from racing off the front and forcing support stations to open earlier than planned. Riders are expected to plan their strategy with this in mind.
The Race Office packed up and left Rhodes yesterday and got as far as Cradock last night, after stopping off at Elandsberg to help Mike Talbot sort out his brakes. Today its off to intercept Gary Preston with spare spokes and then hopefully on to Willowmore to set up there for a few days.
As the riders turn west into the Baviaanskloof, they enter the psychological home stretch, with two thirds of the route already behind them. If the current weather holds, it should be plain sailing and also give the racers a chance to move through the field.