And the race rolls on.
It seems so long since the first riders rolled out of Pietermaritzburg and whilst the Race to Rhodes entrants are home and reliving the memories of the trail, the die-hards are steadily working their way to Diemersfontein in Wellington.
The first batch to depart for the long haul needs to reach Diemersfontein by 6am on Friday July 3rd which makes a 26 day cut off. It is seldom that the riders need the full count but the weather gods, bikes issues and injuries can have a say in the matter.
Batch A of RASA riders consisted of the Where's Wally trio of Alan Haupt, Ian Verwayen and Paul Dalton. Joining them were Prince Albert legend Johann Rissik, Mike Roy and John Bowen.
Rissik and the Wallys made up their losses from the Rhodes section with a couple of long efforts. They then took two half days hoping to arrive at Mordor - the notorious Osseberg river crossings (11) - with fresh legs. So far, the riders in front of them seem to have gone through easily so if they get a good start, they could well push on past Kudu Khaya in Cambria to Dam se Drif (legendary death by chocolate dessert). If not, they will still have a couple of days in hand to play with, but must do some doubles to make the cut-off.
Ahead of them with no such worries are Anton Wood and Gert Peens who were Batch C. They left Kudu Khaya after making light work of the Osseberg and got into Willowmore at about 8pm - a ride of about 167kms. Maarten Witters (Batch C) left Bucklands with Jacques Tatersall (Batch D) and they are through to Kudu Khaya. They will probably do the double to Willowmore tomorrow as they have both been riding very strongly.
Batch D including Gary Green of Batch E were early arrivals at Bucklands which is set in the shadow of the Perdeberg and offers no clue about the route just on the other side. Anthony JB, Stu Brew, Lee Fuller, Gary Preston, Dave Telford and Mike Ward had a comfortable day getting to this point.
Behind these groups, many of the riders are doing double up stages as the riding and the spacing of the support stations lends itself to the opportunity.
There is a huge effort being made by Mike Roy and John Bowen (Batch A) to pick up time and they have set themselves the target of Toekomst tonight. They left Grootdam, resisted the comforts of Gegun and will then only be a day and half behind the rest of their batch. Perhaps they were inspired by Beat Jegerlehner and Liehann Loots who did the same double and who have been one of the more steady pairings in their navigation and progress. They are already at Toekomst (128km).
Grootdam - two stages back - is full tonight with Pierre Oosthuizen (single speed) being caught by members of Batches F & G. Pierre is the sole surviving member of Batch B and struggled on the first six days. The terrain now seems to suit him and he is making better progress. However, he will have to keep working hard to make sure he makes the 26 day cut-off.
Also at Grootdam are husband and wife duo of Mike and Ingrid Talbot, Andrew Blackburn, Mike Potgieter, Nic Jordan and Andrew Hunt, all of whom came through from Elandsberg (129km). Fjord Jordaan and Theo van Dyk are riding incredibly well and have done 2.5 stages today after leaving Hofmeyr - about 162km.
At the back, the Support Stations are being closed by Mike Devereux and Nico van Zyl, who reached Romansfontein at 21h40. John Exley and Mike Glover also reached Romansfontein but managed it in daylight (130km) and that means Kranskop, Brosterlea and after tonight, Romansfontein are done for another year.
Marnitz Nienaber and Ivor Jones pushed on from the extremely comfortable and hospitable Romansfontein for Hofmeyr. They took it easy for the first couple of days to Rhodes and now are starting to put the hammer down.
Then it remains to see what happens with Andrew Barnes and Tim James who continue to duel it out, each with well tested strategies for getting through the race.
Day by day, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, the riders inch their way down the map.
By Fiona Coward (Blanket/Whip.Windmill)