22 June - the race up front

James wins back the Yellow Jersey, and perhaps that signals that its time for Barnes to start sleeping less

Up front in the Race Across South Africa, the Yellow Jersey changed hands today, with Tim James once again reclaiming it from Andrew Barnes. The 2 riders’ strategies still appear largely unchanged, with James being the slower of the 2 riders but pushing very long hours in the saddle at the expense of sleep, while Barnes continues to arrive early evening at a support station and have a very good night’s sleep by RASA standards.

Last night, Barnes arrived at Romansfontein support station at around 18h20, about 2 hours ahead of James, who rolled in at around 20h20. But once again this morning it was James who was up and riding first, leaving at 00h30, while Barnes departed at 05h20. James’ lead as at Romansforntein departure times was therefore 4 hours and 50 minutes. Once again, Barnes was the faster rider through the day, and by 7h00 he had already reduced James’ lead to 3 hours and 30 minutes. The Yellow Jersey changed hands at Elandsberg Support Station, which both rider passed through fairly swiftly, and this lead time got reduced even further to about 1 hour and 20 minutes as at Stuttgart arrival times, James arriving at around 15h57 and Barnes at 17h17.

James, however, has moved on from Stuttgart towards Grootdam support station tonight, while Barnes chose to settle in. This is where the race starts to get interesting. It certainly doesn’t appear that Barnes is in any trouble, given that he is significantly faster than James throughout the day. But it is nearing the time when he may have to start abandoning his “good night’s sleep” strategy” in order to keep up with the determined James. One part of the trail that the riders probably don’t want to do in the dark is the Osseberg Jeep Track and the Grootrivier Valley which leads the riders into the Baviaanskloof. The Grootrivier Valley is a tough night navigation stretch, and makes it slow going even for some seasoned riders. James’ plan will probably be to pass through Gegun and Toekomst support stations tomorrow, possibly sleeping in Bucklands late tomorrow night. This will set him up nicely to do the Osseberg and Grootrivier sections in daylight, and then he turns right up the Baviaanskloof and onto the home straight.

Barnes on the other hand, is likely to sleep one support station back from Bucklands. It will be interesting to see what time he moves on from Stuttgart, but it may have to be a midnight or 01h00 start instead of his “customary” 5h00 start if he is to set himself up to go into the Baviaanskloof the day after tomorrow. For James, who will probably sleep at Grootdam tonight, Bucklands will be 240km away, a long day tomorrow but achieveable. For Barnes it will be 305 km, which is a tough ask.

There is still much time in the race, and Barnes seems strong judging by his riding speeds. But one gets the feeling that he will soon have to adjust the strategy to one of “less bed more bike”

The other contenders, Fjord Jordaan and Theo van Dyk are now a bit “off the pace”. They arrived at Stuttgart at around 12h37 this afternoon, and given that they started the RASA a day earlier than Barnes and James, this implies that they are about  21 hours and 40 minutes behind James. And still somewhat off the pace but creeping back into contention are Marnitz Nienaber and Ivor Jones, who are at Hofmeyr halfway support station tonight, a station which James and Barnes passed earlier today.

Still no clear race winner emerging.

And at the other end, no clear Lantern Rouge winner is emerging either. At Stuttgart it appears that Mike Roy and John Bowen now jointly carry the Lantern Rouge after arriving here a half an hour slower than Pierre Oosthuizen, in a time of 13 days, 12 hours and 40 minutes.

By John Loos (Blanket/Whip)