As the bulk of riders headed south along the middle section of the trail, the first few turned westwards today to start their ride along the Baviaanskloof - turning west for them is a significant milestone, signalling that they are now on the last third of the trail, the ‘home straight’ as it were, on the way to Diemersfontein. There’s still plenty of work to be done and reaching the finish is by no means guaranteed but by now they have the confidence to deal with just about any adversity that could still befall them and their determination and resolve are high.
It’s been a day of interesting developments as most riders start to push for bigger distances and the race up front takes an interesting turn - let’s see who sleeps where on the trail tonight.
Still out front (but possibly not by morning) are the trio of Chris Morris, Willie Esterhuizen and Gerrit vd Merwe - they went through the Cambria boom gate around 7am and reached Dam se Drif by early afternoon, passing through the Baviaanskloof without incident. With no plans to keep going, they were joined for dinner by Mike Woolnough, Theo van Dyk and Tim James. The three racers had started their day at Hadley and come through the Osseberg and Grootrivierpoort in time to beat the 2pm boom gate closure at the entrance to the reserve. The stop at Dam se Drif will likely be to refuel and have a short sleep, with plans to leave again in the early hours for Willowmore.
After his ordeal in the Grootrivierpoort last night, Hayden Green was happy to sit at Kudu Kaya patiently waiting for new tyres today - scheduled to arrive this evening courtesy of the race office. Some late night bike mechanics may still be on the cards for him but he’ll be looking forward to getting back onto the trail tomorrow and trying to chase down his mates. Keeping him company tonight is Bruce Hughes, who arrived in the late afternoon. Having started his day very early at Bucklands, he ran into trouble before sunrise and had to stop and rest - somewhat dehydrated and feeling the effects of a hard day yesterday, he also stopped in at Hadley for a rest. After all the delays, there was little chance of him getting through the Cambria gate before 2pm, so he settled into cruise mode for the rest of the day. He will have a long rest tonight and be on fresh legs tomorrow - missing the 2pm gate was a tactical error so the chase will be back on again tomorrow.
On the other side of the mountains at Hadley, Liehann Loots sleeps tonight, having ridden through from Toekomst today. Another solid day for him, with everything going like clockwork. He has set himself up for an early start on the Osseberg and will be trying to get through the Cambria gate before 2pm, aiming for Dam se Drif. Tim Deane has similar ideas, although he still has to ride through from Bucklands this evening to get to Hadley. His late arrival time will mean a bit less sleep for him though.
Staying at Bucklands tonight are Ann Harrison and Grant Cowen, together with the ever consistent Fanus Vorster. Having all ridden through from Gegun today, they will be aiming to get to Cambria before dark tomorrow evening - the Osseberg awaits..
Toekomst a busy tonight with a group of five riders staying there - having all come through from Grootdam today: Greg Perrett, Richard Cole, Scott Rutherfoord, Brad vd Westhuizen and Hughes Clauser are all well acquainted by now but seem happy to cruise along in odd groupings during the day, only to reunite in the evening at the support station. No major slip ups for these guys yet and they’ll most likely want to go through the tricky Osseberg together too - strength in numbers. They are still expecting company later tonight, with Jacques Tattersall, Werner Nienaber and Leon Erasmus on the way from Gegun. Their day started at Newlands, so they’ll be looking forward to some sleep by now.
Pierre Oosthuizen continues to quietly get on with the job, in contrast to last year’s attempt where he spent a lot of time getting lost. More focussed and better prepared this time around, he sleeps at Gegun tonight after riding through from Grootdam today.
Gary Scoular is the only rider at Newlands tonight, a welcomed relief for the hosts after a busy few days and nights. For Gary, the last few days have not been easy, as he still has an upset stomach and is not at full strength. He also compounded things by getting lost on the Elandsberg portage this morning, expending even more precious energy. Tomorrow will see him aiming for Grootdam, where he is likely to be joined by the riders coming from behind - few days of company could be just the thing he needs to lift his spirits.
Caren Henschel and Tony Wright had another good day, riding through from Romansfontein to Elandsberg, where they arrived well before dark after cruising through the tricky Elandsberg portage. Following on their heels were the trio of Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe, who arrived at sunset, just managing to avoid any drama on the portage. As the sweeps, they are content to tick over day to day, making steady progress towards the end goal - still a few long days and tricky sections to come but they seem to have found their groove and are gaining confidence with each day.