As we head into the third week of this year’s RASA, the pull of the finish line at Diemersfontein is starts to kick in - where previously the riders were content to look only as far ahead as the next overnight stop, now their thoughts start to drift towards their finishing day - it’s a case of working out what needs to be done to finish on the desired date and whether its worth pushing a bit harder to achieve that. At this stage many of the riders are starting to feel the cumulative effects of the last two weeks, some are nursing injuries while others are just in survival mode, ticking off one day at a time. By this stage though, all of the riders have something in common - momentum - they are now firmly in the habit of moving forward every day, following the trail to its inevitable conclusion.
Ideal conditions along the trail today meant that most of the riders made good progress towards their respective destinations. Still out front this morning and first arrivals in Willowmore were Chris Morris, Willie Esterhuizen and Gerrit vd Merwe - they left Dam se Drif just after 3am and arrived for a late breakfast in Willowmore, before pushing on to Rondawel. Chris hopped off the bus there to stay for the night but Gerrit and Willie pushed on to Prince Albert, where they arrived by late evening.
Hot on their heels were Theo van Dyk, Tim James and Mike Woolnough. Theo and Tim made good time this morning and also pushed on from Willowmore to Rondawel, stopping in for a quick supper, then also pushing on to Prince Albert. Mike’s day took a different turn, he slowed up in the early morning hours and stopped to rest along the way, arriving in Willowmore by mid afternoon. Some tea and a meal, then off to bed for a few hours sleep. A while later he had supper and then hopped back onto his bike and set off into the night.
While Mike slept, he was passed by Bruce Hughes, who arrived late afternoon from Cambria. Not done for the day, he stopped to check on the repair to his cracked frame (which was holding up well) and sort out a tyre issue, then ate some food and set off for Rondawel. He’s been riding strongly, thanks to getting a decent amount of sleep - at some point though, he may decide to forego the sleep and head for home.
Another rider who made it to Willowmore today was Hayden Green, also coming through from Cambria after a timeout there waiting for new tyres. He was in good spirits and happy to be on the road again. After a long day in the saddle, he will rest up at The Willows tonight, then head off to Prince Albert in the morning.
Liehann Loots had another good day today, leaving early from Hadley to get to the Osseberg portage by first light. He timed it well and made it through the Cambria gate with plenty of time to spare. He sleeps at Dam se Drif tonight and will head for Willowmore in the morning.
Tim Deane had a day of mixed fortunes - after arriving at Hadley late last night, he then overslept and was forced to race to get to the Osseberg and through the Grootrivierpoort before the 2pm gate closure at Cambria. He was making good time but then stumbled on one of the river crossings, dropping his tracker in the river - an hour of searching proved fruitless and also robbed him of any chance of making it through the gate. So he slowly made his way to Kudu Kaya, resigned to his fate. At least he’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight.
The late arrivals at Kudu Kaya tonight were Ann Harrison and Grant Cowen - starting their day at Bucklands with Fanus Vorster, an early nav error in the dark cost them precious time and meant that they only started down the Osseberg track after lunch. The inevitable happened when they ran out of light while still in the Grootrivierpoort, about half way through all the river crossings. They eventually got separated, with Fanus heading off in a different direction and losing touch with the other two. Grant and Ann managed to rejoin the path and eventually worked their way out of the mess but Fanus seems to have decided to camp out under the stars tonight…
Another busy night at Hadley tonight, as riders try to sleep as close to the Osseberg portage as possible. Scott Rutherfoord was the first arrival there, followed later by Leon Erasmus and Jacques Tattersall - this time without their riding buddy Werner Nienaber - he managed to break his frame again and had to stop in Kleinpoort to try and repair it. Fortunately there was a helpful farmer at the padstal who whisked him off to his workshop in nearby Wolwefontein - they managed to repair the frame sufficiently for Werner to continue and he set off in pursuit of his mates - eventually catching up with them again at Hadley.
Bucklands hosts four riders tonight - Greg Perrett, Richard Cole, Brad vd Westhuizen and Hughes Clauser. They came through from Toekomst today and will be taking on the Osseberg and Grootrivierpoort tomorrow, heading for Cambria.
Still on his way to Kleinpoort tonight is Pierre Oosthuizen, who started his day at Gegun this morning. A nav error coming through Koedoeskop reserve cost him precious time this morning but he eventually corrected himself. Another off track excursion in the Gwaas valley after dark didn’t help but he’s made steady progress since then and although it will be a late night arrival, the rest of the route to Kleinpoort shouldn’t be a problem for him.
All the way back at Grootdam tonight are the remaining six RASA riders - the ever steady Caren Henschel and Tony Wright, who were joined by Gary Scoular from Newlands onwards, as well as the inseparable trio of Neville Higgs, Clint le Roux and Gerald vd Merwe. After initially considering a stop at Rockdale tonight, they realised that doing so would put Gerald in danger of missing the 18-day cutoff in Willowmore, so they pressed on to Grootdam, arriving just after dark. They may be able to make up some time after the Baviaanskloof section but until then, they need to keep moving steadily forward every day.
Heading into the third week of the event, what becomes apparent is that bikes and bodies are taking strain after many miles on the trail - the important thing for all the riders now is to manage their efforts carefully and look after their equipment to ensure they can make it all the way to the finish at Diemersfontein - being forced to withdraw because of injury or equipment failure at his late stage would be a bitter pill to swallow.