The final day of this year’s Freedom Challenge dawned clear and crisp and all that remained was for Gary (Batch 7) to get through Stettynskloof and make it to the finish line. He left early from Trouthaven and made really good time through the kloof, in fact he was one of the fastest through Stettynskloof this year. Once out he enjoyed a leisurely ride in the glorious sunshine and crossed the finish line to earn his second Blanket.
So with no more riders out on the trail, the Freedom Challenge draws to a close for another year. Thank you to all the wonderful hosts for their incredible hospitality once again and to all the landowners who welcome the riders across their land each year.
The Freedom Challenge remains a difficult event no matter how fast or slow one chooses to ride it. This year’s event proved no different with the usual mix of wind, rain, snow and cold weather adding some spice. Despite the struggles, many riders just quietly got on with it, getting up early and riding their bikes a little further down the trail each day. It is these riders who embody the spirit of the event and take on this adventure knowing that despite their best intentions, things could still go wrong somewhere along the way. There were a few riders who suffered mishaps this year but still managed to keep moving forward:
- Leonard le Roux took a fall near Vuvu and dislocated his shoulder, his father Pierre helped him relocate it and they managed the injury carefully over the next few days so that Leonard could recover and continue to the end.
- Andrew Walker was having a good ride until he started having problems with chafing and saddle sores that threatened to end it all. What turned out to be an allergic reaction was then managed carefully to the point where he could recover and finish strongly.
- Mandy Joyce took a fall near Prince Albert which left her with a dislocated finger. After receiving medical attention, her and Sarah Van Eeden took a rest day at Dennehof before continuing carefully to the finish.
All these riders managed challenging circumstances while never giving up hope of reaching the finish. And they continued without much fuss or complaint until things improved again. They all deserve a mention for sheer determination.
The standouts this year though were close friends Mandy and Sarah who despite the setbacks, had a remarkable ride - their positive attitude and pure enjoyment of the trail and its people were always evident. They truly embraced the event for all that it offers and seemed to relish every day out there despite the obvious challenges. The hosts along the trail all mentioned their bubbly enthusiasm and even fellow riders also felt the effect of their positive attitudes. When they finally crossed the line, their smiles were wide and the sense of achievement immense - both are worthy recipients of the Stone Saddle Award for 2018, well done Mandy and Sarah.
Last night Diemersfontein hosted the finale dinner and true to form, there was a good turnout of both past and present Blanket Wearers. As the riders swopped stories of their adventures along the trail, there was still one rider out there making his way to the finish.
Gary (Batch 7) arrived in Montagu yesterday and left early this morning - he had the trail to himself as he rode to Trouthaven, a missed a turn on the way added a few hours to his day but eventually he corrected the error and made it to Trouthaven by late afternoon. Tomorrow he will head up Stettynskloof for the final leg of his journey.
With most of the riders home after yesterday’s big group, the remaining riders today got back to business and continued along the trail. The weather has turned warm and all the rain and snow seems to be a thing of the past.
Gary (Batch 7) continued his steady progress down the trail, inching his way closer to the finish - today he climbed The Ladder to get out of Gamkaskloof and continued to Rouxpos, where he checked in for the night.
Tim and Didi (Batch 5) got a late start from McGregor this morning after a long day out yesterday. They were in no rush as all they needed to do was get to Trouthaven, which they did by late afternoon. Tomorrow it’s just Stettynskloof and a bit of riding between them and the finish.
Mandy and Sarah (Batch 3), Estelle and Wikus (Batch 4) all left Trouthaven in the dark this morning and were already on the path around the dam when the sun came up - this gave them a good headstart on the strenuous hike up Stettynskloof and they reached the exit by early afternoon. Wikus then took off and was first to arrive at Diemersfontein, followed by Mandy and Sarah by late afternoon and Estelle by early evening, all tired but all satisfied and happy to be home.
Batches starting from Tuesday 12 June 2018 until Monday 18 June 2018.
Batching based on full field