13 Days down

13 Days down and we take a look at the finish

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Since the race for first is really hotting up, I’ll do my best to try and see what’s possible for our two frontrunners in the upcoming days.

Andrew will be following a final plan of sorts for sure, he’s in the Western Cape for starters. Between him and a hidden but extremely important dam wall lies 400km of mostly moderate terrain, but he’ll be looking into the west and oncoming weather of varying difficulty.

Looking back from Prince Albert(SS19) it’s a big ride up the Swartberg Pass and then down into Die Hel/Gamkaskloof(SS20,87km). Up Die Leer and it’s a stroll of sorts to the Vintage farmstead at Rouxpos(SS20, 70km). Some soft sand will slow your way to Anysberg Nature Reserve(SS22, 80km). Through the plains and dropping down to Montagu(SS23, 77km) where there is some actual traffic. Chop through the Cogmanskloof and come round the back of MacGregor(SS24, 58km) before jumping over the ridge to the elegant retreat of Kasra(SS25, 25km). The last big ride is past Brandvlei to Trouthaven(SS26,84km). Ending it off with a big portage(read bundu bash) and popping out near the Hugenout tunnel one scales the Du Toitskloof pass before Diemersfontein(Finish, 66km).

The final stage of the Freedom Challenge is in many ways its toughest. It goes through an ‘out the way’ valley that has really been put on the map by the race. The Holsloot river runs past Rawsonville and not much further flows into the Breede. The riders are looking for the source of this river as they follow it uphill into this valley called Stettynskloof (regarded as a swear word by many past participants). The final Support Station Trouthaven(SS26) is up this valley

There is a time gate at the Stettynskloof damwall, and riders may only pass it between 10pm and 8am. It is a contentious issue, but is there mainly to prevent people from getting stuck in the kloof overnight. Many a racesnake has eyed this 8am cut-off from as far afield as Gamkaskloof as the rest of the trail can and has been done in darkness. We start looking at time in terms of hours and not days, as sleep becomes a non-essential luxury.

Andrew will have as his first goal a finish on Saturday 27 June, and will see 8am as his target. Any earlier and he could sleep at Trouthaven or get going up the kloof.
He has roughly 36 hours of riding time from Gamkaskloof(SS20) to the dam wall, and about 50hours in which to do it. That’s probably going to have some 2/3 hour catnaps on the way. Forget about even drying your clothes. This is easier said than done, and is similar to his massive day in the Baviaanskloof, but then carrying on further.

His second goal will surely be to beat Tim James’ 2008 record of 14 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes. The cut-off for that is looming 6:15pm, on Saturday. However, one would have to probably get to the dam wall by 5am to have a crack at this target.

However he’ll know only too well that another potential challenge follows about 3 days behind him, and his tired body will have to get to the finish as soon as possible to secure overall victory in the 2009 Race. That will be his third goal, the one he can’t fully control (short of laying thumbtacks along the route!).

Tim James has the luxury of knowing what he has to beat. However he can’t sit back and wait for the news, as he has to keep a pace up anyway. He has very kindly stopped in at Doringrivier last night, which puts him on the same timeline as Andrew who was there three days ago. He will most definitely not go all the way through to Willowmore, but should be able to catch up to Andrew’s time on the next day. In a one on one race, Tim probably has the edge right now, but there is still a lot of terrain still to go. The weather factor is huge as well, and will definitely play a part in this piece.

Tim had stated a 12 day finish as a goal. That would be coming in on Sunday. Once again, that’s roughly 65hours of riding in 72 hours. With the weather being what it is, we’ve probably seen that plan fall away. A Monday finish would still see the current record dropping by a full day. A Tuesday finish and we could have a photofinish with the three day lag (assuming Andrew gets in on Saturday).

All I can really say, is watch this space!

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