Go till you Blow

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Jamestown 22 June 2009,

The pace is picking up in the 2009 Freedom Challenge non-stop mountain bike race across South Africa. The pace of early race leader Andrew Barnes who left Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 13 June 2009 has been matched by Freedom Challenge veteran and record holder Tim James of Team Squirt riding Scott.

Starting from Pietermaritzburg 4 days after Barnes James put in three monumental days of riding to cover 500 kilometres and climb 11150 cumulative metres to reach the village of Rhodes high in the Maluti Drakensberg mountains, arriving there on Thursday half a day faster than Barnes. Needing to recover from the effort of the previous three days, on Friday James then only succeeded in riding 107 kms up the Sterkspruit river through to the next support station at Slaapkranz in the valley of the Vaalhoekspruit.

On his fifth day of riding and having recovered slightly, he then pushed on through the Stormberg and by nightfall he had passed through the next support station at Vaalbank outside Jamestown and was heading on towards Molteno.

With this nighttime push through towards Molteno James will be building a lead on Barnes who at the end of his fifth day of riding had stopped for the night at Vaalbank. In the meantime, Barnes has managed to maintain a constant pace. Despite regularly pushing through support stations and riding long days, he appears to be riding conservatively. On his 6th day of riding he pushed from Vaalbank passed Molteno and over the Aasvoelsberg to drop into the Great Karoo, stopping for the night in the village of Hofmeyr. The next day he rode through the basin of the Great Fish River and into Olive Schreiner’s Swaershoek Mountains. On Saturday he then took on the Struishoek descent at the back of the Bruintjieshooogte and the rest of the day was spent riding through the plains of the Camdeboo.

It now remains to be seen whether on the one hand James will be able to build on the advantage that he has secured by pushing through Vaalbank and on the other whether Barnes, through securing good nighttime rest, has laid a platform on which he can now start putting in a big push to the finish.

Further back in the field, other riders have at various times sought to push ahead. Mike Woolnough and Glenn Harrison of Snapper Display who are riding the only tandem in the race were amongst a number of riders including single speed rider Andre Britz, Freedom Challenge finisher Francois Riekert and Marnitz Nienaber from the Northwest who pushed through the first support station at Mackenzie in the Umkomaas valley to stop for the night at the Centocow Mission on the banks of the Umzimkulu River.

Northwest mielie farmer Carl Crous persuaded Capetownian Derrick Baard to leave early from the first support station at Mc Kenzie in the Umkomaas valley in an effort to match the early break by his northwest riding partner Nienaber and push through the next support station at Ntsikeni and on towards Masakala outside Matatiele. Their efforts came to nought. In the darkness they got lost in the forests around Donnybrook as a result of which they lost time and were force to stop for the night at Ntsikeni.

Further ahead Shane Harrison and Brett Rheeders pushed through the Malekhalonyane support station and on through Black Fountain. Unable to negotiate the single track descent to Tinana Mission in darkness they were forced to take a cold night’s refuge in a simple stone shepherd’s hut. By the next day they had fallen back into their main batch.
At the end of its first week those riders who have been participating in the Ride to Rhodes which is run in parallel with the Freedom Challenge head home. Ride to Rhodes finisher Brian Squires described his ride as an experience that serves as wonderful to introduction to true trail riding in Africa.

Meanwhile the bulk of the field in the Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa now into the Stormberg. With heavy snows and bad weather forecast they will need to endure cold and wet similar to that described by Denys Reitz in his account of Smuts’ commando in Anglo Boer war.

No comments:

Post a Comment