Winter race for 2010 Freedom Challenge

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Previous participants in the Freedom Challenge have battled through snowstorms and subzero temperatures. As a result, the event has developed a reputation of being the toughest endurance race in the South Africa.

2010 will be no different as the 2010 Freedom Challenge will again take place in the heart of the South African winter. The Freedom Challenge race office today announced that the 2300 kilometre non-stop unsupported Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa will start on Saturday 12 June 2010. Riders will leave Pietermaritzburg in batches spread over the next week with the last batch leaving on Saturday 19 June 2010.

Riders will then mountain bike on the Freedom Trail which takes them through the Sisonke section of southern Kwa Zulu Natal and into the Drakensberg before heading across the basin of the Great Karoo and into the Cape mountains. They will finish at Diemersfontein Wine Estate outside Cape Town.In addition to the non-stop Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa, the Freedom Challenge will simultaneously host the 6 day Ride to Rhodes which takes riders from Pietermaritzburg over the first 500 kilometres of the route towards Cape Town. Covering the Sisonke and Maluti sections of the trail, riders will head through the deep river valleys, and over the high watersheds of the Umkomaas, Umzimkulu and Umzimvubu River catchements before crossing the floodplains of the Knira River and climbing up the face of the Drakensberg escarpment.

Those wanting to toughen up the test of 2300 kilometres of non-stop mountain biking can enter the Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon. On Friday 17 June 2010 they will start in Durban and run 85 kms up the valleys if the Umgeni and Umzimduzi Rivers to Pietermaritzburg in the Freedom Challenge Duzi Trail run. The following day they will set off from Pietermaritzburg on mountain bikes as part of the Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa. They must arrive in Paarl in time to compete in the 4 day 240 kilometre Berg River Canoe Marathon.


2009 Race Preview

Some have been preparing the full 12 months and a few just a couple weeks, but for all the waiting is almost over. The 6th edition of the Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa is upon us.
2009 sees a record field as the event continues to grow and at last count we have 37 intrepid entrants who will be riding from Pietermaritzburg City Hall to Diemersfontein Wine Estate between Wellington and Paarl. The field is spread over four days with the first batch starting this Saturday the 13th June. Amongst that group is a select five who will be taking on the Extreme Triathlon. They will most likely start a little slowly with heavy legs having completed the inaugural 88km Dusi Trail Run the preceding day from Durban. To complete their challenge they have a two day canoe leg down the Berg River to Velddrif waiting for them 21 days later.
Looking at the field it is very hard to pick a race winner as the combination of weather conditions, mechanical issues, navigation errors, injuries and many other variable factors affect the progress made by riders. The entrants have been roughly weighted to have the faster riders in the final batch starting Tuesday the 16th, but the eventual winner (calculated on elapsed time) could come from any of the four batches. In the past, winning breaks have been made as early as the first day and as late as the Karoo. If a winter storm system comes in during the first week it could split the field between those who conquer the high lying areas of the Southern Drakensberg before it hits and those left behind who battle through extreme cold and possibly snow at these altitudes.
The 2008 race winner, Tim James, coming back to defend his title starting in the final batch. He will be a marked man and will have to keep an eye out for all the unknown riders from amongst the field. There are quite a few riders who have also previously finished the race and they will benefit from a basic knowledge of the route. One will have to wait and see who emerges from the large group of first timers as potential race winners, but to win this race will most likely require some bold moves from the outset.
Despite it having the race element at the front, for most of the field the main goal is to get to the finish in one piece inside of the 26 day cut-off. That in itself is an achievement of the highest order and a journey to remember. During the first week a group of 21 will also be tackling the section of the route to Rhodes with backup support, this is quite an adventure in itself.
Good luck to all entrants, as one of the hardest parts of the race (just getting to the startline) is almost over.