Day 8 Wrap

Day 8 wrap
David Waddilove

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The last batches of riders left Pietermaritzburg on Saturday morning. Race strategies have been revealed and some have already unravelled.

Race front riders, Trevor Ball and Ugene Nel made a post midnight entry into Rhodes on Wedenesday night, having been forced to push down the Naudes Nek Pass by ice on the road. On Thursday morning they made a late start for for Chesney Wold where they stopped for a good lunch before crossing the snow-covered Kapokkraal portage at sunset. An early start on Friday saw the two takig on the Loutebron and Bonthoek portages in the hopes of pushing through the support station at Vaalbank farm and reaching the interim stop at Brosterlea. With deep slow and slush on both portages their going was slow. By mid afternoon they had only reached the farm Moordenaarspoort which is where General Jan Smuts and 3 others on a reconnaisance were ambushed shortly after the commando entered the Cape colony near the end of the Anglo boer war. They finally stopped for the day at Vaalbank.

Saturday saw them following the route of Smuts and his kommando through the Stormberg. They may have started the day with plans of pushing through the next support station at the farm Romansfontein and heading off the Drakensberg escarpment and on to the town of Hofmeyr. However, the going was again slow. In the late afternoon the passed through the site of the Battle of Stormberg near Molteno and in the evening made Romansfontein where they stopped. On Sunday they drop off the Drakensberg escarpment at the Aasvoƫlsberg into the Karoo where their going will surely be better.

Following a day's riding behind Trevor and Ugene, Gawie du Plessis, Farrankothen and Scott James were the first riders to take on the portage up Lehana's Pass. On Friday they headed off for an easy day of riding through and through the valleys of the Bokspruit and Sterkspruit before dropping down the Bottlenekspruit to stop for lunch at Chesney Wold before taking on the Kapokkraal portage over to Slaapkranz. However, they were frustrated, firstly, by Gawie's seat post searing completely, secondly by Ray's shifter breaking and then by Scott breaking a pedal. Despite arriving at Slaapkranz later than anticipated Gawie was able to engineer a solution in farmer Andre Buy's workshop. Ray and Scott were assisted by riders who had just completed the Ride to Rhodes with them. On Saturday, Gawie, Ray and Scott made it over the Loutebron and Bonthoek portages and continued through to Vaalbank. On Sunday they will continue following the route of the Smuts kommando through the Stormberg and on to Romansfontein.

Behind them are Dave Bell and Chris Morris, who is suffering with bad ITB. On Friday they took leave of their group of Ride to Rhodes companions at Vuvu, head up the Drakesnberg on Lehana's Pass and then pushed through the support station at Rhodes and on to Chesney Wold, where they enjoyed the warm hospitality of Minkie and Christo. On Saturday the set out for Slaapkranz, expecting to get over both the Loutebron and Bonthoek portages before carrying on to Moordenaarspoort. However, they too were slowed by the snow and only made it over the Loutebron portage before stopping for the night at the home of a farmer in the valley of the Smalblaar River.

Current race leader Alex Harris, who had caught the group ahead of him at Malkhalonyane made and early start from Malekhalonyane and was joined by the hares of Jethro and Zane de Decker. They made good progress through to Black Fountain but the De Deckers were left on the descent to Tinana Mission as they firstly took a turn down a wrong ridge and then Zane's knee started to play up. Harris got through to Vuvu in the early afternoon. Forced to sit out a 45 minute daylight time penalty for a route departure he then opted to stay for the night rather than taking on Lehana's Pass or Naude's Nek with only two hours of light remaining. The De Deckers contiued through to Vuvu where they stopped.

Quenton Oates and Blackie Swart seemed to have found an easy rhythm riding into Malekhlaonyane on Thursday but from there things went awry. On Friday, leaving Malekhalonyane a little later than Alex and the De Deckers, Quenton made it through to Vuvu without incident. However, a tiring Blackie rode on over Black Fountain and down to Tinana Mission. He then crossed the Tina River before turning into the river valley that runs up to the Vuvu support station with two hours of daylight remaining. With thick winter grass and indistinct tracks his progress was slow and he was still in the valley when the light went. He was forced to sleep rough for the night.

On Saturday morning Alex left Vuvu early and made rapid progress through Rhodes to Chesney Wold. Arrving there in the middle of the afternoon he elected to stop rather than risk being caught on the Kapokkraal portage in the dark. Sunday should see him making a big push through Slaapkranz to Vaalbank and possibly on to Brosterlea. Having spent Friday night out in the valley Blackie went through to Vuvu where he stopped for the rest of the day. Sunday is likely to see him in Rhodes for the night.

Quenton Oates, meanwhile left Vuvu on Saturday and rode on to Rhodes. However, with a major crack in his bike frame he is unable to continue and has sadly withdrawn. The De Deckers also rode from Vuvu to Rhodes finishing together with their Ride to Rhodes start batch. As they did not push on it seems that they are no longer in the race for podium places (not that the Freedom Challenge has a podium)

Giant 29er single speed rider Glenn Harrison seems to finally be getting his charge together. Despite a number of early unsucessful attempts to get ahead of the normal touring schedule he finally did so on Friday morning when he rode through the Malekhalonyane support station and on over Black Fountain to stop for the night at Tinana Mission. On Saturday morning he rode through the Vuvu valley (probably passing close to where Blackie had dossed down the night before) and arrived at Vuvu shortly before midday. He then continued on and up Lehana's Pass before dropping down to Rhodes where he arrived in the evening. On Sunday he is likely to look to get off to an early start with a view to getting beyond Slaapkranz.

Woman rider Audrey Gerber and fellow Australians Tim James and Bec Caskie rode on Friday from Banchory to Masakala and on Saturday where Audrey, feeling the enormity of the ride ahead opted to withdraw. On Saturday Tim and Bec, together with Paddy Veenstra, continued through to Malekhalonyane at the foot of the Ongeluksnek Pass and on Sunday, navigation permitting, will look to get to Vuvu.

Every year of the Freedom Challenge is defined by a mechanical failures. 2010 is no different. The part of this year appears to be freewheel hubs with at least four of the riders having to replace theirs. Gerda Gruner, Estelle Labuschagne, Errol Derrick and Ray Sephton made it from Allendale to Ntsikeni on Friday. On Saturday, leaving Ntsikeni, Ray's hub gave out. Fortunately he was able to limp on through Banchory to Masakala where he replaced the part without losing any time. This foursome left Pietermaritzburg in the same batch as Allen Sharpe, Mark Mitchell and Travis Saunders, all three of whom have flattered to decieve. On Thursday the arrived early at Allendale, where they stopped; on Friday they arrived early at Ntsikeni, where they stoppe. Who knows, they might be saving themselves for something really BIG.

Behind them come Komander Carl Crous, Marnitz 'sponsored by PG Glass and riding for Miles for Smiles' Nienaber and their young recruit August 'super dreads' Carstensl. They left Pietermaritzburg on Friday morning, were slowing getting into Allendale put opted to push on to Centocow for the night. Inventing new steps in the Donnybrook Manoeuvre they arrived at the Mission Station near midnight. Saturday saw them through Ntsikeni and on to Banchory. With that they obviously must have clear fallen behind record pace but are matching the progress of early lapsed time leader Alex Halarris.

Leaving Pietermaritzburg with them were couples Ingrid and Anthony Avidnon and Jannie Gerber and Nicole. They made Allendale without incident. On Saturday the all too took wrong turns in the Donnybrook forests. The Avidnons made Ntsikeni by nightfall having deviated from the race route. Jannie and Nicole, meanwhile followed the race route over the Ngwangwane River but with light going, got lost in the plantations before the Gungununu River which they crossed at 9pm. Declining an offer of accommodation in the area they elected to push onwards and upwards under the light of the waxing moon. They finally arrived at the Ntsikeni support station at 3.30 am. They are likely to make an easy day of Sunday and head down to Banchory.

Friday also saw the second hosting of the 85 km Duzi Trail run in conjunction with the Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust. Participating in the race were 2010 Freedom Challenge extreme triathletes Andrew Barnes, Leon van der Nest and Keith Little. Andrew finished in first place in a very credible 9 hours 40 minutes. Keith and Leon finished some time later in 12hour 20 minutes. On Saturday morning they left Pietermaritzburg as part of the last batch to depart. Despite his big run of the day before Andrew set a blistering pace and was joined at the front by Justin “Big Gear” Bouwer. The two got through to Allendale by 2pm. Resisting Andrew's invitation to accompany him to Centocow he stopped. Andrew continued to Centocow, performed a perfect Donnybrook Manoeuvre and arrived just after sunset. Sunday should seem him through Ntiskeni and possible past Banchory in a bid to be the first rider to reach Malekhalonyane in two days and, in so doing match his own pace of 2009. Arriving at Allendale shortly before sunset were Keith and Leon.Relative race position on Saturday night (support stations reached/no of days riding) were as follows:

Saturday night leaderboard

Position Rider Support station Days Percentage
1 Andrew Barnes 1.5 1 150.00%
2 Alex Harris 6.5 5 130.00%
3 Carl Crous 2.5 2 125.00%
3 August Carstens 2.5 2 125.00%
3 Marnitz PG Glass riding Miles for Smiles Nienaber 2 125.00%
6 Glen single speed Harrison riding a Giant 29er 5 120.00%
7 Ugene Nel 9 8 112.50%
7 Trevor Ball 9 8 112.50%
9 Ray, Farrankothen 7 7 100.00%
9 Scott James 7 7 100.00%
9 Gawie du Plessis 7 7 100.00%
9 Jethro de Decker 6 6 100.00%
9 Zane de Decker 6 6 100.00%
Quenton Oates 6 6 100.00% W/D
Haydn August 4 4 100.00% W/D
9 Gerda Gruner 3 3 100.00%
9 Allen Sharp 3 3 100.00%
9 Travis Saunders 3 3 100.00%
9 Mark Mitchell 3 3 100.00%
9 Estelle Labuschagne 3 3 100.00%
9 Errol Derrick 3 3 100.00%
9 Ingrid Avidnon 2 2 100.00%
9 Anthony Avidnon 2 2 100.00%
9 Nicole du Toit 2 2 100.00%
9 Jannie Gerber 2 2 100.00%
9 Justin Bouwer 1 1 100.00%
10 Blackie Swart 5 6 83.33%
11 Tim James 4 5 80.00%
12 Bec Caskie 4 5 80.00%
13 Paddy Veenstra 4 6 66.67%
Audrey Gerber 3 4 75.00% W/D
Francois Reynecke 1.5 2 75.00% W/D
Marius Gerber 0.5 1 50.00% W/D

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