I didn’t sleep at all, not 1 min – the mind went into overdrive and I couldn’t switch it off. During the
night it started raining. Everything happened very lethargic. I got to the Town Hall seconds before
the clock sounded 6am, but was in time for the starting group photo.
The rain was coming down properly when we started off. To my surprize, everybody was stuck on
my tyre riding out of town. I suppose everybody was hiding behind me (being the biggest guy in the
group) from the wind and rain. As we got into Bisley, Martin Dreyer, patted me on the back, said
thanks, wished me luck and went off like a bullet. Two days later, when my race was starting to get
interesting, he finished the Race-to-Rhodes in a new record time. He is an amazing endurance
athlete and a very, very humble person.
I also said my goodbyes to Tony and Caren – their race strategy was to follow the normal race
strategy of riding to only 1 support station per day for the first 8 days. Mine was to get to Rhodes in
4 days (theirs 6 days)
We were all battling a cold headwind up to Minerva. I used the big blade only twice in this 50km
section. The 1st climb of the Freedom is the 8km long up to Minerva, but due to the headwind we
faced for 40km, it didn’t feel like a climb at all. It was taxing on my already tired body.
|Top of Minerva|
There was a new soup stop at The Oaks in Burn this year. It was such a relief to be out of the wind and have warm soup. Fueling the engine is crucial in the Freedom, because you spend anything from 14 hours to 24 hours per day on the bike. So when the opportunity arrives to take in food, you force it down and then have some more. Always take extra with.
I’ve ridden the portion to Rhodes 3 times before, and don’t really use the maps or narratives. The navigation to get to Allandale is pretty straight forward, I therefore took time to enjoy the scenery. The Umkumaas was running its normal height, so I took the short cut thru the river. It was a pleasant ride in the Umku valley, lots of single track and warm. The Hella-Hella climb is a proper beast of about 7km. I pride myself that I rode all the way to the hairpin bend – the jury is still out on if any rider has ridden to the top. Being such a long race, riders don’t want to over extend early on.
|Start of the decent into the Umko Valley|
|Hela Hela Climb with Umko in the back ground|
I got to Allandale around 3:30pm and immediately got organised to push thru to Centocow. I had a pleasant conversation with Dana (farm owner) and Ian’s sister, lots of friendly banter and laughs. Gary (a fellow rider) was already there, and when he walked in he looked completely broken. He asked me some route advice to get to Donnybrook and Ntsikeni.
I decided to stay, have a beer, watch some rugby and have a leisurely dinner. When Caren and Tony arrived a couple of hours later they were totally surprized to see me – a surprize to be repeated for a few more days.