With all the riders now home, these are the official finishing times for the field this year.
Tim James: 2d18h22min (66h22min)
Mike Potgieter: 2d20h (68h)
Leon Kruger: 3d3h32min
David Kruger: 3d3h32min
Carl Scholtz: 3d4h18min
Ingrid Avidon: 3d5h51min (77h51min)
Doug Kennaugh: 4d6h5min
Dawn Bell: 4d7h20min
Colleen Cawood: 4d7h20min
Trevor Maarschalk: 4d13h25min
Ray Sephton: 5d3h50min
Dave vd Westhuizen: 5d3h50min
Jacques Tattersall: 5d4h46min
Leon Erasmus: 5d4h46min
Gavin Robinson: 5d4h46min
Jonathan Williams: 5d5h35min
Rob Hill: 5d5h35min
Sean Paul: 5d5h35min
Jack Barrett: 5d5h35min
Simon Harper: 5d5h35min
Chris Harburn: 5d5h51min
John Foord: 5d5h51min
Russell Hanger: 5d5h51min
The final day of this year’s Race to Willowmore dawned cloudy and cool, a bit of welcome relief for the last two riders still out on course. They got going really early, leaving Dam se Drif at 3am and by sunrise, were making their way up the Nuwekloof Pass, the final hurdle on the way to Willowmore. For Ray Sephton and Dave vd Westhuizen, who started in Batch 3, the adventure drew to a fitting close when they finally arrived in Willowmore at 08h50 and were welcomed across the finish line.
And with that, the curtain falls on the inaugural Race to Willowmore. A big thank you to all the riders for taking on the challenge and an equally big thank you to all the support stations hosts for taking such good care all all the riders.
Batch 2 left a busy Dam se Drif this morning for the last stage to Willowmore. Johnathan Williams, Rob Hill, Simon Harper, Sean Paul and Jack Barrett (Capetonians) and Chris Harburn, John Foord and Russell Hanger (KZN boys) had a comfortable ride in slightly cooler conditions the morning. First to arrive were the Capetonians who then waited on the finish line to welcome in their new mates from KZN. The mood was cheerful and the sense of achievement high, for most of these guys it was their first time down this section of the trail and they all thoroughly enjoyed it.
From Batch 3 - Doug Kennaugh, Dawn Bell and Colleen Cawood also left Dam se Drif early this morning. Although it took them longer than expected, they all arrived before lunch, with Doug finishing slightly ahead of the girls. As experienced FC riders, they have had a solid ride and apart from the intense heat two days ago, enjoyed every minute of it.
The first of the Batch 4 riders to arrive at the finish were Tim James and Mike Potgieter. Tim arrived at 00h22 (66h22min total) and Mike a short while later at 02h00 (68h total), claiming first and second place respectively in this years Race to Willowmore. The rest of their start batch arrived during the course of the morning, some having left Dam se Drif as early as 03h30. Leon Kruger and his son Dave Kruger were the first arrivals followed by Carl Scholtz and later Ingrid Avidon - who posted the quickest finishing time for the ladies this year (3d5h51min). Great riding by all of them and smiles aplenty on the finish line.
The two remaining riders still out on course started in Batch 3 - Ray Sephton and Dave vd Westhuizen - they left from Cambria this morning and reached Dam se Drif for lunch, where they stopped for the day. They are expected to leave very early tomorrow aiming to arrive in Willowmore by mid morning.
Today saw the arrival of Batch 1 in WIllowmore - Gavin Robinson, Jacques Tattersall and Leon Erasmus left Dam se Drif early this morning and instead of yesterday’s intense heat, today they encountered some light rain on the way out of the kloof. It was a comfortable ride though and they even took time out to stop for milkshakes in town before crossing the finish line. They had a solid ride together and took plenty of time out along the way to enjoy the hospitality of the hosts and appreciate the beauty of the trail. Their official finishing time is 5d4h46min.
Batch 2 had their turn through the Baviaanskloof today as the Capetonians Johnathan Williams, Rob Hill, Simon Harper, Sean Paul and Jack Barrett joined the KZN boys Trevor Maarschalk, Chris Harburn, John Foord and Russell Hanger on the trek westwards. With slightly cooler temperatures in the kloof today, progress was good and the large group arrived comfortably at Dam se Drif for lunch. They will leave early tomorrow morning for the last stage to Willowmore. Trevor however decided to keep going and he arrived in Willowmore for in time for supper, his finishing time was 4d13h25min.
Batch 3 - Doug Kennaugh, Dawn Bell, Colleen Cawood, Ray Sephton and Dave vd Westhuizen all left Hadley just after 3am this morning aiming to get to Cambria with sufficient time to still get through the 2pm Baviaanskloof gate. The notoriously difficult Grootrivierpoort section was no give away but they made steady progress and got to Cambria before lunch. There the group split, as Ray and Dave decided to stop - Ray was having tyre issues that needed to sort them out. The rest got through the gate in time and pushed on to Dam se Drif, where they arrived just after 9pm. A long day out but now only one stage remains.
After initially splitting up on day one, the riders of Batch 4: Tim James, Mike Potgieter, Carl Scholtz, Leon Kruger, Dave Kruger and Ingrid Avidon had all regrouped by the time they got to Hadley yesterday. For Mike and Tim it was just a pitstop for supper before heading off into the night. Their’s turned into a long night though, with the slow march through the Gorrtrivierpoort in the dark - reaching Cambria just before 5am, there wasn’t much recovery time before having to leave with the group on the 6am vehicle escort, so when they did arrive at Dam se Drif later in the day, they opted for an afternoon nap. Waking up in time for supper, they then left Dam se Drif and are making their way to Willowmore tonight, where they are expected to arrive just after midnight. For Carl, Leon, Dave and Ingrid, the day ended at Dam se Drif and they will be heading to Willowmore in the morning.
The Batch 1 riders up front: Gavin Robinson, Jacques Tattersall and Leon Erasmus left Cambria just after 6am to head through the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area today. Although the navigation is simple along the main dirt road, there are other factors which come into play. Due to the high concentration of Buffalo in the reserve, riders now need to be escorted by a vehicle and there are potentially 2 shuttle slots per day - the first leaving at 6am and the other leaving at 2pm. This is to ensure that riders are not in the reserve after dark (when the animals are most active). A sighting of a large bull near Geelhoutbos was a highlight, fortunately the animal was more interested in finding shade from the intense heat and showed little interest in the riders. With temperatures reaching the high thirties in the kloof today, the pool at Dam se Drif provided welcome relief and curtailed any possible plans for pushing on to Willowmore.
Batch 2 was reunited today, despite having started from different support stations this morning: the KZN boys, Trevor Maarschalk, Russell Hanger, Chris Harburn and John Foord left Hadley early and got through the tricky and today very steamy Grootrivierpoort without mishap. Reporting temperatures of 45degC down in the valley, they were happy to wallow in the river crossings along the way. Tonight they sleep at Cambria and tomorrow it’s their turn to brave the Buffalos. The rest of Batch 2, the Capetonians, Jonathan Williams, Simon Harper, Rob Hill, Sean Paul, Craig Copeland and Jack Barrett left from Bucklands this morning and were ticking along nicely until the big road climb out of the Grootrivier crossing soon after Hadley - Craig was struggling and eventually had to stop due to heat exhaustion. They found shelter at the farm Antoniesberg and waited for an hour to give him a chance to recover but he made the call to stop instead. The rest scuttled off to take on the Osseberg and Grootrivierpoort and made good time, arriving in Cambria just before sunset. (for first timers along this section of the route, fear is a great motivator). Craig was later retrieved by vehicle and was reunited with his mates at Cambria. If he feels up to it in the morning, he might still continue unofficially with the group.
Batch 3 - Doug Kennaugh, Dawn Bell, Colleen Cawood, Ray Sephton and Dave vd Westhuizen had another comfortable day today, leaving from Kleinpoort, with a stop at Bucklands before finishing for the day at Hadley. They also rode through intense heat today and are planning to leave from Hadley in the wee hours to avoid a repeat tomorrow. This could see them making it to Cambria in time for the 2pm vehicle escort but whether they will continue to Dam se Drif tomorrow still remains to be seen.
Batch 4 had an interesting first day and all made it Keodoeskop last night. Tim James, Mike Potgieter, Carl Scholtz, Leon Kruger, Dave Kruger and Ingrid Avidon arrived at various times with Leon, Dave and Ingrid opting to stay while Mike and Tim pushed on into the night. After struggling with nausea yesterday, Tim opted for a recovery sleep first, before continuing at 10pm last night. By then he was chasing Mike, who only had a brief supper stop before pressing on. Mike was doing well but a wrong turn in the Gwaas valley cost him precious time. He continued to Bucklands, arriving in time for breakfast and decided to stop and rest. Meanwhile Tim steadily reeled him in and eventually caught him at Bucklands again. Together they rested to avoid the heat of the day before heading on to Hadley. Another pitstop there and then they were off again to take on the Osseberg - they are aiming to get to Cambria in the early hours, take a short nap and then join the 6am vehicle escort through the Baviaanskloof tomorrow. Meanwhile Carl, Leon, Dave and Ingrid rode to Bucklands without too much fuss today, where Carl took a break but the others pressed on to Hadley, going from swimming hole to swimming hole along the way. Carl got going again later and although he was struggling into a strong early evening headwind, he also made it to Hadley where he will sleep tonight.
So tomorrow should see the first arrivals in Willowmore as well as the first of the racers arriving later in the evening. With more hot weather predicted, the plan of action will be to leave early for most of these riders but by this stage the urge to finish is strong, so its just a question of getting it done, one pedal stroke at a time.
With Batch 1 arriving at Cambria today, the field is spread out over a stretch of a few hundred kilometres down the trail. Gavin Robinson, Jacques Tattersall and Leon Erasmus all enjoyed the Hadley hospitality last night and set off early to take on the Grootrivierpoort with its overgrown jeep track and eleven river crossings. Making steady progress throughout the morning, they arrived safely by mid afternoon and are resting up at Cambria tonight. Tomorrow they head west along the Baviaanskloof.
Batch 2 split up yesterday, with the KZN boys, Trevor Maarschalk, Russell Hanger, Chris Harburn and John Foord riding from Kleinpoort to Hadley today. A relatively shorter day for them today, which included brunch at Bucklands, they managed to arrive early enough to relax on the lawns at the Hadley farmhouse this afternoon. The rest of their start batch, the Capetonians, Jonathan Williams, Simon Harper, Rob Hill, Sean Paul, Craig Copeland and Jack Barrett left from Koedoeskop this morning and finished their day at Bucklands by mid afternoon. They seem to have settled into a good rhythm on their ride are are making good daily progress.
Batch 3 have a few experienced riders among their number and their steady rate of progress is proof of this. Doug Kennaugh, Dawn Bell, Colleen Cawood, Ray Sephton and Dave vd Westhuizen left the comforts of Gegun early this morning and rode to Kleinpoort today, arriving in time to head down the road for pies at the padstal. With good navigation and steady riding, things are running like clockwork and they are enjoying themselves immensely out on the trail.
Which brings us to Batch 4 - the racing batch. They all left Cradock in a hurry this morning with plans for a long day out on their bikes. Tim James, Mike Potgieter, Carl Scholtz, Leon Kruger, Dave Kruger and Ingrid Avidon rode together initially but the pack splintered on the way up the first climb. They made quick work of the Struihoek portage and all went through Gegun by mid afternoon. So far Carl Scholtz, Mike Potgieter and Tim James have arrived at Koedoeskop and the others are on their way. Carl has opted to stay for the night, Mike has already pushed on and Tim is heading off soon, after first having a short sleep to ward off some nausea. The fun and games will likely continue through the night as these guys ride deep into the night. For Dave, Leon and Ingrid, the indications are that they are likely to stop at Koedoeskop tonight and continue at first light tomorrow.
Another group of riders departed a chilly Cradock this morning for their Race to Willowmore: Batch 3 are Dawn Bell, Doug Kennaugh, Colleen Cawood, Ray Sephton and Dave vd Westhuizen. It didn’t take long for them to warm up though, the first climb up the Swaershoek Pass was enough to get the blood pumping. Later in the day they would have been wishing for those cooler morning temps again, the descent off the Struishoek portage in tough enough as it is - doing it in the heat of the day is never a good idea and it must have sapped their reserves. Although they had hinted at possibly pushing on past Gegun, they decided against it and will be staying there tonight.
The Batch 2 riders that left yesterday consisted of two groups from Cape Town and KZN: Capetonians Jonathan Williams, Craig Copeland, Rob Hill, Simon Harper, Jack Barrett and Sean Paul and the KZN bunch who were joined by the KZN foursome of Trevor Maarschalk, Russell Hanger, John Foord and Chris Harburn. They all left Gegun this morning and stopped in at Koedoeskop during the course of the morning. The KZN guys made it a quick stop and headed off again with the aim of reaching Kleinpoort. It was a long haul but they did eventually arrive just after sunset. For the Capetonians things were a bit more relaxed and after some careful consideration, they opted to stay at Koedoeskop instead.
Up ahead on the trail are still the three riders from Batch 1: Jacques Tattersall, Leon Erasmus and Gavin Robinson. Gavin left Koedoeskop at 03h30 this morning and was already in Kleinpoort by mid morning, a smart move which would have spared him from going through the dreaded Gwaas Valley in the heat of the day. Jacques and Leon left after sunrise and once again took their time - chats with farmers along the way and photos of the wildlife being the order of the day. They eventually caught up with Gavin soon after Bucklands and the three of them will spend the night at Hadley tonight.
Today saw the departure of Batch 2, the largest of this year’s batches on the Race to Willowmore with ten enthusiastic riders: from Cape Town we have Jonathan Williams, Craig Copeland, Rob Hill, Simon Harper, Jack Barrett and Sean Paul who were joined by the KZN foursome of Trevor Maarschalk, Russell Hanger, John Foord and Chris Harburn. Last night around the dinner table there mutterings about possibly pushing past Gegun but that hasn’t happened - a combination of hot temperatures, steep hills and the distractions of good hospitality and swimming spots along the way meant that they all arrived at Gegun by late afternoon with no intention of going any further for the day. So its a full-house at Gegun tonight and a bit of a bun fight for the best beds.
The front three riders from Batch 1: Jacques Tattersall, Leon Erasmus and Gavin Robinson, had a very leisurely start to the day, only leaving after 9am. They too had intended to put in a long day but the swimming pool at Koedoeskop seems to have been reason enough for them to pull up the hand brake and check in for the night. Ok, so maybe it did get a bit hot and they have all just finished the Race to Cradock but really.. clearly they are racing snakes no more.
Tomorrow sees the departure of the next five riders and it may be up to them to see if they can go beyond Gegun on the first day - we will have to wait and see.
On a more sombre note, the Race Office today received the sad news of the passing of Phillip Henderson of Toekomst in a motor vehicle accident last night. Our sincere condolences go out the his family. As a result, the support station at Toekomst is closed and will be moved to Koedoeskop Nature Reserve instead.
Another beautiful day in Cradock as the three riders of Batch 1: Jacques Tattersall, Leon Erasmus and Gavin Robinson, set off early this morning. It became clear quite early on that these racing snakes had become puff adders as the pace was leisurely and they took every opportunity to stop along the way.
They popped in for coffee and rusks with David and Verity at the bottom of the Struishoek portage and not long after, stopped in at the local pub in Pearston for a quick drink to quench their thirst and avoid the worst heat of the day. They did eventually reach Gegun by late afternoon where they have settled in for the night. Who knows what tomorrow may bring..
Batch 2 is readying themselves for the departure from Cradock in the morning, the excitement is building as they prepare to set off on their adventure.
The Race to Cradock delivered some close racing for the top spots and plenty of adventure for those content with a more leisurely pace. After some initially hot and dry weather, the last few batches ended up braving a few thunderstorms and some mud on their way to the finish. Most of these riders have already made their way back home but for three hardy souls, chapter two of their adventure kicks off tomorrow - the Race to Willlowmore.
Starting with the 18km climb up the Swaershoek Pass, they will have little time to ease their way into it but having had a full day’s rest in Cradock, Jacques Tattersall, Leon Erasmus and Gavin Robinson will leave with relatively fresh legs. The riders head south into game farming country as the route makes its way towards Addo Elephant National Park and the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, before turning west on the final leg to Willowmore.
The four batches leaving Cradock over the next four days will be the pioneers of this inaugural event - they can look forward to more heat and probably more rain but the varied terrain on this section of the trail, as well as the warm hospitality of the hosts should make up for it. We wish them well.