The two remaining riders in RASA2015 are both staying at Trouthaven tonight. Reunited after a few days apart on the trail, Mike Devereux and Nic van Zyl will take on Stetynskloof together in the morning. Mike rode through from Good Hope today while Nic came all the way from Montagu. Due to their late start dates, they are in no danger of missing any cut offs but they still have to complete the last stage to earn their blankets.
The weather still looks good for tomorrow and they should enjoy a bright sunny day in the kloof - we look forward to welcoming them across the finish line at Diemersfontein.
With only two riders left on course, today’s report is short and sweet.
Nic van Zyl will spend the night in Montagu, after riding through from Anysberg today. He’s charging phones and trackers, doing laundry and resting up for a big push to Trouthaven tomorrow. After that its just Stettynskloof and a short ride between him and the finish at Diemersfontein.
Mike Devereux will stay at Good Hope tonight, he rode through from Montagu and took a few wrong turns on the way in to GoodHope which meant he then left there a bit late for the remaining portages on the way to Trouthaven - so he opted to return to Good Hope and stay there tonight. Having started in a much later start batch, he is under no pressure to make the cut off, so can afford to cruise into the finish. He will ride through to Trouthaven tomorrow and if Nic manages to come through all the way from Montagu, then they can head up Stettynskloof together on Monday.
Mike Roy spent last night in Stettynskloof and only emerged after midday today. He called in from the bottom of Du Toits Kloof pass announcing his withdrawal. His night out had taken its toll and he was also struggling with bike issues. On top of that he did not have any narratives or maps for the last section into Diemersfontein, so a vehicle was despatched to collect him.
Diemersfontein will play host to the finishers’ dinner tonight, with riders already arriving - time for them to catch up on all the stories from this year’s race and to meet their fellow riders face to face.
Today was another glorious day in the Cape, the sun shone brightly and there was only a gentle breeze - perfect conditions for a hike in the mountains.
Mike Glover and John Exley made the most of the great weather and hiked up Stettynskloof today to complete their Freedom Challenge journey. Although the last day is tough and uncompromising, they went about things in their steady and persistent way, much like the rest of their ride. Having ridden together from the start, it was fitting for them to cross the line together and they can be proud of their achievement. Their finishing time was 19days 11hours 55min.
Stettynskloof had another visitor today, Mike Roy - he started out with John and Mike but was soon on his own. Riding unofficially after missing his 26 day cut off, Mike is expected at Diemersfontein later tonight.
Staying in Montagu tonight is Mike Devereux, he rode through from Rouxpos today which was a good double stage for him. Riding solo for the last two days, he seems to have sufficient momentum going now and is accelerating toward the finish. Another double tomorrow would mean a finish on Sunday.
Nic van Zyl made good progress today, riding from Gamkaskloof via Rouxpos to Anysberg - his first double stage. It seems his bike troubles are over for now and he too seems to be going well. He may be able to catch up with Mike Devereux and come up Stettynskloof with him but to do that he will have to keep the pace up tomorrow and get all the way to Trouthaven.
More riders across the finish line today and the rest keep closing in on Diemersfontein.
The first riders out of Stettynskloof today were Marnitz Nienaber and Ivor Jones who arrived just after 2pm this afternoon. They opted to try a different exit out of Stettynskloof, by going out early on the left hand side. This seemed to have saved them from the worst of the bushwhacking and they made good time through the kloof. With 5 blankets to his name, Marnitz has the route saved in his head and Ivor was amazed that they never had to use maps at any stage of the journey. Today Marnitz received blanket number 6 and for Ivor it was his first - their finishing time was 16days 8hours 5min.
The next three riders came over the line together a while later - Andrew Blackburn, Nic Jordan and Mike Potgieter had ridden together since the start and had a good solid ride. Andrew had to put up with a failing freewheel hub, which meant a long walk from Tinana to Rhodes and later on a serious case of shin splints but he showed real determination and pressed on regardless. They all received their coveted blankets to the applause and cheers of their friends and families. Their finishing time was 19days 10hours 45min.
Of the remaining riders for this year, we have four still in the race and two more who are not.
John Bowen has been riding with Mike Roy since Tinana and the two have been under pressure to chase cut offs from an early stage - after missing their Willowmore cut off they were allowed to continue to the finish but have not managed to keep up with the required pace. In a last ditch attempt, the pair left Good Hope just after midnight this morning on their way to Trouthaven and then the finish. By mid morning they had not reached Trouthaven and it was becoming clear that there was very little chance of getting through Stettynskloof in the dark and still finishing before 6am tomorrow morning, the 26 day cut off. On realising this, John decided to withdraw at Trouthaven. At peace with his decision, he said he had learnt a lot about himself on this journey and pushed himself further than he thought possible. Mike Roy ended up in a similar situation, realising that the clock was against him. He opted to carry on to Trouthaven and spend the night there - he will go up Stettynskloof tomorrow and finish the route to Diemersfontein.
Also at Trouthaven tonight are Mike Glover and John Exley, they rode through from Montagu today. They have been steady and consistent the whole way and now its just Stettynskloof between them and their blankets.
Jumping back to Rouxpos, where Mike Devereux is expected later tonight, after a big double from Prince Albert. He will be happy to have an easier day tomorrow and is now closing in on the finish.
Sweeping behind tonight is Nic van Zyl, who left Prince Albert after serving his time penalty (for a new bike) and arrived at Gamkaskloof for supper. Tomorrow he takes on the Ladder and then its Rouxpos and beyond, he can surely smell the finish now too.
Johann Rissik finished yesterday and earned his blanket and his permanent number board – rider no. 27. There was some speculation when the new website was put up as to who rider no 27 was, as the name had been left blank, that is now no longer the case, as Johann achieved a dream of his and the records can now be completed. Johann has been involved in the race from the beginning and was the instigator of the Stone Saddle Award, a trophy he himself made, but to date his involvement has been as a supporter.
So why then a note on Johann specifically? it is because he typifies spirit of the Freedom Rider, he has selflessly supported, promoted and has done as much as he can to encourage the development of the Freedom Trail, especially in his district of Prince Albert. Last year when Johann was facing some challenges and working outside of Prince Albert, he confided in me that he was struggling not to be in Prince Albert as the entire race passed through, as it had become a highlight for him each year. Yet he still made a point of seeing some special friends along the route, it is then no coincidence that the picture of him with a smile of a million dollars tweeted last night saw him sitting next to Steve Thomas – a Freedom Challenge stalwart and one of the people Johann literally went out of his way to see on the trail last year.
Johann’s ride this year has been steady and deliberate, I am sure there were huge nerves at the start, after all, many rookies don’t make the ride in their first attempt and he had the added pressure of so many people supporting him. So one got a sense of relief when he found a good steady group who he joined and who had a similar approach to his. Making it through Rhodes must have been as much a relief as it was an initial achievement. Then riding on through the farmers of the Stormberg, many of whom he would have heard of and who would have heard of him – these meetings would have been priceless to watch. His journey through the Baviaans and on to Prince Albert and Dennehof would have made Johann one of the few people who could have said they passed by their home – but there was no stopping him now – through Gamkaskllof, up the Ladder and on to stay with his good friends, the hosts at Rouxpos.
The final stretch to Diemersfontein saw Johann and the Wally’s slow down to tourist pace, it was clear now that they would finish and their prolonged ‘kuiering’ at various support stations spoke of a group savouring the whole experience. Stettynskloof as the monument with its right of passage to Diemersfontein was both highlight and the end of the journey for Johann - the photos of him seated enjoying his pizza showed a man with a million dollar smile and at peace with his place in the record books, but more than that, the fulfilment of the experience it is to ride the Freedom Trail.
It was significant that David Waddilove was given the honour of handing Johann his blanket – it was a fitting tribute to two men who have done much to define this story.
Well done and welcome rider no 27.
By Charl van der Spuy (Blanket Wearer, rider no.185)
Our sweepers are in Prince Albert tonight, Mike Devereux and Nic van Zyl came through from Willowmore, Nic arriving later due to his persistent mechanicals - he is considering swopping out his bike for a new one tomorrow and sitting out the 6h time penalty in Prince Albert - he should still be able to move on to Gamkaskloof in the afternoon.
Jump forward to Montagu for the next riders - John Exley and Mike Glover are there tonight and hoping to go through to Trouthaven tomorrow, which means a Friday finish for them. Good Hope plays host to John Bowen and Mike Roy tonight - but how long will they stay? If they stay the night and only leave in them morning, they make it very difficult for themselves to get to Diemersfontein before the 26 day cut off, which happens at 6am on Friday morning in their case...
Trouthaven is full again tonight, with Marnitz Nienaber, Ivor Jones, Andrew Blackburn, Nic Jordan and Mike Potgieter there tonight, all resting up for the stroll up Stettynskloof in the morning. A large crowd gathered at Diemersfontein today to welcome in the riders, most of them being family and friends. First in today was Maarten Witters, who rode a fat bike and finished in 22d 10h35min after a bit of racing and a bit of touring. He rode with various groups and also on his own, so got to enjoy the full RASA experience.
Next up were Mike and Ingrid Talbot, who came in late afternoon. They’ve had a very consistent ride, had time to enjoy the places they were staying but also put in some big days along the way, all the while maintaining that they were on a honeymoon - their finishing time: 19d 11h 30min
Most of the crowds were gathered to see the Wallys and DWK across the line. Ian Verwayen, Alan Haupt and Paul Dalton (the 3 Wallys) and Johann Rissik (Dik Wiel Kommandant) rolled across the line after dark to massive cheers after a great ride by all of them. Tired and a bit tender after the exertions of Stettynskloof, they were given their blankets by none other than David Waddilove (the original Freedom Challenger) - he was especially glad to give Johann his blanket after all the years of supporting the event from Prince Albert. They all finished with a time of: 24d 13h 25min.