Today was the largest start group of 2018 with 11 riders setting forth from PMB, 6 RASA and 5 RTR. Almost all of them have had some experience on the trail but it is easy to forget just how demanding a day on the freedom trail can be, and today would have been a sharp reminder. Clive Leader, Nick Taschner, Phillip Fullaway, Riaan Landman and Trevor Maarschalk started their Race to Rhodes bids. Weather was good and they all made steady progress throughout the day. There was quite a bit of pre-race banter about pushing past Allendale but it seems Trevor is the only one to have followed through on this ambitious plan. He left Allendale at 4pm to take on the (now) infamous Centocow forests in the dark and should arrive at the mission around 10pm if all goes to plan. He will join Wikus, who took a shorter day from Allendale.
Today’s starting RASA contenders include: Lance Rorich, Bruce Koller (AKA Piston Percy), Estelle Labuschagne, Grant Hill and father-and-son-combo; Graham and Matt Denny. Today also saw the first Umko river crossings. Grant, Bruce and Trevor seemed to make easy work of the crossing, albeit with wet feet up the Hella Hella climb. Most of batch 4 trickled into Allendale throughout the late afternoon with Estelle riding into the dark but (with her 3 blankets and ‘hard as nails’ reputation) nobody was too concerned about her doing a bit of night time solo riding.
Leon Kruger set his sights on a big second day with a 1am departure from Allendale. He passed through Centocow at 7h30, Ntsekeni at 14h30 and should reach Glen Edward around 8pm for a great day’s riding. The rest of batch 3 left Allendale at 6am and had a relatively straightforward day to Ntsekeni, all arriving in daylight hours. They caught up to Angela who, after a few more wrong turns today, might enjoy a bit of company tomorrow. The rest of batch two had a smooth day from Ntsekeni to Masakala and are probably enjoying some well-deserved Black Labels right now.
Apparently things started to get a bit windy for the trail-breakers with the cold front rolling in. There were a few reports of endless headwinds en route to Malekgolonyane, which turned a usually easier day into a battle of its own. Roger Nicholson added to his battles by cracking his frame. Luckily it is a steel frame bike and he was able to catch a taxi back to Matatiele to get it welded before returning to the trail to continue on and still make it to Malekgolonyane comfortably. Unfortunately Justin and Andrea are struggling with ITB so plan to do a short day to Tinana tomorrow then hitch a ride to Rhodes.
Another big batch starting tomorrow including some RASA faithfuls and the RTR racing snakes… should make for some fun dot watching.