Elite Endurance Athletes for Extreme Event

Pietermaritzburg 10 June 2011

The best of South Africa’s endurance athletes are set to participate in the 2011 Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa that starts on Saturday 11 June 2011.


The Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa has developed a reputation as the ultimate endurance event in Southern Africa.  It is a demanding multi-day expedition mountain bike race.  Starting in pre-determined groups spread over 10 days, riders will leave from in front of the City Hall in Pietermartizburg and ride 2300 kms in a non-stop race across the interior of South Africa to the finish at the Deimersfontein Wine Estate outside Cape Town.

Following a fixed route made up of cattle paths, jeep tracks and dirt roads the riders will cross six mountain ranges, including the Maluti Drakensberg, as well as the open expanses of the Karoo.  Along the way are a number of overnight stops where riders can get meals and sleep, if they want.  It is entirely up to the individual riders to decide when and for how long they wish to sleep.  Taking place during the heart of the South African winter, riders can expect sub-zero temperatures and snow.  “It is the combination of the testing terrain, the cold weather and the non-stop format of the event that make Freedom Challenge so demanding” said Race Organisor, David Waddilove.

Willing to test themselves in this extreme event 100 participants have signed up for the 2011 Freedom Challenge.  Half of them will stop after 500 kms in the Eastern Cape village of Rhodes.  The other half will push on to Cape Town.

Most of the riders taking on the full 2300 kms of the 2011 Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa will simply be looking to finish within the 26 day cut-off.  However, some are bound to be looking to better the current men’s record of 13 days, 15 hours and 50 minutes set in 2009 by Springbok cyclist Tim James.  Included amongst them are Tim James himself, who returns to the event for the 4th time, Alex Harris who was the 2010 winner and the first South African to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents, including Mount Everest, Glenn Harrison who is the holder of the single speed and tandem records, 2010 third place finishers, Veldkornet Marnitz Nienaber and August ‘Boskind’ Carstens, Pietermaritzburg local Andrew Barnes who led much of the 2009 race as well as multiple Dusi Canoe Marathon and World Landrover G4 Champion Martin Dreyer and South African Adventure Racing champion, Graham Bird.

Riders will leave Pietermaritzburg in predetermined groups spread over 10 days.  Riding 18 hours a day for two weeks, it will be the person blessed with the best weather and best able to cope with the mechanical and physical demands of the event who will prevail.  The wet riding conditions resulting from the heavy rains and snowfalls of the last few days may already frustrate those scheduled to start over this weekend.

Also in the field are a number of women, including Bird’s adventure racing partner, Tatum Prins.  No only will Prins be looking to break the women record of 19 days  09 hours and 03 minutes set in 2007 by South African women’s champion, Hannele Steyn-Kotze, but she will also be endeavouring to become the first woman to complete the Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon.

The Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon begins on Saturday 18 June 2011 with the 85km Umgeni River Trail Run from Durban to Pietermritzburg.  The next morning participants must swap their running shoes for mountain bikes and cycle the Freedom Challenge Race Across South Africa.  They must arrive at the Diemersfontein finish within 23 days in order to then compete in the 240 km 4 day Berg River Canoe Marathon. If successful, Prins will join only six others to have completed this remarkable journey in the seven year history of the Freedom Challenge.

“So why do it? Because its there? Everest is there and I have no intention of doing that. Last year’s winner and back-again-this-year Alex Harris has been up Everest amongst other things but that's not for me. For me, a dyed in the wool Ordinary Cyclist, the Race Across South Africa is the hardest physical challenge I have faced. It is an extraordinary race that is within the grasp of the ordinary athlete who has a heart for the challenge” said 2011 Freedom Challenger and 2 time finisher, Mike Woolnough.

The progress of participants in the 2011 Freedom Challenge along the  race trail can be tracked live on the event website www.freedomchallenge.org.za
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