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15 Years of Freedom

“It’s been a little over 15 years since I first rolled onto the Freedom Trail from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. The clock tower worked back then and as it struck the hour the muted peal of the bell had us rolling nervously down the road.

There were 16 riders in 2007, a single start batch. All of us RASA rookies. Included in that were 2 other riders who are also doing Summer RASA 2022, Tim James and Andy Wonnacott. 14 went on to finish that year. After making our way through Bizley there was the daunting task of the climb up the steep Bizley gravel road to the tar road - we didn’t go through the sugar cane fields back then. I remember getting off my bike 15 kilometres into the race to push my bike up the first of many hills. Pausing occasionally to catch my breath it was obvious to me that I had bitten off more than I could chew and there was no doubt in my mind that I was the weakest rider of the race.

Over the next few weeks I clung onto other riders drawing comfort from their presence. If I lost sight of the rider ahead I would frantically increase my pace choking back anxiety until I was able to see which way they were riding.

In the years since I have ridden over 2 dozen Freedom Events. The anxiety has given way to warm familiarity. Place names that are unfamiliar to rookies trigger a cascade of memories. Some fond others less so. Sometimes the same place invokes a warm glow as well as spine tinkling chills. Time of year and weather conditions the deciding factors of joy or dread.

This time around I’m looking forward to reliving memories and forging new ones. The weather forecast suggests that we will have our fair share of challenges in the week ahead. I have no fixed goals and no schedule to stick to. I’m simply going to ride my bike and let the trail dictate my progress.”

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