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2021 RASA Race Report #12 | Mike Woolnough

Thursday 8th 21h00

Another day on the trail without too much drama.

Of interest is the difference in speed and distance once the riders are through Mordor and onto Kudukaya.

Let me quickly describe the part of the trail called Mordor for those who are new to this. Mordor is a section through a canyon that is characterised by a long forgotten and mostly overgrown and obscured jeep track that used to provided 4x4 passage through the steep sided abyss. The suggested Freedom route approximates the route that used to exist. It follows and crosses the river no less than 9 times as it wends through the thorn strewn valley. The river crossings consist of thrashing through 2 metre high reeds, often 50 to 100 metres wide. The heart of Mordor from where you cross the river for the first to the last crossing is only 10 kilometres but regularly takes 4 hours or more to traverse. It’s memorable—for all the wrong reasons. However, once you’ve had time to digest your passage through there you feel fully entitled to confer hero status on yourself and it’s fully justified.

Once through Mordor riders can put their heads down and start cranking out considerable kilometres every day. The lack of serious portages that characterise the first 1400 kilometres are mostly a thing of the past. Apart from going in and out of the 2 support stations and one interim support station the next 322 kilometres from the Cambria boom to Prince Albert goes like this: right, right, left, right, left, right, left,left,left and then left into Dennehof in Prince Albert. Easy right?

Our front runners left Prince Albert this morning and set themselves the target of doing a modest 124 kilometres for the day. Sounds easy until you factor in the climb up the Swartberg pass and then the 1km hike-a-bike up the cliff face of Die Leer. They did well today going up the cliff in only 1 hour. It does seem that they are now a little weary and with 30 kilometres to get to Rouxpos I’m fairly certain they aren’t holding hands and singing merry ditties.

Looking through the field I was impressed to see how Kemsley Wood made his way from Hadley to Prince Albert. That’s 376km’s. His times showing in and out times look super impressive:

In Support Station Out

14h15 Hadley 02h45

10h20 Kudukaya 12h30

19h32 Damsedrif 21h15

02h35 Willowmore 05h00

10h41 Rondawel 12h40

17h55 Prince Albert

Sarah and her entourage, after being escorted through the Baviaanskloof Reserve threw anchor at Damsedrif just before 2pm. It’s a good place to spend an afternoon. Unfortunately the wind will turn overnight and make the going out of there a lot tougher. They better eat their full of Hestelle’s well known Death By Chocolate dessert. They’ll need it.

Brutal, tough and unremitting headwind. Soft sucking sand, and violent awful corrugations sums up the day of the hitherto chirpy Sandy Inglis describing his ride from Willowmore to Prince Albert. Sarah et al., you have been warned.

I’m fully expecting Sandy and Kemsley to charge ahead of Rogers Merry Men and be the first to open a path through Stettynkloof.

I tried calling a few folk to get some horses mouth news but many were still travelling and others out of signal. However I did managed to speak to Carlo Gonzaga - aka Gonzo. Gonzo’s platoon marched from Groenfontein through Fietskraal and on to Pearston. While talking to him I could hear he was tired. At one point I had a better idea of how his day had gone than he did. They got off to a good start but once they started heading up the spectacular Schurfteberg they started getting buffeted by wind. The Schurfteberg jeep track is truly magnificent even though many have suggested it looks a lot better out the window of a four wheel drive vehicle. Once over the top the descent, although short, rivals the track off Aasvoelberg.

They had a tailwind for a short while but once they turned west to head toward the Struishoek portage it wasn’t fun any more. The worst part of that jeep track are the water bars. Water bars are the bumps you find on dirt roads that resemble giant speed bumps but they are not to calm traffic. Rather they are there to direct the water away from the road. Without them the road would simply be washed away. There’s something about these farm sorts. The water bars always seem excessively over engineered. Maybe it’s just the city lad in me (and Ollie, Casper, Greg, Gonza and Merak) that would prefer them to be nice to ride over. The ones before Struishoek are the worst of the entire trail and make the water bars going up the Stormberg climb look like ineffective speed bumps.

Gonzo shared a story that is too precious to not share. After heading to bed last night he woke up needing to pee, as one does. Attempting to open the room door to head off to the bathroom it became apparent that the door mechanism was faulty and exiting the room quietly wasn’t possible. Out off concern for his roommates who were fast asleep he decided against barging the door open or smashing a window to relieve himself through the gap in the burglar burglar bars. However, when you gotta go you’ve gotta go. Fortunately he had a zip lock bag on hand…

I managed to chat to Fjord as he was moving through Kleinpoort. He sounded like he had arrived at the Kleinpoort Shebeen mid afternoon and had worked his way through a crate of beer. Even though he sounds tired he’s on top of his game and strategising how he’s going to hold on to his lead.

Three withdrawals today. Richard Erasmus lost his battle against ITBS and Steven Kitto surrendered to his inner demons. Mike Nixon headed out of Slaapkrans this morning but his heeling leg was no match for the rigours of the duel beasts of the Slaapkrans and Bonthoek portages. He’s waved his white flat.

Kevin Meier and Derrick BIngham have eased off a little suggesting they might have problems of one sort or other. I’ll snoop and see if we can get more info tomorrow.

We have a time penalty being served for new sunglasses - not a first.

The weather lashing Cape Town is heading toward our remaining intrepid gladiators. Hopefully they are steeled for the coming onslaught.

Race pics | 8 July 2021 | Llewellyn Lloyd // Reblex Photography

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