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2021 RASA | RTR | Race Report #6 | Mike Woolnough

Sat 3 July 10:30am

Alex Harris took a tumble on the first night leaving the Ntsikeni reserve and having sustained a rib injury he has exited the race after managing to pile on an additional 140km. As someone who has broken ribs I understand how uncomfortable he must have been. What I don’t understand is how he managed to ride as far as he did in that condition.

Anyway, that throws the race wide open. The racing batch as yet haven’t answered the call. The night time antics of the leading foursome had us glued to our screens late into the night. It’s becoming apparent that they are a little light on night time nav skills. Behind them it appears that Axel and Casper have more appetite for beer and comfortable beds than amusing us through the night.

Over the last few years the race leaders have barrelled through Rhodes around lunchtime on day 3. The race leaders this year will be rolling into Tinana for a lunch of fried chicken at Mrs Kibi’s.

How are the heavyweights able to ride through the night at pace without slipping up? Very few FC riders are master navigators. By master navigator I mean people like adventure race navigators Tweet, Pieter van der Westerhuizen and Tim Dean amongst others. There are many who have an innate sense of direction and can orientate themselves with the sun, moon and star constellations. They even know how to use AND trust their compasses. Believe me, compass distrust is a thing.

The top race snakes rely more on memory than good navigational ability. That said, they generally don’t suffer from a natural sense of misdirection.

I have to wonder what rookie Chris van Zyl is making of all the nighttime antics. He is without question the strongest rider out there but he has zero experience on the trail so has no memories to draw on and his navigational skills are 30 years out of date. That leaves him tagging along with a crew who have yet to dazzle him with their nighttime nav skills.

A last word on RG du Toit who spent 13 hours on the Kapokkraal ridge last night. He got stymied on the last 1km section. There are no paths apart from a sprinkling of sheep tracks that go every which way. He could have used his compass to make his way down the ridge but it’s not without its difficulties. At night obstacles inflate. A small donga looks like a canyon. A little drop off becomes a cliff. He opted to wait it out. As long as you have the right kit a night out is okay. It’ll never trump a feather bed but it’ll do the job of waiting out the night until the sun illuminates the way out.

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