Mark Basel is a man in a hurry. He seems to have fired his afterburners and after overnighting in Rondavel, he's sped past the comforts of Prince Albert and is making his way into Die Hel.
No mention of Prince Albert is complete without a nod the the late Johann Rissik who was the Kommandant of the Dikwiel Kommando, the unofficial headman of the town and the bringer of succour (coffee and rusks) to riders in the dark and cold before they could even see the lights of the town.
Much like the fortunes on the trail can change on a whim, so too do the various groupings and alliances. Ingrid Avidon and Omphile Mothaung, Jeremy (joined at the ladies hip) Steere along with Paul (not navigating on my own again) Moxley, Grant Hill-Attenborough and his long suffering supporting actor, Adriaan Giessing did a double for Kudu Khaya all the way to Willowmore. Perhaps they took the death by chocolate dessert with them?
A group like this would have bashed down a few reeds in the Osseberg giving their followers some marginal gains. This next group of 11 departed Hotel Hadley at various insane hours, some hoping to make the 1pm gate into the Baviaanskloof, others hoping to merely make Kudu Khaya gate at any time. Dave Bell, being a headmaster, is very precise and so it showed as he, his wife Dawn and single speeder, Gawie du Plessis picked their way through Mordor and kept a Buffalo Herder happy today.
The others are putting their feet up and having a braai. Not sure what vegetarian Becky Sands will eat but Grant Cowan, the Denny's, the Rutherfords, and soon to arrive, Paynes will all be assured of a feast.
Back in the distant past, there was a family of Matthews who paddled endless laps at Emmarentia Dam in Johannesburg. It was pretty mindless stuff, clocking up distances on a 1km circuit. But I'd like to believe that all that toil has contributed to Rowan Matthews knocking off big kilometers as he charges to the finish. After a few mega days in the saddle, he'll be content to have a solid night's sleep at Kudu Khaya, cruise the Baviaans with fellow cyclists and Herder, and then I suspect it will be full gas to the finish.
Hotel Hadley won't have a breather just yet as Janine (happy) Oosthuizen, along with Nicky Oats, Brad van der Westhuizen and Justin Bark will be knocking on the door. Jason Wesson will probably do another night stint past Bucklands to get there too.
Also on their way to Bucklands are Nienke van Schaik and Andreas Diacon. These two have kept a low profile, easing their way down the trail and flying under the dot watchers radar. Behind them is Gary Scoular who is no stranger to long rides so might also pause at Bucklands then carry on.
With a bit of scrolling, the next batch is to found at Toekomst. Chris Mortimer and Francis Bradford got in first. Rolling down the route to join them are a couple more paddlers turned cyclists, John Barrow and Mike Patchitt. They've teamed up with Paul Arnott, Andrew Setzkorn and Gerald Holland. Should be quite the Gentlemen's Club.
What do Bruce Biccard and Enslin Uys decide to do? They are currently approaching Fietskraal but dare not stop. That means Struishoek in the dark and risk of twisted ankles. But if they are to keep their racing ambitions alive, this is what they'll have to do.
Chapeau to Peter Roux. He is the sweep and after a disastrous mistake before Aasvoelberg and a long detour, he is making up for it in spades. He shot through Hofmeyer and Elandsberg and is on his way to Groenfontein. At time of writing, he already clocked 138km with some to go.
Race to Paarl has also started and is running concurrently with RASA.
As a relatively new addition to the stable of Freedom Challenge races, RTP starts with bang of about 160km from Willowmore to Prince Albert with a lunch stop at Rondawel and doesn't let up until the riders drag themselves through Stettyns and out the other side.
The first batch don't seem in any hurry. It was a casual departure yesterday from Willowmore - somewhere between 6 and 6.15am and they stayed together as a group until Dennehof, another legendary hospitality stop. Much to the bemusement of the dot watchers, there was no activity until after 8am this morning when they finally left Prince Albert and headed for the hills. We hope that many photos and videos are the result of this laid back day into Die Hel.
Batch Two however, is a bit more competitive. Charl van der Spuy a two time blanket winner, raced into Prince Albert and is already on his way up the Swartberg Pass. Bruce McKinlay, the Staffords, Justin Dowdle and Ray Sephton seem to be settled for the evening.
There are some long days ahead for all these riders. They benefit from fresher legs but the RASA riders on their tail have the benefit of being battle hardened warriors by now.