June in Johannesberg, when the green of summer gives way to the dull brown of winter. Fields of maize once bold stand withered, heads bowed awaiting the harvester. The smoke of veld fires stretches across the horizon. The slow death of summer felt in the chill that rises each time the sun retreats from sight. Electric blankets, underfloor heating, log fires and warm jackets keep the freeze at bay. A few hundred kilometres away in a part of the country that offers no less respite from the claws of cold six dozen riders will gather to ride across the country gripped by winter. It’s a harsh time of year but for those riders winter RASA is the real deal that reaches out and touches their inner adventurer. Not all will prevail. But all will make the journey to the start line in the hope that the ride through the forest from the top of the Du Toitskloof Pass to Diemersfontein will be their reward for the hard yards of training and the daily toil of making their way down the seemingly endless trail we call Freedom.
One more sunrise one less big sleep. I’ll only see 9 more of these before the first of 9 batches of riders embark on their RASA 2022 journey. Leaving the town hall in Pietermaritzburg a range of emotions will ripple through the ranks ranging from excitement to anxiety. Those feelings are present in every start batch no matter experience or racing pedigree. Ambitions are also equally spread among the riders. For some it’s to be the fastest across the finishing line while another may be equally happy to finish in last place simply to feel the weight of a blanket over their shoulders. It’s up to each person to imagine and then execute what works for them. The blankets aren’t numbered and how fast or slow you finish doesn’t matter one iota. The only right way to get a blanket is to make sure you get to Diemersfontein and have a fellow Blanket Clan member place one over your shoulders. I have a few blankets. Each is drenched in indelible memories. 9 more big sleeps!