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Race report 2 July 2022

There may well be a double report today, one early edition (this report) and possibly one later today from Freedom Writer (and rider) Leon Erasmus. Leon and I get on just great, even although we hold opposing views on a variety of topics, such as race reports. Leon believes that race reports should actually cover the race (can you believe it?) whereas I have a more ethereal approach, anything but the race. So you can imagine my surprise and delight to read Leon’s latest reports which are without any doubt casting their net wider and delving into new territory. Brilliant. In turn I shall, in this report, try to cover the actual race.

Before we do that though I am sure many of you are wondering how the Buffalo Herders are doing. Thank you for asking, very much appreciated, we are just fine. Although perhaps a little sad as the race draws to an end over the next week. The second to last batch of riders set off in a few minutes from the Eastern gate at Cambria, escorted by Elton and Kathleen. This bunch of nine riders are debating whether to stop at Damsedrif or go all the way to Willowmore (howling gale today, from the North West, exactly the direction they are cycling). John Barrow, Paul Arnott, Michael Patchitt, Chris Mortimer, Francis Bradford, Nienke van Schaik, Andreas Diacon, Gerald Holland and Andrew Setzkorn were great company yesterday afternoon and evening. Most arrived at Kudukaya around 2pm, a glorious warm and windless winter’s day and an ideal chance to recharge batteries for the final push to Wellington.

Gerald (66 years old) distinguished himself by addressing hostess Helene (younger than Gerald) as “Tannie”. Souties really battle with this “Tannie’ and “Oom” thing. We all had a meeting a few years back (all the Souties) and decided it was safer just to all call everyone “Oom” and “Tannie”. We may need to revisit this.

Earlier yesterday we witnessed an epic chase by race leaders Enslin Uys and Bruce Biccard to make the 13:00 bus. Gary Scoular was already waiting at the gate when Enslin and Bruce rocketed into Kudukaya at 12:30, absolutely stuffed. Must say their arrival scared the crap out of Pierre and I, we thought they were still in Mordor. Fortunately, being skilled and experienced Buffalo Herders, we managed to feed them and then give them a lift to the gate, otherwise they wouldn’t have made it in time. Of course we didn’t do that, rules rightly prohibit getting into a car (instant disqualification). They got there on their own steam just in time. I have no idea how far they got since their departure, I suspect they crashed at Damsedrif. What a magnificent effort to get make the 13:00 bus.

There is only one more rider due to arrive at Kudukaya. Peter Roux. Peter has ridden solo most of the race and the final escort will be done by Pierre Singery, who has turned out to be a fine Buffalo Herder indeed. This will close the spiritual home and headquarters of the Buffalo Herders for another year. Actually this isn’t true. There is a summer RASA, we will be back in October.

We need to have a Buffalo Herders sign made for the rider’s cottage at Kudu Kaya. Perhaps also some buffalo horns. In time some ex-Buffalo Herder’s ashes scattered. The alumni of the Freedom Challenge family are always welcome there.

The impact on the overall position is that Enslin and Bruce are virtually 17 hours ahead of Rowan Matthews, who narrowly missed the 13:00 bus a few days back. Barring mishaps it would seem that the race for a win is between the two of them. We will see whether they race each other or choose to cross the line together. Either option is within the spirit of this wonderful event.

This year’s RASA has been the year of mud (remember the Hippopotamus Song) and light batteries. Failed batteries, which has been Extremely annoying and frustrating. Rowan Matthews (possibly to the detriment of his chances of winning the race) has spent much of his time repairing broken batteries. I could swear that he carries a soldering iron with him, plus safety glasses. Graham Bate let us know that if you touch the positive and negative leads of the battery it will explode. Sobering stuff.

Mark Basel will be the first to roll into Diemersfontein today, having ridden solo in front of the field for much of the race. He will end up with a sub 17 day RASA, an outstanding effort in this year’s conditions.

Ingrid, Omphile, Paul and Jeremy are still well on track to finish in three days’ time, late Monday 4 July. No rest for Ingrid and Paul as they then have a day to get ready for the start of the Berg River Canoe Marathon on Wednesday 6 July. Ingrid has some wonderful news to share though. She has desperately been looking an experienced Berg paddler to accompany her on the Berg, to no avail. Who should raise his hand as her savior, none other than Dave Waddilove, the founder of the Freedom Challenge. Dave completed the original Freedom Challenge triathlon back in 2004 (in fact that was the original format of the race). This is fabulous, I really hope that a big contingent of the Freedom family gather at the end of the Berg (Veldrif I think) to welcome them home. We have to admire Ingrid’s courage. Berg is an intimidating race, especially for relatively novice paddlers. The 12x12 is still alive.

The race for line honors amongst the women is evenly poised between Ingrid, Omphile and Dawn Bell. They are likely to start the last day through Stettynskloof virtually neck and neck. Quickest portage through will produce the winner. The extreme winds over the next few days may have an impact on this scenario.

Everyone else on the route is moving satisfactorily towards their blankets. Unfortunately there are no 26 day stragglers (like Roy and Bowen) who are flirting with that cut-off. This is a pity because we all enjoy a heroic attempt to snaffle a blanket, successful or not. Perhaps a Buffalo Herders’ batch for next RASA could fill this void.

I will leave the other riders still out there to be covered by Leon tonight, otherwise he won’t have anything to write about and might have to waffle like me. I don’t want to ruin the friendship.

One thing though, Justin Bark. I escorted him (just him) through the Baviaans two days ago. Aside from being an unflappable and lekker oke he is one helluva rider. I haven’t seen too many riders notch up a five hour gate to gate crossing through the Baviaans reserve (cue Mike Woolnough and others checking their personal records to see how they stack up). Justin, a newcomer to the race, successfully navigated Mordor solo as well. I wonder, a future candidate for a RASA win perhaps?

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