How many races can one race hold?
This October/November we've been treated to three races – Race to Rhodes, RASA and Race to Paarl.
But that's not all that goes on. Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there were some riders squashed in an overcrowded Support Station. Now it happened that the first group of riders to arrive were a little unsettled by the arrival of the second group who had started a day later.
A 'group 1' rider sidled up to a 'group 2' rider to ask if he could ride the next day with them. He was then summoned to a group 1 tribal council to explain his desertion from their ranks.
Unbeknownst to group 1, group 2 embarked on a version of Survivor with the intention to claim immunity at every support station thereafter. They were very successful by being the only ones who knew about it.
Six days of immunity won! And there was even a sprint for the front door at one point.
You don't have to be in front to be racing.
There is also the race against health and immune systems running out of gas. A couple of riders have struggled with stomach issues and for some, they couldn't keep going and for others, they are hanging in, resting where they can and hoping for a turnaround.
The race against injuries – niggles can crop up from day one and must be nursed daily if the rider has any hope of reaching the end. A twisted ankle or strained achilles can put paid to months of preparation and lead to devastating disappointment.
The race against time – at the front or at the back, the clock ticks on while daylight fades. Most riders have a few days in hand in case they need it but cut-offs need to be made, time penalties served, records broken.
Which at last brings me to the fantastic news of Roger Nicholson smashing the Race to Paarl record by some 10 hours. Did I mention he was on a rigid single speed? A quick nap of 45 minutes was all the rest he took proving that some people are simply super human.
A quick look at the rest of Race to Paarl shows a strung out field punctuated by four runners. Coming into Trouthaven tonight is RG du Toit, a tough customer who takes no prisoners. Not even a badly strained hamstring last year kept him from finishing. Stettyns should be afraid.
Arn de Haas, Nicholas Bouckhaert and Chris Harburn are at McGregor and soon to join them is Gerrit van der Merwe, Ken McCrindle and Andrew Pearson. So, they could leave very early and take on Stettyns tomorrow or have an easyish day and an early start in the Kloof on Wednesday.
Bruce Biccard finally left the waffles at Rouxpos and is on his way to Anysberg. Having raced this section really hard this winter, he's enjoying a more gentle ride.
At the time of writing, our runners (Nicky Booyens, Peter Purchase, Andy Wesson and Dean Barclay) have logged over 250km with another 33km to Rouxpos. The mind boggles at their pain tolerance and just plain doggedness.
Loitering in Die Hel are Gill and John Graaf (who, by the way, are amazing Buffalo Herders) along with Kim and Mike Ward and Simon Hall.
Which brings me to the long, very long race – RASA.
Summer breeze it isn't, with a number of riders having to bow out. The warriors left in the field are edging their way ever closer to the THE Kloof and the finish line.
In front, on his own for most of his ride is Andrew Rose who is struggling with the dreaded stomach lurgy. A rest day in Montagu will hopefully have him back on his bike and following the pink line.
Doing the Rouxpos waffle is Mike Woolnough who will most certainly drag himself out of there and keep going for Anysberg even McGregor. He is the virtual leader of the race so will be careful not to take too many risks.
Craig Bosenberg and Mark Preen reunited but then separated from Stefan Coetzee when he opted to stay at Damsedrif. He is now at Rondavel and has time to catch up to them if he gets his timing right.
One of my hero pairings is Jacqui Shaw and Dave Henderson. They have moved along the trail with little fanfare but oh so solid. They sailed through Mordor and the stunning Baviaanskloof awaits. Hoping to join them are the Payne brothers. They are running out of daylight in Mordor but experience and route knowledge should get them through with time enough to sleep and make the 6am gate.
Further back, setting the stage for a Mordor assault are Janine Wencke and Guy Henderson who are at Hadley. There was a time when Hadley was an emergency SS. Now, I think it's status has become Most Important Support Station (MISS). From here, one can get an early start into the valley. With them at Hadley is Ian Henderson who also has the stomach bug and this has slowed his momentum significantly. Hopefully, he will be well enough to accompany Janine and Guy tomorrow. Strength in numbers and all that.
Making their way to Bucklands are Ingrid and Mike Talbot. It's now a big decision to make – stay or go to Hadley. We'll see.
And then there are Tim and Murray James who are on their way to Toekomst. They bring up the rear to what has been a challenging and demanding race for everyone who lined up at the start.
Each rider had their own personal race to ride and demons to conquer. Not only is the race physically demanding, but it requires so much mentally and emotionally.