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The Intersection of Tough and Stupid | By : Mike Woolnough

In a few days I’ll be taking on the Race to Cradock. I’ve done all of the RTC events since inception.

I’ve wiggled down the trail and I’ve raced it hard. I’ve had successes and laughable failures but have always finished. Last year I had the joy of joining a group of first timers down that section.

It’s a wonderful part of the Freedom Trail. If you’re keen to dip your cycling shoes in the waters of the Freedom Challenge then Race to Cradock is to my mind the ideal opener. The navigation is interesting but not so hard that you’re likely to end up sleeping under a bush — said the guy who spent a night sleeping under a bush on this very race. The home stay accommodation along the way gives you a proper taste of hinterland Karoo hospitality and the countryside is varied and spectacular. Although you’ve got 6 days to finish the average person takes 5 days to complete the route. At 600km with 5 official support stations and almost as many intermediate stops it’s arguably the most comfortable section of the trail. I appreciate that comfort is a relative term when it comes to the Freedom Trail—the days will in equal measure be both challenging and satisfying. It’s the ideal event for a bunch of friends to head out and explore. The end of each day will be spent sitting around a farmhouse dining room table reliving the events of the day.

Driving out of Cradock after the race your attention will be drawn to looking over the extensive plains you’ve recently traversed while you relive the experience of the last week.

This week, as a consequence of a number of recent events I’ll be riding a single speed in a race for the first time. My first ride on a SS was 10 days ago. It’s hard. It’s not a fun. I’m not a good technical rider and riding with a rigid fork spikes my I’m-going-to-crash-and-die anxiety. Having pipe cleaners for legs as opposed to cruise liner pistons makes my physique far from ideal. However, Roger was going to do the race on his single speed and he was trying to goad me into racing him on a similarly stripped down machine of torture. I tried it and it wasn’t fun. Then last week Roger took a tumble and injured himself sufficiently that he’ll be off his bike for a while. That being the case I thought I’d put on my big boy panties and do the race on a single speed so that Roger’s ambition to race a single speed to Cradock will be realised albeit vicariously.

I exist in the intersection of tough and stupid so I guess this kind of senseless challenge is perfect for me. Coupling the suffering with a good cause in the form of raising funds for the Freedom Challenge Scholarship Fund should give me the motivation to stay the course once the shallow misplaced excitement has evaporated.

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