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“The Racing Batch”:

The last batch of RASA riders leave Pietermaritzburg at 6am tomorrow. The “Dot Watchers” (DW’s) be watching the “Racing Batch” intently. There is a fascination with their seemingly “superhuman” abilities that enthrals. Could one of their “sneaks” be incorporated in a future race of ours? Also, we’re all fallible, and could they suffer similar fates as the trail blazers ahead of them on the trail?

The “Dot Watchers” Whatsapp groups have been exceptionally busy in the last few days. I cant remember seeing a RASA where so much “squiggling” has taken place in the 1st section to Rhodes. The last 2 days in particular have been most entertaining. Sadly we’ve seen some unfortunate withdrawals and less serious, but more entertaining, unplanned local home stays and also a couple of “sleep outs”….the trail is cooking!

There’s a new interim support station thats replaced Glen Edward since Sheila’s passing. This detour to “Two Springs” has caught experienced and novice riders out in the last week. This may come in to play with the racing batch as well. New nav, especially night nav, is always interesting…but may require an all nighter to view in realtime!

Remember the racers are pushing the envelope and are in effect more likely to come unstuck. They're riding faster, further and taking more risks. Nocturnal navigation is required, they’re sometimes taking riskier lines and riding in sleep deprived states, making judgment calls that could be questionable.

They are doubtlessly well prepared physically, would have planned their night riding sections with care. They’ve “rehearsed the route” over and over. Their kit choices would be more refined, and lighter, but also more prone to “failure” should things go wrong or “spaghetti spokes” snap for that matter…..Setbacks will occur and plans will be adjusted.

Looking at the “contenders”, we have a nice spread of racers, all fast and some very experienced.

Between the 5 racers we have one without a blanket. Enslin has raced and toured segments of the trail, but has yet to enter a RASA.

Bruce has one after completing the summer RASA in an impressive 13-and-a-bit days which included a “sleep out” in Mordor when Mike “dropped” him.

Between Mike, Alex and Gavin they have a total of at least 12 blankets (may be more) between them, and multiple finishes of the shorter races. So plenty of route knowledge there.

Alex has the 1st sub 10 day finish in the Summer RASA. He’s back to get a 2nd sub 10 no doubt. There is much debate as too wether one can one compare summer and winter records / times. And as a result Summer RASA records stand, but are identified with an asterisk *. I wouldn't want to rehash things in this regard, but am curious if this record will be broken.

Fortunately the forecast looks better for the next week or 2, so weather may be less of a factor.

What can we predict? Well nothing really…too many variables…but I’ll have a go!

Remember this is a race, but the racers in this format may not be racing each other. They're often racing themselves and looking for their best time (FKT).

Bruce and Enslin are good mates and I suspect will stick together as far as possible baring mishaps. Are they looking to better Bruce’s 13 day 17hr’s?

Gavins FKT is 12 days 12 hrs, so likely to be looking for a sub 12 day.

Tom accomplish this they'd have to complete doubles all the way to Trouthaven.

Therefore I expect Bruce, Enslin and Gavin are planning to complete the “Double” to Ntsikeni tomorrow. Will they push through thereafter with some tricky nav out of Ntsikeni, and then in to Two Springs….a failure would have significant implications on there aspirations…so unlikely.

Gavin is more experienced, with better route knowledge, so B&E may stick with him for their night nav (if their pace is similar), at least initially. The question is, will they try to tag on to Mike, by far the most experienced rider on the trail this RASA, making at least initial navigational progress in the PMB to Rhodes section smoother? I suppose it depends on riding pace…

Mike’s FKT is 12 days and 3 hrs, (in the Summer RASA). He got caught out in a delirious state and was waylaid by Siya Kolisi at the Stettyn’s exit on the last night as a result of some nav errors on the new route out of McGregor. I suspect that he’ll therefore be planning on correcting those errors, and is chasing an 11-and-a-bit day finish. Or is he ambitiously looking at 10-and-a-bit day race? Very ambitious as only Alex and Martin have gone sub 11. For either of those, doubles aren't good enough, he’d need a more on a few days.

I suspect to start Mike will ride till he drops. If things go well he will initially survive on power naps alone, and when fatigue sets in, say from Rhodes, he may take longer sleeps (2-4 hour ones). This is how he races. On top of that I’m sure he’d like to “drop” B,E&G early, to get a psychological advantage and also prevent them taking advantage of his route knowledge. So I expect him to get in front of Alex by Two Springs and only sleep at Malekgolonyane, but how long will he hold on to the lead. And will that effort derail a strong finish?…Who knows.

Alex I assume must be chasing the sub 10 without *…… He’s exceptionally disciplined, so probably won’t go out too fast (all relative, because its still lighting speed for us mere mortals). So dont expect to see record time splits early on. He should be the fastest to Two Springs though. He’ll transition through support stations with speed, but get good sleep (yes, 3-4 hrs sleep a night is a lot for these racers, but sometimes all they need for recovery). This may only be early on. He’ll need to focus on getting through to the “Buffalo Herders” for the 13h00 “Bus”, and make sure he’s out of Trouthaven on time to get through the last river crossing at the base of the “Exit” to Stettyn’s before last light, so will adjust sleep strategies, and do all nighters with power naps closer to these “choke” points….cant wait to see how this all plays out!

Let the racing begin!

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