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Tuesday 19 October 18:00 Day 5 RASA/RTR

Day 5 of Summer RASA and RTR has been relatively uneventful except for the sad withdrawal of Enslin Uys, he flared up a wrist injury and has withdrawn at Allendale.

Andrew, Sean and Sarah, from Saturdays start got over Lahana’s summiting via “The Tiger Line” and finished a superb RTR at 14h00 today...congrats guys and girl, a 4 day 8 hr finish. Andrew, as the only RASA rider of the group, will no doubt miss his riding partners, but hopefully he’s up to scratch with his nav now, and has had a few “tutorials" from Sean and Sarah over the last 4 and a bit days.

His next hurdle will be getting to Chesneywold. This is the next intermediate support station 72km down the trail, and has developed the unenviable reputation as the being “The Hospital”. Why you may ask? It has had the highest “drop out” rate of any other support station in several RASA editions. Riders leave Rhodes (often in -10deg temps, chilled to the bone in a winter RASA), they’ve just completed a tough 480km ride with their “compatriots” who’ve finished RTR. Everyone’s on a bit of a high from the festivities the night before ......then on the ride out to Minky’s the reality of what’s ahead sets in....another 1700km and 2 to 3 weeks of riding can seem daunting to say the least....Andrew, don’t waver, take it a day at a time, bask in the solitude of the trail as the leading rider for the next 5-6 days, it’s a special experience.

Stefan, Janine and Guy have no doubt had a great day of riding. The remote Blackfountain ridge has the most magnificent single track sculpted by cattle, sheep and goats that interlink seamlessly with the odd bermed wattle drag path........views forever. They have pulled up at Mrs. Kibi’s in Tinana for the evening, worried about the mystical Vuvu Valley? Or just plain shattered? Hopefully some TLC from Mrs. Kibi and her daughters will set them straight! They still have room to manoeuvre and get to Rhodes on Saturday before the 8 day cut on Sunday at 6am.

Marelise and Nicole got to Malekgolonyane by 14h00 and will have enjoyed the sorter day which allows time for R&R and some bike admin. Barring a catastrophe they’ll be in at Rhodes on Saturday as well!

Mondays starters, Gavin(RTR), Ian, Mark, Jacqueline, Craig, Gary and Dave cruised through to Masakala and I suspect are packing into the “Vet koek” as I write this. They Made the day look easy...

Andy and Sean shook off the cobwebs and did some decent riding today without any nav errors and got to Ntsikeni at 15h30 and after an hour turnaround , got their race back on track by moving on to Two Springs (a day-and-a-half day). The DW’s will be watching for squiggles around Pleasantview this evening (the revised route introduced in June this year).

Richard, Lucy and Kathleen had a clean run through to Ntsikeni...solid ride and nav.

Mike and Janine got to Allandale just before 15h00. This is slower than I’d expect if they were racing, Janine’s not acclimatised to the heat and humidity yet (out from the UK), so was cramping from 1⁄2 way up Hella Hella. So they may only ride to Centocow today. They should be there by about 20h00 at this rate, and are therefore unlikely to push through to

Ntsikeni (that would mean a late arrival at 1 or 2am). Having said that this would be the 1st time Mike hasn't blown through to Two Springs/ Glen Edward before resting for 3 or 4 years I’d imagine, so I may be wrong.

Let's have a look at the last batch leaving tomorrow.

The RTR racers have a solid collection of “elite” racers with serious pedigrees. I understand that the Hayman’s aren’t racing, but may be wrong. I assume Alex, Jacques and Arno will be. All have all done low sub-3’s to Rhodes in the past, even while riding RASA rather than the shorter RTR version. I believe that although Jacques has “hung up” his racing helmet, he and Arno have recently scouted the route, leading me to believe the race is on. What are they aiming for? I’m assuming to at least better their past times, Alex (2d2hr47min), Jacques (2d7hr51min) and Arno (2d9hr55min). Alex may be hunting that elusive RTR record of 2d1hr47min held by Martin Dreyer, and perhaps even a sub-2. So I’d assume Alex plans to not stop, or only have a few enforced power naps. Arno and Jacques are probably riding together and I think will probably aim for Two Springs if things work out, and if they get in in the early hours have a short sleep before pushing on to Tinana or Vuvu for another break. So these 3 will start fast!

There aren't as many “elite” racers in the RASA batch, but I’ll make a few predictions. Janine and Mike are a day ahead of this batch, so can be carefully watched and race strategy adjusted accordingly. I expect the James’s, Payne’s and Talbot’s to all push through to Centecow and no further. This is Tim’s usual strategy, and if no-one else pushes past this millwork well for them. He tends to start a bit slower than the other racers and then put in massive days later down the trail. I’d still expect him and Murray to leave Centecow at 1 or 2am before the others, so he can then push through to Masekala the next evening, and then repeat an early exit. He has a major advantage when it comes to trail knowledge. I believe Murray is a good rider so that may be their plan, but I may be wrong and this could just be a “Dad’s and Lad’s” tour. The Payne’s have the potential to be fast, and I assume would like to better their 15d21hr50min best (impressive), but they’ve had some “brilliant” navigational mishaps over the years, much to the DW’s delight, so are unpredictable. The Talbot’s are the unknown quantity, they have reasonable experience on the trail (2 RASA’s), but without the “racing” pedigree (best was a 17d9hr46min finish) they will be interesting to watch, and may provide some DW entertainment.

I’ve mentioned this before, with each day you shorten the race, the exponentially more difficult things become. The racers are pushing the envelope, riding faster, further and taking more risks. While Summer RASA means longer days, there will be lots of night navigation and they’re sometimes riding in sleep deprived states resulting in questionable judgment calls.....hopefully no-one comes unstuck!

Sleepless nights ahead for us Dot-watchers no doubt!

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