RTW Race Briefing

It’s Tuesday 28 March 2017. Race to Willowmore (RTW) starts tomorrow! On Monday my nerves were a little bit tense, today it’s settled, I now just want to get riding, even considered calling Meryl to ask if I could maybe start a day earlier just to get going. En route to Cradock we got distracted by some Roosterkoek in Steynsburg and then by the famous pies at Karoobos in Hofmeyr, a wonderful stop whether during a race or driving by in a car. Thoroughly enjoyed that and took my mind off the approaching race.

Race briefing is always a special occasion to meet up with old friends, make some new ones and try to gain some tips by looking at how everyone has approached equipment choices. This evening was no different. Our batch, the fourth and final batch of the inaugural RTW contained the “racing snakes”. These are riders who have indicated race strategies faster and further than a par pace. You need not be going for a win to be called a racing snake in this context, nice for the ego though. Our group of 6 had 4 RASA veterans, Tim James 3 time winner, Mike Potgieter, Leon Kruger and Ingrid Avidon, all have earned their racing stripes and it was very helpful hearing their insights. The other 2 of us, Dave Kruger and myself were “short course” specialists preferring the 600km “sprint” events. Funny that.

It was the standard Freedom Challenge race briefing kind of thing. Don’t lose your tracker, leave the gates as you find them, remember to sign in and out of support stations and have fun. I have grown very fond of this race and its people, they are non-assuming, down to earth, humble and yet tough as nails. It’s a very special crowd and it felt like I was home being amongst them.

Chapter3. Welcome Race to Willowmore (RTW)

The Freedom Trail is a 2400km trail from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl and was originally raced under the event named the Freedom Challenge. In subsequent years the trail and the races have grown in popularity and the original 2400km race has become Race Across South Africa (RASA) with the Freedom Challenge now a portfolio of multiple events. In recent years 3 further race events have spawned from RASA each covering around 600km or a quarter of the total trail on their own. These events are raced on the exact same route and under the same rules as the original RASA. Race to Rhodes (RTR) is from Pietermaritzburg to Rhodes. Race to Cradock (RTC) is from Rhodes to Cradock. In March 2017 Race to Willowmore (RTW) will have its inaugural event from Cradock to Willowmore. The relatively shorter 600km distances lend themselves to different race strategies than those employed during the long RASA and are fast becoming must do events. They have so far attracted an expanded following and are fast establishing themselves with their own personality, legends and stories.

On Wednesday 29 March 2017 I will line up at the start line with 5 other riders in Batch 4, all of them stalwarts of the trail but all new challengers for the inaugural RTW. These are riders not afraid of navigating their way around the Karoo expanse using maps and compass and riding extended hours every day so new strategies wil be tested and new benchmarks established. It’s my first excursion on this section of the trail and several previous riders have told me it’s their favourite part of the Freedom Trail. I cannot wait to start.

Welcome to the family Race to Willowmore.