Route Summary

The table below is for supporters wishing to follow progress.

  • There are 6 legs, par for the course is one day per leg.
  • Intermediate stops provide water and food and shelter if so required.
  • Key Milestones show the significant portages with tricky navigation and hike a bike challenges.
  • Use this table to understand where riders are tracking when you read updates and news from www.freedomchallege.org.za.

Route Table

You know its time when …

Race to Cradock is 10 days away.

I know that how?

  • Race boxes are taking shape and I start looking for the lids.
  • I start searching for Meryl’s e-mail with the Aramex depot address.
  • Final markings on the maps are done and I start folding them into 2L ice cream tub size.
  • I get a picture of my shadow and see a bicycle dressed in full battle armor.
  • I experience the bliss of my annual equipment treat … a new chain and cassette.

The next 10 days will pass in slow motion and then on Thursday the 19th the world comes to a standstill for a few days. It’s time!

Race to Cradock is here!

First we had Freedom Challenge RASA, the Race Across South Africa, it is big, its hard core and it requires a big chunk of time to complete.

Then Ride to Rhodes was turned into a Race to Rhodes, non-stop, unsupported, RASA rules covering Days 1-6 of the Freedom Trail.

Now we have the sequel, Race to Cradock, days 7-12 of the Freedom Trail. Same as Race to Rhodes, same as RASA, just a different route. Being a Freedom Trail junkie I couldn’t resist, my entry is confirmed, we’re starting 19 March 2015. At first glance one wonders if there is risk that it may be just more of the same old. At second glance, taking into account this route covers a different region, different trails, different portages, different climate (March is the top rainfall month for the Stormberg region) and remains map & compass, Race to Cradock presents a whole new set of dynamics and challenges. Given it will be run in New Moon conditions (dark nights), new stories and legends are bound to be created and new stories and chapters of the Freedom Trail will be written.

Only 40 spots are available for the first event and with new bragging rights available, First Winner, Record Holder, One day to Romansfontein, etc, I suspect the legends of the trail will be lining up come 19 March to push heir bodies and minds, exchange strategies and execute their secret strategies to collect new accolades and make new memories.

Personally I have been considering some options to try and go a bit faster than the 6 days par, none of these are compelling to my body & mind, they all require tricky navigation to be conducted in pitch black conditions, they all require very challenging days in the saddle with difficult riding conditions. Six days seems to make the most sense and the famous hospitality along this 600km section will no doubt influence stop/go decisions. Like with RASA and R2R … Race to Cradock will be no ordinary mountain bike adventure.

Why Everyone is a Winner

I thought I should post something on race strategy as before the start I felt like a lazy man participating in a “race”, yet planning a par 6 day completion. In the end I felt like a winner.

I encountered three different approaches.

1. Ride Non-Stop (Racing Snakes)

For the hard core out there looking to challenge Martin Dreyer’s 2012 record of 56 hours or improve on previous best times or aiming to win the event. None of these super athletes are rookies, they have paid school fees by previous participation, route recce trips and specific preparation to be able to spend many hours in the saddle. Their equipment choice and setup are specific to purpose and most importantly their navigation is accurate and well prepared.

2. Break Par (Fast Snakes)

These riders plan to break par, ie they will attempt to complete one and a half days or even double up in a 24 hour cycle. They come no less prepared than the Non-Stoppers and have more than likely done some additional preparation for night riding, night navigation and also plan to sacrifice beauty sleep. I found them less cautious of night navigation than the 6-dayers, I suspect this is due to either strong determination and lac of fear of getting lost or perhaps just a good knowledge of the navigation aspects. This would be a real challenge for rookie riders.

3. Tourers (Tough Snakes)

Completing the race in 6 days is no less of a feat. There are some who simply choose to ride at a manageable pace, finish before dark and enjoy some of the scenery and hospitality. There are also those who have to work hard, get lost and have to hang tough to complete one day at a time. I suspect most of the finishers in this category are likely to return either with friends or to try and improve their time.

I chose the 6-day plan from the beginning and it rewarded me with a very enjoyable experience of the journey as it did those in any of the above categories. I guess it’s another dimension of Race to Rhodes that is different to other multi-day events, there are options available to satisfy your need whatever it may be. In the end everyone deserved their whip as they had to dig deep and overcome their personal challenges.

Everyone wins!

Race to Rhodes 2014 – Entry Confirmed

Race to Rhodes is a 500km non-stop, unsupported mountain bike race from Pietermaritzburg to Rhodes. It is the first 6 days of the Freedom Challenge (www.freedomchallenge.org.za), a ride that has been on my bucket list for quite a few years.

The key challenges are long days, navigation by map and compass and the need to carry a heavy load on the bike and in a backpack. All part of the challenge. Plenty of time currently spent on preparation of body, mind, bike and equipment.

I will be riding my 8 year old Specialized Epic 26″ and my plan is to take 6 days to get to Rhodes with a touring focus rather than a racing focus.

No Freedom in 2012

Things don’t always work out the way we plan them and it’s become clear there will be no Freedom in 2012. Fortunately life goes on and when some doors close, others open, it’s life’s way to balance itself and as long as we stay in the game, there will always be more and other and better opportunities. For now I keep riding my mountain bike and enjoy the opportunities that are possible.

As for the Freedom route, the time will come … and I cannot wait.

Key Success Factors

Prepare body
– Get into shape
– Long hours in the saddle
– Pushing bike
– Carrying bike

Prepare mind
– Long hours in the saddle
– Cold and wet climate
– Long lonely hours
– Problems with equipment

Appropriate Equipment & Clothing
– Bicycle
– Clothing
– Luggage

Master Navigation
– Study route
– Recce route

Select Nutrition
– Select appropriate nutrition
– Simulate with race nutrition