2300km, but where to start?

As you can imagine, a 19day epic generates a fair amount of copy.

You can go right to the beginning of the whole ordeal, or the startline/day 1.

I'm looking at moving from a general ride report to a more up to date what's happening site. Yes, Freedom Challenge doesn't just finish in Paarl! When i get round to it, there'll be a PDF of the 19days reports.

Send some feedback (I'm aware that the whole layout is just, well kinda rubbish!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 7

terrible photo, but frost all around

I'd merged with quite a large group now, we had to actually count up the numbers before we started in the freezing cold outside. The ten of us left the warm and cozy lodge and headed down into the dark valley for the start of two portages. It's always a struggle trying to dress for the very cold, you walk out the door to the bleak outside temperature and try generate some body heat. If you have too much kit on then you get very hot very quickly. The windchill factor plays a huge role too, you overheat up a hill and then its brass monkey down the otherside. It’s also possible to have freezing hands and sweaty torso at the same time. Zips, roll up sleeves and easy to remove gloves all help.

barely rideable downhills

Well this morning was really cold as we got down into the valley, with that windchill doing its thing. First up my back brakes weren’t moving at all, I immediately thought it had something to do with yesterday’s crash. Then I couldn’t shift gears at the back either, but manually moving them they would stick. Then a freewheel went totally free and the cassette just spun. It took a while to work out that it was below freezing, and any moisture on your bike had FROZE solid. Someone had picked up -4 on their bike computer, definitely time to get back in bed. I’d obviously got some water ingress in my cables and would have to wait for it to warm up and thaw. That was fine, as we would be walking up the next portage very soon anyway.

Frost was all around as we trundled up the valley and the group spread out as the path steepened. There was a bit of nervous energy flying around, as the previous year saw some competitors doing great circles and doubling back here. With much haste we caught up with our today's tour guide (Tim) and did our best to find a way down the otherside.
still frozen, 3hrs into the day
It involved a lot of damned if you do, damned if you don't options but eventually we could stop walking the bikes down and actually ride again. We'd been going for two solid hours and it was still frosty. I now worked out that in the big chill i had broken my rear shifter. I was now down to one gear at the back, so I got my multi-tool out and chose a better one. This would give me three gears to play with. I'd survive on all but the gradual descents where the group would pull away and my legs would spin wildly.

MOOve cow
In the pause between the Loutebron and Bonthoek portages it became apparent that the group had split into two and we couldn't really wait for the 'farmers' so headed off to do our last really tough section for a while. Once again there was pushing, but not really much carrying for once as we followed another ridge straight up. On arriving at the nek, there was a definite feeling of achievement as a huge part of the challenge had been accomplished. We duly rewarded ourselves with lunch. It was great having Tim there, and I'll do my best to paraphrase what he said to us at that nek:
“if you look behind you, we can see all the mountains that we have been through and we all know how tough they were. If you now turn around and look at the road ahead, you can see that we enter the Karoo and the roads that will take us through it. From here the kilometers get easier and you can do days of big mileage”. After much munching and general picturing we left our 360' viewpoint and proceded to spend the next half hour looking for the way down. Danie managed to wipe and partially dislocate his shoulder. Being the tough bugger he is, he just shouldered soldiered on. We eventually found a mad trail mud avalanche path and walked down. Maybe the easy kilometers will start at the bottom rather (they did!).
looking back
looking forward

If we kept to a solid pace, it was quite possible we'd arrive at the support station in daylight (now there was an incentive, as that had only happened twice in a whole week). We'd started early and had only covered 21kms by lunch, if that's any indication of the terrain. I was taking a bit of strain trying to stay in the group (which was working quite well on the flats) but managed to hang in there and even jimmied it into a 6 speed with Cable tie use #1542(put cable tie round gear cable on downtube, and pull it over water bottle spout to change to a higher gear). We went over MacKay's Kop (couldn't find a sign board anywhere, sorry dave) and then I led everyone astray to the wrong farm road following two bike tracks. Funny that those two tracks were indeed our guys, and the right farmhouse was locked. Took us an hour till we eventually got it all sorted and I had managed in this time to ride on a really pap rear wheel, too lazy to pump it up so close to home. Tim had made the decision to push onto Brosterlea, 70km down the road, and was looking for anyone to join. We all shook our heads and this time he was gone for good, blazing a trail to Paarl – which was the next place I saw him.

ande he's gone

Stormfontein lodge is an abandoned farmhouse that has been done up for self catering guests. So for the second night in a row we had the place to ourselves and started attacking the fridge (supplies to last all 25 riders took a serious decimation from the first wave of 8). I had a few things to fix on the bike, number one priority being opening a trigger shifter to see what goes on inside. I was cautious, as there was the chance of hooking up with an experienced mechanic in Molteno the next day.

Rus de Winter to Stormfontein -
70km, 1768m altitude gain
10 hours door to door

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