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!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The final preparations

So the Freedom Challenge starts the day after the Comrades Marathon. That also appears to be the same day all the runners book their flights for the next year. Even with three months notice, you just can’t get a flight that week-end into Durbs. Short of chartering a plane, or [shudder] taking a bus, I chose to arrive a few days early.

It was a blessing in disguise, as I could leave all of my Cape Town distractions (I still had builders at my house the day I left!) behind and concentrate on the race itself. Having my good friend Dr Kenneth holed up in Kokstad, I rocked up on the Thursday ready for some cold weather shakedown riding and general country chilling before the Tuesday start.

Now before we start with the Dick City jeering, it’s a lovely spot. And the fillet is R70/kg. I got down with all my final tinkering, saw the sights and we even went to Port Edward for the Sardine Run festival MTB race. I did the 45km route and turned some heads with my full pack. This is Burry Stander country and he has a big fanclub. It was a brilliantly marked course going through all sorts of terrain. Natural forest, cane fields, river gorges etc. The highlight was the final 8km of manicured single track through the Clearwater trails. We went from this breathtaking Gorge view to beautifully built berm after berm. All three routes came together, and it was brilliant to see the fearless sprogs caning it down the hills. Unfortunately I dinged a pedal on a rock on one of these downhills, despair turned to good fortune as one of the local Kokstad guys had an unused brand new set that came off his new bike. I put it down to a freak occurrence. I also realized that my middle blade was far too saw toothed for the race, and would have to sort that out in maritzburg.

To the pre race function itself, there was a fair amount of tension around as everyone had final things to do. Two of the guys were carrying big injuries, and Jaco only got on the bike that day with a six week old broken collarbone. The race number handout was good fun and we got our toys like the GPS trackers. Greville (our ‘guardian’ to Rhodes) leant me one of the Toyota Quantums so I could go to Jowetts bike store who opened especially for me and put some new XTR on my crankset.

I shared a unit with two legend Barkley East farmers, much joking about how they struggled to fit their kit into their 110l Ride to Rhodes plastic bins and me into my 30l bag. It was with much trepidation that I retired to bed, not much more to do than just sleep and rest before the 4am wakeup.

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