Friday, 8 July 2011

Day 24 - All's well that ends well

And so, finally 24 days later John and Albert go over the top of Du Toitskloof Pass and start the best part of the whole trip down the side of the mountain on the dirt road to Diemersfontein farm in Paarl to complete what really has been the ride of lifetime.

There at the end to meet us were our families and friends, and of course Dave Waddilove to present us with our blankets (the prize for completing the Race Across South Africa).

But the day wasn't without hardship. John started the morning with his first good wipeout of the race: It caused some panic because I did not want to drop out of the race at this late stage. I find I have been jitterier about unwanted mishaps at this late stage than earlier in the race because of the thought of throwing all the good work away. Fortunately, it proved nothing more than a few roasties, torn clothes and a stiff knee. Dave Waddilove had also saved some of the best for last, so before Du Toitskloof we were required to do a 5-6 hour portage with bikes on backs up Stettynskloof. Thereafter we wound our way to Du Toitskloof for a lovely smooth ride up the tar road before the final descent.

Will i do it again? Would absolutely love to were I to have the time, but family must come first for the next years.


Do I recommend it to others? Absolutely. The race is like no other in South Africa. As much as I love Comrades, Ironman and all the other big ticket events that our great country offers, the Freedom Challenge could be called SA's friendly race. Everyone along the route was happy to assist with directions and the support stations provided by farmers or guest house owners were superb with their hospitality. But the spirit of the top competitors is also something unique. As they caught up with us, we would converse freely at support stations, they would offer tips to us rookies, and sometimes we even rode together for a few hours until we couldn't keep up anymore. And of course wherever we rode our bikes slept outside, unlocked and unguarded. One definitely finishes the race feeling very positive about humanity and South Africa in general.


But on top of this, I would love to see more people doing the race because it really makes one understand oneself better. I for one am not a loner. I need company in undertaking such activities and had a great accomplice in Albert. I saw some others, who thought they could go it alone crash out because there was nobody to talk them through the mentally tough days.

Then there was a great mental cycle worth observing. The 1st 6 days we road with the Ride-to-Rhodes riders and their fantastic support crew. This was physically the toughest phase of the race but mentally the easiest because of the company and moral support from the likes of Dave and Dawn, and riders Fiona, Dereck, Pavel and Andries. They taught us some basic bike maintenance which we sorely lacked, and warned us about a severe dip that would come in the mental cycle after Rhodes. That's exactly what happened. The Ride-to-Rhodes ends, the riders and support team go home, and life on tour becomes lonely for Albert and John. Simultaneously, there was little light at the end of the tunnel as Cape Town was still weeks away. It was important to grind through the week straight after Rhodes, and we were also fortunate to start meeting up with other riders which boosted the spirits. Then, gradually day by day, Cape Town looked nearer, and after exiting the Baviaans Kloof at Willowmore the spirits were high and only technical or injury could possibly stop us. It is important to understand these mental up and down cycles and to be able to work through them, because life works like that. The Freedom Challenge allows one the opportunity to experience this cycle and to practice working through it. But besides all of this, we just had a damn good ride.

Today, the remaining riders complete the 2011 Race Across South Africa.

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