Lindy Taverner

Snow hampers 'Ride across SA'

2011-06-22 13:54
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

Snow and gale force winds have created harsh conditions for the 60 participants in the 2011 Freedom Challenge "Ride across South Africa" Race. It is a 2 300km non-stop, unsupported expedition mountain bike race from Pietermaritzburg to Diemersfontein Wine Estate, outside Cape Town.

As if that isn’t enough of a challenge, four of the contestants are also competing in the Freedom Extreme Triathlon, of which the mountain bike race is just a part of it!

Merrell Adventure Addicts, Graham Bird and Tatum Prins, are two of these competitors. The entire Freedom Extreme Triathlon comprises of 2 600km of trail running, mountain biking and paddling. 

The event kicked off with the one day 75km Umgeni River Run on Saturday, June 18. What a warm-up!

On Sunday, June 19 at 06:00, the most significant part of the Extreme Triathlon, they departed on the mountain bike leg. The route is off the beaten track and see's the riders winding through district roads, jeep tracks and cattle paths as they navigate using 89 pre-printed maps and a compass. There are no navigational GPS's allowed, so it’s old-school – no cheating. The route has numerous hike-a-bike sections along the way, so to say that strength and fitness is required is an extreme understatement.

Competitors have to check in at 25 support stations along the way where they will be provided with food and accommodation should they chose to stop and rest. Believe it or not, some competitors just keep going. It is at these stations that riders get to truly experience the hospitality of the local people, as they are farm houses, missions, schools and hotels in very remote parts of the country.  
As part of the race preparation each competitor packed 25 x 2L containers with a small amount of supplies that will be collected from each support station. Other than this, competitors are expected to be self sufficient and carry all other equipment and clothing that is needed, including bike spares, etc. This all involves some serious planning.

The final leg of the triathlon is the four day, 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon that starts in Paarl on the July 12 and finishes four days later in Velddrif. Can you imagine tackling a canoe race of that magnitude after cycling across the country? In winter nogal!

I tracked down Graham Bird aka 'Tweet' just before he was about to embark on the Freedom Challenge and got to pick his brain over a few Vida’s.

Their Merrell Adventure Addicts team of four won the recent 500km Expedition Africa Adventure Race comprising of approximately 127km of trekking, 50km of paddling and 323km of mountain biking!

He explains, “I always find myself learning something new about myself in these races. You hit rock bottom, you go through heaven and hell, you see dark places within yourself, you go through highs and lows, you feel so broken you can’t continue, you feel joy and happiness and ultimately a huge sense of achievement upon completing the course and the feeling that you can do anything you set your mind to!”

Tatum Prins is endeavouring to become the first woman to complete the Freedom Challenge Extreme Triathlon. She must arrive in Paarl within 22 days to be in time for the start of the canoe marathon. A seriously hardcore chick!

I enjoy how Team Unchartered summed it up in this previous adventure race report:

“Unchartered’s Expedition Africa was a journey. The journey to halfway had us in a lot of pain and wondering how another 250km was possible. The journey home showed us what we were capable of, how much the team aspect counts, and how to hang in there. On the 2nd 250km we stopped asking who invented this ridiculous sport. I think we realised something crazy - we were enjoying the experience.”

Next week I’ll be reporting on the nutters competing in the 23km Dunlop Surfski World Cup taking place on Sunday, June 26 from Durb’s Addington beach.

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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