Sunday, 3 April 2016

Race to Cradock - Moodenaarspoort to Kranskop

The stop at Moodenaarspoort is a great transition point. For some it's a welcome midday soup stop that comes after 2 tough portages. For others it's an end-of-day destination after a hard days ride from Rhodes. For the racing snake it signals the change over to nighttime riding. The race batches that started ahead of us hadn't ventured beyond this point on day one. The bicycle tyre tracks etched deep into the now dry mud we had just ridden over evidence of the wet and muddy conditions they had to contend with. We were lucky.

Kranskop is about 38 km's from Moodenaarspoort over fairly flat terrain. It takes a little over 2 hours to get there. The night was cool and there was no wind to hamper our progress. Alex, Anthony, and Fjord were up ahead and Janine, according to Farmer Danie from Moodenaarspoort, was just behind. It appeared that Tim's race had unraveled as the tracker had him many hours behind.

Night riding is either friend or foe. Some riders avoid it at all costs as it can be intimidating. I enjoy for a number of reasons. It's a lot cooler and I prefer riding without the blazing sun trying to melt me, which results in reduced hydration requirements. The speed difference between really fast riders and someone like myself is less marked, particularly if your navigation is on point. One of my competitive advantages is my route memory. I ride without narratives or maps. I don't know exact distances, and don't have measuring equipment on my bike, but have a good sense of distance and fairly detailed knowledge of close-up landmarks. Mountains are great landmarks until the sun goes down. After that, you need to recognise landmarks that fall within the reach of your bike light. Roadsigns, unusual shaped or coloured gates, reservoirs, windmills, and even odd coloured rocks become the night riders tools. Obviously these only work if you have done the route before. If not, then you need to be competent and confident with maps, compass and a go to constellation or two. Fortunately I had done this route many times.

The trip to Kranskop was fairly unremarkable except for one turn that Casper missed. He was riding ahead and skipped the turn. I made the turn and stopped. I could see him bombing off in the wrong direction. I set my headlight to flash mode and hoped he would soon realise that he was on his own. If not, he faced a 5 kilometre ride down to a t-junction that wasn't covered by the narrative. He would then be wandering the countryside while I ate dinner and made myself tea at Kranskop. Fortunately he looked behind, saw my light, and retraced his steps.

At 21:53 we rolled into Kranskop. We had a brief chat with Fjord and Anthony who were heading out as we arrived. 17 hours into the race, with Janine just behind, the 6 front runners were still tightly packed. It was a matter of who blinked first.

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