Friday, 15 April 2016

Race to Cradock - Stormberg to Romansfontein.

The run from Stormberg to Romansfontein went off without any snags. It was a simple matter of pedalling along and watching the miles slide by under the bike. We had been on the go for over 24 hours so were understandably tired. The section through Seekoegat started out well and soon became a bit of a drudge as the jeep track went on forever. I nearly lost Casper at one junction but he noticed me going the opposite direction and decided he would rather keep me company. After passing through a gate I couldn't get my right shoe to cleat in and noticed I had lost a cleat bolt. The under soles were packed solid with mud and grit so I decided it could wait until we got to the support station.

Turning onto the district road that headed to Romansfontein we were riding directly into the sun. Sleepy eyes and sunrises are a bad combination. Even so, we got on with the task, even walking one of the climbs pretending it was to stretch our legs rather than admit it was uncomfortably steep.

12 hours previous we had told the race office that our ETA in Romansfontein would be between 8am and 9am. We rolled up at the farmhouse at 9:12. Fortunately, breakfast was still on offer. Not only was it on offer, the kitchen was primed and set to express mode. We were still riding when Stefanie, hanging out the kitchen door, called across the yard asking us if we wanted fried eggs.

Will and Stefanie, the owners of Romansfontein, have been involved in the race at least as long as I have, probably longer. In my first event in 2007 I took refuge there after a miserable day in the snow. They understand the race and do everything they can to facilitate a rewarding experience. On top of that, it is as homely an environment as you can imagine. Stefanie laughs easily and often. She has a touch about her that makes you homesick. Will is really funny and possesses a sharp wit. He is always keen to help where he can. They understood that as so-called Racing Snakes we would be looking to get through the support station as fast as possible.

Will normally starts our conversations, "Hi Mike, what can I do to help?" No so this time. This time it went something like, "Hi Mike, what happened to Alex?"
My reply was, "Thanks Will. Can we just pretend for a moment that nothing happened to Alex and the reason we are here first is because we are the stronger riders?"
We both laughed as we knew the only reason we were ahead of Alex was because something had obviously gone wrong with his race plan.

While Stefanie put the finishing touches to a scrumptious breakfast Will scratched around in his bike spares box and found a cleat bolt which I hastily fastened to my shoe.

Between filling our water bottles and gobbling breakfast Will filled us in on the race happenings. The communication along the line of support stations is rather impressive. Apart from the tracking system, which is available to everyone, the farmers communicate with each other as well as getting constant feedback from the race office. Tim James it seemed was out of the race. Alex, Anthony and Fjord were hot on our heels and Janine only an hour or two behind them. After 29 hours, covering a distance of just over 300 kilometres, the gap separating the top 6 riders was only a few hours. We thanked Will and Stefanie and reluctantly hopped back on our bikes.

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