45 Riders set off from Silverstreams Resort at Bushmens Nek at 9am on Monday 25 April 2022 in slightly overcast and chilly conditions. Consistent rain the night before had left the roads saturated and riders were flung into some very sticky mud in the first 5km. The sun tried its hardest for the first few hours but it was not enough to dry out the soaked gravel roads and riders would be tested throughout the first day of riding.
After the first 50km riders had started to find their place in the field with Dr Enslin Uys up front in the 700km and Nicholas Stathoulis close behind him and leading the 400km route. The chasing packing was made up of Tim James (on his single speed), Shaun Knowles, Phil Riggien, Greg Lock and Sarah Van Heerden who also took the early lead in the 400km ladies race.
Muddy conditions all day long resulted in slower than expected times top to CP1 at Centocow after 110km. Riders averaged about 1.5hours longer than this first stretch in 2021's dry conditions. Riders soon realised that there are not many free kilometers on the Freedom Circuit. 17 Riders pushed through the first CP in a valiant all night effort to reach CP 2 at Flitwick a further 60 km down the trail, or should I say up the trail as those 70km included another 1800m of climbing.
Nic and Enslin arrived together at CP2 around 23h30 and chose to sleep a few hours, as did most of the others who trickled into Flitwick ranch all through the night, some not even reaching this little Oasis near Swartberg before daybreak. Greg Blackwell was the only rider who chose not to sleep at CP2. He was first to depart at 4am after a quick 30min stop.
Olebogeng Kgengwe had GPS issue approaching CP2 and ended up doing an extra 30km tour of the farmlands before rolling in (with a smile on his face at 10am. The remaining 25 riders who slept at Centocow seemed to be slit into two groups. Early departures including look to be aiming for lunch at Flitwick followed by afternoon ride 70km further down to CP3 - Masakala. About 10 folk had a nice lie in and look to be taking an easier day for another potential overnight at Flitwick.
Day one saw 3 casualties, all with troublesome chests. Grant Cowen scratched at Centocow. Phil Riggien and Alex Vigouroux made it to Flitwick before opting out.
Most of the Flitwick sleepers departed around first light and are cruising on some faster flatter roads in near perfect conditions to Masakala.
Words: Chris Fisher
Photographs: Llewellyn Lloyd