Coming into this home stretch polar adventurer Alex Harris appeared to have established an effective lead over the rest of the field. Leaving the Toekomst support station in the Darlington Dam section of the Addo Elephant National Park on Thursday, Harris rode hard through the Groot Rivier section of the trail and the Goede Hoop area of the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area arriving at the Cambria support station at midnight. Normally covered in two days by Freedom Challenge pariticipants, this single day effort moved Harris to the front of the field. On Friday morning Harris he looked to consolidate the lead and made very fast progress up the valley of the Baviaanskloof, stopping only to enjoy some of the famous chocolate pudding at Damsedrif before continuing on to arrive at Willowmore in the evening. On Saturday he too passed the provincial boundary sign as he rode alongside the Droeberge from Willowmore to Prince Albert before climbing the Swartberg Pass and then descending down into the Gamkaskloof. Sunday saw him climbing heading up the Ladder and on to Rouxpos before riding out towards Anysberg and Montagu.
Harris has looked to build a lead based on fast riding and good sleep. Many race followers have been surprised by his riding speed along the trail. Whilst many assumed that he had the mental determination for this extremely taxing race, it can now be revealed that Freedom Challange’s dark horse is a national track cycling champion. He began track cycling in 2005. Despite never previously riding a track bike within five months Alex became the new South African Track Champion for the 1000m Time Trial and the 1500m in his 35 to 39 yrs category. Five months later he won a silver and a bronze medal at the World Masters Track Cycling Championships in Manchester in 2006. He may prove very tough to beat.
Giant 29er single speed rider Glen Harrison has been battling gamely to stay in contact with Harris. When Harris left Toekomst, Harrison, who started in Pietermaritzburg with Harris, was only three hours behind him. However, Harrison conceded more than 5 hours to Harris when he got lost on the Perdeberg in the approach to the Baviaanskloof. At 3 am on Saturday left Cambria and rode up the length of the Baviaanskloof, stopped to sleep briefly at Willowmore before heading out towards Prince Albert. Battling the rutted surface on his rigid frame 29er and slowed by rain and a headwind, Harrison was forced to stop riding and sleep under a tree. Shortly before dawn he arrived at the farm Rondawel, within spitting distance of the Western Cape boundary sign. He then continued through to Prince arriving in the early afternoon and promptly slept until 10 pm when he left to ride up the Swartberg Pass and on to Gamkaskloof. He has not been heard from since.
Things are getting interesting there...