The Toughest Race In SA?

Today’s Big Question: Would you willingly take part in a non-stop, unassisted mountain bike race that is 2300km in distance and passes through some of the toughest terrain in South Africa, in the middle of winter?

I have a friend who is currently participating in the Freedom Challenge which is exactly that – a 2300 km mountain bike race, non stop and unassisted, which starts in Pietermaritzburg in mid-June every year and ends in Wellington outside Cape Town.

Last night my mates spent the night in Rhodes (you know, the place that turns into a ski resort in winter?), luckily arriving just before the heavy rains came down. It was 4 degrees at midday, excluding the wind chill. This morning they departed at 5h30 in temperatures of 1 degrees with the welcome words that snow is predicted in the area. I can’t imagine riding in that kind of cold.

The race organisers don’t lie when they say it is unassisted; there are no route markers, no seconds are allowed and the riders have to carry everything they will need for the entire 2300km on their bikes. They are allowed to pre-send a 2litre container of supplies to each stop. But have you tried to see how much you can pack into a 2lt container? Not a whole lot. There are designated stops along the way. It’s up to you if you want to use them or not. You have 26 days to get the finish. That’s averaging around 100km a day, stopping at all the overnight spots. The record was set by Tim James in 2009. He completed the race in 13 days, 15 hours and 50 minutes.

Some of the riders are going one step further. They are participating in the Extreme Triathlon, which means they have just run the Comrades, they are now doing the Freedom Challenge and will then take on the Berg Canoe Marathon.

I have been tracking the riders’ progress with great interest and admiration. You can too on twitter at or via the website at

Kirsten Curtis
The Race Across South Africa – not for the weak at heart, mind or body!
2010 Freedom Challenge
Snow Predicted for Freedom Challengers

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