Freedom Challenge: winner hails tough 2?300 km ‘soul ride’

2010-07-02 00:00

THE first pair to finish the 2010 Freedom Challenge crossed the line 16 days after the race started from Pietermaritzburg City Hall.

Trevor Ball and Ugene Nel were the first of 35 racers to finish at the Diemersfontein Wine Estate in Wellington, outside Cape Town, after cycling 2 300 km through rugged terrain and in sometimes extreme weather.

“Freedom Challenge is a soul ride; it gives a very simple and basic time for the mind to enrich itself with the beauty and diversity of our country. It is physically tough, but that is secondary to the wide open spaces, welcoming people and freedom from all the normal humdrum we surround ourselves with,” said Ball.

Ball said he has come to believe that anything is attainable if only a person sets goals.

“Ugene and I did a couple of stages that we could never have imagined, like completing 270 km in one day. Thus the only limitations we have are the ones we set ourselves. In reality, there are no limits and you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.”

Although Ball kept on his bike throughout, he said the race was marred by challenges all the way.

“My free-wheel body broke on day two, which was potentially a race-ending disaster. We were still close enough to Maritzburg to get the spare sent through, but it turned out to be the wrong size. Ugene found a workshop in Matatiele to grind the part into shape and send us on our way again. That cost us half a day,” he said.

“We pushed our bikes over Naude’s Nek at minus 10 degrees at midnight, in a snowstorm, just to gain some time. If we had stopped, we would have frozen to death in an hour. Being prepared for the weather is part of the game of Freedom Challenge, or any outdoor adventure.”

None of the racers broke the 14-day record, but Alex Harris, who started the race three days after, came out with the second-fastest recorded time in the history of the event, having travelled for 14 days eight hours and 10 minutes.

Freedom Challenge race organiser David Waddilove said the race is not yet over. “We’ve got riders finishing here on a daily basis and will continue to do so for up until the end of next week.”

 

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