re-sized The Freedom Challenge

South Africa’s equivalent to The Great Continental Divide MTB Race

A quick reminder about The Great Continental Divide: it is an MTB bike race that goes from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico –  a mere 2,745 miles (4,418 km). The Tour Divide, or The Great Divide MTB route, is a solo, self-supported mountain bike race with an average time-to-completion of three weeks in the saddle. The rider is responsible for finding their own food, water, and place to sleep each day. It is 2,745 miles of rain, snow, mud, huge head winds, intense heat, animal encounters, drunk driver run-ins, etc. It is viewed as the hardest self-supported mountain bike race possible.

And so, cross an ocean and a hemisphere to South Africa, and Kevin Davie plans to do the same thing, but on home turf. He left the Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe at 6am on 1st April (April Fools to some!) heading southwards on the beginning of a month-long journey to Cape Point. The ride will be based on the classic Great Divide, from Canada to New Mexico.

Kevin Davie's solo, self-supported cycle ride from Beitbridge to Cape Point

Kevin Davie's Route

The Great Divide rules are that riders stay within 80km of the ridge line and keep the proportion of tar roads traversed to below 20% of the total. Kevin Davie aims to keep his tar total below 10%. Within 100m of Beitbridge he will leave the tar road to ride through an avenue of baobab trees on a service road alongside the railway line. If he used the tar road his journey would be about 2 000 km but since the goal is to go off-road, following South Africa’s longest mountain ranges, he will be going almost twice that distance.

And, being that he is in South Africa, he will face many uncertain challenges. Yesterday he “Decided to use bridge to cross Olifants (River) as it was getting dark. Chats to a guy who said that there are rumours that there are crocs there.” And wildlife will not be the only dangers he faces. “Page is a burly guy with a soft voice. I was a stranger in a tough neighbourhood and so he would not leave until I had locked myself in.”

Despite everything you hear, there are a lot of good people out there…

Up until the Eastern Cape he will be making his own route but from there it will get somewhat easier as he will be able to follow large sections of the Freedom Trail, which stretches 2,300km from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl – more on the Freedom Trail later.

The Freedom Challenge MTB event from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl, South Africa

The Freedom Challenge

A lot of research has been done on ‘what makes individuals take on these extraordinary challenges?’ We have written on that subject several times here too – the first time was way back in July 2008 with The Question of Extreme… But Kevin Davie has an interesting twist on it.

There was a time, quite long ago and before our rich diet led us to a sedentary life, that we were endurance hunters. So good at in, in fact, that we could run our supper to earth. “The hypothesis is that these pre-humans would use persistence hunting where, rather than outpacing animals, they would chase their prey over long distances until the animals would overheat and could be killed with a sharp object.” In fact, according to the !XoKalahari Bushmen who can still do this, “To be able to do this, you have to be prepared to run all day. You should also choose a day that is hot, really hot. The hotter the better, as the animal will run out of energy before you do.”

Lead hunter !Ngate Xqamxeb tells us that the running hunt is the most difficult of all hunts: “You have to run until the animal gives up. Sometimes you must run all day.”

This ability, or instinct, has surely been lost by us and our joints would never allow it! However, not to be outdone, some intelligent being – Pierre and Ernest Michaux I think it was who, in the 1860s, were the first to invent the prototype that became our modern bicycle!… I digress, fortunately for us the bicycle was invented and evolved into the wondrous machine that it is today. Some say it is the greatest single human invention of all time!

Kevin Davie, however, says that “this is a machine that allows us to recapture a time when endurance had no limits,” and to that end he has set himself the task of cycling through the South African back country for the pure satisfaction of having completed a magnificent endurance feat.

Good luck and happy cycling.

You can follow Kevin at Twitter @gannaride.

As a matter of interest, The Freedom Challenge is the ultimate endurance MTB race in South Africa. 2,400 kms across the back roads of that beautiful country, with a completion deadline of 26 days. In 2010, mountain climber and polar adventurer, Alex Harris completed the trail in 14 days 8 hours and 10 minutes, the second fastest recorded time in the history of the Freedom Challenge.

This extreme cycle race was, in 2008, teamed up with 2 other ultra-endurance events in South Africa: the 87 km Comrades Marathon and the 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon which became an annual extreme triathlon. This is an event for the super fit! It will be held between the 11th June – 18th July, 2011…

240km Berg River Canoe Marathon in South Africa
Berg River Canoe Marathon

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2 Responses to “South Africa’s equivalent to The Great Continental Divide MTB Race”

  1. Oma
    2013 | 9 July at 03:37 #

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the
    pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    • lolajones
      2013 | 7 August at 07:14 #

      We’re checking it out Oma.

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