Pietermaritzburg – A battle against the elements, the body and the mind lies in wait for ‘Dusi Duke’ and founder of the RMB Change a Life MTB Academy, Martin Dreyer this weekend when he takes on the Ride to Rhodes mountain bike event as a personal challenge to redefine his limits.
With his racing days behind him, the former elite paddler turned mountain bike adventurer thrives on challenges such as this which will see him start on Saturday morning in Pietermaritzburg and head to the Eastern Cape town of Rhodes near the border of Lesotho.
The sub-event of the renowned Freedom Challenge’s Race Across South Africa – a 2300km MTB challenge from KZN’s Pietermaritzburg to Wellington in the Western Cape – sees participants self-navigate the 500km route non-stop within the eight day cut-off, all the while being self-sufficient with just support stations every 80-100km to rely on for assistance, food and accommodation.
“I’ve done three Freedom Challenges previously and now I’m really excited to be taking on the Ride to Rhodes this year!” says Dreyer.
A race that is more a journey than a contest, the Ride to Rhodes sees participants, in conjunction with the Freedom Challenge’s competitors, depart KZN’s capital in batches daily between 1 and 11 June, each rider filled with an unique expectation and set of goals for their journey.
For Dreyer, the challenge is a personal one in 2016 as he looks to test his boundaries and overcome the distance and the weather both as best and as quickly as he can.
“Both the Freedom Challenge and the Ride to Rhodes are very personal experiences; it’s all about what you, as an individual, want to get out of it.
“There is no prize money and whether you finish first or finish last you get the same reward.
“There are two guys in my batch looking to beat the RTR’s record time while others are there just to enjoy the experience, relax at the farm houses along the way and enjoy a glass of red wine in the evenings.
“I’m at the stage of my racing career where I’ve long retired from the competitive side of racing so for me, this is about the challenge of taking on the elements and extending myself.
“There is a great sense of the unknown that influences this race; not only do you have to battle the technical requirements of the route and the distance of the race, but you have to overcome sleep deprivation, know how to conserve energy when necessary and be clever when it comes to dealing with the weather as well!
“For me its about finding the answers to questions like ‘Am I tough enough?’ and ‘Can I handle it?’ each time I’m presented with another of the race’s challenges.”
Departing in Batch 11 of the 2016 RTR, Dreyer will look to charge through the night on both Saturday and Sunday as he aims to reach Rhodes on Monday but is anxiously keeping a close eye on weather forecasts after a cold front hit Cape Town on Thursday evening.
“As far as knowing where I’m going, I’ve paid my school fees during my three Freedom Challenges and that knowledge will count a lot, especially when riding at night, but the weather will also play a big role in how quickly we can go.
“I’ve been following Snow Report quite closely and it appears we’re in for a bit of rain on Saturday morning and again on Sunday night.
“Rain obviously means cloud cover and that has pros and cons when riding in the dark as conditions will be two or three degrees warmer than if the skies where clearer but naturally there will then also be less moonlight to help you find your way.
“Personally I’d prefer if it was clear because I’ve been lost in the dark before and getting lost in the middle of the night with temperatures below freezing can really break you!
“If all goes well then I’ll probably be tackling the stretch from Vuvu to Rhodes – where you climb 1000m over 5km and have to hike you bike up the Lehanas Pass – in the dark so clear skies would definitely be great.
“Obviously all of this is completely out of our control though,” chuckles Dreyer apprehensively.
On top of his Freedom Challenge experience, Dreyer believes two recent mountain biking achievements will also help him overcome the tough mental challenge this weekend’s 2016 RTR presents.
“Mentally, my 900km ride across the Rockies with my wife Jeannie last year at the Colorado Trail Race will really help as we learnt some great lessons there during my only completely self-supported ride where you don’t even have help with food or accommodation.
“With the cold front that’s hit South Africa, our Everesting [cycling hill repeats to the combined equivalent height of Mount Everest in one sitting] up and down Sani Pass this time last year will also really help prepare me for the icy cold and extreme conditions of the night!”
Live tracking of Dreyer’s and the rest of the participants’ progress as well as more information is available at www.freedomchallenge.org.za.