From Reitz to Ficksburg, from 206km to 354km, from 24% to 41%, done.
We climbed 1,350m over a spectacular 148km today.
As dawn was breaking the cyclists gathered to prepare for the day ahead. At this time, Shelly was astounded to find her bike computer battery was flat despite charging all night, only to establish that one certain room mate had an unnamed apparatus hogging the power supply all night, resulting in her computer not working.
The day started in a brisk 3 degrees Celsius and within 5 km we hit a pocket of mist that lasted until our first break at 25km. A spectacular threesome occurred between Queenstonian Greg, ex-Queenstonian Kelly and Capetonian Allan, occurred in the cover of the mist, details are sketchy but all three emerged from the mist unscathed and their bikes intact.
All riders took fright in the mist, not having full visibility of support driver Reg, who has at times proved to be more of a hazard than the pot holes and cattle experienced on the journey today. Reg and the other support drivers Neil and John continue to be an integral part of the team and we would lost, thirsty and hungry without them.
What did emerge from the mist was a flying Johnny…..guns….
The ride down to Bethlehem was otherwise fast and uneventful until Ryan held true to form having another puncture but this time, when stopping, attempted to dismount over his front handlebars almost taking Shelly and Roger with him.
We were very privileged to be met 10km outside of Bethlehem by the Bethlehem traffic department who escorted us to the the local GM dealership. Once in the town, the lights were flashing and sirens blaring, making the team feel much like politicians or professional cyclists. We do hope that this did attract attention to our kit sponsor Pfizer, as Team Pfizer made its way to a much deserved coffee break at the GM dealership.
On entering Bethlehem in the police escort, Bruce Raasch hit the panic button at full speed, requesting an explanation as to why we were entering town traffic on the wrong side of the road, only to realise we were riding up a one way street.
The ride through to lunch was spectacular, witnessing the start of the Maluti mountain range, cherry orchards and the beautiful farm lands of the Eastern Freestate. At this stage nothing could stop Johnny guns who led the single file peloton on the narrow roads through to the lunch time stop.
The riders were confronted with a niggly 500m uphill hike on a dirt road to the lunch time venue at Affi Lande but were pleasantly surprised to find an alternative to lasagne, in a chicken a la king. A huge thank you to Julie in Queenstown for not only arranging the lunch but making the change to the menu. The peloton was buoyed by the fact that 98 km were done and only 50 loomed after lunch.
Annie, formerly known as Hester, had put so much food into her little body at lunch that when trying to kit up thought her head had swollen when her helmet would not go on, only to realise that she was trying it put it on the wrong way round.
The ride through to Ficksburg was a lot tougher than the riders had expected with a few hills proving to have a second leg that turned them into mountains. It is at times like this that the camaraderie within the group showed its strength, with those with more more legs giving a much needed push to those with less.
A few sense of humour failures were narrowly averted when the afternoon tea stop was eventually called after a decision to take the stop a little later than the usual 25km’s ended up going on for 33km’s at a time when the riders were enduring some tough hills.
The highlight of the way home was no doubt the debut on this ride of one Brendan “Slim” Raasch who was looking very slick in his new undersized Pfizer kit, which gave Pfizer maximum exposure along with one or two of his body parts.
After a long day, through beautiful scenery, the day ended with a dash for the line between a fresh Slim and Johnny Guns…. John Ralph would not be outshone this time and just pipped him to the line.
The team are very happy to be accommodated in the comfy surrounds of The Woodpecker B&B, where a much needed braai will be enjoyed.
Brendan, Bruce and Ryan