Seven-time Dusi Canoe Marathon champion and top adventure
sportsman, Martin Dreyer, returned to competitive racing with a bang when he
claimed the 2012 Freedom Challenge Mountain Bike Race Across South Africa
(RASA) title on Friday night, shattering the course record in the process.
Dreyer reached the finish at Diemersfontein, near Wellington in the Western
Cape at 22h40 on Friday, 29 June, after starting in Pietermaritzburg in
KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday 19 June at 06h00. His total time was 10 days 16 hours
40 minutes, hacking a massive 1 day 22 hours 10 minutes off the previous record
of 12 days 15 hours 30 minutes, set by 2011 winner Alex Harris.
Harris, winner in 2010 and 2011, finished second to Dreyer
with a total time of 10 days 23 hours 57 minutes, also well inside his previous
record. Harris is an experienced mountaineer and has completed the Seven
Summits (the highest mountain on all seven continents). He is also the first
South African to walk unsupported to the South Pole.
The final podium place is likely to be filled on Sunday,
probably by current third-placed rider, Graham Bird, also a former top
Dreyer and Harris were never separated by more than seven
hours, ensuring an enthralling battle for the coveted title. There is no
prizemoney in the event. For his efforts, Dreyer received pizza and a special
commemorate Freedom Challenge finisher’s blanket.
The RASA follows the Freedom Trail, an east-to-west route
over a distance of 2 300km with 37 000 metres of total vertical ascent. It
takes place through mid-winter where temperatures can vary from -10 to 30
degrees Celsius. The terrain is varied and includes mountains and semi-desert
as well as multiple river crossings.
The riders complete the event unsupported and self-navigate their way
throughout (no GPS pemitted). There are 25 support stations on the route at
which they can get a meal and sleep under shelter. The leading riders stop only
when necessary. A total of 47 started the 2012 event and only 28 are likely to
finish. There is a 26-day cut-off.
Dreyer was met at the finish by his wife Jeannie, one of South Africa’s leading
adventure sportswomen, and their two children, Callum (2) and Ruby (5 weeks).
“I feel relieved and ecstatic at the same time,” said a weary Dreyer at the
finish. “This race empowered me. I’ve not really tested myself for a few years
and this allowed me to do that. I wanted to go into De Hel at midnight and
sleep at the bottom of the Swartberg Pass in sub-zero temperatures. I didn’t go
into this race planning to win. That was a bonus. I wanted to do something
extreme again. And I did. I’m very satisfied.”
Dreyer says the record was never a goal for him.
“It’s like a canoeing race on a river. The river level changes each year so the
race times will vary. We got lucky with the weather this year. There was some
snow and rain, but not as bad as it has been in the past.”
Unlike Harris, who had to deal with a broken saddle clamp from early on, Dreyer
said that he had no mechanical problems.
“I didn’t even puncture once. My bike, a GT Zaskar carbon fibre hardtail 29er,
was just great! Just as well, because I’m not very mechanically minded.”
From a nutrition perspective, he said that keeping energy levels up was the
“You can only eat so much solid food – and believe me, I ate as much as I could
at the support stations. But it’s just not enough. So I used USN Epic Pro,
which is a carbohydrate, protein, vitamin and phosphate mix. It’s the perfect
supplement for a long race like this.”
The 43-year-old, who runs a multisport development academy in KwaZulu-Natal,
was struck by a passing struck on the final day. It clipped his elbow but he managed
to maintain control of his bike and avoided crashing.
“It shook me up. My elbow hurt but I was just bent on getting to the finish. I
didn’t let it bother me. My family was waiting for me at the finish. I wasn’t
going to let anything stop me getting there as fast as I could,” smiled Dreyer.