We left the Mountain View Zastron at around 09h00 after a super and leisurely breakfast followed by a presentation by Tony to Elsebie to commemorate the 1965 Ride’s 9th stay.  Zastron is situated at the foot of Aasvoelberg named for the rare Cape Vultures that can be found there. Some brave and hardy members of our Group had an early morning trek up the mountain to experience the beautiful crisp sunrise.

Tony mentioned to us that we were going to experience “the fast day”.  The Zastron to Aliwal North leg of our trip. His summary of the day was mostly downhill with a few minor bumps, where previous years rides had set their fastest times. This challenge did excite some of us. More about that later.

Once again, a big thanks to the Free State Provincial Traffic department who were there to escort us out of Zastron and in fact virtually all the way to the Eastern Cape border just short of Aliwal North.

The team was led by Officer Eddie Coakley (for the second day) and supported by PI Hoffman and PI Relebohile.

About 5km out of Zastron we stopped to take the standard starting team photo. A great thanks to the BARKER BROTHERS who supplied us all with colourful socks and buffs. As well as the critical and much needed water bottles.  For that a grateful thanks from us all. The socks and buffs were a mixture of Blue, Orange, and Burgundy. Therefore, the team photograph consisted of a number of crossed legs showing off the colourful arrangements.  There were a number of legs that I have no doubt the photograph does not give justice – that is to the incredible athleticism of the owners.  Mainly Old Queenians!  However, that is all I will say on that matter.

We then rode off to our first tea stop at around 27kms, starting off slowly so that the General could warm up his racing legs. Mostly riding a Pace Line although occasionally the line split as some of the younger riders when given the opportunity to lead the Group, rocketed off forgetting about the more stately riders and those with hind leg issues. But overall a most enjoyable leg at a very respectable pace. I think at Tea Monna mentioned we were averaging 26kms an hour

Post tea we set off to Rouxville after which we turned left onto the N6, the road we will ride all the way to our final destination – Queenstown. To add to our perfect day there was a wide yellow line demarcated shoulder and a road that was in great condition. Particularly compared to a few of our previous days.

We then rode two abreast within the yellow lane with the wind at our back in a nice tight Peloton (Parletone). Firstly, led by Nico and Sili, and then Leon and me. With long sweeping downhills and the supporting wind, we made great time to our next tea stop at the top of rise, 17kms short of our destination.

The last 17 odd kms to Aliwal North was once again most enjoyable with all conditions in our favour.

We single filed across the Orange River into the Eastern Cape and into Aliwal North. A town founded in 1850 and so named by the Cape Governor after his victory in the Battle of Aliwal, during the First Sikh war in India in 1846.

We arrived at our destination, the Umtali Country at 12h14 .

Our day’s statistics had the team celebrating

Distance 72kms

Elevation Gain – the lowest of the 7 days  – 481 metres

Riding time was 2hours 34 minutes

AND MOST importantly the fastest speed between Zastron and Aliwal North   27.6km per hour. Over 1 km fastest than the next fastest year’s group.

Champions all. And the group camaraderie on todays ride was in itself a fantastic experience as we all rode as one team and in such great spirit.

After a great Lunch we all retired to our rooms to rest before our dinner at 18h00.

Dinner was a pleasant experience with some nerves beginning to show ahead of tomorrows tougher challenge.

I would like to wish all of the riders good riding tomorrow as we take on Penhoek pass –  constructed 130 years ago reaching 1,844 metres above sea level with its worst gradient at 1:10  France’s Alp d’Huez is 1,803 metres with it’s worst gradient at 13%.  ENJOY

John