Born in 1967, the Roof of Africa event used to include cars, quads and motorcycles, but has progressed from a fast and flowing race in the lowlands of Lesotho to one of the world’s toughest Extreme Enduro events, known as the ‘Mother of Hard Enduro’ to be precise.
The 49th edition of this prestigious event lived up to its name and the Motul Roof of Africa 2016 kicked off in the streets of Maseru on Thursday, 1 December, for the traditional ‘Round the Houses‘ race where competitors race through the capital city of Lesotho, completing a 3.6 km loop three times. This racing time would be added to overall times for the event, so a good start was important in order to be out front. As usual the crowds would cheer on the field and competitors were motivated to deliver a good show before heading up to Bushmen’s Pass for Time Trial. Marc Bourgeois (Yamaha) took victory followed by the KTM trio of Travis Teasdale (Brother Leader Tread KTM), Lars Enöckl from Austria, who recently won the Red Bull Sea to Sky event, and Andreas Lettenbichler from Germany, a household name in Extreme Enduro.
Arriving at an altitude of 2,263 m at Bushmen’s Pass, Gold riders had to get ready to tackle the 51.8 km long Time Trial that would give them a little taste of what the next two days would hold in store for them. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) posted the fastest time ahead of Brett Swanepoel (Yamaha) and Travis Teasdale (Brother Leader Tread KTM, KTM 250 XC-W). Scott Bouverie (KTM 300 XC-W) and Dwayne Kleynhans (KTM 250 XC-W), both riding for Brother Leader Tread KTM, finished Time Trial in sixth and seventh place respectively, only a few minutes off the leader’s pace which would make for an interesting day’s racing the following day.
Race Day 1. Friday was going to be the hardest day of the 2016 Motul Roof of Africa event and competitors had to race a 157 km long loop stretching to the North East of Bushmen’s Pass. Hot and dry conditions surpassing the 30-degree mark didn’t make it any easier for the field of riders who had to conquer sections like ‘Maurice Pass’ or ‘Snake Bike’, the latter of which separated the men from the boys when even the top Gold riders battled on this extreme section of the race, having to make their way through a field of Silver and Gold riders. Brother Leader Tread KTM’s Travis Teasdale got assistance from a fellow competitor and instead of continuing to race and chase the top guys he decided to return the favour, walk down the mountain and help the other rider before continuing his race. True sportsmanship like this saw Teasdale be awarded the ‘Spirit of the Roof‘ award.
The chase was on and saw KTM Factory Racing’s Alfredo Gomez from Spain work his way through the field, picking up rider by rider onboard his KTM 300 XC-W and winning Day 1 (isolated) which put him only a mere 27 seconds behind Jarvis on the overall leader board. Brother Leader Tread KTM’s Scott Bouverie also delivered a stellar performance on the day, resulting in him being the third rider to take off into the mounts on race day two, 19 minutes and 45 seconds behind the leader, followed by his team mate Travis Teasdale.
Race Day 2. The second race day and final day of the 2016 Roof of Africa held 119 km’s of technical terrain in store: long and extreme, but not as tiring as Friday and riders kept on pushing all day. Whilst Jarvis and Gomez were swapping places for victory it was the South African’s who battled it out for third place, but it was difficult for any of the riders to break away from each other. The group of South African boys joint by KTM’s Billy Bolt (UK), was starting to catch up to the leaders and made a good 10 minutes on them, keeping on closing the gap. It was however not enough to catch the leaders and after a total racing time of 16 hours 14 minutes and 40 second it was Husqvarna’s Graham Jarvis claiming his fourth victory at the Roof of Africa, followed by KTM Factory Racing’s Alfredo Gomez only nine seconds behind Jarvis. Brother Leader Tread KTM’s Scott Bouverie rounded off the podium as the first South African competitor home ahead of his teammate Travis Teasdale. Dwayne Kleynhans followed in tenth place overall.
“Day one was very difficult, but I managed to pull a gap and enjoyed it particularly because if its difficulty. I could make up some time and had a good pace going both Friday and Saturday. It was intense all day, we rode on some really nice trails and my KTM 250 XC-W was amazing. I am really happy with my podium finish.”, said Scott Bouverie (Brother Leader Tread KTM).
Kirsten Landman attempted her first ever Roof of Africa Gold race this year after having finished Silver and Bronze the previous years. The talented female rider who has recently finished Gold at the Red Bull Sea to Sky event wrote history onboard her trusty KTM Freeride 250 R and etched her name into the Lesotho mountains as the first female competitor to finish the grueling Gold class at ‘The Mother of Hard Enduro’.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world! I’m so happy, but I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet. I put the effort in and worked hard for this the whole year and I am so happy it has all paid off. 2016 has been a great year for me.”, said Landman (Brother Leader Tread KTM) when she crossed the finish line.
It was second placed Alfredo Gomez’ first time in Lesotho and the Spaniard will have to come back in 2017 for the 50th edition of the Roof of Africa to try and break Jarvis’ winning streak.
“I was really looking forward to the Roof of Africa, it’s a race I have never raced and it was all new to me. Lesotho is such a beautiful place and I enjoyed the people who came out to support the race. It was a very hard but great race, especially Saturday was really enjoyable and I am looking forward to returning next year.”, said Gomez (KTM Factory Racing).
The Silver Class was won by KTM Durban’s Calvin Hume onboard the recently launched KTM 150 XC-W while the Bronze Class was won by Heinrich Zellhuber on another KTM 150 XC-W.
After three days of pushing both man and machine to their limits, the racing fraternity is now on a well-deserved break until the 2017 season starts.