Once again the ‘Mother of Hard Enduros’ took place in the rugged mountain kingdom of Lesotho. It was held from the 4-8th December, and thanks to long time sponsor Motul claiming naming rights, it is now known as ‘The Motul Roof of Africa’.
Four hundred and seventy three rider entries were received for the gruelling three-day event covering over 400km of the harshest terrain known to mankind. This year’s race drew an all-star international line up with four-time winner Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) having to defend his title against other big name newcomers such as Alfredo Gomez (Spain), Billy Bolt (UK), Marc Bourgeois (Fra) and Andreas Lettenbichler (Ger). South African favourite Wade Young (KTM) unfortunately had to pull out of the race at the last minute due to a wrist injury, which left the door wide open for other local heros Brett Swanepoel (Yamaha), Travis Teasdale (KTM), Jade Gutzeit (Yamaha) and Altus de Wet (Yamaha) to make their mark.
Around the houses and time trial qualifier
Day one saw riders saddle up in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, for a great morning city street race. ‘Around the Houses’ is the traditional part of the ‘Roof’ which sees entrants race around the city centre spurring on locals and spectators alike. This year was a little different in that officials decided to combine trial times and the ‘Around the Houses’ times to decide the starting order for the following days race.
After “Around the Houses” gold, silver and bronze class riders headed out to the start/finish line to get their first taste of the 53km route through the Maluti Mountain range. With the afternoon dominated by the South African contingent, defending champion Jarvis still managed to dig deeper and laid down a good time, crossing the line first. Swanepoel followed closely in his tracks in second place. Thanks to his great time set in ‘Around the Houses’ Swanepoel took a four-second lead over Jarvis, with other SA local Teasdale just behind them in third.
Hard enduro day two
The second day saw Swanepoel and Jarvis break earth first through the 152km mountain course, but it wasn’t long until Jarvis took the lead from Swanepoel and Teasdale caught up with the pair. Unbeknown to them, Gomez (KTM) was slowly closing in, on his eight-minute gap, at a rapid pace. For his first ‘Roof’ Gomez showed incredible speed and agility and eventually caught up with the top three, making for scintillating racing.
After some time riding together Jarvis managed to make a break from them heading into the final passes leaving the SA contingent behind him, but not without the Spaniard. With Jarvis and Gomez exchanging the lead it was Gomez who finally took the chequered flag in a time of seven hours and thirty minutes with Jarvis having to settle for second spot. The break from the rest of the pack later in the race gave the pair a comfortable 20-minute lead on the final day. Bouverie took third spot with fellow South African’s Teasdale and Gutzeit taking fourth and fifth places.
Down to the wire day three
The final day’s racing saw Jarvis and Gomez dominate again over the 115km course as Gomez took to the Malutis with one mission in mind: to knock Jarvis off his ‘Roof’ winning streak. They set off within two minutes of each other which saw them playing cat and mouse for the lead again. Jarvis eventually took the lead, but Gomez never allowed the English ace to get away from him.
In the distance Gutzeit, Teasdale and Bouverie were in rocky combat for third spot as it eventually became evident that catching the international offroad racers was not going to be possible. Jarvis and Gomez continued chasing throughout the day, to finally see the finish line where Jarvis managed to steal the number one spot from Gomez by nine seconds!
Thanks to the great international support entering with big names flying in from all across the globe, the racing was some of the best I have seen. With 2017 being the 50th anniversary of the ‘Roof’, I can only imagine the amount of interest or record attendance that we may see. All I can say is don’t miss out!