Le The dust (OK Mud) has cleared. The bikes are washed and ready for the ’22 season – and hey! The sun is shining for a change. From a spectators point of view, it’s been a very entertaining Roof– and to be absolutely frank, it was just so cool to be back in the Mountain Kingdom for the Motul Roof of Africa. Things were a bit different. The border crossings were a breeze and we were in Maseru for the scrutineering. It was so cool to see old faces again – it’s kinda like a gathering of mates to round off the season – just - this year it was slightly earlier than usual. Lesotho, still nervous about the pandemic asked that Round The Houses and Endurocross sections be cancelled. This saw the Thursday field heading out to Thaba Bosiu and straight into time trial starting and ending at the race village. Travis Teasdale It all seemed a little subdued when compared to previous Roofs – mostly because there were less spectators – but if we tell you that the racing was as good as ever – you need to believe it! The day of the time trial was actually quite dry. A wave of the iconic blue, white and green Lesotho tricolor by the King of Lesotho, King Letsie III saw the race declared ON! The guys and gals set good pace on the short loop. It was great to watch the guys leading out through the donga at the base of the village. A tight twisty loamy piece that eventually ends up on the mountains and off into the spectacular valleys that are the reason we love Lesotho so much. It is always spectacular to see the skills that the gold racers display – and in the opposite spectrum – watching the riders in the new iron class clambering through sure was entertaining! In gold, Travis Teasdale recorded the fastest time of the day. He edged out defending champion Wade Young who took second, just 20 seconds behind Teasdale. Matt Green finished in third, just 3 minutes 35 seconds behind Young. This was set to be a great Motul Roof of Africa! Lying in bed after a long day out, the thunder came in and the rain started to fall… It was going to be a whole new ball game on Friday. Friday arrived, cold, overcast and rainy. Our troop of merry men opted to skip the start and head directly to the first unassisted refuel. It was a bit bleak, that snotty rain that does not quite know what it wants to do. Climbing up the pass we spotted one of the road crossings where the early birds were gathering. Guys – The Roof is always so festive – pit crews and spectators were parked along the road waiting for the first riders to come through. When they did appear, they were thoroughly wet and cold – and it was still only 8 in the morning. But the guys we saw were quite chipper – just too happy to be riding in Lesotho again. We moved along to the first refuel point – a spectacular vista where if you just walked a short way up the mountain, you could see all the way to Zimbabwe! The guys and girls started coming through. It was here that The Motul Roof Of Africa claimed its first high profile rider. KTM’s Kirsten Landman arrived looking a bit worse for wear – the slippery rocks had grabbed her and she limped off the bike looking a bit dazed. A couple of tumbles ended her outing and the disappointment for this Roof veteran was just so bitter for her. Luckily she has recovered and her planning and training for Dakar this month is in full swing. Malcolm Mac Sherry We got back onto the road to the second refuel point, hoping to catch the top gold guys coming through. Unless you have seen it you won’t understand. People kind of mill around waiting… until – the Basotho ladies start to Ululate. Then you know that someone is on their way… but you can’t really tell who it is until they come storming in. In this instance it was Shercos Wade Young leading the pack.
His international crew was ready with a fresh hydration pack and a bowl of food. It’s like watching F1 – the bike and body is refueled – and he was off again. That was to be the tone of the entire race. The next few riders were closer together, Trax Gas Gas riders Travis Teasdale and TT’s Matthew Green arrived next for a repeat performance. Those three riders were already well ahead of the rest of the pack – it just shows what racing abroad has done for our riders. Not too far off, the next two roared in – Mclarens Yamaha’s Luke Walker and Brother KTM’s Blake Gutzeid were in the hunt and it was awesome to see. A little birdie had told us where the gold and silver riders were expected to climb later that day so we loaded up and shipped out to a kloof – literally in the middle of nowhere. The rain was pouring down… a few vehicles were camped along the side of the ravine. It’s awesome! One bunch had the sound system out, blaring “Ou Ryperd”. Another bunch had a full on camper set up – they were braaiing and catching water off the canopy to boil up a nice cup of moer koffie. Soon the Michelin guys arrived, set up their Gazebo – and silly people – pulled out the biltong. It was a full-on picnic on the side of the mountain in the pouring rain. How cool is that? Our German visitor, Hard Enduro Worlds Peter Schleuter just shrugged. “Only in Africa!” Wade’s international pit crew. But that’s a side bar, we were there for the race, so we all looked for vantage points to grab that elusive cover shot. We could see the bronze riders making their way along in the distance – and we can tell you for free that where they were riding was certainly no picnic… While we were waiting, the news came through that thanks to the inclement weather, the days racing was being shortened and would end at the next DSP. A blue dot was spotted in the distance and the ululating began from the few villagers who were braving the weather. Wade made his way to the bottom of the climb and then started the charge. It really is quite something to see the skills that a rider like Wade has. Places where most mere mortals would not even think of riding were like a cakewalk. It was, however quite gratifying to see that even he had to push up and over the final rocks – he is human after all… We sat on that slope for four hours – and in that time, only 6 gold riders came up the hill. Wade, Travis, Maddy, Luke, Will Slater and Blake Gutzeit. But there was a bit of excitement when two Bronzies took a wrong turn and ended up on the slope. We saw two riders stuck right down at the bottom – and we think that it was Matthew Green who stopped to help them through the mud and snot up on to the rock face – and they started to climb… Despite our best efforts of telling them to turn around and they are nuts and other interesting things, they decided to soldier on up the slope. “There is no way we are turning back to ride through all that again!” There was a band of spectators who our lot labelled the Basotho warriors on that hill. They took off their Basotho hats, wandered down the hill and literally carried Eddie and Graydon up. That’s Roof for you! With the sun well past its zenith we decided that it was time to make our way to the DSP to watch the guys coming in and it was awesome! Whoever chose this spot has a great sense of humour. After a long day in the saddle – riders had to fling themselves and their bikes up a steep, slippery rock face to get through the Motul arch. There were two possible routes – and they were both equally challenging. And they were covered in mud thanks to all the dirty wheels that made the trek up. The riders were absolutely knackered! But it made for great spectating as the guys flung their bikes up and trudged wearily after them. Some came unstuck and gracefully slid down again – and the spectators were not allowed to assist. Those who made it were rewarded with a mighty cheer! There were some heroics as riders helped each other up and over – but some riders were simply too tired to climb off and help… and they just sat and watched with glazed eyes until it was their turn to tackle the climb. It was awesome for our lot cheering them on. And chatting to the guys at the top, you could see the relief and pride of having made the finish for the day. Luke Walker and motorcycle family. Gold Podium. I think it’s that way. Leo LESOTHO OFF ROAD ASSOCIATION
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