The ‘Mother of Hard Enduro’ hit the streets of Maseru yesterday morning for the customary “Round the Houses” stage before the riders headed up to the top of Bushman’s Pass for what was the first real test of this years race. Word has been spreading around the Paddock that this years race is set to be one of the toughest ever, as the race directors have reduced the daily mileage but increased the intensity with some previously unraced passes.
After last years surprise victory by 16 year-old South African sensation, Wade Young (KTM), previous winners, Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna) and three time winner Chris Birch (KTM) arrived in Lesotho with their sights set firmly on reclaiming their titles. The South Africans now know that the big international stars are fallible and riders like Altus De Wet (Husqvarna), Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha), Scott Bouverie and young Blake Gudzeit (Sherco/Monster Energy) are hoping to be the next South Africans to claim the coveted title.With Marc Torlage (Yamaha/Monster Energy) out due to injury, Monster Energy’s hopes now lie with former champ Jade Gudzeit (Sherco/Monster Energy) and his 18 year-old brother, Blake.
Both the Lesotho Sun and Maseru Sun Hotels were a hive of activity yesterday as the paddock swelled with a massive influx of riders, services crews and spectators. After registration it was off to download the GPS tracks with Lesotho regular Charan Moore opting for 4 GPS units to keep himself in the hunt.
This year’s Roof of Africa started off with an unfamiliar pitch of screaming engines and smoking tires as Monster Energy’s National Drift Champion Jason Webb got the crowds fired up for the start of the “Round the Houses”. His Royal Highness, King Letsie III, the King of Lesotho got things under way in the first race of the day, but it was heat two of the Gold Class that was the race to watch as Altus De Wet charged off the front of the field, letting his intentions be known for the rest of the day. While not all the favorites decided to contest ceremonial start, De Wet was to pushed hard by New Zealands’s Chris Birch, who was also keen to stamp his authority on this years race
.After ‘Round the Houses’, the riders moved to the top of Bushman’s Pass for the Time Trial and the first real racing stage. It was once again Altus De Wet (Husqvarna) who crossed in the number 1 spot. With less than a minute separating the top five riders, this year’s ‘Mother of Hard Enduro’ is looking set to be an epic battle.
The leader board holds all three names from the 2012 podium, with De Wet’s Husqvarna team-mate, Graham Garvis just thirteen seconds back, while reigning champion, Wade Young sits in 3rd spot, 48 seconds off the pace. Young’s KTM team mate, Chris Birch will start tomorrows stage in 4th position just six seconds behind the young South African. Kenny Gilbert (Yamaha) rounds out the top five and will have a front row seat watching the battle between the KTM duo. Just three seconds adrift of Birch, he will be looking to follow and learn from the three-time winner.
Blake and Jade Gudzeit (Sherco/Monster Energy), look to be hatching a plan and rode the Time Trial as a team, finishing in 8th and 9th positions. Tomorrow will tell whether Jade is finally handing the reigns to his younger brother or whether his fortitude will see him burying himself to try and reclaim his former glory.
After a sweltering day of temperatures in the mid-thirties, the forecast for today and Saturday is predicted rain and in Lesotho that means the things are going to get a whole lot tougher.
The final day kicks off tomorrow morning at 6:00 with riders leaving in real time after today’s time trial results.
ROOF OF AFRICA: