|Picturesque... The Motul Roof of Africa|
There is just one day to go until the 2016 Motul Roof of Africa. Here are 10 facts you might not have known about the Mother of Hard Enduro.
Looking after the bike is every rider’s first priority. When former winner Chris Birch high-sided in 2013, his immediate thought was not about hurting himself, but: “Is the bike OK, because I need that to get home!”
Lesotho is a landlocked nation, surrounded on all sides by South Africa. It is stunningly beautiful, but the altitude is daunting. The Maluti Mountains, through which the Roof runs, rise up on top of Southern Africa’s highest mountains, the Drakensberg.
“The ground is so hard,” says British campaigner Ben Hemingway. “There’s a carpet of grass but underneath it feels like iron. It’s a different sort of ground to Europe, which is softer and more forgiving. This gives your hands and your body a pounding. It’s punishing.”
“The Roof is extreme endurance. It’s really grueling all the time and takes a massive toll on you physically,” says Birch. “You don’t have to be the greatest rider in the world to get round, but you’ve got to be really fit to do it at any pace.”
The Roof is split into three classes: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Silver and Bronze riders take on a less demanding route, but even for them, the finish line can’t come soon enough. Some riders end up so shattered they can’t even ride their bikes up to the chequered flag
|Defending champions Graham Jarvis|
Bushman’s Pass, which can be seen cutting across the mountain in the middle distance, is where the race start/finish zone is located. Spectator access is easy; not so for competitors
Race organiser Peter Luck has been involved with the race since 1977. “It’s my life,” he says. Many riders probably wish it wasn’t, when they see where the route is headed.
“Riders have to exercise caution through villages,” says organiser Peter Luck. “We try to avoid villages as much as possible, and we warn the locals not to bring their cattle out. In fact, we work with the local farmers on how to best route the race around their villages.”
The Roof is unusual in that spectator assistance is a reality, and is always encouraged (as long as it’s not pre-meditated). The truth is that the course is so tough that if riders didn’t receive help from bystanders, even fewer would finish.
The route is marked, but racers rely on GPS to stay on track. Nonetheless, getting lost is a constant hazard that haunts even the front-runners.