Today’s cloudy, overcast weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the hundreds of spectators who lined the streets of Maseru to watch Round The Houses of the 2019 Motul Roof of Africa.
The RTH stage has always been a firm fan favourite, and this year was no different – although as the entire course was on tar, it was even faster than in previous years. The capital city of Lesotho reverberated to the sound of over 400 Enduro bikes at full tilt as the 2019 Motul Roof of Africa got underway.
The organisers of the event, Live Lesotho, ensured that the opening event began with a flourish, the return to the original Round The Houses format was a real crowd-pleaser with an excellent atmosphere throughout the city. With no stadium section, it became much more of street event – with speeds to match!
So much so, in fact, that the curtain-raiser for the 2019 Motul Roof of Africa was done and dusted in less than two hours. Only the next two days of Extreme Enduro racing will tell if the wisdom of Roof veterans is correct: they say that you can’t win the Roof at Round The Houses, but you can certainly lose it here – before you even get into the mountains proper.
It seems that no-one had shared this advice with Scott Bouverie (Brother Leadertread KTM), Kyle Flanagan (Bidvest bLU cRU Yamaha), Brad Cox (Brother Leadertread KTM) and New Zealand legend Chris Birch (Brother Leadertread KTM) who treated the crowds to some bar-banging action over three laps around Maseru, finishing in that order and just seconds apart at the head of the Gold Category Riders.
Meanwhile, the Silver Category winner was Motul Roof veteran Alex Vowles, who has competed in over 20 Roofs to date. Due to the number of entrants, the Bronze Category was split into two groups. Bronze Category Group 2 winner was Graham McLachlan (Live Lesotho Team), riding in his 21st Roof. Francois Du Toit (Raceworx KTM) pulled off the win in Bronze Category Group 1.
“I am blown away by the atmosphere at the event and the support we’ve received from all quarters,” enthused Live Lesotho’s Manager Charan Moore. “We love it when a plan comes together,” he added.
After RTH, the field split, with the Gold Category Riders heading to Maseru Mall for the EnduroX, while the Silver and Bronze Category competitors got their first real look at the start/finish venue, Thaba Bosiu, as they lined up for the individual Time Trial component.
With rain predicted over the next two days of Enduro racing, a good Time Trial result was a priority for all riders, as it would determine their starting order (early starters tend to slip and slide less before the mud has been churned up).
For today at least, the rain held off and the relatively dry conditions spelled fast, flowing action as riders pushed the envelope just a little, and took advantage of the opportunity to make last-minute adjustments.
The winners of each Category Time Trial will be the first starters when the Motul Roof Day 1 begins on Friday morning. Dwain Barnard (D&D Group) triumphed in the Silver Category in a time of 48:56, followed by Armand Fourie (Raceworx KTM Sanrose) and Cayden Purchase (Motul Alfie Cox KTM).
There was a new name on the podium in the Bronze Category as Austin Stuart (Nicks Electrical KTM) came home in 52:36, closely followed by Dylan Bauer (Yamaha) and then Nardus Rabe (Roost KTM). Early indications are that the Bronze Category will be closely fought.
There was a familiar look to the top of the table after the Gold Category riders had completed the challenging EnduroX stage. The chance to see so many elite riders competing on their doorstep meant that the residents of Maseru were out in force, with vendors doing a brisk trade.
This element of the Roof consisted of a series of heats, followed by semi-finals which whittled the field down to the last ten riders. Defending champion Wade Young (Sherco Racing) took top spot, followed by wily veteran (and fellow four-time Roof champion) Graham Jarvis (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna), with SA South Coast rider Kyle Flanagan (Bidvest bLU cRU Yamaha) in third.
The stage has been set for a battle royal in the Maluti Mountains at the 2019 Motul Roof of Africa. Follow all the action and find great Roof images and video on the Motul Roof of Africa Facebook page throughout the race.