The 2021 Motul Roof of Africa Race Day 1: Wade Young Tightens his Grip on the Title in Slippery Conditions.

Wade Young heads out onto the route for Race Day 1 of the Motul Roof of Africa, by ZCMC

The heavy overnight rains that continued into Race Day 1 at the 2021 Motul Roof of Africa proved to be a decisive factor. Along with low cloud, a sense of nervous anticipation had settled over the start line by the time the first Gold Class riders headed off at 6 am.

Traditional Hard Enduro wisdom holds that ‘a wet Roof is the toughest Roof’, and this old adage was certainly borne out by today’s events. Intermittent rain throughout the morning made conditions more treacherous – a state of affairs exacerbated for the run from the second unassisted fuel stop back to the DSP when the rain began to fall in earnest.

Travis Teasdale chasing down the leader during the first Race Day, by ZCMC

Gold Class Time Trial winner Travis Teasdale (Trax TT Racing) and defending champion Wade Young (Factory Sherco Racing) were involved in a duel all morning with Young managing to claw back time and overhaul Teasdale to lead by some 5 minutes by this fuel stop. Matt Green (Teasdale’s TT Racing teammate) was a mere 2 minutes back down the route and still properly in the hunt.

In previous editions of the Roof, Young has shown an ability to thrive in exactly this kind of inhospitable weather, and today proved to be no exception. Heading into the aptly named ‘Emotions’ pass, with the rain falling harder still, the five-times Roof winner put the hammer down and accelerated away from his rivals.

Wade Young out on the route and leading the pack at the end of Race Day 1, by ZCMC

By the time he reached the DSP, Young had extended his lead over Teasdale to an impressive 32 minutes, with Matt Green another 18 minutes behind. The top 5 was rounded out by stellar performances from William Slater (TBR Suspension) and Luke Walker (McLarens Yamaha Racing).

“This morning we stayed together for quite a while but when the bigger passes and the rain arrived, I was able to make up some good ground,” commented Young. I’m happy with my time of 7:40:15 for today – it was a tough one because it was so cold, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” he added.

With no sign of the rain abating, the organisers were forced to change the planned route for the day and move the finish line for the Gold, Silver and Bronze Classes to the DSP, shortening the day’s Gold route by around 62km.

Luke Walker getting through cold streams and slippery passes during Race Day 1 of the Motul Roof of Africa, by ZCMC

This decision was vindicated by the fact that as of 5pm, only 8 of the Gold Class riders had finished – and the last of these had spent almost 12 hours in the saddle. At the time of going to press, only 5 Silver Class riders had completed the curtailed course.

At this stage, today’s results are still provisional, but the top 3 places in the Silver Class were occupied by Jason Dames (GBJ Developments), Bryden Foster and finally Sage McGregor.

Over a hundred of the 200 Bronze Class riders were still out on the course at 5pm; of those that had crossed the line, the best time was recorded by Rory Gower, followed by Pieter Holl and Jukka Holl.

Matt Green heading up one of the toughest passes during Race Day 1 of the Motul Roof of Africa, by ZCMC

The newly introduced Iron Class was the only one in which riders continued on the original course, with Tiaan Rabe being the first to reach Thaba Bosiu.

With much more rain forecast for Saturday’s Day 2, a great deal remains to be decided. However, looking at the commanding lead that Wade Young has established, it would take something of a slip-up for him not to retain the Motul Roof of Africa title again this year.

Blake Gutzeit making his way through the tough rainy conditions during the first Race Day of the Motul Roof of Africa, by Action in Motion

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