Roof riders check the skies
Spectators and riders in this year’s Roof of Africa race have only one question: is that cloud rain?
WHILE the Yellow Brick app allows fans to track riders competing in the weekend’s Roof of Africa, the app that riders are most using is AccuWeather, with the big question everyone is asking: “Will it rain, or not?”
Over 380 bikers have entered this year’s Roof of Africa, with racing having started today on what organisers say is a “shorter and more compact route”, but with higher levels of extreme riding for all classes.
Officially the riders compete until Sunday for a purse of R180 000, but everyone knows it’s finishing that earns you the real bragging rights. In fact, just being a Roof spectator will earn you a free beer in even the toughest bikers’ bar, for the Roof is one race where spectator assistance is not just allowed, but encouraged — as long as it’s not planned.
“The course is so tough that if riders didn’t receive help from bystanders, even fewer would finish,” says race organiser Peter Luck, who has been involved with the race since 1977.
ONLY THE FITTEST SURVIVE
Former winner Chris Birch said riders don’t have to be the greatest in the world to finish, but they do have to be “really fit to do it at any pace”.
The route comprises sand and “rock tracks with hard surfaces”, which may sound like tautology, but is not.
British campaigner Ben Hemingway explains: “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.”
Riders will climb to nearly 3 000 metres before plunging down valleys, where several rivers will have to be crossed. The names of the sections, like Mr Moleko’s Pass, Thabang’s Road to Hell, Impossible and Downtown x2, give a hint at the new level of difficulty which riders will face. As always, the Roof riders have to go slower through villages. “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,” said Luck on the Roof’s website.
Lights are optional but recommended, especially for those who get lost, a nightmare that haunts even the front riders.
Trail tyres may not be used, but any type of motocycle is welcome, and this year will see Christini racing their 2x2 bikes for the first time in the Roof.
The conditions favour light two-stroke machines. Past winners rode on 250 cc or 300 cc bikes. Bikes are divided into three classes: gold, silver and bronze, depending on the degree of difficulty of the route they follow.
RIDERS TO WATCH
All eyes will be on KZN rider Wade Young, who became the youngest rider to win the Roof in 2012, narrowly lost to Britain’s Graham Jarvis in 2013, and last year took the title again, beating Jarvis by almost six minutes. Brett Swanepoel and Altus de Wet followed home, and De Wet, who wore the number 2 plate in 2013, is chomping at the bit for a podium this year.
The start and finish for all bikes is at Ha Patrick, which has easy access and a spectacular finish line. Using the tracking system, now in its second year, fans and crews alike can follow the bikers using the Yellow Brick app.
Among the female riders, Kirsten Landman is hoping that this year will be just as good as 2014, when she finished a strong 23rd in Silver Class on her first Roof.
“Roof of Africa 2014 was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. There were many times when I doubted my abilities, when I wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but I made a promise to myself that I was not going to quit and that giving up was not an option. Thank goodness I have really long arms because I had to really dig deep to push through and cross that finish line,” she posted afterwards on her website.
“Roof of Africa 2014 was by far the hardest thing I have ever done”
The Roof of Africa enduro is in full swing until Sunday, with more than 380 riders hoping they can finish.
KIRSTEN LANDMAN Brother Leader Tread KTM Factory Team rider
The talented Altus de Wet wearing the number 2 plate in 2013. Will his internatonal experience make it No. 1 by Sunday?
KTM factory rider Kirsten Landman finish 23rd in her first Roof in 2014. She is keen to do even better this time around.